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A Story of Life and Death

Zoya Phan
Asia-Pacific and South Asia

Burmese human rights activist Zoya Phan opens her remarks on humanitarian aid with the declaration that, based on her own life experience,she cannot be opposed to foreign assistance. Without aid, she reveals, she would be dead. However, Phan argues that while aid can help deal with the symptoms of a dictatorship, it does not address the ultimate cause of the problem: the dictatorship itself. A major problem in Burma is the regime’s blockade of international aid. But this barrier simply means that the international community must find other ways to help the people of Burma.Unfortunately, Phan warns, finding a real solution seems difficult to foreign governments and instead, “they throw aid money at the problem” to be able to claim that they are addressing it. Phan does think aid is important, but only when administered correctly. The money must benefit the people, not fall into the hands of those in power who will use it to perpetuate the status quo.

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