As you all know, the crisis in Burma is transforming from a natural disaster to a humanitarian catastrophe due to the xenophobia, incompetence, and malevolence of the Burmese government. With every day that passes, the situation of the up to tow million Burmese people affected by this crisis, almost three quarters of whom have reportedly not received any assistance, is becoming ever more precarious. It is clear that the time has come for bold international action. My colleague, Brian Vogt, wrote an excellent piece detailing one strategy for getting aid through to those who need it earlier this week. Brian is quite right to warn that we must not to allow our disgust for the Burmese junta lead us to political posturing rather than decisive action.
Although the Chinese government stated last week that they did not think it appropriate for the Burma crisis to be brought to the UN Security Council, it is becoming increasingly clear that stronger action by the UN and the international community will be required to break this deadly impasse. French Prime Minister Bernard Kouchner was among the first to call for aid drops in Burma, even against the wishes of the Burmese regime. British Prime Minister Gordon Brown is now calling for a UN summit on aid to Burma. The United States must continue to take a lead in these efforts, and to build international consensus around a more aggressive assistance agenda with the greatest amount of international legitimacy possible. Clearly, food and aid drops will not be enough as water-borne diseases begin to take their toll over the coming days, particularly on the young and the elderly. Specifically, the United States can actively support the provision of assistance under chapter 7 of the UN Charter, as was done for Somalia and other recent humanitarian crises.