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Southeast Asia: Series of unfortunate disasters

A destructive cyclone in Myanmar. The China earthquake which was felt in Hanoi and Bangkok. Two earthquakes in the Sumatra island which rocked Indonesia and Malaysia. A strong typhoon which destroyed many towns in north Philippines.

In the past month, natural disasters hit the Southeast Asian region claiming hundreds of thousands of lives and destroying billions of properties.

Blogger Lynn Leng Lang exclaims:

“Ah, super sad lah. What the hell is happening to Asia?!”

Myanmar is still suffering as cyclone refugees continue to suffer from hunger and illnesses. The junta’s incompetence is another disaster which worsened the situation in the cyclone-ravaged regions of Myanmar.

Perhaps a U.S. official was correct to accuse the junta of being guilty of criminal neglect for blocking large-scale international aid to cyclone victims. Or as the prime minister of Singapore said, “Myanmar is fearful of allowing foreign aid agencies into the country to help because it could show that the ruling junta was not capable of handling the disaster.”

Because of the junta’s behavior, Endoh's dungeon believes the world was right in being pessimistic in giving aid to Myanmar. It is indeed extraordinary that three weeks have passed before Myanmar’s leader issued a public statement about the cyclone disaster. More than 100,000 people were killed and General Than Shwe managed to remained quiet about it. In other countries, this leader would have been ousted already.

Credibility is important so that governments can be effective in disaster management. Aid will not arrive quickly if a regime is perceived to be despotic. The sentiment of As Zewt As It Gets is common today:

“Now, I am sure all of us have got a wonderful generous heart and are all eager to contribute one way or another to help the victims of the recently occurred disasters both in China and Myanmar. However, I just want to say that we should be mindful of the channels to which we are contributing to. If you wish to contribute to any form of Myanmar relief fund, make sure the organization you are contributing to goes directly into the country to aid the victims and not just handing the money to the junta government.”

Many bloggers in the region are not fans of the junta. jere-iamwhatiam from Singapore writes:

“The purpose of a government is to govern the people, to make lives better for them, to take care and protect the people. What the government in Myanmar has done is total disregard for its people's lives and well-being. By delaying aid and a lack of prompt response to the disaster, they are just killing their own people.”

Filipino blogger Under the sun adds:

“What kind of government would put selfish interests ahead of the citizens’ welfare at a time of great crisis, when the only choice is between life and death?”

Noting that Thailand is an earthquake-prone zone, a new law requires all new buildings to be earthquake-proof. Reacting to the recent China earthquake which was felt in Bangkok, bloggers are asking about the safety of old buildings and skyscrapers.

Crunchy is also asking about the steps implemented in Malaysia to prepare for future strong tremors:

“Are houses and high rises in Malaysia built to withstand even a minor earthquake? Or even considerations and guidelines for developers to follow so that buildings can withstand tremors multiple times a year and throughout the years. With the ‘tidak apa’ attitude and certain quarters or people who just cared about their pockets, I doubt these issues would get any attention at all until something major happens. What do you think? Am I being too paranoid?”

For many days, the damage wrought by a strong typhoon in north Philippines was not adequately reported by the media. Even the national government was not initially aware of the extent of destruction. The Philippine president was scuba diving in central Philippines a day after the typhoon left the country.

Darlene's blog site writes about the situation in one of the provinces hit by the typhoon:

“Typhoon Cosme destroyed more or less 700,000 homes affecting at least 38,000 families. This frightful event left residents no choice but to temporarily transfer in evacuation centers. Moreover, Cosme also lead a landslide causing roads to be closed and great flood destroying land farms.”

Strangely out of place was shocked:

“The following day, Candelaria looked waaaaaay different. The electric cables were all on the ground. Big acacia and mango trees were on houses and establishments. The church, the school and the public library had some windows broken. Almost every corner you turn you’ll see roofless houses. Some of the older structures looked like cardboard boxes on the ground. The town was, and I quote my mom, “extremely devastated.”

Pictures of the typhoon disaster in the worst-hit province were uploaded by The harvest is great. Northern Philippine Times lambasts government inaction:

“Every year, government officials say during dry months they have contingency measures for calamities like storms in preparation for rainy months. But every time a typhoon strikes, most government offices are caught flat-footed while roads are closed, barangays are submerged and power lines are down. Programs regarding disaster control or management are reactive, not proactive.”

Natasha loves noodles comments on the China earthquake, Myanmar cyclone, and the Philippine typhoon. The Minister for Foreign Affairs of Singapore delivers a speech about the need for international cooperation to help Myanmar. Assistance can also be given to other countries in the region:

“We in ASEAN cannot perform this job on our own. Myanmar's needs are way beyond what Myanmar itself or ASEAN as a whole can provide. This is why ASEAN and the UN have jointly convened this Pledging Conference. We in ASEAN can play little more than a facilitating role in fostering greater trust and cooperation between the international community – which has the capabilities – and the Myanmar government.”

1 comment

  • What’s next do you want to see for Burma? Removing of the government, and install a democratic government? No, The UN is not going to do that, the US also not, the EU also not, ASEAN also not, Burmese people are to weak to do so, China will support the junta government.

    Hmmm… I see no hope.

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