Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Dagon cyclone victims miss out on aid

Cyclone victims taking shelter in a school and library in southern New Dagon township did not receive their any of their allotted rice when supplies were distributed by township officials recently.

--Read More: here

Weekly journals ordered not to cover "destruction", but cover "reconstruction"

"We were told by the scrutiny board not to cover the news of destruction. But, were told to cover the reconstruction they are doing," an editor of a weekly told Mizzima on condition of anonymity for fear of junta's reprisal for telling the outside media.

--Read More: here

Diarrhea, Dysentery Widespread among Refugees

Volunteer doctors hurry to townships of the Irrawaddy delta and Rangoon, but the number of patients overwhelms their efforts.

--Read More: here

Leading Monks Send Money, Aid to Refugees

Respected monks in central Burma are making a difference to refugees’ lives in the Irrawaddy delta, through donations of money and other relief supplies.

--Read More: here

Reconstruction Just Propaganda, Say Rangoon Residents

“Although some Burmese troops are cleaning up roads, they are not giving any materials to the victims to rebuild their homes,” said Kyi Win, a Rangoon resident. Some plastic sheeting has been provided, but not enough for all the affected households; people have only plastic sheeting to shelter their homes, he added.

Meanwhile, local authorities set up some 40 temporary tents for those made homeless by the cyclone in Rangoon and then filmed the humanitarian exercise for state-run television.

--Read More: here

U.N. chief: Myanmar OKs foreign helicopters

A boy takes shelter at a makeshift tent prior to leaving with his family
to find shelter in Shwepoughkan township,
some 32 kilometers from Myanmar's biggest city, Yangon, on Tuesday.
Khin Maung Win / AFP - Getty Images

Aid agencies, residents frustrated with junta’s response after cyclone

"We have received government permission to operate nine WFP (World Food Program) helicopters, which will allow us to reach areas that have so far been largely inaccessible," Ban told reporters in New York before departing on a mission to Myanmar.

--Read More: here

Burma's Woes: A Threat to the Junta

Within days, a British colleague and I were deported for secretly reporting on the disaster. I wondered: why hadn't we been kicked out the previous September, when we had covered the junta's violent suppression of street protests led by Buddhist monks? Answer: because the generals are far more worried by the political implications of the cyclone — and they should be. The combination of popular anger and the junta's reluctant but necessary acceptance of foreign assistance may yet combine to unseat a seemingly unshakeable regime.

--Read More: here

Norwegian foreign ministry official heads for Myanmar

Oslo - A ranking Norwegian foreign ministry official was Tuesday to head for Myanmar and will try to meet with its military rulers, Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Store told parliament. State Secretary Raymond Johansen's visit will coincide with that of among others United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, Store said.

--Read More: here

World Bank Rules Out Financial Aid for Burma

The World Bank will not give any financial aid or loans to cyclone-hit Burma because the military-ruled country has been in arrears with the lender for a decade, a top bank official said on Tuesday.

--Read More: here

Heading for Myanmar, Ban Ki-moon pledges to do ‘utmost’ to speed aid efforts

20 May 2008 – As he prepared to leave for Myanmar today, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said he will do all he can to reinforce the immediate relief effort in the cyclone-devastated country and will also draw attention to the need for long-term reconstruction and development.

“I will do my utmost for the people of Myanmar,” Mr. Ban told reporters at UN Headquarters in New York. “I want to see the conditions under which relief teams are working and I intend to do all I can to reinforce their efforts in coordination with the Myanmar’s authorities and international aid agencies.”

--Read More: here

UN leaders given access to Myanmar cyclone zone

YANGON, Myanmar (Map, News) - Myanmar's military regime, which has barred almost all foreigners from its cyclone disaster zone, allowed the U.N.'s humanitarian chief into the Irrawaddy delta for a brief tour Monday, a U.N. official said.

--Read More: here


A council is considering pulling investment from businesses with links to Burma because it wants to be "socially responsible".

The county council is writing to the banks administering its £2 billion pension fund to find out how much of its money is sent there.

It is not possible for foreigners to invest directly in Burma, but the council does have cash in companies which operate there.

Legally, councils cannot restrict investment in any area unless they can prove it is at risk.

County Hall, like other councils, gives its pension funds to banks which invest the money on its behalf.

Most foreign investment in Burma is in the gas, oil and hydroelectric sectors, but cash is also pumped into mining companies and timber businesses.

The controversy surrounding the country's human rights situation has led to some companies pulling out for ethical reasons.

Recently business giants such as Ikea, British American Tobacco, Adidas and Texaco have refused to invest there.

If companies continue to pull out, this could put existing investments at risk, and might give the council the legal right to pull out.

The council's head of finance, Brian Roberts, said: "Burma undoubtedly has a regime that operates in a manner that is unacceptable to the vast majority of individuals.

"Although it is not possible for foreigners to invest directly into Burma, the council does have investments in companies which operate there."

The council's pensions board has written to Capital International and Goldman Sachs to find out just how much council money it has invested there and if whether is possible for the authority to pull out without losing money.

--Source: Leicester Shire

Monks and celebrities step up relief efforts

The cyclone rescue team led by comedian Zarganar and actor Kyaw Thu has been escalating its aid provision to victims in the worst-hit areas of Irrawaddy and Rangoon divisions

--Read More: here

Lack of infrastructure and restrictions hamper aid effort

More than two weeks after the killer Cyclone Nargis lashed Burma's Irrawaddy delta and Rangoon division, aid agencies said relief materials are trickling in but cannot reach the worst hit...

--Read More: here

US Hopes Ban Ki-moon can get Greater Relief Access

The top US official at the UN says the success of UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon’s visit to Burma will depend on whether he can persuade the Burmese regime to allow international relief workers greater access to the victims of the May 2 cyclone.

"We hope that he will have, and his team and all those who accompany him, the access that he needs, around the country, particularly in the delta area because there is a need for not only access but an assessment of the situation and what additional help the international community can provide," said Washington’s UN ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad.

--Read More: here

ASEAN-Burma cyclone deal 'not enough'

BURMA'S deal allowing Southeast Asian nations to lead a limited foreign relief effort into its cyclone-ravaged areas falls short of the survivors' massive needs, Human Rights Watch said today.

The New York-based watchdog said the world should not relent in its pressure on the regime to allow more foreign supplies in to about two million survivors, despite the agreement with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).

"While the ASEAN initiative may turn out to be a step forward, it does not have the capacity to address all the urgent needs faced by Burma's cyclone survivors," said Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch.

"Governments and aid agencies should not delude themselves into thinking otherwise."

The group urged the international community to demand more visas for relief workers, freedom for agencies to oversee aid distribution, and approval for foreign governments to use military assets to deliver aid.

"Until the Burmese Government opens its doors to all aid offered, unnecessary deaths and suffering will continue," Mr Adams said, while urging the United Nations Security Council to take action against Burma's generals.

"How many failed and inconclusive meetings and visits to Burma by diplomats will it take before the UN Security Council acts?"

Cyclone Nargis struck Burma on May 2 and 3, leaving more than 133,000 people dead or missing, according to official reports.

Of the 2.4 million people that the UN estimates the storm severely affected, only about 500,000 have been reached by international aid so far.

Relief organisations have accused the military junta of slowing the flow of life-saving supplies by insisting it can handle the crisis on its own.

Burma agreed at regional talks in Singapore yesterday to allow ASEAN to coordinate an international relief effort, after resisting multiple foreign attempts to deliver aid to hard-hit areas.
--Source: here

Growing concern for the safety of Myanmar’s storm-affected children

...growing concern about the fragile situation of children in the region. The United Nations estimates that 2.5 million people have been severely affected by the storm and forty per cent of those are children.

--Read More: here

World Bank refuses loan or aid for Burma

A World Bank top official said the bank will not give financial aid or a loan to cyclone-hit Burma because of outstanding debts.

Managing Director Juan Jose Daboub said the World Bank was working with south-east Asian countries by providing technical support to assess damages in Burma and to help them to plan rehabilitation efforts.

But he said it was “not in a position to provide (financial) resources to Burma” because the military-ruled nation has been in arrears with the World Bank since 1998.

Mr Daboub’s comments come ahead of an aid donors conference in Yangon on Sunday to pledge funds for Burma, which has estimated that losses from the recent Cyclone Nargis exceeded US 10 billion (£5 billion).

--Source: ICWales

US Aid at Half Capacity

Filled with relief supplies for Burma's cyclone survivors, an American C-130 aircraft prepared for take-off from Thailand at around 10:30 a.m. On Sunday. A few minutes later, the pilot was ordered to cut the engine.

"The flights to Burma have been postponed until tomorrow,” Lt-Col Douglas Powell, a public affairs officer and spokesman for the relief mission, told The Irrawaddy at Utapao Airport in central Thailand. "We didn’t get clearance today,” he said, clearly disappointed.

--Read More: here

Myanmar reiterates need to go through procedures for foreign relief donation

Joke of the Day

"These organizations need to inform the subcommittees of natural disaster preparedness committees at different levels under the National Disaster Preparedness Central Committee so that the committees can make arrangements for distribution of the supplies to the storm-hit areas,"

--Read More: here

Amid prayers for Myanmar's cyclone dead, complaints of corruption

YANGON (AFP) - Rajagopal, one of many volunteers in Myanmar bringing food to cyclone victims, said he was shocked by the desperation of the survivors in the Irrawaddy delta, where he saw corpses still hanging in trees.

But even more appalling, he said, was that local officials demanded that he and his friends pay cash bribes to win permission to bring food into the devastated southern region.

"The survivors are in a dire situation," he said, "and we had to pay bribes to get aid goods into the area."

"It is terrible what this government is doing," Rajagopal added, as he offered prayers at Yangon's Shwedagon Pagoda for the 133,000 dead or missing.

He was among about 10,000 Buddhists at the pagoda Monday to observe a normally joyous holiday commemorating the birth, enlightenment and passing of Buddha.

This year, the mood at the pagoda was grim, with residents in Yangon still coming to grips with the tragedy that has left 2.4 million people in desperate need of help, more than two weeks after the storm.

The government has declared three days of official mourning, a rare public acknowledgement of the grief hanging over the nation.

"People are sad. Look at their faces. They are all worried about what's in store in the future," Rajagopal said.

He lost a niece when the storm pounded Yangon, knocking over a tree that killed the girl inside her home.

But he said the suffering in the city paled in comparison to the grisly scenes that still fill the Irrawaddy delta.

"I returned from there three days ago. I saw bodies up on the tree branches," he said.

"We have to help them. This government is not helping," he added.

Myanmar's military regime agreed Monday to allow its neighbours in Southeast Asia to coordinate an international relief effort, but so far shows no sign of relenting in its refusal to allow in foreign aid workers needed to oversee the disaster response.

Many private donors from Yangon and other cities have taken matters into their own hands, delivering food and clothing to victims in the delta, where roadblocks dot the highways in a bid to keep out foreigners.

Other devotees at Shwedagon had stories like Rajagopal's, telling of corrupt local officials trying to profit off the tragedy.

"My friend wanted to give rice to victims in the delta. But the authorities manning the roadblocks demanded money before allowing him to deliver the food," said Zin Khin, a 25-year-old volunteer at the pagoda.

"Myanmar people are angry with the regime's attitude. But there is nothing much we can do," he said.

"We can't take to the streets. They are afraid. This government has killed people before to stay in power. They will not hesitate to kill to remain in power," he said.

Last September, Buddhist monks led marches of more than 100,000 people through the streets of Yangon. It was the biggest protest against military rule in nearly two decades, and the military was unyielding in its reaction.

Security forces shot and beat protesters in the streets, including revered Buddhist monks.

After the crackdown, many monks fled the city. Shwedagon, the country's holiest shrine, was surrounded with barbed wire and closed to the public for days.

Many devotees are still reluctant to return to the pagoda. Zin Khin said only half the normal number of people turned up for the holiday this year.

They slowly circled the golden spires, splashing water at statues of Buddha and at the banyan trees that shade them. Laying flowers, bananas and coconuts as offering to the temple, they recited mantras that also carried prayers for the dead.

"I hope those who died will be reborn with lots of happiness and wealth," Zin Khin said. "For the survivors, I hope aid comes to them quickly."

--Source: AFP

With the Junta or Without It

THE STORY of Cyclone Nargis, which devastated much of Burma more than two weeks ago, long ago moved from the tragic to the criminal. It is now becoming grotesque.

Diplomats from the United Nations and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations have announced they will hold a "donor conference" in Burma's capital on Sunday. This will allow foreign ministers from around the world to preen and promise millions in loans and grants for "reconstruction" that, if delivered, will enrich and empower the corrupt rulers of that unhappy nation. Meanwhile -- thanks to those same rulers -- as many as 3 million people affected by the cyclone will still be suffering, and in many cases dying, because the regime refuses to allow delivery of humanitarian aid on anything close to the scale that's needed.

--Read More: here

Myanmar Cyclone Aid Plan Is Based on 2004 Tsunami, Asean Says

Myanmar's regional allies will funnel aid into the southern Irrawaddy River Delta, the region hardest hit by Cyclone Nargis, using a plan based on relief operations in Indonesia's Aceh province after the 2004 tsunami.

--Read More: here

Myanmar goes into belated mourning on eve of UN chief's arrival

Myanmar officially launched three days of belated mourning for some 133,000 victims of Cyclone Nargis which smashed in to the country's central coast 18 days ago.

--Read More: here