Burma's dictators make propaganda out of suffering

By Agencies
10 May 2008

Burma's military regime is distributing international aid today. But it is covering the boxes with the names of top generals in an effort to turn the relief effort for last week's devastating cyclone into a propaganda exercise, say news agencies.

The United Nations sent in three more planes and several trucks loaded with aid, though the junta took over its first two shipments. The government agreed to let a US cargo plane bring in supplies Monday, but foreign disaster experts were still being barred entry.

State-run television continuously ran images of top generals — including the junta leader, Senior General Than Shwe — handing out boxes of aid to survivors at elaborate ceremonies.

One box bore the name of Lt. General Myint Swe, a rising star in the government hierarchy, in bold letters that overshadowed a smaller label reading: "Aid from the Kingdom of Thailand."

"We have already seen regional commanders putting their names on the side of aid shipments from Asia, saying this was a gift from them and then distributing it in their region," said Mark Farmaner, director of Burma Campaign UK, which campaigns for human rights and democracy in the country.

"It is not going to areas where it is most in need," he declared.

Burmese state media say 23,335 people died and 37,019 are missing from Cyclone Nargis, which submerged entire villages in the Irrawaddy delta. International aid organizations say the death toll could climb to more than 100,000 as conditions worsen.

The United Nations estimates that 1.5 million to 2 million people have been severely affected and has voiced concern about the disposal of bodies.

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