Burmese Junta Stalling on Cyclone Relief

Rick Moran
While up to 100,000 rotting corpses pile up in Myanmar - the name given Burma by the ruling military junta - western governments are begging the government to allow the massive relief supplies that are stockpiled in next door Thailand to be given to people before a man made humanitarian catastrophe is added on to what nature was able to inflict:

Relief agencies say decomposing corpses litter ditches and fields in the worst-hit Irrawaddy delta area as survivors try to conserve fuel for transporting much-needed supplies.

The international community is growing increasingly frustrated with the junta's lack of progress in granting visas for relief workers and giving clearance for aid flights to land.

They are concerned the lack of medical supplies and clean food and water threatens to increase the already staggering death toll.

Myanmar's military government says more than 22,000 people died when the killer cyclone battered the country's low-lying delta region over the weekend. The top U.S. diplomat in the country has said the toll could top 100,000.

But aid workers from the United Nations and other organizations were still concerned that supplies weren't getting into the country fast enough.

"This is a real worry for us," said Tony Banbury, regional director in Asia for the U.N. World Food Programme, which unloaded a plane carrying 7 million tons [ed. -- obviously an error] of high-energy biscuits on Thursday.

"The longer we're held back, the more desperate the situation of the people becomes, so when the food does start getting to the remote areas, the hardest-hit areas, there is a real risk that there will be food riots, social disturbances, people attacking the convoys," Banbury said.

The paranoia of the military government is massive. They fear the US military's role in any western relief effort (there are two US ships off the coast of Burma filled with supplies as well as experts who can get the relief to who needs it quickly). While it is true the State Department has repeatedly called on the junta to step down and hold elections, their fears would seem misplaced at a time like this.

The EU executive nixed the idea of countries going into the disaster zone without government permission, fearing quite rightly that the Burmese  military would not look upon such a move kindly. But if this keeps up for another 48 hours or so, the UN will have to get involved before the death toll doubles - or worse.
While up to 100,000 rotting corpses pile up in Myanmar - the name given Burma by the ruling military junta - western governments are begging the government to allow the massive relief supplies that are stockpiled in next door Thailand to be given to people before a man made humanitarian catastrophe is added on to what nature was able to inflict:

Relief agencies say decomposing corpses litter ditches and fields in the worst-hit Irrawaddy delta area as survivors try to conserve fuel for transporting much-needed supplies.

The international community is growing increasingly frustrated with the junta's lack of progress in granting visas for relief workers and giving clearance for aid flights to land.

They are concerned the lack of medical supplies and clean food and water threatens to increase the already staggering death toll.

Myanmar's military government says more than 22,000 people died when the killer cyclone battered the country's low-lying delta region over the weekend. The top U.S. diplomat in the country has said the toll could top 100,000.

But aid workers from the United Nations and other organizations were still concerned that supplies weren't getting into the country fast enough.

"This is a real worry for us," said Tony Banbury, regional director in Asia for the U.N. World Food Programme, which unloaded a plane carrying 7 million tons [ed. -- obviously an error] of high-energy biscuits on Thursday.

"The longer we're held back, the more desperate the situation of the people becomes, so when the food does start getting to the remote areas, the hardest-hit areas, there is a real risk that there will be food riots, social disturbances, people attacking the convoys," Banbury said.

The paranoia of the military government is massive. They fear the US military's role in any western relief effort (there are two US ships off the coast of Burma filled with supplies as well as experts who can get the relief to who needs it quickly). While it is true the State Department has repeatedly called on the junta to step down and hold elections, their fears would seem misplaced at a time like this.

The EU executive nixed the idea of countries going into the disaster zone without government permission, fearing quite rightly that the Burmese  military would not look upon such a move kindly. But if this keeps up for another 48 hours or so, the UN will have to get involved before the death toll doubles - or worse.