A devastating cyclone hit Yangon, Myanmar (also known as Burma) and thousands are dead. Cyclone Nargis hit as the military junta controlling Burma is less than one week out from a vote on a referendum for a new constitution. The heavily criticized response to the cyclone is not good news for a junta already blamed for ruining the country's economy and abolishing democracy.
From an AP story, "Where are all those uniformed people who are always ready to beat civilians?" said a trishaw driver who refused to be identified fro fear of retribution. "They should come out in full force and help clean up the areas and restore electricity."
The new constitution is to be followed in 2010 by a general election.
Today First Lady Laura Bush held a news conference, a rare occurrence. The First Lady has been an active advocate for the country of Burma and was encouraging the American press, the White House Press Corps, to keep the story alive in their publications and stories. She wants the regime to understand it will be held accountable by the International community. "The response to the cyclone is the most recent failure of the regime to meet its people's basic needs," Bush told reporters.
Unsure how much foreign assistance the junta will allow into the country, she asked them to admit U.S. State department disaster response teams. As of today, they were being denied entrance into the country. The regime has, however, accepted $250,000 in cash assistance from the U.S. embassy in Yangon.
Laura Bush was visibly angered by the actions of the junta and the suffering of the people of Burma. She criticized the failure of the state-run media to sound the alarm system as the cyclone approached.
Tomorrow, President Bush will sign the legislation approving the awarding of the Congressional Gold Medal to Aung San Suu Kyi. She is the Burmese Nobel Peace Prize winning democracy advocate who has been held under house arrest, even though her party was elected into power in 1990. Laura Bush has followed the story of this woman for quite some time and her story is what led the First Lady to become such a strong voice for Burma.
Last year when the Dalai Lama was presented with the Congressional Gold Medal, an angry response from the Chinese government occurred. Unlike the Dalai Lama, Mrs. Bush doesn't think that Aung San Suu Kyi will travel to D.C. to personally accept the award. There is much doubt that she would be allowed to go back.
Once again, Laura Bush leads with quiet dignity. Just last week, I read an opinion piece in the LA Times that criticized her. The lunatic bellowing about the wasted years of the First Lady in the White House was way off base. Another case of Bush Derangement misplaced. This First Lady has led the way for Afghan women and children to be educated and live lives in freedom, she has led the way for unprecedented attention to the AIDS/HIV problem in Africa and the problem of rampant malaria. She led the charge for breast cancer education in Saudi Arabia and its neighboring Arab countries. In our country she has been a strong advocate for literacy and continues on her personal mission to encourage graduating students to pursue a career in education. She's written books for children.
No absence of substance there. Lots of absence of character in her critics though.