May 7th, 2008
03:16 PM ET

Burma: Stories that must be told

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2008/images/05/07/art.myanmar.292.320.jpg caption = "Cyclone affected families waiting for the relief goods outside their destroyed homes." width=292 height=320]
Anderson Cooper

The numbers are shocking. 10,000 dead. Then yesterday 50,000. Now a top U.S. diplomat inside Burma suggests the death toll could be as high as 100,000. The truth is we don’t know. We may never fully know.

We’ve heard reports of bodies being dumped into rivers. We’ve seen this before. In Rwanda in 1994 I stood on a bridge over a river and saw dozens of bodies float downstream. They would collect at the base of a waterfall, caught in the swirling water, terribly bloated. I can still smell them. How many people in Burma will simply disappear?

What has happened in Burma is a natural disaster, but what is happening now is a man-made outrage. The government of Burma has been slow to allow aid groups in. I have been trying to get a visa for days now, but have not been granted one yet.

It is frustrating, to say the least. It’s important for journalists to be allowed in to convey the true scale of the catastrophe. It’s even more important that international aid groups be granted immediate access to the hardest hit areas.

CNN has a correspondent in Burma who is working around the clock to get information out. He is doing a great job. Many of us here at CNN wish we could join him. It is not for lack of trying.

Burma has seen so much suffering, so much pain, but what’s happening now should not be about politics or positions. It should be about getting aid to those in need, and preventing the spread of disease. We will be bringing you the latest from Burma tonight, in addition to the latest on politics here in the US.

100,000 dead. 50,000. 10,000. Their stories deserve to be told.

Filed under: Anderson Cooper • Cyclone • Myanmar
soundoff (89 Responses)
  1. D. Dianne Ellsworth

    Anderson...I have a son living and working in Ha Noi and Bangkok and have just returned from my eighth trip there...What is happening in Myranmar to those beautiful people has broken my heart and especially now that all airlifts have stopped due to the government conviscating the supplies for themselves and not the victims of the cyclone...My suggestion has probably all ready been thought of, but here it is anyway...Why can't the UN and the US airlift and drop the supplies to the victims so that they can retrieve them before the government soldiers can take them over as is done in a war situation to troops?....It has been stated that most of the victims are in remote areas...Thank you, Anderson, for all that you do and for putting your life on the line to get the word out to the masses....I am sure that your mother is very proud of you....Long time ago, I heard that you studied Vietnamese in Ha Noi and from then on you were like a son to me as well...You must have learned to love the Vietnamese people as much as I do...and I now have a better appreciation for all Asian people as well.

    May 9, 2008 at 9:51 am |
  2. Lisa L

    Dear Anderson

    Greetings from Australia

    It's sad that the survivors in Burma are unable to receive immediate relief from aid groups and access to journalist.

    I thank you for this report and believe it will help save lives in Burma.

    Take care. Keep up the good work.


    Lisa L

    Sydney, Australia

    May 9, 2008 at 7:14 am |
  3. Caryn

    Thank you for your coverage of this catastrophe, and especially for using the name of Burma as the country's name. It is refreshing to see you bucking the trend I am seeing of all other journalists and news organizations calling the country by the name given to it by the repressive regime.

    Please keep up the good work of your coverage around the world.

    May 9, 2008 at 12:39 am |
  4. Rekha Joy Raman

    And I wish to contribute to the Myanmar tragedy.

    May 8, 2008 at 11:20 pm |
  5. David Khin, NY

    Dear Anderson, thank you and CNN for your efforts to bring in the latest news about my country. I just "finally" got contact with my family who live in Rangoon and abit relieved. However, knowing that over 100,000 people dead and lives of more than a million people are at stake, I am very much concerned and worried about the whole situation in Burma, especially in the hard-hit areas of Irrawaddy delta region where dead toll is soaring up every hour. Tears shed after watching the photos and video footages of the tragedy in my country and that the military is junta is so reluctant to allow the aid workers of the UN to get into Burma.

    Nevertheless, I wonder what we could possibly do if the junta continues to deny visa to the aid workers. Quoting the UN secretary general Mr. Ban Ki-Moon, "we are not talking about politics, we are talking about urgent humanitarian issues", something clicked in my mind. When was the last time the UN successfully get inside this poor country and save the lives of people? Did they do it during the September blood shed??? No !
    During the interview with CNN's Fredricka Whitfield about the crisis in Myanmar, Mr. Ban repeatedly mentioned that he himself and the UN is urging Senior General Than Shwe and the junta to allow the UN aid workers to gain access to those areas where help is much needed and time is of the essence. I wonder, if that is all that UN could do???

    Just like Fredricka asked Mr. Ban during the interview, I am very eager to know what "urgent action" means. Time is running out. Its been six days already. I wont blame the junta not being very co-operative w`ith the international community on this matter because they have been secretive just like this for god knows how many years. MRTV is broadcasting the videos of junta's high ranking Generals carrying the aids themselves and loading on the choppers. I even noticed written on the box of the aid items saying "This aid is from General ... " . What is this all about??? I know this, you know this, they are just trying to convince the world that they are doing, even the Generals, everything they can to overcome this disaster. But wait, how many choppers does the Burmese airforce have??? How many tons of aid items have been successfully delivered to those who are in need of serious and "urgent" help? Mr. Ban also mentioned about a couple of planes carrying aids have landed in Yangon but think about it. Millions of people are in need of food, shelter and most importantly clean water.

    Anderson please kindly tell me as I am just so ignorant or not smart enough to know what the United Nations is doing??? Did you also realized that Mr. Ban strayed away from Fredricka's direction question about what UN would do if his talking with General Than Shwe does not work? What do we do then??? 100,000 people dead already. Do you want to see a million more die??? I am sure you dont. Neither do i. Please bear with me here Anderson. I dont understand the whole thing. Perhaps I am not just smart enough to understand the complication of politics and may be i got confused between politics, UN policy, humanitarian efforts and the lives of over a million people.

    Oh, btw, 4 members of UN assessment team visited the hard-hit areas already? Very convincing to know that is all they are doing what they can, (the UN). What is holding back the much required aid supplies to be delivered to the hands of the need? I just hope that the UN and Mr. Ban will do something that would convince and change the minds of the junta and to allow the aid workers and more supplies to be delivered to the main areas of this catastrophe.

    You might have already seen (may be you cant understand as it is written in Burmese) the weather forecast in Burmese local papers on the 29th April. Well, please dont blame them that they didnt mentioned about the cyclone. They just provided the false information. We all know very well that this government can never be trusted.

    Well, sad to say it but it has happened. Burma has suffered, yet again, now by the mother nature. What has happened to the once prosperous nation? It is just frustrating to see the people of Burma once again fallen into deep trouble. I just pray and wish for the best. Wish you the best to get visa asap. I also wish i could accompany you through out your stay in Burma. I love this country , a beautiful country. Burma need your generous help. Please be part of it. I beg you all.

    You are right Anderson, this story is deserved to be told.

    Mr. Cooper, i know you are a very man as I watch you every night on CNN, but you will be very much appreciated if you could drop a line in response to my questions. Thank you.

    May 8, 2008 at 10:25 pm |
  6. Judy

    Perhaps after you are granted your visa, your reporting of the horrific situation, could be part of the Planet in Peril Part II series. It is a natural disaster and hurricanes are getting increasingly worse because of global warming. Being a third world country makes it all the more tragic.

    May 8, 2008 at 9:32 pm |
  7. Rekha Joy Raman

    I wish Anderson the best in getting a visa to Myanmar. I wish I could be the accompanying photojournalist.

    May 8, 2008 at 8:49 pm |
  8. Ratna, New York, NY


    I could hear the frog in your troat from the cold season. Just report from base and rest, eat chicken soup, take your vitamins and stress less. It was possibly easier for Dan Rivers to have access. Why fight for a visa to enter Burma?

    May 8, 2008 at 7:24 pm |
  9. San

    Don’t drop off Food and Supplies. The Junta there will keep it for themselves. Trust me, I was born there and lived there until I was sixteen years old. They the most EVIL People on Earth. I KNOW by experience.

    China is protecting them during UN sessions because they get cheap Oil from Burmese Junta. Chinese Government only care about their Economy. They’ve already killed millions of their own in the name of their Economy, so they couldn’t care less about a few millions of Burmese people dying.

    India Government will not speak out against the Burmese Evil Government because they’re afraid they won’t get the Cheap Oil from Burma like China. Burma is one of the richest (Natural Resources) countries in Asia, yet the Military Government there keep everything for themselves. The people has been starving and dying before this ever happened.

    May 8, 2008 at 4:24 pm |
  10. KatchProFILMS

    Chiang Mai (I am so bad; re: sp). (This is DEFINITELY going to be my new and belated New Year's Resolution. TOTALLY brush up on my spelling skills.

    Pretty "zilch"... at this point.)

    May 8, 2008 at 4:19 pm |
  11. KatchProFILMS

    ps I am saying that the ramifications of such immense "spiritual harm" to the very foundation... the underpinnings of a Country... of a Nation... could be enourmous.

    Perhaps catastrophic. Though I, primarily, consider myself "scienctifically sound" (s.p. ... I know, I'm shaking writing this)... If there ever was a great "catastrophe" equal to the great harm (great) harm already done - what.... what could be worse.

    (Be careful.)


    May 8, 2008 at 4:14 pm |
  12. KatchProFILMS

    Thanks for covering this, Anderson. And I so commend you for trying to get there. I so would. What a great, horrible - horrific tragedy.

    Unprecedented. (Iwish I was a better speller. I deal with images... primarily... and am very sorry you've had to be exposed to such horrific images, previously (re: Rwanda..."Katrina"; and so on. I don't know.).

    Such, such a horrific waste of hearts, minds and souls. And, seeming, continues to be. By the minute. Of (beautiful) culture. Of beautiful (peaceful) people.

    I was raised on the Thai/Burmese border just south of Chang Mai. I was surrounded by Buddhist Preists in orange/saffron robes. They

    The whole idea (perverse, barbaric) of even laying a finger... on any of these peaceful souls - these viritual "benchmarks" or barometers of peace... in our village... in Thailand, as it were, was virtually (absolutely virtually) unheard of.


    Thanks for covering this. The best to you. (Be careful.)


    May 8, 2008 at 4:05 pm |
  13. Mark R.

    Maybe I might be off base on this one but I'm thinking that the priority for the Burmese Gov't is to give permission to rescue and recovery aid first. Now if you fill the skies and Airports with thousands of reporters and news crews, wouldn't that only slow the progress of first aid and rescue workers getting to the people? I understand that the News is your business and you having the story before your competition is your job but I think there will plenty of dead bodies and suffering to go around in the next few weeks to satisfy your viewers.

    May 8, 2008 at 2:38 pm |
  14. Kim in NY


    Thanks for using "Burma." Vocabulary is so important and so many people forget that. Call it what it is, not what the tyrants want it to be. Some may believe it makes no difference, until they are called by an unwanted name or title.....

    May 8, 2008 at 1:05 pm |
  15. Leslie

    Am I the only one who is outraged that reporters are not required to be trained to provide humanitarian aid in the face of a natural disaster? I still remember the images of Katrina where people were stranded on their homes....reporters were allowed to film them but not allowed to help them. Personally, I think it should be a requirement!

    May 8, 2008 at 12:58 pm |
  16. Mya

    Hi Anderson,
    Thanks so much for your CNN coverage to my native Myanmar and cyclone news. I wish you could get a visa and get into our country. So that, the world could get a chance to see how our people have been suffereing under this military. This militatry junta is inhumane and has been obcessed with power even in the time of crisis. Since the information and the news are under their control, I don't think people from my country would have known the reality which we saw in CNN. Myanmar people from the outside world also do not trust the junta if the relief aids would be used effectively to the needing people. I am sure there must be many corruptions between the military. However, myanmar communities around the world have organized their own relief teams and raise funds for the citizens of Myanmar . Although it is not effective as the international effort , we believe it is better than nothing else coming from the junta to the victims. I wish for a CNN reporter who has been in Irrawaddy region is safe and would stay longer to cover the news for Myanmar. Thank you.

    May 8, 2008 at 12:55 pm |
  17. Khin Nyo

    Hi Anderson,
    I just got the news form my friends in Rangoon and he got contact fro Myaung Mya area and expected death tolls is 400,000, and I cant believe but we need help and Make China to persuade the Junta. They dont mind Thai or ASEN, only hope is China to push them to accept US aid. We need big tools to clear the roads and need to get in as fast as we can.

    May 8, 2008 at 12:02 pm |
  18. michelle: Ont,Canada

    Hi Anderson

    Hope you can get your visa cleared so you can report on the tragedy and strife theses people are facing . you are the only one who gets it right and really cares about what people are going through.

    god bless you
    Michelle .D

    May 8, 2008 at 11:32 am |
  19. Khin Nyo

    Hi Anderson,
    First I want to thank you and CNN, always bring out the hidden news of Burma to the world. I hope someday we can see the good news of Burma. Right now in my life I haven't seen any good news from Burma. And stupid crazy paranoid junta would not let US to help. I feel bad about China, who took advantage of being friends with USA, but China blocked Burma from making friends with US. And I am happy that China naval based island, Hine Gyi island was washed away in cyclone, if the news is right.

    May 8, 2008 at 9:41 am |
  20. Kyaw


    I hope you get your visa soon and tell the world how much the people in Burma are suffering. The junta has very little concern for the welfare of their own people. They are very efficient at silencing their voices, suffocating people's democratic aspirations, ruthlessly killing and torturing its own citizens and monks. They are at their best as instruments of suppression.
    A disaster of this magnitude exposes their lack of concern and care and the monumental ineptitude with which they have ruined the country.
    I hope the goodwill of the people of the world could bring help and hope to the people of Burma who are going through an appalling natural disaster.
    I hope the junta has enough humanity and compassion left in them to do the right thing by allowing aid workers to help stem the tide of disaster before it becomes a major catastrophe.
    I pray for the welfare of my relatives, friends and fellow countrymen in Burma. May God bless them all.

    May 7, 2008 at 10:37 pm |
  21. Jocelyne

    Hi Anderson,
    thanks for bringing this tragic event to light. it's such a disaster. let's hope that they'll get all the international help they need. i cannot thank you enough for yr grt reports. tc.

    May 7, 2008 at 9:51 pm |
  22. MaryLynne

    Great coverage on the blog today about the horrible tragedy in Burma. I realize its an election year and much emphasis needs to be placed on the election on the show, but it seems as if many international events are being short changed. I began watching 360 because it seemed like there was more attention paid to international stories than other shows. Please bring some of that attention back...after all its an informed electorate that makes democracy work!!

    May 7, 2008 at 9:45 pm |
  23. Alison

    I have a possible diplomatic solution for Myanmar. First, President Bush could be so kind as to let the media know that he deeply regrets his decision to deny international assistance to New Orleans and the
    Gulf Coast areas following Katrina. Second, our government could now welcome sincere relief and rebuilding help from the world community in the future. If the US leaders can relinquish their foolish
    pride and admit they were wrong, maybe Myanmar can learn from our
    mistakes and "save face" which is very important in Asian cultures.
    We only need humility for the world community to bring compassion, relief, and resources.

    (Did I get my facts straight, CNN?)

    May 7, 2008 at 9:44 pm |
  24. sonya

    Thank you for bringing this news to us Anderson. I am getting sick of the election coverage and the non stop spin. I am sick to my stomach thinking what must have happened to those poor people in Burma. I hope that Junta realizes their errors and lets aid into the country.

    Thank you for bringing this story to the fore. I think you're doing us a great favor and I am praying for the people in Burma. I hope they see help soon!

    May 7, 2008 at 9:44 pm |
  25. Margaret


    Delivery of emergency aid to the people in the affected areas in Myanmar is vital to prevent further loss of lives. The magnitude of loss will require an enormous, well coordinated response to get these communities back on their feet. I hope the authorities will let the international community help the affected people who are in dire need of support. After such a disaster, keeping out aid is a deservice to the citizens.

    May 7, 2008 at 9:42 pm |
  26. Jan from Wood Dale, IL

    Three days after the storm, Burma has finally begun accepting global relief aid deliveries. However, UN relief assessment teams are still waiting for their visas to enter the country.

    The UN's World Food Program has reached the first of an estimated one million people left homeless by the cyclone. WFP has begun efforts in Rangoon. Additional truckloads of food were being dispatched to Laputta township. The agency has more than 800 metric tons of food stocks in Rangoon and also plans to airlift additional supplies as soon as possible.

    According to residents in Rangoon and the Irrawaddy delta town of Laputta, immediately after the storm the monks came out of their monasteries and offered assistance to survivors. The Burmese military authorities were attempting to prevent the monks from getting involved in relief efforts. Military officials ordered the monks not to use their monasteries as safe houses for survivors. They will only permit people to shelter in schools. Even if the monks want to distribute water to survivors, they have to get permission from authorities.

    There are several non-profit international relief organizations that had been, and continue to be, operational in Burma, but they will need additional financial support. You can find a list of those organizations on CNN.com/Impact.

    May 7, 2008 at 9:40 pm |
  27. Robert

    Having gone through Hurricane Andrew, I know how the wrath of these monstrous storms can get. The government of Burma should leave political stupidity aside and work for the best interest of its people. I do however hope that there is an international investigation as to why there was such poor preparation to evacuate the poople. And if this means that the government of Burma is found to be guilty of negligence, then there ought to be a tribunal inquiry into the matter in the near future.

    May 7, 2008 at 9:37 pm |
  28. Edward Chan

    My elementary friend was burmanese and its a pity to see a military government handle this situation. I honestly think they don't care about their own people or else international aid would be there helping the Myanmar citizens cope with the disaster this cyclone have left them shattered and battered with nothing but despair. The central asian countries have suffered too much the past few years from tsunami to cyclones. We are in the year 2008 and it seems the world is in such a disaster as we grow older and maturer.

    May 7, 2008 at 9:34 pm |
  29. EJ

    "What about the Katrina survivors who are still in need of help? What about New Orleans, it still needs to be rebuilt! What has happened is a horrific tragedy, but when are we going to take care of our own? We need to rebuild our nation before we can help everyone else, let other countries help for a change."

    Well, this magnitude is much like the Asian tsunami a few years ago. The US has always sent aid to other countries in the wake of extreme natural disasters. I would hope that helping people who experience these types of disasters does not preclude us from helping the people here in the US.

    If the toll 50,000 – 100,000 – they are going to need help from many countries and I am certain the US is not the only country offering aid.

    May 7, 2008 at 9:33 pm |
  30. EJ

    Roger, how many wars do we need to start? People are perishing all over the world. That does not mean that the United States should invade each and every one of those countries. War is not the answer to everything.

    May 7, 2008 at 9:24 pm |
  31. Annie Kate

    I hope that the Burmese government lets the aid and aid workers in; telling the story is important but right now those people need food, water, and some sort of shelter. How much of the death toll in the end will be because the government wouldn't accept the aid offered in a timely fashion?

    I know you want to go and cover this story but if the government won't let aid in I don't see them letting a reporter in either. If you get to go then stay safe and well.

    Annie Kate
    Birmingham AL

    May 7, 2008 at 9:23 pm |
  32. Angela

    The likelihood of the junta issuing visas is slim. I pray the United States DOES NOT issue another blank check to an Islamic country who will only use our funds against us.

    I pray for those lives lost. I also pray the US and its citizens do not blindly donate funds to Islamic countries. We can know aid funds will most likely end up in the hands of the Islamofascists who will gladly use the funds to kill monks, innocents and anyone else who is not like them.

    May 7, 2008 at 9:18 pm |
  33. Khin Nwe Aye


    I recently discovered your undercover trip to Burma years ago. As a Burmese citizen, you can imagine how shocked and appalled we Burmese all over the world are over the devastation visited upon our long-suffering country and people. And add to that, the way the junta has been dragging its feet in keeping out the vital aid makes us so angry, frustrated and literally ill. Thank god I was able to get news about friends and relatives in rangoon via another relative in Mandalay as we've failed to make contact with people in Rangoon through cell phone. But the worst-hit Irrawaddy Delta will reveal to the world the horrific death toll and destruction so far uncovered. I pray that you'll be able to get in (actually you'll need a lot of prayers from lots of people as the generals are mortally afraid of journalists witnessing the referendum on May 10 they're going to rig) and show the world what Burma is really suffering from. Bless you.

    May 7, 2008 at 9:08 pm |
  34. debbie new york

    HI AC
    Today at Mass I pray for all those people especially those children also for you to get a visa.Please be very carefull. This really sad. I have no friends in Burma where as I had quite a few in Sri Lanka.Once Again Good Luck Keep the News Comming..


    May 7, 2008 at 9:04 pm |
  35. patrick kolpak

    God bless their souls

    May 7, 2008 at 8:56 pm |
  36. KENNETH, Ormoc, Philippines

    This reminds me of the great flashflood in my hometown Ormoc City in November 1991...so many fatalities, so many people missing...

    May 7, 2008 at 8:56 pm |
  37. Max

    As a native of Burma, it is a hearth warming feeling to see and hear the passion and considerations from everybody around the world. Life of Burmese people have been repressed, tortured and abused through out decades and now this tragedy struck. No words to express the emotion towards the casualties of our own people who had never see the freedom in their life. Please help the survivor to be able to rebuilt their life by donating whatever you can to charity organizations for the victims of cyclones.

    May 7, 2008 at 8:40 pm |
  38. George Hager

    This presents a unique opportunity for the government of Myanmar to dispose of countless troublemakers. If only they had the oil resources to justify an intervention...

    May 7, 2008 at 8:23 pm |
  39. Maureen T

    I hope you do get your visa and get to Burma and bring this story to the masses! It's a terrible tragedy and my heart goes out to those people. You of all people can bring attention to this. Stay safe should you get there. We still need you to tell the stories in America!

    May 7, 2008 at 8:19 pm |
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