Bay Area puts efforts to help Myanmar

May 10, 2008 5:55:00 PM PDT
The Burmese American Democratic Alliance (BADA) organized a fundraiser in Fremont and in just a few hours, they raised $5,000 dollars totaling 11,000 to send to Myanmar. The aid willl be sent in cash and will funnel through discrete channels in Burma and end up with Burmese monks. Burmese monasteries have offered refuge to many victims of last weeks cyclone and in the Bay Area, we witnessed the power of prayer and patriotism.

On Saturday the United Nations sent three more planes and several trucks packed with supplies to Myanmar.

The local gathering may be half a world away from the devastation in Myanmar, but these Burmese monks and ex-patriots are committed to helping their homeland survive last weekend's cyclone.

"We don't have time . Time is not our side. The result is many more deaths are going to come," says Heads of the Burmese American Democratic Alliance Nyunt Than.

The the Burmese American Democratic Alliance's goal (BADA) is to bring democracy to Burma and Than thinks the cyclone could be a catalyst because it garners international attention.

"As deadly and tragic as it is, I think it's going to be the beginning of the end for this brutal dictatorship," says Than.

It is difficult to separate the fight for freedom and the fight simply to survive after the cyclone. It took Anil Verma of Oakland days to reach his family in Rangoon. On Friday, the call finally went through.

"I was surprised. My brother picked up so I was so happy because still they are alive."

Anil's brother Raj managed to buy a basket of rice, but there is no electricity to cook. Anil hasn't seen his family for 17 years -- only pictures. As an activist against the military government, Anil fled Burma to avoid arrest, leaving behind his parents, seven brothers, and a sister. He fears he may never reunite with his 99-year-old grandfather unless the U.S. intervenes.

"U.S. government should go and step in Burma and do whatever they can, don't care about this regime. They are doing crime against humanity."

Representative Barbara Lee is in the Bay Area this weekend for an environmental hearing. We asked Lee about U.S. aid to Burma.

"We're going back on Tuesday and we're looking at what response is necessary. There are probably gaps. Congressional response should fill the void of whatever the administration has not done, so we're in the process of looking at that now," says Lee.

On Friday, the Myanmar government did allow a U.S. cargo plane to deliver supplies and the U.S. military does have several helicopters in the region that are ready to deliver goods when they get the clearance.


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