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Burmese junta stalls aid workers



Burmese junta stalls aid workers | Thaiger

BANGKOK (Nation/Agencies): With the death toll estimated at more than 100,000 and even more people stricken homeless by Cyclone Nargis, survivors still await emergency supplies while the United Nations waits for the military junta in Myanmar to allow international workers to start relief operations.

Aid officials said they are waiting for the military to approve entry visas. “We are in close contact with the government on the response,” said Chris Kaye of the World Food Programme.

The WFP is distributing the 800 metric tons of food stocks it holds in Rangoon, the former capital, Kaye said.

More than one million people may be homeless after Cyclone Nargis hit the country, causing the worst natural disaster in Southeast Asia since the tsunami in 2004 killed more than 220,000 people.

The military rulers are “suspicious of outsiders and very sensitive to foreign influences”, Maureen Aung-Thwin, director of the Burma Project, said in an interview with Bloomberg Television today.

“They admitted to 22,000” people killed, she said. “I believe the figure is higher than that. Somebody said 150,000 and I don’t think that’s untrue.”

The Thai Public Health Ministry is asking the public to donate canned food, drinking water, medicine and other basic necessities to help the Burmese people, said top health official, Dr Prat Boonyawongviroj.

The public can donate supplies at the buildings of the Food and Drug Administration, the Narenthorn Center and the Public Health Ministry.

The Public Health Ministry has allocated 30 tonnes of medicine to be delivered. “All medicines will be sent via the Royal Thai Air Force’s C-130 aircraft,” Dr Prat said. The ministry has sent 20 emergency healthcare teams of doctors, nurses and disease control experts, to help the Health Ministry in Burma.

Dr Prat said there were communication problems with the Burmese government as systems had broken down.

The Save the Children foundation said Burmese authorities had given aid workers no word on when visas would be granted.

The UN said the junta had finally appointed a minister to review visa applications by aid workers, but that no new permits had been issued.


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