Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Aid Finally Arrives in Burma As Another Storm Grows

photo by Christian Holst/Getty Images for Save The Children

The aid may have finally arrived in Myanmar/Burma but the question remains of whether it will be distributed to those in desperate need. Certainly, it is already too late for many.

This situation is unconscionable. If ever there was a regime that could be labeled as "evil" it is certainly the military junta of Myanmar.

One also has to look closely at any nation that chooses to maintain a close relationship with a regime that so callously refuses aid to its own citizens.

excerpt from:

First US Aid Flight Arrives in Burma As A New Storm Looms

By Brian Rex in Rangoon for The Independent
Tuesday, 13 May 2008

The first shipment of American emergency supplies arrived in Burma yesterday as aid agencies warned that the number of people in desperate need of help had risen to two million. In some camps set up by the government, whole families are being given just one cup of rice a day.

The C-130 cargo plane loaded with supplies including water, blankets and mosquito nets arrived in the main city, Rangoon, from Thailand and was met by ministers from the regime. Two more cargos of aid are scheduled to land today.

While a trickle of aid had started to arrive in Burma after days of obstruction by the authorities, relief organisations say the fate of hundreds of thousands of people lies in the balance.

"It's still a very serious situation. There are up to two million people in urgent need of assistance. Assistance is getting through but not fast enough," Richard Horsey, a spokesman for the United Nations' humanitarian operations, said in Bangkok. "There are four key requirements: clean drinking water, shelter, medical support and food ... All are sorely lacking."

In the Irrawaddy delta, home to most of the victims of Cyclone Nargis, people said the military authorities were continuing to hinder the relief effort.

"The government is very controlling," U Patanyale, the abbot of a monastery in the delta city of Pyapon, told the Associated Press. "Those who want to give directly to the victims get into trouble. They have to give to the government or do it secretly. They follow international aid trucks everywhere. They don't want others to take credit. That's the Myanmar government."

He added: "So far we have enough water by collecting rain. But we do not have food any more." Such is the junta's suspicion of the West that only a small number of foreign aid officials have yet been given visas to enter the country – something that relief organisations say is holding back efforts.

Only Burmese nationals have been permitted to travel to the far south of the delta where the worst of the damage took place. Indeed, it appears the police have been ordered to set up roadblocks to stop foreigners. Yesterday I passed one such police check while travelling in the opposite direction.

"They say they will call, but it's always wait, wait, wait," said Pierre Fouillant of the French agency Comité de Secours Internationaux, which has so far been refused visas. "I've never seen delays like this, never. It's a crime against humanity. It should be against the law. It's like they are taking a gun and shooting their own people."

In a related story, Josh Marshall of TPM exposes the Myanmar lobbyist who are not working for John McCain's presidential election campaign.

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