Praise and criticism for Myanmar's government

Promise of aid to flood victims is seen as a step forward compared to previous leaders' slow response to disasters.

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    The flooding that's affecting Myanmar's Irrawaddy Delta region is one of the first natural disasters the new, partly civilian government has had to deal with.

    The previous military regime failed miserably in its response to Cyclone Nargis which devastated the Delta region in 2008. Official figures state that around 140,000 people died, other estimates are much higher. Those who survived received little if any help from the government.

    What made it worse was the generals' stubborn reluctance to accept international assistance, even initially preventing some non-governmental organisations from entering the area. As for foreign media, forget about it. Those reporters who did get in, had to sneak into the country on tourist visas and risked arrest.

    Fast-forward to 2012, and many residents in the same areas that were affected by the cyclone are voicing similar concerns that the government has done nothing to help them during the floods.

    But there are some positive differences in the response. The government has made some food handouts and it has allowed access to NGOs and media. President Thein Sein also visited the area and promised to provide rice seed and loans to farmers so they can begin to regain their livelihoods.

    Neither of those things have materialised yet, but it's a big step forward from 2008 when then military ruler, General Than Shwe, took two weeks just to visit a refugee camp outside Yangon.

    Most of the effects of reforms taking place in Myanmar haven’t really filtered down to the people yet. For most, nothing has changed in their lives since the new government was formed after the election in late 2010 and the country began opening up.

    However, one positive development is the people now have a voice. Freedom of speech is developing and the flooding in the Irrawaddy has again highlighted that. The people now feel they can speak out against the government and criticise it if they feel they’re not getting what they need. The country’s leaders may not always listen and act, but being able to speak out is another step forward for the people of Myanmar.


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