It happens again and again – a country that just can’t seem to crawl out from under. I wrote a post about Burma only last autumn during the horrendous crackdown on demonstrating monks. All they wanted was freedom of expression, and above all freedom from the military junta. For a few weeks world headlines channelled our attention onto them and calculated (hopelessly) the murders at the hands of the regime – then there was silence.
In the intervening months I’ve occasionally wondered how the monks I met out there had fared, if they’re still alive, how they feel now, what they might do in the future. But there’s no way of knowing. Now Burma’s into its next catastrophe, this time what’s called a “natural disaster”. How can a disaster be ‘natural’? It’s abhorrent and meanwhile the death toll mounts by the minute. First an estimated 10,000, now 22,000 but with a grosso modo addendum of 40,000 missing.
Footage of flooded plains and devastation is always so two-dimensional. One comment, that some people were actually ‘burnt’ by the force of the rain, gave a sense of its potency. A scene of two women bent double in whipping sheets of water, trees bent over and houses gutted in the background, just seemed unreal.
So we’ll wait to hear more abstract figures representing rice farmers, poor market-women, children who never made it back from school and, probably, more monks. Poor blighted Burma. When will it end? If by some extraordinary chance this cyclone brings a wind of change, then at least those deaths won’t have been for nothing. We can only wait and see. Meanwhile here are two wonderful women at the Pindaya market – luckily in a region that is probably uneffected.
And memorable laughs from a couple of Pao sisters. Long may they survive.
An addendum to this: the final figure topped 100,000 deaths. The reality of the situation remains hazy, months on.