Dispatches – Orphans of Burma’s Cyclone Review: Spiralling Out of Control

June 1, 2009 by  
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DISPATCHES: ORPHANS OF BURMA’S CYCLONE, Monday 1st June, Channel 4, 8.00pm Alert Me

Whether you think that those MPs involved in the expenses scandal should be brought to justice in the courts or tarred and feathered by their constituents, the fact is the peoples’ wrath has been incurred.

And judging by the amount of news that has been generated over the last few weeks, the public’s demand for blood is set to be satisfied and everyone can soon return to being apathetic about politics once again.

Watching Orphan’s of Burma’s Cyclone I almost feel proud of our finger wagging over-zealous press.

Filmed in the wake of Cyclone Nargis which tore through Burma in May 2008, Orphans of Burma’s cyclone paints a disturbing picture of a people left to fend for themselves by a corrupt military government which has done nothing to ease the suffering of its people.

The Burmese government are so corrupt, in fact, that they almost makes MP David ‘claiming for a paid off mortgage’ Chaytor look like Ghandi.

More than 150,000 people died after Nargis caused wide spread landslides and flooding. Since then a further 2 million have been left homeless including tens of thousands of orphaned children.

In response to what was the worst natural disaster ever recorded in Burma, the eight generals who hold power over the country went on TV and said that a relief operation was taking care of those in need which was, as lies go, a bit of a whopper. Rather than allowing foreign aid into the country the military government adopted an “everyman for themselves approach? – not an inspired tactic from a country which spends approximately 40% of its budget on the military.

Orphans of Burma’s Cyclone was shot in secret by a group of cameramen who wanted the world to see the devastating impact the cyclone has had and how little is being done to help those whose livelihoods have been taken away.

Over the course of a year cameras recorded the lives of several children whose families perished in the storm. If caught, the cameramen face years in prison and the government even has spies passing on information about the activities of anyone who has dealings with the outside world.

The reality of the situation is bleak to say the least yet the childrens’ natural resilience and good humour is a testament to the work of the few organisations which have taken on the task of providing the children with a secure and safe environment.

In one scene which brings home the reality of the situation, a group of young boys play amongst the skeletal remains of what were their friends and neighbours while one boy points out that the little pile of bones scattered under a bush was once his sister.

Worryingly, since the cyclone the generals’ grip on the country has grown even stronger and several of the makeshift orphanages set up to deal with the lost children are threatened with closure because they rely on Christian Aid to run.

While the country’s leaders were filmed tucking in to a banquet to celebrate being a corrupt leadership, ten of thousands of children are still left trying to put the pieces of their devastated lives back together.

Jack McKay