Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Junta allows MSF to send staff to delta region

With the Burmese military junta finally relenting, albeit without an announcement, an international aid agency said for the first time it has sent its expatriate aid workers into Burma's cyclone devastated area in the Irrawaddy delta.

Medicines Sans Frontiers (MSF or Doctors without Border) on Wednesday told Mizzima that the Burmese regime had allowed four of its international staff members to go into the Irrawaddy delta.

"Four of our staff members left for Irrawaddy division," Frank Smithuis, MSF director in Burma told Mizzima.

--Read More: here

Cyclone victims take on junta authorities in Rangoon

Palpable tension was in evidence after there was a brawl between cyclone victims and the police in Rangoon. Earlier, the victims stormed into the Ward Peace and Development Council (PDC) office when distribution of relief material was stopped and a young woman was assaulted.

Irate cyclone victims frustrated over the authority's refusal to distribute relief material donated by private donors in No. 72 Ward, South Dagon Township clashed with the police. The riot police was summoned.

--Read More: here

Cyclone victims cannot wait for succour

New Delhi – Even as the United Nations and regional countries gear up to call for more aid for Burma's cyclone victims, aid workers on the ground said time is running out.

The UN and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), of which Burma is a member, said they will hold a pledging conference for cyclone victims in Rangoon on Sunday.

--Read More: here

Altsean Suggests Compromise over International Aid

...for a start Asean could borrow the services and equipment of the various foreign navies anchored off the coast of Burma, and on standby in Thailand. Those assets are ready and waiting. Asean can also start transporting the supplies from those ships into the delta area. Since the SPDC is so afraid of being attacked with food and medicines, that could be the most productive compromise for now.

--Read More: here

A Survivor’s Story

The horror of the cyclone is written on the lined face of Kyin Hla, who sits disconsolately at the entrance to the Thaya Mara Zein pagoda in Laputta. Tears flow down her drawn cheeks as the 65-year-old recalls the hours she spent fighting for her life when Cyclone Nargis struck—and as she thinks of the fate suffered by 12 members of her family, including grandchildren.

At 11 a.m. On May 2, Kyin Hla was busy with household chores in her one story house in Bi Tut village, in the Kyein Chaung district of the Irrawaddy delta region. The house is—or, more accurately, was—part of a farm where her extended family of 20 lived.

--Read More: here

Cyclone Survivors Don’t Want UN Chief to Visit Delta

Many cyclone survivors in the Irrawaddy delta say they don’t want UN chief Ban Ki-moon to visit their camps and temporary shelters for fear the military regime will tighten security and intimidate people who have lost family members and homes.

Burma’s best-known comedian Zarganar and other Burmese private donors who visited the cyclone-ravaged delta recently said that many cyclone survivors are so desperate for food and relief supplies they do not want the UN secretary-general and his delegation to jeopardize the situation.

--Read More: here

Authorities give out food in exchange for ‘Yes’ votes

Local authorities in Thingangyun township, Rangoon, have been giving rice and cooking oil to families who agree to vote ‘Yes’ in the constitutional referendum, a local resident said.

A Thingangyun resident said people in one ward had been given the basic goods in return for the whole family voting ‘Yes’.

--Read More: here

Locals claim Rangoon authorities still misappropriating aid

Cyclone victims suspect officials of switching aid

May 21, 2008 (DVB)–Survivors of Cyclone Nargis in Maaupin believe that rice donated by the Swiss government was taken by local authorities and replaced with poor quality supplies.

A relief worker in Maaupin said the cyclone victims had noticed the quality of rice when they opened the bags, but did not initially confront the authorities about it.

"Cyclone refugees in Maaupin were disappointed to find that bags of rice labeled as being sent by the Swiss government contained only broken rice grains when they were opened,” the relief worker said.

Some town residents asked the Union Solidarity and Development Association members who were responsible for distribution for an explanation, the relief worker said.

“They claimed they had not made any changes to the bags since they arrived,” he said.

“But no one believes the Swiss government would give cyclone victims bags of broken rice grains."

The relief worker said Myo Win, a local Ward Peace and Development Council member, had been seen openly selling rice.

When asked by townspeople for an explanation, he reportedly said that the community would be able to buy more necessary aid supplies with the profit he made from selling the rice.

Reporting by Naw Say Phaw

--Source: DVB

Junta pays ‘fake refugees’ to pose as cyclone victims

The Burmese authorities have been forcing cyclone victims to return to their villages and replacing them with paid "fake refugees", according to a private donor who recently returned from Bogalay.

--Read More: here

Dialogue of the deaf!

"You sometimes get the impression that of being in a dialogue of the deaf. It's extremely difficult to reach the person in front of you," Michel added, calling his trip "extremely frustrating".

--Read More: here

U.N. chief: Focus for Myanmar turns to reconstruction

"Even as we attend to today's emergency, we must give thought to Myanmar's medium- and longer-term assistance," Ban said in Bangkok, where he will stay overnight before proceeding to Myanmar on Thursday.

.... Ban said Thai doctors in Myanmar have seen no sign of an epidemic. An outbreak of disease was feared after the cyclone hit.... (JEG's: where did they go?... where were they taken to...)

--Read More: here

UN chief urges Burma to focus on saving lives

The UN secretary general, Ban Ki-moon, prepared to head for Burma today, and urged the regime to focus on saving lives, rather than on politics, saying only a quarter of the estimated 2.4 million people affected by Cyclone Nargis had so far received aid.

--Read More: here

Working visit of H.E. Surin Pitsuwan, Secretary – General of ASEAN to Yangon

Dr Surin stressed that his mission to Yangon was necessary for ASEAN to take the lead in coordinating and liaising with the UN system and international community in assisting Myanmar to recover from Cyclone Nargis. It is also meant to ensure all parties concerned that this ASEAN-led initiative is acknowledged, accepted, endorsed, and supported fully by all levels of the Government of Myanmar.

--Read More: here

Myanmar kicks cyclone survivors out of shelters to make space for polling stations

Now the government has forced them out to make space for a weekend vote on a new pro-military constitution — a referendum delayed in parts of Myanmar because of the deadly cyclone.

"The school will be used as a polling station," said Sandar, a teacher who refused to give her last name. "We needed people to leave."

--Read More: here

U.N. chief flies to Myanmar to press aid case

"We must do our utmost for the people of Myanmar," Ban said when he arrived in the Thai capital, Bangkok, on Wednesday before traveling to Myanmar. "Aid in Myanmar should not be politicized. Our focus now is on saving lives."

The United Nations and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), of which Myanmar is a member, are to convene a donors' pledging conference in Yangon on Sunday.

--Read More: here