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Burma's catastrophe presents the planet with perhaps the most serious human rights problem since the 2004 Asia tidal wave.

Burma's catastrophe presents the planet with perhaps the most serious human rights problem since the 2004 Asia tidal wave. According to the most trustworthy estimations, almost 100,000 persons are killed. This figure is bound to increase due to delay in providing assistance to the affected areas, inaccessible areas and the state of Burma's infrastructures and healthcare system.

As one million lives are still at stake, it is possible that the number of civilian casualties will converge within a few short working hours with the number of civilian deaths in the Darfur massacre. What does the rest of the earth do about it? Burma's reigning army regimes first signalled that they would tolerate outside help, but placed so many demands on those who would actually provide it that hardly any rills had made it.

Helpers were detained at the airport. Burma has given in and on Friday agreed to allow reserves and perhaps even some overseas auxiliaries. According to the US authorities, it will make a C-130 US airlift landing inside Burma on Monday. However, it is difficult to believe that a regimes such as Thailand and Indonesia will accept strong support from the US army after the tidal wave, let alone agree to the US Marines' being present on Burma as well.

But the problem is that the Burmese have not shown the capacity or readiness to use the kind of means necessary to cope with a catastrophe of this magnitude - and the longer Burma defies aid offerings, the more likely it is that the catastrophe will develop out of anyone's orbit. "We are 2008, not 1908," says Jan Egeland, the former UN aid co-ordinator.

A number of commentators, among them the former USAID secretary, Andrew Natsios, have urged the US to begin one-sidedly with the droplets of the Burma people's breath, regardless of what the Burma regime says. I can' t believe we can go in without the Myanmar government's permission," said Defense Secretary Robert Gates on Thursday - but it is not without precedent: As Natsios told the Wall Street Journal, the US has made it easier to deliver relief work without the approval of the visiting governments in places like Bosnia and Sudan.

Compulsory human rights interventions would be complex and expensive. In the 2004 tidal wave, some 24 US vessels and 16,000 soldiers were sent to regional lands, costing the US $5 million a dollar a full working day. Finally, the US promised almost 900 million dollars for aid to the tsunamis. Even if the U.S. and its coalition partners made it clear that their activities were for purely human ends, it is unlikely that the regime would believe them.

"It is unthinkable that a charity would want to fire upon itself with a meal. The retired General William Nash of the Council on Foreign Relations says that the US should first put the US to use its leverage on China to get the regime to open up and then help the Thai and Indonesian military to conduct aid outreach.

"And we need to bring the goods to the guys who can supply them and who the Myanmar administration will tolerate, even if it lasts a days or two longer and even if it's not as effective as the good old US might. The Ivory Coast administration took similar action in 2002 with the inclusion of international aid groups, says Egelend.

"It is important for the emperors to know that the rest of the worid has other possibilities," says Egeland. "For example, if there was the risk of a risk of a disease that could kill tens of millions of people and the authorities were unable to prevent it, then perhaps you would take unilateral measures. It is a chilly reality that states seldom take forceful measures when their own interests are at risk; and the rest of the globe has not yet reached a common understanding of when and under what conditions forced intervention in the name of avoiding human catastrophes is permitted.

The reaction to the 2004 tidal wave has shown the world's ability to show compassion.

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