Saturday, June 28, 2008

Thursday, June 26, 2008

APME honors AP coverage of Myanmar cyclone

NEW YORK (AP) — AP's coverage of the devastating Myanmar cyclone amid extraordinarily hazardous and harsh conditions has received top honors for deadline reporting from the Associated Press Managing Editors Association.

"No other story in this category was as difficult or as dangerous to report," APME officers and board members said after judging more than a dozen major breaking news stories of the past 11 months. "The military government was slow to say anything about the cyclone and certainly didn't want outside reporters to reveal the scope of the disaster."

The team coverage was led by Aye Aye Win, the AP's correspondent in Yangon, who had to use a weak landline and an emergency generator to get out her reports on Cyclone Nargis.

"Neither the danger nor the difficulty stopped Win or her colleagues from telling the world what happened," the judges said. "By phone and in person, they turned up dozens of sources who added piece after piece to build the terrible picture, a scene one U.S. meteorologist said was similar in scale to Hurricane Katrina. They even found people brave enough to criticize the government's failure to warn people about Nargis or to help afterward."

When Win collapsed from fatigue at one point, her mother listened to the radio and passed along updates.

The association of editors at AP's 1,500 member newspapers in the U.S. and newspapers served by the Canadian Press in Canada annually recognizes outstanding work by the company's journalists. The judges reviewed nominated work published between July 1, 2007, and June 30, and the winners were announced during the summer meeting of the association's governing board of directors that ended this week.

The awards will be presented during the APME annual conference with the Associated Press Photo Managers Sept. 8-11 in Las Vegas.

Veteran correspondent Todd Pitman received the feature writing award for his narrative cataloging the rigors and horrors of war and the death of his friend, a Russian photojournalist killed in Iraq when the group they were on patrol with came under attack.

Best use of video went to a nine-part documentary shot, produced and edited by Raul Gallego Abellan looking at life in the Army and the challenges soldiers face guarding a mountainous area on the front line of the war. "Displaced Iraqis," a project by the AP multimedia team in Washington, reporters and editors in Baghdad and New York, and AP's research team, was honored for best use of multimedia.

Beijing-based photographer Oded Balilty received the news photography award for his dramatic and gripping photographs of the aftermath of the China earthquake. Alexandre Meneghini, a photographer in Mexico City, won the feature award for his compelling package of images on bullfighting.

Receiving the enterprise reporting award was a comprehensive, 50-state project that found America's schools often are the hunting grounds of sexual predators who happen to work in those buildings. National writers Martha Irvine and Robert Tanner led the team, with significant contributions from reporters across the country and AP's News Research Center.

A body of work earned New York-based Lauren McCullough, domestic coordinator for multimedia and graphics, the John L. Dougherty Award, given to an AP employee with less than three years of experience with AP and less than five years overall.

Ryan Keith, a newsman in Springfield, Ill., received the Charles Rowe Award for distinguished state bureau reporting for his investigation of troubled bridges in Illinois in the wake of the Minneapolis bridge collapse, along with a second package of stories on the state's troubled pension program.

The judges also awarded the following honorable mentions:

_Deadline Reporting: AP team reporting on the death of Benazir Bhutto.

_Feature Writing: national writer Sharon Cohen, for her story looking at life and death at the burn unit at Brooke Army Medical center in San Antonio; and Dakar's Rukmini Callimachi, for her story illustrating the horrid treatment of boys who are forced to beg in the name of Islam.

_Enterprise Writing: national writers Jeff Donn and Martha Mendoza, and Justin Pritchard of the Los Angeles bureau, for their three-part series uncovering the potential threat from medical wastes to our nation's drinking supply; and national writer Todd Lewan's reporting on human chip implants.

_John L. Dougherty: Bolivia correspondent Dan Keane for a variety of work, including an examination of President Evo Morales' campaign to remake the country.

_News Photos: Dhaka's Pavel Rahman for coverage of the Bangladesh cyclone; and Islamabad's B.K. Bangash for coverage of the assassination of Benazir Bhutto.

_Feature Photos: Alvaro Barrientos in Pamplona, Spain, for a photo of revelers enjoying water thrown from a balcony in a fiesta; and Rodrigo Abd, Guatemala City, for images giving an inside look at Venezuela gangs.

_Best Use of Video: photographers Evan Vucci and Rick Bowmer, for a two-part video essay on the life and death of an American soldier killed in combat in Iraq.

_Best Use of Multimedia: Alex Brandon, Cain Burdeau, Nicolas Rapp and Jonathan Warren for a package showing how unmitigated drilling has played a big part in bringing Louisiana's wetlands to the brink of collapse, making New Orleans and other cities more vulnerable to hurricanes.

EURO 2008 Semi-Finals : Russia 0-3 Spain


Spain books final date and Russia's soccer revolution gets to the end.

Germany will face Spain in the final on Sunday after a thoroughly deserved 3-0 win in their semi-final with Russia. After an even first half, Spain dominated possession and goals from Xavi Hernandez (50) and a 73rd minute strike from substitute Daniel Guiza secured Spanish progress as Russia hit the wall in Vienna. David Silva finalised matters on 82 minutes after a Cesc Fabregas pass.

Myanmar journalist arrested for burying cyclone dead: watchdog


AFP/File Photo: Volunteers from a free funeral service based in Yangon, cremate decayed bodies in early June....

BANGKOK (AFP) - A Myanmar editor has been arrested and his magazine closed after he travelled to the cyclone-hit Irrawaddy Delta to help bury people killed in the storm, media rights watchdogs said Thursday.

Aung Kyaw San, editor of the Myanmar Tribune, was arrested on June 15 along with 16 other people who had volunteered to help bury the cyclone dead, Reporters Without Borders and the Burma Media Association said in a statement.

His group of volunteers had buried more than 400 bodies, following Red Cross procedures, but were arrested as they returned to the main city of Yangon to collect more burial sacks, the groups said.

Five of them, including Aung Kyaw San, are being held in the notorious Insein Prison north of Yangon, the statement added.

"It is now essential to get the junta to stop preventing civil society, including the press, from participating in the relief effort," the groups said.

At least 10 journalists and a blogger are now detained in Myanmar, they added.

More than 138,000 people are dead or missing after Cyclone Nargis hit the country nearly eight weeks ago. The United Nations estimates 2.4 million people need humanitarian aid.

In a report released Wednesday, experts from the UN and Southeast Asia said that only 45 percent of survivors are receiving humanitarian aid, leaving most to fend for themselves or seek help from local donors.

Myanmar's military, which has ruled the country formerly known as Burma since 1962, sparked global outrage in the weeks after the storm by refusing to allow a major international relief effort.

TSF gives up on Burma

une 26, 2008
By John C. Tanner
telecomasia.net

Another item for the You Saw This Coming A Mile Away files, only this one’s not funny:

Members of Telecoms Sans Frontieres (TSF) have left Burma after being blocked by the government from entering the Irrawaddy Delta to set up emergency telecoms equipment to help relief agencies communicate better.

It’s a familiar tale by now. Unicef asked TSF to set up emergency telecoms gear shortly after the May 2 cyclone that killed over 133,000 people. It took the Burmese government a month just to approve the visas and, once TSF crews were in Rangoon, ignored requests for authorization to set up in the delta.

"We got no reply at all," TSF spokesman Oisin Walton told BBC News. "The frustration is that we were allowed into the country but not allowed to deploy."

It’s even more frustrating when considering how invaluable telecoms has become in emergency situations involving massive death and destruction like cyclones, earthquakes and tidal waves. We’ve seen it time and time again.

But then it's not as though the Burmese junta has ever seriously made telecoms in any form a high priority. The latest figures [via Paul Budde, who cautions that the Myanmar MPT isn’t the most reliable source for telecoms stats] show that fixed-line penetration only just hit 1% last year. Mobile phone penetration? Just 0.7%.

As a point of interest, here’s a checklist of the telecoms kit that TSF was ready to bring to the Irrawaddy delta [via the BBC]:


BGAN satellite link (data and voice: 432-kbps). Primary connection
*
GAN M4 satellite link (data and voice: 64-kbps). Used as backup
*
Large VSAT satellite dish for long term deployments
*
At least two satellite phones including a mobile device
*
Mobile phones and local sim cards if GSM infrastructure intact
*
Routers and access points for communication centre
*
Wireless relays to extend coverage
*
PCs, printer and scanner
*
GPS
*
Power packs including car batteries and solar panels



All of which would probably have amounted to the best telecoms service the delta has ever seen.

Maybe that’s why the junta wouldn’t let them in – the MPT is a monopoly, after all. It wouldn’t do to have locals realizing that telephone service does get better than what they’ve been given.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

EURO 2008 Semi-finals Germany 3- 2 Turkey


Philip Lahm struck a 90th-minute winner as Germany claimed the first final berth at Euro 2008, ending battling Turkey's fairytale run. Germany striker Miroslav Klose and Semih Senturk of Turkey had each scored in the final 11 minutes to make the game 2-2, but there was still time for Lahm to smash home the winner to set up a meeting with either Spain or Russia.

Burma's Junta Hits World Record in 2008


Read this document on Scribd: LV Guinness book of worldrecords

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Monday, June 23, 2008

UNICEF needs help


video
JOINT ASSESSMENT TEAM COMPLETES DATA COLLECTION FROM MYANMAR’S CYCLONE AFFECTED AREA

Friday, 20 June 2008

Some 250 members of the Post-Nargis Joint Assessment (PONJA) team return to Yangon today after completing data collection in 30 affected townships across Yangon and the Ayeyarwady Delta. Over the next few days, the team will continue with the next stages of data entry and early analysis. Preliminary findings and a progress report will be presented at the ASEAN roundtable meeting in Yangon on 24 June. These will also inform the revised Humanitarian Appeal, which will be launched in Geneva in July. The PONJA report is planned for release on 18 July.

JOINT ASSESSMENT TEAM COMPLETES DATA COLLECTION FROM

MYANMAR’S CYCLONE AFFECTED AREA


(Yangon, 20 June 2008): Some 250 members of the Post-Nargis Joint Assessment (PONJA) team return to Yangon today after completing data collection in 30 affected townships across Yangon and the Ayeyarwady Delta. Over the next few days, the team will continue with the next stages of data entry and early analysis. Preliminary findings and a progress report will be presented at the ASEAN roundtable meeting in Yangon on 24 June. These will also inform the revised Humanitarian Appeal, which will be launched in Geneva in July. The PONJA report is planned for release on 18 July.

PONJA was initiated following the ASEAN-UN International Pledging Conference in Yangon on 25 May, where the importance of a credible multi-sectoral assessment was stressed. The assessment is being undertaken by ASEAN, the Government of Myanmar, and the United Nations. ASEAN and UN teams were in the field with Government counterparts between June 9 and 19, supported by experts from the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank, as well as local and international humanitarian organizations. The information that was collected enable teams to assess the impact of the disaster and estimate emergency, early recovery and long term needs.

While the two interrelated assessment processes – the Village Tract Assessment (VTA), and the Damage and Loss Assessment (DaLA) - are in process, national and international humanitarian relief efforts continue to bring help to the most vulnerable survivors. Some 15,800 MT of international food assistance has been delivered to affected areas, with 6,785 MT of food now distributed in total, reaching 676,000 beneficiaries. More than 350,000 plastic sheets have been distributed to provide some emergency shelter, while a further 450,000 are currently in the delivery pipeline.

Health partners note that no new cases of measles have been reported since 6 June, while some 7,691 children have since been immunized in 10 camps. The Ministry of Health and humanitarian organizations are now implementing a plan of action for dengue prevention and control.

Many pregnant women in the affected areas have been left without access to prenatal examinations, skilled delivery assistance or emergency obstetric care. Supplies ranging from rubber gloves for midwives to hospital equipment for emergency deliveries continue to be provided to community health facilities so that women can give birth safely. Several mobile health clinics have also been organized to address reproductive health needs in affected townships, and temporary facilities including clinics and maternity waiting homes are planned, as well as training for organizations providing emergency medical services.

The National Plan of Action on the protection of children in emergencies is being finalized by the Government with support from various humanitarian organizations. Once approved, the plan is expected to chart concrete steps for the protection of cyclone affected and separated children. Meanwhile, Child-Friendly Spaces (CFSs) are being established in villages and temporary settlements: 58 CFSs are functioning in Yangon Division, and 53 CFSs in Ayeyarwady Division thus far.

To enable children to return to school, humanitarian organizations have rehabilitated 1,115 primary schools and provided 700 temporary safe learning spaces. 114,000 children have been reached through essential learning packages, 38,000 children from 750 schools-in-a-box, and 62,000 children from 770 recreation kits.


For further information please contact:
Yangon: Laksmita Noviera, United Nations Coordination Office Myanmar, Email: noviera@un.orgThis e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it ; Chatrium Hotel Room 808, Tel: +95 1 544266
Bangkok: Amanda Pitt, OCHA Regional Office for Asia & Pacific, Tel: + 66 2288 1195, Mob: +66 81 374 1035, Email: pitta@un.org

Our deepest condolences to the Typhoon victims’ families, the people of Philippine and Philippine Government




To those of you who suffered this tragedy at the central island of Sibuyan in waves as big as houses during Saturday's typhoon, we would like to express our condolences about the tragedy of your loss. Our deepest condolences go out to victims and their families.

Our thoughts and prayers are with you all and we pray you find the strength and the courage to get through the days ahead. Your sadness is ours. We pray and wish all of you for the best of luck in this difficult time.

We would also like to thank to the Philippine government and the people of Philippine gave Burma special generous humanitarian assistance during Cyclone Nargis tragedy especially.


Justice For Human Rights In Burma



The Philippines pledged $20 million for Nargis.

Photo: Philippine President Gloria Arroyo (C) sends off a 30-member Philippine medical team to cyclone-hit Myanmar during a ceremony at the Villarmor Airbase in Manila on May 26. The medical mission was transported by a Philippine Air Force cargo plane carrying relief goods, medicine and cash for the victims of the cyclone. Pic: AFP

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Citizens secretly aid Burma victims : Deliver supplies to hard-hit areas


By Washington Post / June 22, 2008

RANGOON, Burma - Seven weeks after huge swaths of Burma were savaged by a cyclone and tidal wave, a new and remarkable citizen movement is delivering emergency supplies to survivors neglected by the military government's haphazard relief effort.

The scores of ad hoc Burmese groups, many of them based in Rangoon, the country's largest city, are not overtly political. But they are reviving a kind of social activism largely repressed by Burma's successive military rulers.

Defying roadblocks and bureaucratic obstruction, volunteers have reached devastated villages in many parts of the Irrawaddy Delta, dropping off food, drinking water, and other essentials and bringing back photos that contradict claims in the state media that life is returning to normal.

Some members of the groups say they hope to keep working together when the cyclone damage is finally repaired and to turn toward other activities that carry shades of political activism in this tightly controlled state.

With residents' frustration over the official relief effort mounting, pledges of support and donations to the National League for Democracy, the main opposition group in Burma, also called Myanmar, have doubled since the cyclone, according to a student leader of the league.

The storm, which came ashore on the night of May 2-3, killed an estimated 134,000 people and created severe hardship for 2.4 million more. The country's deeply xenophobic junta refused many offers of foreign help. It agreed to let in substantial numbers of international aid workers only after UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon flew to the country May 22 with a personal appeal.

By then, however, homegrown groups were already mobilized, working to offset the tragic shortcomings of the government operation.

One day, more than a dozen local jewelers loaded 100 bags of rice, 20 bags of beans, tarpaulins, and blankets onto a truck donated by a supplier and set off at midnight for a storm-ravaged town.

They returned with photos of homeless villagers lining up for tins of food at a makeshift camp, a tear-stained boy who, they said, had lost his entire family to the storm's fierce tidal surge, and rotten rice - yellow, fist-size chunks of it, piled like rocks in bags donated by the government-affiliated Myanmar Red Cross.

"When I saw what they were being fed, I was shaking I was so angry," said a shop assistant, 26, who described each photo as she passed it to a customer.

The informal organizations are often based on occupation. Artists, doctors, students, and gem dealers have formed separate groups. In other cases, the groups are made up of friends.

A 27-year-old lawyer trainee said he and five friends were furious when they tried to distribute supplies around the ruined town of Bogalay about a week after the cyclone but were turned away by local authorities who told them they needed a permit.

"They say they are giving these things to the people, but we know they aren't," he said, pointing at a photo in the state daily newspaper, the Mirror, that showed a relief camp with neat rows of tents and tables laden with food. "We know not to believe them."

In the weeks immediately after the cyclone, a doctor recounted, he closed his private medical clinic for twice-weekly trips to the delta with others. There, they noticed local officials shooing away children, many of them orphaned or suffering storm-related trauma.

So the doctors, four of whom are pediatricians, tried to entertain the children to keep their minds occupied. They held a sanitation workshop after noticing that there were no visible efforts to instruct people in basic hygiene.

"The Ministry of Health is trying, but they're not effective, not organized," the physician said.

Like many other residents, the doctor can't afford to take many more days off work, but he still meets with the group every week. He said he hopes to translate the momentum of its cyclone relief work into other efforts, operating under cover of medicine.

Friday, June 20, 2008

EURO 2008 Quarterfinal Match News Updates : Croatia 1- Turkey 1 ( Penalty shots: Croatia 1: Turkey 3 Croatia missed 3 goals. Turkey Won.

Rest of your post

UN issues urgent plea for Burma


YANGON, Myanmar (AP) — The United Nations warned Friday that it will be forced to ground helicopters that have been ferrying critical aid to Myanmar's cyclone survivors unless the international community urgently provides more funding.

The U.N.'s World Food Program said it was facing a critical shortage of funds for its logistical operation in the country, including 10 helicopters that have so far delivered lifesaving materials to 60 locations in the devastated Irrawaddy delta.

The use of helicopters, trucks and boats will "grind to a halt by the end of this month unless we get additional funding now," Chris Kaye, WFP's country director in Myanmar, said in a statement.

The U.N. estimates that 2.4 million people were affected by Cyclone Nargis and has warned that more than 1 million still need help.

The WFP issued an appeal for $50 million to fund its logistical operation, of which the helicopters are the most expensive to run, but has so far received pledges and funding to cover just 60 percent, the statement said.

Myanmar's junta faced worldwide criticism after the May 2-3 storm for failing to speed aid to cyclone survivors and initially barring foreign aid workers from the hardest-hit Irrawaddy delta.

Two weeks after the cyclone hit, the reclusive regime authorized the U.N. to use 10 helicopters inside the country.

The helicopters, which were chartered from South Africa, Uganda and elsewhere, provided a crucial boost to aid workers who had been unable to reach hundreds of remote villages in the Irrawaddy delta.

"Of those several hundred villages, we have now reached 60," said WFP spokesman Paul Risley. "We still have many more villages to reach."

The cyclone killed 78,000 people and left an additional 56,000 missing, according to Myanmar's government.

Separately, EU leaders appealed Friday for the regime to drop its restrictions on international aid agencies seeking to help the victims of the cyclone.

The declaration criticized Myanmar for holding a referendum on a new constitution just after the cyclone hit.

It also called on Myanmar's military leaders to release pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi and other political prisoners.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

EURO 2008 : Portugal 2- VS Germany 3


Rest of your post

Cindy McCain criticizes Burma's leaders



Sen. John McCain's wife hopes to make human rights priority as first lady

NHA TRANG, Vietnam - Cindy McCain harshly criticized Myanmar's military junta Thursday while vowing to make improving human rights there a priority if she becomes America's next first lady.

Taking a cue from current first lady Laura Bush, who has also been a sharp critic of human rights abuses in Myanmar, the wife of presumed Republican presidential nominee John McCain said Myanmar leaders don't value human life.

"It's just a terrible group of people that rule the country, and the frightening part is that their own people are dying of disease and starvation and everything else and it doesn't matter," Cindy McCain said during a trip to Vietnam, where she has worked with a charity that helps children born with facial deformities. "I don't understand how human life doesn't matter to somebody. But clearly, it doesn't matter to them."




Rest of your post

Britain's Brown, France's Sarkozy urge immediate release of Myanmar pro-democracy leader



By DAVID STRINGER, (AP)


LONDON (AP) - Britain and France demanded Thursday that Myanmar's regime release pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi, as she marked her 63rd birthday under house arrest.

British Prime Minister Gordon Brown and French President Nicolas Sarkozy said that her release is essential.

Suu Kyi has spent more than 12 of the last 18 years under detention, since her party swept national elections in 1990. Military rulers refused to honor the results.

"You have sacrificed your freedom for the freedom of others. You have shown exceptional courage and dedication to your people. Your release from house arrest and your freedom to participate in Burma's political future remain essential," the leaders said in a joint letter to Suu Kyi.

Brown and Sarkozy met in Paris on Thursday, before a European Union summit in Brussels, Belgium.

In their letter, Brown and Sarkozy also deplored Myanmar's response to the May 2-3 Cyclone, Nargis, which Myanmar's ruling junta says killed more than 78,000 people and left another 56,000 people missing.

The men said it was regrettable that Myanmar's people "already deprived of basic human freedoms and economic opportunities, have fallen victim to such a major natural disaster."

Their letter rebuked the military regime in Myanmar, also known as Burma, for failing to take up sufficient offers of aid.

Sarkozy and Brown criticized the junta's decision to hold a referendum on a new constitution in the aftermath of the cyclone.

The constitution, which gives the military broad powers, was overwhelmingly approved in the national referendum held on May 10, about a week after the cyclone.

"We believe the recent referendum lacks credibility as a genuine reflection of the people's will and the new constitution cannot provide a sound basis for Burma's future political development," the European leaders said.

Junta gang hits Suu Kyi birthday rally


By Aung Hla Tun Thu Jun 19, 4:47 AM ET

YANGON (Reuters) - Pro-junta thugs broke up a rally by supporters of Myanmar democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi on Thursday, detaining three people among a crowd chanting for her release on her 63rd birthday, a senior opposition member said.

At least six truckloads of Swan-Arr-Shin, or "Masters of Force," gang members waded into the crowd outside the dilapidated headquarters of Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy (NLD) in the former capital, Yangon, one witness said.

"We saw some of them slapping and beating NLD members," the witness said. Senior NLD official Win Naing later told Reuters three people had been taken away.

Police cordoned off roads leading to the rally where the NLD members had shouted slogans demanding freedom for Suu Kyi and more than 1,300 political prisoners believed to be behind bars in the former Burma.

Suu Kyi's confinement in her lakeside home in Yangon was extended in May despite international pleas to the generals to end her latest stretch of detention, which began in May 2003.

The Nobel peace laureate has now been confined for nearly 13 of the past 19 years, with her telephone line cut and all visitors barred apart from her cook and occasionally her doctor.

ANNUAL RITUAL

Her birthday has become an annual ritual inside and outside Myanmar for campaigners seeking an end to the 46 years of military rule that have reduced a once-promising economy and country to an impoverished international pariah.

Every year, the NLD's ageing leadership releases birds and statements calling for Suu Kyi's freedom and a meaningful transition to democracy.

Every year, the junta ignores them -- as it does the protests and all-too-familiar statements of outrage and frustration that mark the day outside the country.

After Cyclone Nargis, which left 134,000 people dead or missing and 2.4 million destitute, campaigners are worried about the international community quietly shelving their icon's plight in a bid to get the junta to open up to outside aid.

"The U.N. is crawling on its knees before the regime, afraid to speak the truth in case it affects aid access deals which the regime is already breaking," Mark Farmaner of the Burma Campaign UK said last month.

Washington has imposed ever-tighter sanctions on the generals in a bid to force them into political rapprochement with the NLD, which won a 1990 election landslide only to be denied power.

The strategy appears merely to have driven the regime further into isolation, as shown by its complete distrust of U.S. offers of ships and military helicopters to ferry aid to Nargis victims in the worst-hit Irrawaddy delta.

Dozens of people protested outside the Myanmar embassies in Bangkok and Manila, where they carried roses, gift-wrapped boxes and placards.

In the Indian capital, where Suu Kyi went to school in the early 1960s while her mother was ambassador to New Delhi, police briefly detained more than 50 demonstrators who marched through the streets wearing black "Free Suu Kyi" bandanas.

(Additional reporting by Manila bureau)

(Editing by Ed Cropley and Sanjeev Miglani)



Wednesday, June 18, 2008

US marks Aung San Suu Kyi's birthday, deplores her arrest

On Thursday "Aung San Suu Kyi will spend yet another birthday in custody, denied her liberty and fundamental political and civil rights by Burma's military rulers," US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said Wednesday, marking Myanmar opposition leader's June 19 birthday.


WASHINGTON (AFP) - The United States marked Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi's June 19 birthday, noting that her continued imprisonment was a "deplorable situation" that must end.

On Thursday "Aung San Suu Kyi will spend yet another birthday in custody, denied her liberty and fundamental political and civil rights by Burma's military rulers," US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said Wednesday, using Myanmar's former name.

"This deplorable situation must end," she said in a statement.

Myanmar's military regime "not only continues to keep this distinguished Nobel laureate under house arrest, but there are nearly 2,000 other political prisoners currently in custody," Rice said.

Meanwhile, the junta "has backtracked on even the modest steps it had taken -- naming a liaison to meet regularly with Aung San Suu Kyi and allowing her to meet with her colleagues in Burma's National League for Democracy."

"There have been no meetings with either since January, and Aung San Suu Kyi has even been denied regular access to medical care and legal counsel," Rice said.

Instead of risking further unrest "by its unjustified detention of political prisoners and its holding of a rigged referendum in May on a sham constitution," the junta "should release all political prisoners, including Aung San Suu Kyi, and begin a genuine dialogue with her and other democratic and ethnic minority leaders on a transition to democracy," Rice said.

The ruling junta in Myanmar extended Aung San Suu Kyi's house arrest by one year on May 27. Her current period in detention began in 2003.

The Nobel peace prize winner, who is the junta's main challenger, was first detained in 1989, and has spent most of the last 18 years as a prisoner at her sprawling lakeside Yangon home, with only brief spells of freedom.

She led her NLD to a landslide victory in 1990 elections, but it was never allowed to take office.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Today: Nargis Photos

Photos: Moemaka & Mizzima







Friday, June 13, 2008

Burma junta: U.S. cyclone disaster aid can't be trusted

RANGOON, Burma (AP) — As individuals and aid agencies around the world dig into their pockets for funds to help Burma's cyclone victims, the country's ruling junta Friday said that such assistance from the United States could not be trusted.

In a clear reference to the United States, a media mouthpiece for the regime warned that "the goodwill of a big Western nation that wants to help Burma with its warships was not genuine."

Burma, also known as Myanmar, turned down humanitarian aid aboard naval vessels from the United States, as well as Great Britain and France, which had sailed toward the Southeast Asian nation after Cyclone Nargis struck May 2-3.

State media has previously said that Burma feared Washington was using the cover of humanitarian aid to invade the country and steal its oil reserves.

The New Light of Burma newspaper said Friday that aid from nations who impose economic sanctions against Burma and push the U.N. Security Council to take actions against it "comes with strings attached."

Despite such regular attacks by the junta against Western donor countries, celebrities, ordinary people and aid groups there have donated generously to help the cyclone victims.

Queen Elizabeth II, Bill Gates, J.K. Rowling and a clutch of Hollywood stars have been among the givers.

However, the United Nations said Thursday that it has received about half the money it requested for cyclone relief, with some nations apparently delaying their donations because of concerns about restrictions imposed by the military government on foreign aid workers.

The U.N. set a goal of $201.6 million for its relief efforts but so far has received only $88.5 million, or 44%, from government donors, it said. Some $51 million in pledges has not yet been delivered, the U.N. said.

Funding shortfalls were particularly great for emergency food operations and education, said the world body.

"Funding is clearly not coming in at the rate we would hope," said Amanda Pitt, a spokeswoman in Bangkok, Thailand, for the U.N. relief operations. "Funding is urgently needed to sustain the pipeline for food and assistance."

Other agencies are faring better. The private, Christian-oriented group World Vision, a major international relief agency, says it is looking for about $25 million or $26 million to enable operations for six months and has $19 million so far.

The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies says it has raised 96% of the $50.8 million it is seeking.

Private agencies — which play a large part in relief operations — raise much of their funds from individuals, both rich and not-so-rich.

Aid donors met late last month in Yangon and agreed to provide some cyclone aid, but many of them warned the ruling junta they would not fully open their wallets until international aid workers are provided access to the hardest-hit areas. The generals promised to allow foreign workers into the Irrawaddy delta, but have continued to hinder access to the area.

Humanitarian and rights groups said the government distributed a new set of guidelines for relief operations at a meeting of U.S. agencies and private aid groups Tuesday that could further complicate and delay recovery efforts.

The guidelines require repeated contact with national and local government agencies and large amounts of paperwork.

"The government should be streamlining aid efforts to cyclone victims, not slowing down aid with these new rules," Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch, said in a statement Friday.

Britain's Disasters Emergency Committee — a consortium of 13 humanitarian aid agencies — says Queen Elizabeth II and Harry Potter series author J.K. Rowling both contributed "significant donations" to Burma relief.

Software billionaire Bill Gates has donated $3 million and offered software to help reunite family members separated in the cyclone.

In Hollywood, the nonprofit organization Not On Our Watch — founded by actors George Clooney, Matt Damon, Brad Pitt and others — awarded $250,000 to Save the Children and offered to match every additional dollar given to the aid group up to 250,000.

The U.N. estimates more than 1 million survivors, mostly in the delta, still need help more than five weeks after the cyclone struck. Cyclone Nargis killed more than 78,000 people in impoverished Burma and left another 56,000 people missing, according to the government.

Report: Junta distributed land soon after Myanmar cyclone

Just seven days after Cyclone Nargis devastated Myanmar last month, the ruling military junta parceled out key sections of the affected...

The Washington Post

WASHINGTON — Just seven days after Cyclone Nargis devastated Myanmar last month, the ruling military junta parceled out key sections of the affected Irrawaddy Delta to favored tycoons and firms, including some facing sanctions from the U.S. Treasury, according to a Myanmar magazine with close ties to the government.

Some of the most notorious business execs, including Tay Za and Steven Law, also known as Tun Myint Naing, were given control of "reconstruction and relief" in critical townships, under the leadership of top generals.

Treasury identified Tay Za as a "regime henchman" this year when it sanctioned hotel enterprises and other businesses he owns.

All told, more than 30 firms and 30 execs are to divide up the business in 11 townships hit by Nargis, the report said.

The document is dated May 9, a time when the United Nations, aid groups and many countries were trying to reach areas affected by the storm, which killed as many as 130,000 people and left 2.5 million homeless. Despite promises of greater openness, Myanmar's rulers have continued to impose restrictions on relief, according to reports from the region.

The document, which includes the cellphone numbers of many execs, appeared in the weekly Voice, a journal published by Nay Win Maung. A translation was provided by BIT Team, an India-based group that tries to promote information technology in the xenophobic country.

Nay Win Maung, the son of a military officer, was raised among Myanmar's military elites, giving him good connections, and his magazines can access government-related news and exclusive information.

"The Treasury is targeting the regime's cronies, and the regime wants its cronies to get the money," said Tom Malinowski, Washington advocacy director for Human Rights Watch.

Efforts to reach Law or Myanmar representatives in Washington on Thursday were unsuccessful.

While some of the execs awarded contracts are known to human-rights activists and financial-crime experts, others are less prominent, making the document a possible guide to the individuals now in favor with the junta.

The government estimated it needed more than $11 billion in reconstruction aid shortly after the May 2-3 cyclone hit.

Myanmar, also known as Burma, is rich in natural resources, but much of the country is poor. The junta has enriched itself with natural-gas fields that bring in $2 billion annually, as well as trade in jewels, heroin, amphetamines, timber and small arms.

Some of the conglomerates given business in the delta, such as Law's Asia World and Tay Za's Htoo Trading, were also tasked with building the country's new capital at Naypyidaw, more than 200 miles from the old capital of Yangon. With little notice three years ago, the junta uprooted the capital to a remote area, requiring massive construction of new government buildings, hotels and housing.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Cyclone-hit Myanmar rejects rice shortage fears





YANGON (Reuters) - Cyclone-hit Myanmar has enough rice to feed its people, the ruling junta said on Wednesday, accusing foreign aid agencies of presenting a false picture of the devastation in the Irrawaddy delta rice bowl.

In remarks reported by official media, National Planning Minister Soe Tha rejected warnings that the former Burma's food security could be "jeopardized" if delta farmers cannot plant a new rice crop by the end of July.

"Some organizations were spreading groundless information such as there is or will be a shortage of rice in Myanmar," Soe Tha was quoted as saying at a meeting with international relief agencies on Tuesday.

"We have enough rice and we can distribute sufficiently," he said, although the newspaper reports did not give a detailed picture of the country's rice supplies.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) said on Tuesday Myanmar's rice crop will be smaller than expected after the May 2 cyclone, which flooded paddy fields with seawater, damaged irrigation systems and destroyed supplies of rice seed.

The USDA cut its previous crop forecast by 600,000 tones to 9.4 million tonnes to reflect "a reduction in area and an expected decline in average yield due to the effects of the storm damage from Cyclone Nargis in early May."

Last week, the U.N. food agency said of the 1.3 million ha (3.2 million acres) of paddy in the cyclone-hit areas, 60 percent was affected by the storm.

About 200,000 ha (500,000 acres) were too damaged for planting, the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) said.

Nearly six weeks since the storm left 134,000 dead or missing and another 2.4 million people destitute, some paddy land has been drained of seawater.

But farmers still faced many hurdles to planting the monsoon crop, including a lack of shelter, rice seed, fertilizer and ploughing animals, most of which were killed.

"If this is not done in a timely manner, poor farmers, who have already lost their assets, will suffer from hunger and poverty for a long time, while national food security will be seriously jeopardized," the FAO said.

RICE IMPORTS

Myanmar was the world's largest rice exporter when it won independence from Britain in 1948, but lost that title to neighboring Thailand after four decades of military rule and disastrous economic policies.

With little money to buy other food, people in Myanmar consume an average 44 lbs (20 kg) of rice per month, compared to 35 lbs in Vietnam and 15 lbs in Asia as a whole, the FAO said.

The U.N. World Food Programme (WFP), which was feeding 2 million people in Myanmar before the cyclone, has sought to buy food locally to feed a minimum of 750,000 people in the delta.

"We may have to continue assistance in the delta for six months or until the next harvest," WFP spokesman Paul Risley told Reuters.

"We will continue to purchase food locally but we will likely have to seek imports of food stocks, especially rice to replace rice that was lost in the delta," he said.

The WFP recently signed a local contract for 10,000 tonnes of rice, corn, beans, lentils and other pulses -- roughly six weeks of food assistance.

It also received 400 tonnes of rice from a French naval ship that was not allowed to deliver aid directly to Myanmar.

(Additional reporting and writing by Darren Schuettler; Editing by Ed Cropley and Jeremy Laurence)


Monday, June 9, 2008


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Sunday, June 8, 2008

We Report , You Decide





(ဒါၾကီး ကိုေတာ ့ စစ္တပ္ ထဲ ျပန္ ရင္ သယ္ သြားရ မွဆိုေတာ ့ ေသေသခ်ာခ်ာဂရု စိုက္ ရ တယ္..ဗ် )


နာဂစ္ေၾကာင္ ့..ခံစားေနရ သူေတြ နဲ ့..စံစား ေနရ သူေတြ...
သတင္း - (ေမျငိမ္း)

ယ­­­­ခု ပံ ု မ်ားကို ၾကည္ ့ ပါ နာဂစ္ မုန္တိုင္း ဒါဏ္ ခံ ခဲ့ ရ ေသာ ဒုကၡ သည္ မ်ား အတြက္ ႏိုင္ ငံ တကာ မွေပး ပို ့ လွဴဒါန္း ထားေသာ ကယ္ ဆယ္ ေရး ပစၥည္း မ်ားကို အမွန္ တကယ္ အသံုး ျပဳေနသူ မ်ားက ေတာ ့ ျမင္ ၾက ရ တဲ့ အတိုင္း ပဲ ျဖစ္ ပါ တယ္ …။ ပထမ ေတာ ့ ခိုး ေရာင္း တယ္ …ေနာက္ခိုးေရာင္း လို ့ မရ ေတာ ့ ..ဒုကၡ သည္ ေတြ ကို ေ၀ ဌ မေပး ပဲ ကိုယ္ တိုင္ သံုး စြဲ ျပီ ဇိမ္ ယစ္ ေန ၾက တယ္..။ ဘယ္ မွာ လဲ ကယ္ ဆယ္ ေရးေတြ လုပ္ ေန ပါ တယ္ ဆို တာ …။ အက်ၤ ီ ပူ တိုက္ ေကာ ့ေကာ ့ ေလး နဲ ့ ႏိုင္ ငံ တကာ က ေပး တဲ ့ ရြက္ ဖ်င္ တဲ.. ထဲ မွာ …မိုးေအးေအး နဲ ့ TV ေလး ၾကည္ ့ ျပီး ဟန္ က်ေန ၾကတာ ..။ သူတို ့စစ္ တန္းလ်ား မွာေတာင္ အခု လိုမေန ၾကရ ဘူး ….။

သူတို ့ ပါတ္ ၀န္း က်င္ မွာ ဒုကၡ ေရာက္ လို ့ လာေရာက္ မွီခိုေန တဲ ့ သူေတြ ကိုေတာ ့ အိမ္ေတာ္ ပါ ေက်းကြ်န္ ေတြ မ်ား မွတ္ ေန လား မသိ … အ၀တ္ ေလွ်ာ္ ခိုင္း ရ တာ နဲ ့ ခ်ိဳး ဖို ့ ေရ ခပ္ ခိုင္း ရ တာ နဲ့ ….။ ရြက္ ဖ်င္ တဲ ေတြ ထိုးထားေပ မယ္ ့ ဒုကၡ သည္ ေတြ အတြက္ မဟုတ္ ဘူး…..။ လူၾကီး လာေတာ့ မယ္ ..ႏိုင္ ငံတကာ က အဖြဲ ့ အစည္းေတြ လာ ေတာ ့ မယ္ ဆို ေတာ ့ မွ ၾကိဳ တင္ စီစဥ္ ထား တဲ့ အတိုင္း သူတို ့ နဲ ့ ပလဲ နံ ပ သင္ ့ တ ့ဲ သူေတြ ဆြဲ ရြက္ ဖ်င္ တဲ ထဲ ဆြဲ ထဲ့ ျပီး ..။ သူတို့ သင္ ထား တဲ့ အတိုင္ း ေျပာၾကရ တယ္ …။ ဒီ ပံုေတြ ကို ၾကည္ ့ ျငင္း ခ်င္ ၾကေသး လား…။

ႏိုင္ ငံ တကာ က ေမွ်ာ္ လင္ ့ ထား တာ နဲ ့ တျခား ျဖစ္ ေန တယ္…။တကယ္ ဒုကၡ ေရာက္ တဲ့ သူေတြ ေပး တဲ့ ကယ္ ဆယ္ ေရး ပစၥည္းေတြ ဟာ… စစ္ တပ္ အတြက္ တကယ္ ့ အသံုး ၀င္ တဲ ့ ပစၥည္းေတြ ျဖစ္ ေန တယ္…။ နအဖ ကို စစ္ အသံုး အေဆာင္ ပစၥည္းေတြ ပံ့ ပိုး ေပး သလို ျဖစ္ ေနတယ္ …။ အမွန္ တကယ္ ေလေဘး ဒါဏ္ ခံ ခဲ့ ရ တဲ့ သူေတြ ကို လဲ ဘ၀ အမွန္ ေတြ ကို ႏိုင္ ငံ တကာ က ျမင္ ေတြ ႏိုင္ ေအာင္ ေဖာ ္ ျပလိုက္ ပါ တယ္ ….ေက်ာခ် စရာ တေန ရာ အတြက္မိမိ ဘာသာ ၾကံ ဖန္ျပီး ေန ၾက ရ တာပါ ….။ အခု လဲ အဲဒီ ေန ရာေတြမွာ မေန ၾကရ ေတာ ့ ပါ ဘူး…။ ႏွင္ လြတ္ ေန ပါ ျပီ ..။ သံုးရက္ အတြင္ အျပီး ဖယ္ ေပး ရ ေတာ ့ မွာပါ…။ အဲ ဒီ ေတာ ့ က်ေနာ္ ေျပာပါ ရေစေတာ ….။

က်ေနာ္ တိ ု ့ အျမင္ မွာ ႏိုင္ ငံ တကာ က တစ္ ရာ ဖိုး ေပး လို ့ ဒုကၡ သည္ ေတြလက္ ထဲ တစ္ဆယ္ ဖိုးေရာက္ ရင္ ေတာ္ ပါ ျပီ လို ့ သေဘာ ထား ျပီး ၾကည္ ့ ေန တာ …။အခု ေတာ့ ဒုကၡ သည္ ေတြ လက္ ထဲ ဘာတခု မွေရာက္ မလာ တဲ ့ အတြက္ ႏိုင္ ငံ တကာ အေန နဲ ့ေနာက္ ထပ္ ကယ္ ဆယ္ ေရး နဲ့ပါတ္ သက္ ျပီး ဘာ မွ မပို ့ ပါ နဲ ့ေတာ ့ ..။ ပို ့သမွ် ပစၥည္း မွန္ သ မွ် ဟာ စစ္ တပ္ ကို ေထာက္ ပံ့ သလို ျဖစ္ ေန ပါ ျပီ…။ဒါ ေတြ ကို အသံုး ျပဳ ျပီး … က်ေနာ္ တို ့ ျပည္ သူေတြ ကို ႏွိပ္ စက္ သ မွဳ ့ ျပဳေနၾက ဦး မွာ ပါ ….အမွန္ တကယ္ ေပး ပို ့ ကူ ညီ ခ်င္ ၾကမယ္ ဆို ရင္ ေတာ ့ ကိုယ္ တိုင္ ဒုကၡ သည္ ေတြရဲ့ လက္ ထဲ ေရာက္ မည္ ့ နည္းလမ္း မ်ား ရွာ ၾကံ ျပီး ကူညီ ေပး ပို ့ ၾကပါ လို ့ တိုက္ တြန္း လိုက္ ပါ ရ ေစ……….။

(က်ေနာ ့ ရဲ ့ယခု ပို ့ စ္ ကို လဲ ဘာသာ ျပန္ ျပီး ဘေလာ ့ အသီး သီး မွာ ေဖာ္ ျပေပးၾကပါ ၊ ႏိုင္ငံတကာ က သိ ေအာင္ တင္ ျပၾကပါ လို ့ ဘေလာ ့ညီ အကို ေမာင္ ႏွမ မ်ားကို အႏူးအညြတ္ ေတာင္း ပန္ ပါ တယ္…။) ( ဓါတ္ပံု ေပးပို ့လာေသာ ..တာ၀န္ သိ ညီအကို တဦးအားေက်းဇူး တင္ ရွိပါ သည္...။

Posted by ရန္ကုန္ျပည္သူမ်ား at 06:27



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Thursday, June 5, 2008

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Britain pledges £10.5m more for Myanmar cyclone victims


LONDON (AFP) - Britain has pledged an additional 10.5 million pounds in aid for cyclone victims in Myanmar, taking the total to more than 27 million pounds.

In a statement to the House of Commons Tuesday, International Development Secretary Douglas Alexander warned that the situation in the aftermath of cyclone Nargis "remains extremely grave" with "millions of people in desperate need".

"In addition to our previous commitment of 17 million pounds, I am today announcing a further 10.5 million pounds," Alexander said.

"These additional funds will be channelled through the Red Cross, NGOs and local community-based organisations," he said, insisting that none of the aid would pass through the country's military regime.

"Our priority remains to get assistance to those that need it."

Alexander added that, while Britain was focused on providing help, "this does not diminish our commitment to the restoration of accountable, democratic government in Burma," referring to the country by its former name.

He said he was "disappointed and saddened" that the regime had extended pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi's detention further, and added that results from Myanmar's constitutional referendum "lack all credibility" as they were held in the immediate aftermath of the cyclone.

Cyclone Nargis left 133,000 people dead or missing when it ploughed across Myanmar one month ago, laying waste to vital farmlands and wiping villages off the map.

For the first three weeks after the storm, Myanmar stonewalled international efforts to deliver aid, yielding only after UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon paid a personal visit there to meet with junta leader Than Shwe.

Ban left Myanmar saying he had convinced the senior general to allow a full-scale relief effort, but days later, UN agencies said access remains spotty, with only a handful of foreign aid workers actually in the worst-hit parts of the Irrawaddy Delta.

Alexander said that the regime's promises to Ban "must be turned into action".

The UN has said that about 1.3 million people out of the 2.4 million affected by the cyclone have now received some form of foreign aid.


U.S. warships to leave Myanmar after aid refused


BANGKOK (Reuters) - U.S. warships will soon leave waters near Myanmar after the ruling military junta refused permission for the delivery of aid supplies to the cyclone-stricken Irrawaddy delta, a top U.S. commander said on Wednesday.

dmiral Timothy Keating said the USS Essex group will sail away from the former Burma on Thursday but leave several heavy-lift helicopters in neighboring Thailand to assist in the relief effort.

"Should the Burmese rulers have a change of heart and request our full assistance for their suffering we are prepared to help," Keating, commander of U.S. forces in the Pacific, said in a statement.

Myanmar has been promised millions of dollars in aid from the United States, other governments and aid organizations.

But the junta has refused to allow the U.S. military to help distribute aid to affected areas, appearing due to fear that a large-scale international relief effort would loosen the grip the generals have held since a 1962 coup.

Thai Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej told visiting U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates in Bangkok on Sunday that the junta had rejected foreign military help in delivered cyclone aid because it feared it could be seen as an invasion.

Keating said they had made 15 attempts over the past three weeks to convince the regime to allow in U.S. helicopters and landing craft, "but they have refused us each and every time."

The United States had delivered more than 2 million lbs of relief supplies on 106 airlifts to Myanmar since the first U.S. military aid flight on May 12, Keating said.

(Reporting by Darren Schuettler; Editing by Ed Davies and Valerie Lee)


Tuesday, June 3, 2008

UN: 1 million in Myanmar aren't getting basic aid


BANGKOK, Thailand - More than 1 million people still don't have adequate food, water or shelter a month after a devastating cyclone swept through Myanmar, and it's not clear what the military junta is doing to help them, the United Nations said Tuesday.

Humanitarian groups say they continue to face hurdles from Myanmar's military government in sending disaster experts and vital equipment into the country. As a result, only a trickle of aid is reaching the storm's estimated 2.4 million survivors, leaving many without even basic relief.

Aid groups are unable to provide 1.3 million survivors with sufficient food and clean water, while trying to prevent a second wave of deaths from malnutrition and disease, the U.N. said in its latest assessment report.

Of the 1 million people who are getting help, most have been "reached with inconsistent levels of assistance," the U.N. said.

"There remains a serious lack of sufficient and sustained humanitarian assistance for the affected populations," the report said.

It also said the world body lacked "a clear understanding of the support being provided by the Government of Myanmar to its people."

It's shocking that cyclone victims still need basic relief after four weeks, said Sarah Ireland, regional director of the British aid organization Oxfam, which is trying to get permission to work in Myanmar.

"If we were in a normal response by week four, those affected should be working toward recovery," she said Monday. "They would be in a position perhaps to think about what they need to restart their lives. But we know people on the ground don't have food to eat."

Tidal surges as high as 12 feet reached some 25 miles inland as the cyclone churned through the country for two days beginning May 2. The storm laid entire villages in the Irrawaddy delta to waste and left 78,000 people dead and another 56,000 missing, according to the government's count.

But the relief has yet to match the scale of the disaster.

A big obstacle in providing relief has been reaching the delta. With only seven government helicopters operating, most relief supplies are being transported along dirt roads and by boat. Vessels able to navigate the debris-filled canals are scarce and efforts to import trucks and other vehicles have been hampered by governmental red tape.

"For aid agencies it is very important that those affected receive a full complement of appropriate aid," said James East, a spokesman for World Vision, a private aid agency operating in Myanmar even before the disaster. "To say that a certain percentage of people have received aid means little because some survivors may have received a tarpaulin but no food and vice versa."

Stories have emerged of survivors going days without food or being forced to drink from dirty canals. The Associated Press has interviewed survivors in recent days who still have not received any government or international assistance and turned to the country's revered monks for help.

Human rights groups have also accused Myanmar's military rulers of kicking homeless cyclone survivors out of camps, schools and monasteries and sending them back to their devastated villages to help restore the country's agriculture sector.

"It's unconscionable for Burma's generals to force cyclone victims back to their devastated homes," said Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch. "Claiming a 'return to normalcy' is no basis for returning people to greater misery and possible death."

Myanmar's xenophobic military regime left survivors to largely fend for themselves. It barred foreigners from the delta until last week and refused entry to U.S. and French aid-laden naval vessels, which have been idling off the country's coast.

The junta's response was in stark contrast to that of Indonesia's Aceh province during the 2004 tsunami and Pakistan during its 2005 earthquake. Both countries allowed in hundreds of international aid groups and set aside their suspicions to let American troops ferry aid and evacuate survivors from remote areas.

The lack of foreign experts in the field has meant a chaotic and uneven aid effort, aid organizations said. Without them, it is nearly impossible to asses needs of survivors or set up systems that would now be in place in a normal disaster response, the groups said.

The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies waited until Monday for government approval to send six foreign experts into the field to help run its water treatment facilities. Until now, it has been able to provide only 5,000 people each day with clean water.

"It was much easier to get medical supplies, clean water, engineers and psychological consultants into the field in Aceh within the first month," IFRC spokesman France Hurtubise said. "Human resources and expertise remain a challenge in Myanmar."

One small sign of progress was registered Monday: except in the areas most devastated by the cyclone, most schools opened as scheduled at the end of a break that started in March.

In many cases, school buildings were still missing windows and parts of their roofs gone, but UNICEF and other education experts agreed that getting children back to their studies as soon as possible was an important part of the healing process.


Monday, June 2, 2008

UN warns of 'urgent work' to help Myanmar cyclone victims

By Hla Hla Htay

Mon Jun 2, 3:42 AM ET

YANGON (AFP) - A month after Myanmar's cyclone left 133,000 people dead or missing, the UN's food agency chief warned Monday that "urgent work" is needed to help hundreds of thousands of survivors stave off hunger.

The United Nations estimates that around 2.4 million people are in need of food, shelter, clean water or other humanitarian aid, with 60 percent yet to receive any help at all.

Myanmar's isolationist military regime -- deeply suspicious of the outside world -- has limited international help and restricted access for humanitarian workers to the hardest-hit parts of the Irrawaddy Delta, where whole villages were washed away in the storm.

Josette Sheeran, the World Food Programme chief who visited Myanmar at the weekend, said progress had been made in receiving visas for international aid workers, whose expertise is needed to oversee the complex relief operation.

But she said aid workers still faced bureaucratic hurdles in travelling to the delta, which suffered the brunt of Cyclone Nargis on May 2-3.

"What we need is a seamless global lifeline of relief supplies," Sheeran said Monday, after her visit.

"Progress has been made, but urgent work remains on the critical last leg."

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon wrapped up a visit here more than a week ago, saying that he had convinced junta leader Than Shwe to allow a full-scale foreign relief effort.

But aid agencies say access to the delta remains spotty, although more visas have been granted.

Myanmar flatly refused to accept help from US, British and French naval ships, which were laden with thousands of tonnes of supplies and helicopters to deliver them.

US Defence Secretary Robert Gates has accused the regime of "criminal neglect" for refusing their help, saying Myanmar's initial delays could have cost tens of thousands of lives.

"Unless the regime changes its approach, its policy, more people will die," he said after a weekend regional security forum in Singapore.

Malaysia's deputy prime minister Najib Razak urged the regime to allow military helicopters from neighbouring countries to deliver supplies, insisting such help would be purely humanitarian.

"We have proven time and time again that our involvement is strictly humanitarian in nature and there is no other agenda," he told the security forum.

Southeast Asian countries and the United Nations have formed a new coordinating body with junta officials in Yangon in a bid to clear obstacles to the relief effort.

Sheeran said she met with the head of the panel, Myanmar's deputy foreign minister Kyaw Thu, to urge him to do more to speed the relief effort.

So far, the WFP has dispatched enough food to give a first ration of rice to 575,000 people, but many people have not been reached and others are now due for a second ration, the agency said.

WFP says it is trying to reach a total of 663,000 people in the worst-hit parts of the delta.

In the former capital of Yangon , also pounded by the storm, the agency is providing 200,000 people with 50 cents a day so they can buy their own food in local markets, the statement said.

"WFP is committed to being resourceful and finding better ways to reach a large number of people who are struggling to put their lives back together," Sheeran said.

The project in Yangon "allows us to focus our food delivery efforts on the delta, where most food stocks have been destroyed and markets are not functioning properly," she added.

Some ordinary residents in Yangon are trying to deliver supplies on their own to hard-hit regions of the delta, and victims have lined the roadsides to beg for food.

"Stop, just a minute," said an old man named Maung, sitting on the outskirts of the city in tattered clothes and reaching to passing cars with his empty, gesturing as if to eat.

He sat with a young boy carrying a small bag with all that remains of their possessions, staring blankly into space.

"No one here, not even the junta seems to stop to help," he said.