Anger Grows over Myanmar Aid Block


Mark Canning, Britain's ambassador to Myanmar, has told Al Jazeera that the relief operation for Myanmar is likely to be twice the size needed in Aceh province in Indonesia, after the 2004 tsunami.

His comments come as a UN official says that Myanmar's refusal to grant visas to foreign aid teams is "unprecedented in modern humanitarian relief efforts", underscoring mounting frustration over the military governments' response to the cyclone crisis.

"Some aid is getting through. Some UN and other flights, some World Food Programme convoys, are getting through. But they're not getting through fast enough, not in the volume that is needed."

Some relief supplies have been allowed to land in Myanmar, but many more tonnes of aid and dozens of expert foreign staff have not leaving hundreds of thousands of survivors at risk of hunger and disease.

"It's clear that the government's ability to deal with the situation, which is catastrophic, is limited … and since it's not able to you would expect the government to welcome assistance from others," Zalmay Khalilzad said. (the US ambassador to the UN)

"We're shocked by the behaviour of the government."

Ban Ki-Moon, the UN secretary-general, has called on the ruling generals to postpone a referendum due on Saturday on the country's constitution.

Myanmar's military government indicated on Friday that while it wanted relief supplies, foreign aid personnel were not being called for.

A foreign ministry statement said the government had given priority to receiving aid from abroad but using its own nationals to deliver it to stricken areas.

Many residents remain without food and shelter, while corpses rotting in the flood waters are creating a health hazard.

Describing the situation in Myanmar as "increasingly desperate on the ground", Holmes said Ban Ki-moon, the UN chief, was trying to talk to Than Shwe, Myanmar's military leader, to urge him to "strongly to facilitate access" for foreign relief workers.

At least 40 visa applications from UN aid workers are pending and many others are waiting in Thailand to enter.

Among those stranded were 10 members of a USAID disaster response team.

A US state department official earlier hinted that it was considering dropping food aid over parts of the disaster zones, without Myanmar's approval.

But the Pentagon said it would not consider such a move without the Myanmar government's permission.

With the Irrawaddy delta's roads washed out and the infrastructure in shambles, large areas are accessible only by air.

Tim Costello, chief executive of World Vision Australia, said that "it's certainly the case that the Americans, as they showed in the tsunami, have extraordinary capacity".

Samak Sundaravej, Thailand's prime minister, has offered to negotiate on Washington's behalf to persuade Myanmar's government to accept US assistance.

France is arguing that the UN has the power to intervene without the Myanmar government's approval to help civilians under a 2005 agreement that the world body has a "responsibility to protect" people when governments fail to do it.

That agreement did not mention natural disasters.

The foreign ministers of France, Britain and Germany have urged Myanmar's leaders to let foreign aid into the country.

U.S. envoy: Myanmar deaths may top 100,000. (cnn)

More organisations in Singapore rally to help Myanmar cyclone victims.

Support disaster relief in Myanmar (Burma). (google)


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