Burma Cyclone


Latest News: First public comments from high-ranking Burmese military junta rep. by carpediemdg

reports that earlier today, a breakthrough was achieved following UN Sect. General, Ban-Ki-Moon’s visit to Burma. In the first public comments offered by a member of the military junta, Burmese Prime Minister, Lt. Gen. Thein Sein, finally announced that:

“Relief supplies can be transported by land, air or sea,” Lt. Gen Thein Sein told the conference, the Associated Press reported. “But if relief supplies have to be transported by water, civilian vessels can come in through Yangon port.”

Other highlights from the article:

  • Gen. Than Shwe, who did not attend Sunday’s donor meeting, has still to make any public comments on the cyclone, which left at least 133,000 people dead or missing, according to Myanmar government estimates.
  • Donors who attended the conference said they were ready to stump up more money. Many donors warned that formal pledges would be contingent on Yangon following through on its promises about access. Yangon, says it has received pledges from governments for only about one-quarter of a $200 million “flash appeal” to provide food, water, shelter and medicines for those most in need.
  • Myanmar has accepted 3,200 tons of foreign government and private aid so far. But the U.N. says that aid has only reached about a quarter of those most severely affected by the cyclone.
  • The reasons for the military’s change of position remain obscure. Here are some possible reasons offered in the Journal’s article:- Rising concern about the scale of the crisis appears to be a major factor.
  • The visit of the U.N. leader to the hierarchy-obsessed nation had been enough to break the
    impasse. In contrast, Gen. Than Shwe declined to meet U.N. special envoy to Myanmar, Ibrahim
    Gambari, during a pre-cyclone visit earlier this year.
  • Gen. Than Shwe, who is reportedly in poor health and rarely leaves the new capital, may not have
    been fully apprised of the international aid community’s demands for better access.

“This is basically a Potemkin society in which the leadership has been insulated from
unpleasantness,” said David Steinberg, director of the Asian studies program at Georgetown
University in Washington.

  • Waited to conduct its referendum on a new draft constitution, which is designed to perpetuate
    military rule. On Saturday, voting on the new constitution took place in cyclone-ravaged areas after an earlier vote was delayed. The rest of the country voted May 10 and-amid widespread reports of vote-rigging and intimidation-official results showed the constitution was approved by 92.4% of voters. With the referendum completed, Gen. Than Shwe might be more willing to allow in foreigners, Mr. Steinberg said.
  • Others said that the regime probably bowed to pressure from its own people and its neighbors,
    especially China.

Read the full article here.

–Divya



Latest News: Some Myanmar aid reportedly stolen by karenzr

This just in, from the unnamed New York Times writer in Yangon: Some Myanmar aid reportedly stolen

The lede:

<The directors of several relief organizations in Myanmar said Wednesday that some of the international aid arriving into the country for the victims of Cyclone Nargis was being stolen, diverted or warehoused by the country’s military.>



Resources: Asia Society posts cyclone resources & pictures by karenzr

Excerpts from new Asia Society page on disaster relief efforts in Myanmar:

<<An Asia Society contact, reporting from one of the few available Internet connections in Yangon on Wednesday, May 7, wrote: “Yangon is like a post-war city. No water, no electricity. Food prices are three times [higher]…. The price of gas [is up] two times. People need a lot of things, but [the] government has no proper plan to support [us].”>>

Page also contains links to relief groups, a Washington Post audio interview with Asia Society expert Suzanne DiMaggio, and photographs, including this beautiful shot by Khin Maung Win (AFP/Getty Images.)

–Karen