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Pattaya Daily News

14 May 2008 :: 16:05:57 pm 29611

Plight Of Nargis Victims Becoming Increasingly Desperate As 2nd Catastrophe Looms

The Burmese junta continues to drag its heels as the situation for the survivors of Cyclone?Nargis is exacerbating by the hour as the UN warns of an imminent second catastrophe unless a massive aid operation is put in place immediately. This especially so as the weather deteriorates with heavy rains pelting homeless cyclone survivors in Myanmar?s Irrawaddy Delta on Tuesday, May 13, 2008. BBC reported Andrew Kirkwood, Burma director of Save the Children, as saying "The rain we were promised has appeared, along with high winds. The conditions must be dreadful out there."
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The UN has called for air and sea corridors to be opened to allow deliveries of urgently needed relief supplies by sea and air drops. Elements of the US fleet are patrolling just off Burma to render immediate aid if the junta will allow access. Two US C-130 transport planes have already delivered supplies, but their crews were discouraged from helping unload them from the aircraft.

The BBC reported that Vice-Admiral Soe Thein said Burma was grateful for an aid shipment from the US, which arrived on Monday, but said there was no need for aid workers. The junta’s insistence on going it alone is causing immense frustration globally. The UN’s humanitarian chief, Elisabeth Byrs, reiterated the international community’s exasperation with Burma’s ruling junta.

“We are only seeing the peak of the iceberg, and the situation risks becoming a lot more dramatic if there isn’t an acceleration of humanitarian aid,” she told journalists in the Swiss city of Geneva.

Sean Turnell, of Macquarie University, had this to say “The military regime is extraordinarily xenophobic. They are afraid of everything?If they can’t handle the situation and they let Westerners come in with helicopters, this will demonstrate to their own people the shortcomings of the military?They are more concerned with control and maintaining an omniscience in front of their people than saving lives.”

Here is the full report from Reuter’s Aung Hla Tun:

YANGON (Reuters) – Desperation among Myanmar’s 1.5 million cyclone survivors mounted on Wednesday as the international aid flow remained a trickle and police barred foreign aid workers from worst-hit areas.

The United Nations and Western powers piled more pressure on the military regime to speed up its slow and disorganized response to the disaster by suggesting that helpless victims could have been robbed of food and other urgent supplies.

The reports were unconfirmed, but the relief effort — further complicated by heavy rains — is only delivering one tenth of the supplies needed in the devastated delta region, where up to 100,000 people are dead or missing.

“It’s just awful, people are in just desperate need, begging as vehicles go past,” Gordon Bacon, an emergency coordinator for International Rescue Committee, told Reuters by phone from Yangon.

The international community has flown in tons of medicine, food and shelter materials, but getting it to low-lying delta area has been complicated by poor equipment, bad weather and government intransigence.

Myanmar’s reclusive junta has also made it very clear it does not want outsiders distributing aid.

Foreign experts in sanitation, nutrition and medicine have either been prevented from entering the country formerly known as Burma or are restricted to the main city of Yangon.

Armed police send back foreigners who attempt to pass through checkpoints surrounding the former capital.

“It’s such an immense area of devastation and so many people need help that I’m sure if these people could get in and be coordinated properly it would assist the effort dramatically,” said Bacon. “There is frustration all around.”


The international community has warned of an even greater tragedy if the aid effort is not ratcheted up.

In a statement after emergency talks on Myanmar in Brussels on Tuesday, EU development ministers called on Yangon “to offer free and unfettered access to international humanitarian experts, including the expeditious delivery of visa and travel permits.”

The EU ministers stopped short of endorsing a French call to deliver supplies if necessary without the junta’s permission.

France’s junior minister for human rights said it had the backing of Britain and Germany to call on the U.N. Security Council for aid to be taken into Myanmar without the government’s green light if necessary.

“We have called for the ‘responsibility to protect’ to be applied in the case of Burma,” Rama Yade told reporters.

British officials said London would welcome discussion of the ‘responsibility to protect,’ a 2005 U.N. resolution conceived to assist victims of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity, but not natural disasters.

But the official did not consider the proposal realistic given Russian and Chinese objections.

Tens of thousands of people throughout the delta are crammed into monasteries, schools and other buildings after arriving in towns that were on the breadline even before the disaster.

Lacking food, water and sanitation, they face the threat of killer diseases such as cholera and in some parts are waiting in vain for help to arrive.

Reporter : PDN staff   Category : World News

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