By LALIT K JHA
The Irrawaddy News
With the lives of people at stake in the Irrawaddy delta, the Burmese prime minister in exile tells US congressmen there is no time left to pursue diplomatic options with the junta.
"As a citizen of Burma and an elected representative, I want to stress that, pursuing diplomatic options to convince an intransigent regime like the Burma generals, is like waiting for people to die and time is something that the people of Burma do not have," Sein Win told US lawmakers during congressional testimony.
"Please help Burma now," the prime minister in exile pleaded, during a hearing on the aftermath of Cyclone Nargis held by the House Committee on Foreign Affairs’ Subcommittee on Asia, the Pacific and the Global Environment.
He urged the United States to reject the outcome of the Burmese referendum and the draft constitution, saying it was methodically manipulated by the military.
"The situation is totally unacceptable, and it must not be allowed to continue. We are, therefore, calling on the United States and all nations to do everything they can to start massive relief operations immediately," he said.
Arguing that given that an impoverished country like Burma now needs a long-term recovery, rehabilitation and reconstruction program, Sein Win said there is all the more need of a transparent and responsible form of government responsive to the needs of the people. "Democratic transition is the only solution for our country to overcome the challenges lying ahead," he said.
Even though more than 100,000 people have died or are missing and nearly 2 million people are directly suffering from the effects of the cyclone, he said the military junta has done very little to help the people. "Its main focus since the cyclone is to hold a national referendum so that a constitution it had written to legitimize military rule would pass," Win said.
At the same time, it is also preventing the international community from entering the country because of a fear of the presence of international relief workers, he said, and the generals' short-sighted policy has worsened the situation for the cyclone victims.
He said an international NGO working inside Burma estimated that 30,000 children are starving and many children who were already acutely malnourished when the cyclone hit, might be dying now from the lack of food.
Win said the Burmese generals resist international aid and workers inside the country because they are afraid that Burma’s real situation would be exposed.
"What they are afraid is they will lose the control, and that's why they are now reacting in this way. So they not only deny the United States access, but also the United Nations and even Asean until pressure was put on them.
Reiterating the government in exile was not asking for regime change, he said: "That we have to do ourselves. And we will do everything we can to do that, but we want the US and UN and all international community to keep up their strong stand—morally, politically—and help us. But we will do our work, of course. We don't ask the United States to go in and change the regime."