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Le Ch√Ętiment des Rois

(The Kings' Punishment)

Burma -  Myanmar: The chronicle of a forgotten cyclone, published by Florent Massot in January 2009. the story of a forgotten natural disaster, the cyclone Nargis, told by its own actors.

On May 2, 2008, cyclone Nargis killed more than 140,000 people the Irrawaddy Delta, a vast territory in Southern Burma considered as the country's "rice bowl".

At first, the military dictatorship who rules the country for almost fifty years denied international help, claiming that the country could rely on its own resources.

Quickly, local individuals and organizations rallied and set up humanitarian convoys to help hundreds of thousands of victims. Buddhist monks, reduced to silence after the September 2007 pro-democratic demonstrations and repression, resurfaced. Along with scores of civilians, they scanned through rivers and canals to bring food, cloth and other relief equipment. This massive and spontaneous solidarity movement from the civilian and religious community was a huge slap on the junta's face. A month after Nargis, the generals finally accepted to open the country to outside assistance. Burma experienced an unprecedented "humanitarian invasion".

People have painfully rebuilt shelters and replanted rice. Used to live a hard life, they will survive. But they have lost years of development and many survivors will have to endure a deep psychological trauma for the rest of their life. To rebuild their economy, they would need a massive support. The regime does not care. The international community, distrustful and under pressure from opposition lobbies, did not show a great deal of generosity.

People from the Delta have gone back into oblivion, as they always have been.

"The Kings Punishment", through stories, anecdotes and exclusive accounts collected in the Delta, Rangoon and Mandalay from survivors, members of the civilian and religious society, volunteers of non governmental organizations and United nations agencies, tells the moving chronicle of a natural disaster and its impact on the Burmese people.

Photo-journalist, author
Thierry Falise