WASHINGTON, DC, October 8, 2008 - At a high-level policy discussion focusing on the aftermath of Cyclone Nargis, Thet Win, Founder of US Collection, Humanitarian Corps, pleaded for more engagement between the outside world and the ruling junta in Burma.
Joel Charny, Vice President for Policy, Refugees International, argued that the Burmese people face "double punishment" in that they both live under an oppressive government and receive very little assistance because of the punitive measures the international community has adopted vis-à-vis the military regime.
Charny added that although Burma is one of the poorest nations in the world, it receives less humanitarian assistance per capita than comparable countries like Afghanistan, Sudan, or Zimbabwe.
Peter Yao, Democratic Deputy Chief of Staff on the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, said “there was no objection” in Congress to providing humanitarian assistance to Burma but that Congress has been frustrated with the Burmese government for not providing much help to its own people and for accepting foreign assistance only reluctantly and then holding up distribution.
Win argued for a policy of both aid and engagement, while Yao felt that sanctions were important, although their effectiveness was “fundamentally dependent upon the adherence by neighboring countries, as the US cannot do it alone.”
The panel discussion was jointly hosted by the Asia Society, CSIS, and the US-ASEAN Business Council and was moderated by Derek Mitchell, CSIS senior fellow and director for Asia.
Reported by Nobuyoshi Sakajiri, Bernard Schwartz Fellow, Washington, DC.