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UN Security Council Efforts on Burma Cyclone “Dead as UN Security Council Efforts on Burma Cyclone “Dead as a Doornail” (click to view PDF)

Time for Countries to Deliver Aid Directly to Burmese People

Press Release
May 14th, 2008
Contact: Jeremy Woodrum (202) 246-7924

(Washington, DC) In the wake of Cyclone Nargis, a leading activist group today confirmed that efforts by the UN Security Council to order humanitarian aid into the Southeast Asian country of Burma over the objections of the ruling military regime have reached a dead end.

“Even though Burma’s military regime is denying aid to 2 million people facing death, efforts at the UN Security Council to invoke the responsibility to protect doctrine are dead as a doornail, mainly because of Burma’s ally, China,” said Aung Din, Executive Director of the U.S. Campaign for Burma. “It is time for countries to stop waiting for the Council to act – which it won’t – and commence immediate delivery of aid to thirsty, starving, and homeless Burmese now facing imminent threat of disease in the Irrawaddy Delta.”

In the wake of the genocide in Rwanda, the UN Security Council accepted the ‘Responsibility to Protect’ doctrine that allows the Security Council to authorize actions that infringe on national sovereignty in cases in which national governments commit crimes against humanity. Yet, China has led efforts at the UN to block the Security Council from invoking ‘Responsibility to Protect’ and therefore, the Council will not authorize countries to deliver aid directly to the Burmese people. China and others have now closed the door on action by the UN Security Council. 

Burma’s ruling military regime has come under intense international criticism for refusing to allow sufficient international aid and aid workers into the country. The regime has commandeered aid shipments, barred many foreign aid experts from visiting the worst-hit areas, prevented local Burmese groups from helping in relief operations, and exploited aid materials for its own benefit.

At least 100,000 people perished in the Cyclone, an estimated 220,000 are missing, and 1.5 million face death from disease and hunger. 

The United States, France, and Britain have deployed ships off the coast of Burma. Neighboring countries are filled with unused, life-saving supplies. Countries also have deployed helicopters and amphibious vehicles that could be used to aid survivors. These vehicles and supplies sit unused as the death toll mounts in Burma. 

More and more voices are speaking out for immediate aid delivery to Burma. European Union foreign policy chief Javier Solana called for aid to be delivered by “all means.” The New York Times today urged the air-dropping of supplies in Burma if the Burmese regime rejects a call for action by the UN Security Council – a call that activists today confirmed will never come.

“All the post-Rwanda talk about saving lives through the UN is completely useless in this situation,” added Aung Din. “We can’t wait a minute longer to send in aid – countries that have the capacity should dispatch aid immediately over the objections of Burma’s military regime.”