Michael's Dispatches

The River - Part II


Many children were orphaned (I do not know if this boy was orphaned), but according to Charlie and other reports I have read, they do not seem to be in immediate danger of starvation.

Most of the aid reaching the delta seems to be coming from other Burmese people, but the government is arresting people who give aid.  International aid is also starting to reach previously off-limits areas.

The Burmese people welcomed the team into their communities.

A friendly monk.

Roofs blown off.

Many Americans and Europeans might be afraid of people who live like this, but from my travels, I know that if there is a problem, I can come to that home, not speaking a word of their language, and they will feed me and give me rest, and they will smile and wave when I leave, seldom asking for anything in return.

Catching prawns.

Gathering coconuts. It’s amazing what native peoples can do with bamboo and coconuts. All they need is a good river, and they can survive. The river is everything from highway to cupboard. In Thai, the word for river is Mae Nam. Mother water. In India, the Ganges is called Ganga Ma. Often the Indians would simply say, Ma. Cyclone Nargis was a horrible event, but the Irrawaddy is still flowing and life will go on.

While Charlie and his team made their journey into darkness, I remained in Thailand. The Thai people look at Burma in a similar way that some Americans look at Mexico. Cheap labor, a bit backwards, but hardworking people. And similar to our experiences with Mexico, Myanmar provides a river of smuggled and illegal workers, who sometimes can die by the dozens by suffocation in the back of a truck. The Thais I have talked with are afraid to go to Burma now. They are afraid of the ghosts. The ghosts created by Cyclone Nargis.

Those ghosts will haunt Myanmar for a long time. It’s one thing to oppress the living. But to disrespect the dead of Cyclone Nargis is a crime that the junta will, one day, have to answer for. The cyclone was an act of nature, but the suffering and indignity that followed is entirely the junta’s fault. While the rest of the world, led by America, offered help, the junta turned it away. Instead of welcoming humanitarian assistance and the media who help stir the global conscience, the junta closed its borders and tried to keep the truth from being known. By valuing their own power and pride over the lives of their people, the junta turned a natural disaster into a human tragedy.

Although the Burmese people are brave and resourceful, the need for aid is still acute. Many of the farmers in the most affected areas will not be able to plant this year, so the damage wreaked by the cyclone will continue long after the media turns its attention elsewhere.

And the last victim of the cyclone might be the junta itself. Along the Irrawaddy River Delta, the people’s hatred for the government was clearly expressed. My friend Charlie said that he would not be surprised to see disaffected factions rise up against the government, perhaps similar to those in Sri Lanka and Tibet. Burma might erupt in violence within a few years, which could have serious implications for neighboring Bangladesh and Thailand. Also, the Chinese seem to be muscling in up north, creating an anti-Chinese sentiment with the potential for violence. The Russians have advisers in Myanmar, though just what they are up to remains a mystery. Meanwhile, ASEAN apparently lacks the desire to take any decisive action that would upset the government of Myanmar. There are too many business interests at stake, and keeping Myanmar as a source of cheap raw materials rather than have it become a new Asian Tiger might very well be in the interests of other member states. The United States is not anxious to arm and train an insurgent force in Myanmar, unless our interests are directly threatened. Meanwhile, Charlie asserts that the Burmese dissident groups living in Thailand have largely lost touch with the situation inside the country, though apparently they get much attention, and funding, from Washington. Myanmar might be a powder keg with a slow-burning fuse already lit, and many Burmese people, who set great store on astrology, believe that great calamity is in the stars.

By bringing these photographs back from an atrocity the world is not supposed to witness, Charlie and his team has ensured that the ghosts of Cyclone Nargis will not be forgotten. They were men enough to face the darkness. And so, too, are the Burmese people, who live in the shadows of their own dead.


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  • This commment is unpublished.
    Zen · 13 years ago
    I should stop being surprised at level of cruelty people can inflict on each other, but there somehow there something worse about the total disinterest the junta has for the plight of its people.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Jon Jewett · 13 years ago
    The photos along with the text are important. They show the (in)human face behind the statistics we hear in the main stream media.

    For those that will look, they show the full glory of another Socialist Proletariat Paradise.

    Keep up the good work.

    May God Bless America.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    mary g · 13 years ago

    God bless you, Michael Yon and your friends and your allies.
    a soldier's mom
  • This commment is unpublished.
    E. T. · 13 years ago
    I am grateful for your story and photos, but am concerned for the safety of the villages and individuals that were exposed (facial photos, etc.). It would not surprise me if someone in the regime is paying attention to the internet.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Russell C Wingate · 13 years ago
    I would be interested in the whole story. Thanks
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Occasus · 13 years ago
    The fact the generals are communists never seems to be mentioned.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Lourdes · 13 years ago
    thanks again for this, I had almost forgotten about the victims of the cyclone, I pray that more help is headed their way, what a shame..
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Ponch · 13 years ago
    Are there going to be additional parts to this story? Would love to read a part 2, or , or more!
    Great read.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Tony · 13 years ago
    I was unable to make out the item in the first image of the sequence of the terrible photos of the dead people. Was it a mine?
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Hardtack · 13 years ago
    Thanks for reminding us of this tragedy. It has basically been forgotten by not only the MSM but almost all others.

    One of these days, payback will come. However, what the total cost of that payback will be is unknown.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Derek · 13 years ago
    MSF/Doctors Without Borders: Field News


    More photos and articles... another source advocating for people of Myanmar.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Derek · 13 years ago
    I thought this was important to share as well...

    http://www.doctorswithoutborders.org/news/article.cfm?id=27 8

    Again, more related articles and photos. Good to see aid being given but as detailed much more is still needed.

    Since May 5, MSF teams have distributed:

    * 1,250 tons of rice,
    * 410 tons of beans,
    * 190,000 liters of cooking oil,
    * 70 tons of canned fish,
    * 1,400 kg of salt,
    * 125,000 packs of energy biscuits and therapeutic food,
    * 120,000 plastic sheets,
    * 20,000 mosquito nets,
    * 48,000 jerry cans,
    * ,000 blankets, and
    * 16,500 soap bars.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Karl · 13 years ago
    Thank you, Mr. Yon, for your writings. I can't fully elucidate by appreciation for your courage, dedication, and writings.

    On a more pragmatic level, what agencies are doing the most good in Myanmar? i.e., where should I donate to help these people? Do -you- accept donations for these souls? (a few hundred dollars for a river boat is something I can d .
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Mike Freeman · 13 years ago
    As a representative of ShelterBox, I saw no mention or photos of our assistance in the country. The author of this story might want to check that out. We've delivered over 1,700 boxes each includes a tent for 10 people and survival supplies, with more on the way. It may be a "drop in the bucket", but it's a lifesaving and critical drop. For details go to www.shelterbox.org
  • This commment is unpublished.
    eyesopenwiderstill · 13 years ago
    I have been reading your contributions to truth since April 2005. No matter how much you as one man are able to write about, you still find no end to the scenes of life our 'news media' will not portray. And you seem to find no end to the motivation which drives you to serve us, your fans and followers. Thank you for yet another contribution to the effort of truth, Mr. Yon. And I am almost finished reading Moment of Truth in Iraq. You are a gift to the world.

    SPC -J. Robinson-
  • This commment is unpublished.
    poopie · 13 years ago
    Thanks to Charlie and you, Michael, for not letting us forget about what happens outside of our little sheltered world.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    kelvin parke · 13 years ago
    Until the force that dictators fear is greater than the force they infllict, they will kill without remorse for whatever their twisted ends. Withholding food and aid? Are you kidding me??!! We have the moral RIGHT to take these pieces of excrement out, wherever they are. Until the world confronts these barbarians in a way they understand, we will continue to be assaulted by the bloody corpses they leave behind. These "corpses" were mothers, fathers, and children and they had lives and a future! A murderer is not the moral equal of someone who kills him while defending the innocent. God bless you Michael Yon and God bless the United States of America! And God bless those who kill the killers.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Bill Smith · 13 years ago
    The author of your comment might want to R E A D the dispatch. You know? We're talking about one American with a camera on a very dangerous, clandestine trip down a river way, way beyond where he was supposed to be. You expect that he would go wandering all over Burma (yes, yes, I know) looking for your NGO's good works? Where was your volunteer photographer/reporter?

    It's one thing to post a comment publicizing your own good work, which I'm sure is admirable. It's quite another to criticize others, and with such a sense of entitlement to his and Charlie's work, and on his blog.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Gismo Fly, London · 13 years ago
    Dear Mike,

    Superb stuff. Your story reads like a Joseph conrad novel alright. The Burmese junta are beyond any comment or criticism. There's no point even talking about these Chinese finger puppets. What disgusts me is the inaction of the UN in this affair. That organisation seems to think that its only function is to provide soup kitchens and teach pacifism. It's gone beyond any really useful purpose in the world.

    The Burmese are quiet heroes. I'm going to buy shares in a thakka paste factory.

  • This commment is unpublished.
    Grumpy · 13 years ago
    This post isn't about anything specific. I wanted to let you know that I still read every word you write (books to and I wanted to say thanks.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Tuptian · 13 years ago
    Thank you for your story and I hope to read more. As a former Peace Corps volunteer who served in Thailand I must say your observations on Thailand in relation for Burma are very correct. While I have tried to keep up on events in Thailand via the English speaking press, available information still pails in comparison to what is available in the Thai language press. Thailand and Burma have had long and shaky history, you only need to travel a short ways up north from Bangkok to see a remnant of this history. That is not to include the Sha nor Karen civil conflicts along Thailandƒ??s northern boarder. However, I felt much sadness to see Prime Minister Samak interact so kindly to the Burmese junta, but not surprised because as you noted there is much business interest involved, some legitimate. While change will only come from within Burma, the opposition parties, with the exception of the secessionist groups, have rejected violent action. And with the junta showing no interest in the suffering of the people, this course will be very a slow and arduous undertaking.
    Best wishes
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Ronald R Donais, Sr · 13 years ago
    I am a 61 year old veteran of the Vietnam conflict. It brings me back to so much of what I saw there on a daily, or almost daily, basis. I have the book "Moment of Truth" which I bought from the Concerative Book club. i wish I had waited to get a signed copy.
    The soldier on the cover is a member of the same outfit I was proud to be a member of back in 1966. It is a siduation we constantly saw. I never had the nerve to take a photo like that. I pray it gets to the minds and feelings of many Americans to show just how crual these people are.
    Thye story of little "Farah is not unusual as people think. I so wish I were 20 again and had the power to lead men into this mess and clean it up once and for all. God bless!!
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Tim Roesch · 13 years ago
    Make sure your underwear are clean ƒ?? Chapter 1
    I leave you now for the world to see,
    resplendent in your nudity.
    But, oops, so naughty, I caught you bare!
    Gosh, mom, they ainƒ??t wearinƒ?? underwear!

    When Natureƒ??s strife lays waste the land
    and forgotten humanity just canƒ??t stand,
    then lay yourself down and never wake.
    But remember the undies, for goodness sake!

    And if, forgotten, you rot away;
    dead youƒ??ll be and dead youƒ??ll stay.
    Remember that others might see you there.
    Remember to have clean underwear!

    Blame the victims! The dead donƒ??t care;
    scattered, tattered and everywhere.
    The tide goes in and the tide goes out.
    Boxers or briefs, the voters shout.

    Turn your eyes and avert your head.
    Ignore the piles of untimely dead.
    Forget the past, your future lies there!
    Lookit, ma, they ainƒ??t got underwear!

    The walking skeletons nude in Treblinka
    The storm tossed bodies of typhooned Burma
    Whatƒ??s worse; the nudity or tyranny there?
    Hitler died in his underwear!
    What more can be said, what more done?
    A good manƒ??s ignorance or an evil oneƒ??s care?
    Baked, bared bodies under the Son . . .
    Jesus Christ! Put on some underwear!

    Oh, I forgot, Jesus was a Jew;
    Crucified , yes, but wearing underwear too.
    How many sins can we not see
    past the bare naked nudity?
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Wendell Roy · 13 years ago
    Michael, I purchased MOMENT OF TRUTH from Barnes and Nobles. It was found under the stacks in a far corner of the store. America is in the throes of a major media blitz designed to insure the election of a Socialist by the name of Obama. While this takes place we are bombarded by hate America rhetoric from all directiions, internal and external. Our American people in the interior are good people who love their country but they have no voice, no lobbyists, no representation in Washington. Thank you for all your work.

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