The article seems credible, the reporter pretty thorough, the LA Times fairly reputable. If the same content were on a rebellious blog site, it would be almost unbelievable, incomprehensible, but my opinion is that this reporter is working hard to report what is actually going on.
The article itself outdoes that description. There are references to attempts to glean the odd red chile pepper or onion out of mud stinking of corpses, and for comfortable computer users who dislike unnecessary drama, it can be appealing to assume that this is mostly emotional reportage. On the other hand, consider the level of devastation wrought by Nargis in Burma, compounded by Burma’s insane rulers and their refusal to allow people to help survivors directly, and the mounting public health crisis, and this seems thoroughly reasonable.
The article is also notable for reporting on the clandestine (and apparently rather effective) aid efforts organized by heroic monks. Here’s a relevant quote on that front, but please go read the original article here.:
As the government tried to coax more aid from donors Sunday at a conference in Yangon, the country’s principal city, Buddhist monks in Bogalay were secretly organizing six boats to carry out their next unauthorized relief mission.
After evicting thousands of people from Bogalay’s relief camps, the government is trying to cut off the monks’ aid to delta villages, said a local abbot, who is a leader of the underground effort.
He spoke on condition he not be named, fearing military reprisals against him and the relief operation, which thousands of survivors in remote villagers are depending on for support.
When they can, the monks gather donations secretly because authorities insist that all aid must be channeled through the military. On May 19, when private donors tried to deliver a few truckloads of supplies to the abbot’s monastery, security forces attempted to turn them back.
“All the soldiers and police locked arms and blocked the street in front of our monastery,” he said, as a military helicopter hovered before landing across the river. “The driver panicked, so I pulled him out and drove myself, shouting through a loudspeaker, ‘Get out of the way or I’ll hit you with the truck!’ ”
The abbot showed video, which he said a colleague shot with a camera hidden under his maroon robes, to support claims that the military is evicting cyclone survivors from private relief camps.
In one video, a soldier slaps an elderly woman in the face with a paper listing the names of the expelled. She was pleading for permission to stay in a Hindu temple over the weekend, the monk said. It was the last of several private relief camps operating before authorities closed it, he said.
“Most of these refugees are not educated,” said the abbot, trying to explain the soldiers’ disdain for the villagers. “They don’t even know how to sign their names. They just use fingerprints. So the military thinks they’re not human.”
The evictions have resulted in a number of deaths, the abbot said. Dozens of survivors died May 18 when three riverboats capsized in a storm as they were heading back to villages flattened by the cyclone, he said.