In his final trip to the region as the top U.N. envoy for the tsunami recovery effort, former U.S. President Bill Clinton visited post-tsunami communities in Indonesia,Thailand and India.
Having surveyed the new schools and shelters in Aceh, Clinton acknowledged that with “tens of thousands of people remain in temporary shelters” and many complaining that “they were frustrated at the slow pace of rebuilding and the unhealthy living conditions in camps”, much more still needed to be done, including eliminating corruption that had siphoned off foreign aid for development. However, as the Associated Press reported, Clinton recognized the gargantuan task at hand, thus encouraged the people, saying, “Given the problems you face and the staggering loss of life ... you should believe that you've done well… That should give you the courage to finish the job.”
Clinton also had a political message for Aceh even as former Gerakan Aceh Merdeka (GAM or Free Aceh Movement) members begin to form a political party to contest in the 2009 national elections. According to the Malaysia Star, Clinton “urged major players in the peace process to keep it on track through and beyond” the December 11 election “in which a number of one-time GAM members are [presently independent] candidates”.
In an earlier visit to Thailand, Clinton had also urged the junta to return power to the people. He told the media, “They say they are going to restore democracy in the near future, and I think it's important that they do so.”
On the tsunami reconstruction efforts, Clinton had visited Hin Luk Diew village (a Moken sea gypsy community) on Phuket Island to help plant mangrove saplings to mark “the official launch of the World Conservation Union's (IUCN) ‘mangroves for the future initiative’, aimed at strengthening coastal ecosystems and livelihoods in the Indian Ocean region that were devastated by the December 24, 2004, tidal waves that claimed 230,000 lives”, the Bangkok Post said.
In contrast to Thailand and Indonesia, Clinton had only glowing praise for the rehabilitation work in Tamil Nadu. He told reporters, “I want to tell you there is more good news than negative. I want to say some special words about the works that has been done in Tamil Nadu. This area (Cuddalore district) is the first among all the tsunami affected regions, where everyone who had lost their homes have been replaced… What is being done here, I like to see copied throughout the world… UN agencies should evolve a strategy to replicate [it].”
Rounding up his visits, Clinton is now also lobbying for more “community education about disaster preparation, and has encouraged donors to fund a $52 million assistance package to help reduce the impact of disasters in the future”, the Voice of America reported.
Clinton stresses peace, politics in tsunami-hit Aceh (Malaysia Star, 3 December 2006)
Clinton wraps up tour of Asian nations hit by 2004 tsunami (Jakarta Post, 3 December 2006)
Clinton urges democracy return (Bangkok Post, 2 December 2006)
Clinton hails TN as model for tsunami rehab works (Zee News India, 2 December 2006)
Former rebels in Indonesia's Aceh province ready to form political party (AP, 2 December 2006)
Land titles in Aceh: So much hope, but more action needed (Jakarta Post, 1 December 2006)