Tuesday, 20 May 2008

ASEAN-Burma cyclone deal 'not enough'

BURMA'S deal allowing Southeast Asian nations to lead a limited foreign relief effort into its cyclone-ravaged areas falls short of the survivors' massive needs, Human Rights Watch said today.

The New York-based watchdog said the world should not relent in its pressure on the regime to allow more foreign supplies in to about two million survivors, despite the agreement with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).

"While the ASEAN initiative may turn out to be a step forward, it does not have the capacity to address all the urgent needs faced by Burma's cyclone survivors," said Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch.

"Governments and aid agencies should not delude themselves into thinking otherwise."

The group urged the international community to demand more visas for relief workers, freedom for agencies to oversee aid distribution, and approval for foreign governments to use military assets to deliver aid.

"Until the Burmese Government opens its doors to all aid offered, unnecessary deaths and suffering will continue," Mr Adams said, while urging the United Nations Security Council to take action against Burma's generals.

"How many failed and inconclusive meetings and visits to Burma by diplomats will it take before the UN Security Council acts?"

Cyclone Nargis struck Burma on May 2 and 3, leaving more than 133,000 people dead or missing, according to official reports.

Of the 2.4 million people that the UN estimates the storm severely affected, only about 500,000 have been reached by international aid so far.

Relief organisations have accused the military junta of slowing the flow of life-saving supplies by insisting it can handle the crisis on its own.

Burma agreed at regional talks in Singapore yesterday to allow ASEAN to coordinate an international relief effort, after resisting multiple foreign attempts to deliver aid to hard-hit areas. (NTNews)

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