- The Washington Times - Sunday, November 9, 2008

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

Today, The Washington Times features a gripping report with a compelling photo spread on the plight of young children in Myanmar.

While most American children are in school, getting an education and relishing the joys and innocence of childhood, the children of Myanmar work from dawn to dusk to collect molasses. They scramble to gather molasses at the Mandalay Bay Tourist Jetty, along the beach, in dirty water, from the tail pipe of a truck, from the sides of metal containers - in short, anywhere they can. The molasses gathered is brought by adults to a collection center where the drippings are turned into sugar. The children participate in this in order to earn a little bit of money - about $1 to $2 per day - for their desperately impoverished families.

The heart-wrenching poverty in Myanmar is another stinging indictment of the current repressive and isolated military regime.

Myanmar, formerly called Burma, gained worldwide attention when it was hit by Cyclone Nargis in May, leading to the death or disappearance of up to 140,000 people and $10 billion in damages - the worst natural disaster in Burmese history. Yet the Burmese government resisted international aid, adding to the suffering. But this is only part of a long list of government mismanagement, repression and human-rights abuses. In 2005, the State Department called for U.N. intervention. Among the outrages reported have been the regime’s attempt to exterminate ethnic minorities, the mass rape of women and children by the military and religious persecution.

First lady Laura Bush and Kentucky Republican Sen. Mitch McConnell have attempted to bring attention to the plight of the citizens of Myanmar. They have lobbied to impose sanctions on Myanmar and have highlighted the 13-year detention of Nobel Laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, a pro-democracy and human-rights activist.

Myanmar has an abundance of natural resources such as gas, oil and sapphires. The grinding poverty of its inhabitants is therefore attributable to the regime’s brutality. As our report today vividly demonstrates, the children who bear many of the consequences of this regime need help. The U.N. must intensify its efforts to bring aid, as this at least provides some relief and more exposure to the West and the rest of the world. Also, the international community should be more vigilant in addressing human-rights abuses.

Finally, the pro-democracy movement must be bolstered in any manner possible, as it alone presents the best hope for a long-term solution to ending the people’s suffering.

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