Tuesday, 6 May 2008

Myanmar Cyclone: Women and Children Make up More than Half of Victims - UNICEF

Hundreds of thousands more at risk because of lack of shelter and unsafe
drinking water

NEW YORK, May 5 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Powerful Cyclone Nargis, which slammed into the Southeast Asian country of Myanmar over the weekend, killed and injured many women and children in its wake. However, in a country where more than 60 percent are women and children, hundreds of thousands more lives are at risk due to lack of shelter and unsafe drinking water.

"Our biggest fear is that the aftermath could be more lethal than the storm itself," said Caryl Stern, President and CEO, U.S. Fund for UNICEF.

Preliminary reports suggest that 10,000 people have been killed and almost 3,000 more are missing. This would make it the world's deadliest storm since a 1999 cyclone in India. About 100,000 are homeless in the wake of the Myanmar cyclone.

UNICEF is moving quickly to respond -- today deploying five assessment teams. UNICEF will also take the lead in water and sanitation and hygiene, child protection, and education. Immediate needs include: water purification tablets, plastic sheeting, cooking sets, bed nets, emergency health kits, and food. A major priority is ensuring safe water supplies, especially to vulnerable children.

Detailed information on the impact is not yet available due to downed
communications and blocked roads. The southwest of the delta region is believed to be the worst-hit area and was affected both by strong winds and a sizable storm surge. The authorities have indicated that many villages in this area have been completely flattened.

Electrical lines are down, affecting delivery of service, blocking roads and access to rescue vehicles.

"This is clearly a disaster of immense proportions and as is frequently the case children will bear the brunt of it -- in terms of loss of life, injuries, displacement and interruption to schooling," said Stern. "As with any disaster, UNICEF will do whatever it takes to save children's lives.

With an on the ground presence since 1950 in Myanmar we are well positioned to respond to this tragedy."

UNICEF has had a presence on the ground in Myanmar since 1950, with nine zonal offices and a head office in Yangon. Prior to the disaster, UNICEF had stockpiled crucial supplies.

To donate to the Cyclone Nargis disaster, please go to:

Peter Popham: Junta is acting out of self-preservation, not compassion


A grave natural disaster like the cyclone that ripped through southern Burma is a moment of reckoning for an authoritarian regime. It cannot fight the disaster as it fights the Karen rebels on the border, destroying their villages and crops, killing their animals and driving them into exile. It cannot descend as it did on the thousands of monks who demonstrated in the nation's towns and cities last September, shooting and beating and arresting them.

The State Peace and Development Council (SPDC), as Burma's military junta styles itself, argues that military government is essential for Burma because of the threat to the nation's unity from secessionist groups on the borders. Democracy cannot be permitted because Burma is in a permanent state of emergency.

But a real, full-scale natural emergency like this one is a challenge of a different kind. At the start of the emergency the junta behaved according to form: it did nothing. It gave no warnings: the columns of the torpid official newspapers were still full of exhortations to people to vote yes in a referendum on a new pseudo-democratic constitution, which is scheduled for 10 May.

It is no surprise if the SPDC does little or nothing to bring relief, because since losing the general election of 1990 to Aung San Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy it has behaved as if the people – or the 82 per cent who voted NLD – were the Enemy Within. They exist to be exploited, bullied, silenced, forced to work for nothing, and shifted from land the army wants. The bizarre decision to move the capital to the remote new town of Naypyidaw, hundreds of miles from Rangoon, the former capital, was the latest sign that the regime wants as little to do with the people it rules as possible. They dominate the people through elaborate networks of informers and vigilantes. Soldiers or police appear only when there is serious trouble.

But yesterday came the turning point: as the number of casualties officially admitted jumped tenfold from 400 to 4,000, and then immediately to 10,000, the regime seems to have realised that denial was no longer an option. Yesterday the Foreign minister, Nyan Win, said Burma would welcome international aid.

The junta does not want foreign aid workers swarming through the land. The regime has vowed to press on with the referendum, and the last thing it wants is foreigners poking their noses into the process.

But if they continue to do nothing, some kind of popular revolt is probable. "This country is a volcano," a dissident intellectual told me in Mandalay in March. "It could erupt at any time." And it is always at moments of dramatic crisis that the Burmese people's patience snaps. Better, perhaps, the generals may have decided, to bring in foreign aid quickly to avoid an outbreak of violent disorder.

The change of mind could have dramatic consequences. After 2004's tsunami, the Indonesian government welcomed foreign aid – and the Indonesian army looked on aghast as the military of Australia and the United States flew incessant missions in and out of the stricken city. The unexpected upshot: the end of the guerrilla war between the Free Aceh Movement and the government, and a peace agreement which still holds.

But Burma is unlikely to be so lucky. Too much has been too wrong, for too long. But foreign aid would be like a long cold drink of water to a man dying of thirst. Quite aside from the immediate relief it would bring.

Leading article: A human tragedy, but good may come of it


The official death toll from the cyclone that smashed through western Burma at the weekend was last night put at more than 10,000. Road and rail links, not good at the best of times, have been disrupted or destroyed. Hundreds of thousands of people are in desperate need of shelter and clean water. Last night – two full days after the disaster – the Burmese foreign minister went on television to say that the government was prepared to accept international help.

That it was the foreign minister, with the prime minister beside him, who eventually announced that foreign aid would be accepted may suggest a tussle between the forces in Burma that look outwards, to however limited a degree, and those who look stubbornly inward. In the administrative paralysis that followed the protests by Buddhist monks late last year, it was the inward-looking generals who won. The demonstrations were broken up by force; monks were deported en masse from their monasteries to the countryside. The junta brutally reasserted its control.

If Burma's rulers have accepted that this disaster is too big for the country to handle on its own, and that relieving the suffering of their stricken people should take precedence over their hermit instincts, this is progress of a kind. The decision to open the country a crack is still progress, even if the response is born of fear for the regime's survival. An inadequate response to a natural disaster can spell danger to those in charge.

There have been times, though, when some real good has come of such aid efforts, when dire need has forced open not just the doors of government ministries, but minds of closed societies as well. Chilly relations between Greece and Turkey warmed almost overnight when Greece became the first country to offer assistance to Turkey after the catastrophic earthquakes of August 1999. They warmed further when Turkey reciprocated after the Athens earthquake the following month.

And in December of 1988, the Armenian earthquake prompted the then Soviet foreign minister, Eduard Shevardnadze, to break with 70 years of Soviet practice and throw the stricken region open to foreign aid agencies. The outpouring of international goodwill that followed benefited not only the victims, but the image of the Soviet government.

The Burmese junta might reflect that opening up also holds dangers. The response to the Armenian earthquake helped usher in the greater openness that contributed three years later to the Soviet Union's collapse. A more productive conclusion would be that a closed dictatorship is an anomaly in the modern world and that today's reluctant opening should be a prelude to change.

Time running out for Myanmar survivors - opposition

OTTAWA (Reuters) - Time is running out for those who survived a massive cyclone that may have killed more than 10,000 people in Myanmar, a prominent opponent of the country's military dictatorship said on Monday.

Sein Win, who heads a self-proclaimed government in exile, also said the junta should drop plans to hold a May 10 referendum on a new army-drafted constitution that critics say will entrench military control.

United Nations officials say Saturday's cyclone left hundreds of thousands of people in the impoverished southeast Asian country without shelter or drinking water. Myanmar was formerly called Burma.

"Time is running out. It is an urgent operation. We know how our people suffered. They have nothing to eat," said Win.

"In Rangoon (the old name for Yangon, Myanmar's largest city) there is no drinking water. The water supply facility is quite damaged," he said in Ottawa after accepting a certificate of honorary Canadian citizenship on behalf of opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

Canada said on Monday it would contribute C$2 million ($1.98 million) to the international relief effort.

The constitution is part of a "road map to democracy" that is meant to culminate in elections in 2010 and end nearly five decades of military rule. Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy opposes the charter.

"I would like to say, (in) this situation, forget about the referendum. What is most important is to get the people who suffered (emergency) aid and to start managing this big operation," said Win.

"This constitution will not lead to democracy and will also not solve our problems," he added. Suu Kyi is under house arrest in Myanmar.

SNAPSHOT-Latest developments after Myanmar cyclone

May 5 (Reuters) - Here are the latest developments on Monday following Saturday's devastating Cyclone Nargis in Myanmar.


- The military government has a provisional death toll of 10,000, a diplomat says after a briefing from Foreign Minister Nyan Win. Another 3,000 are missing.

- U.N. says Myanmar accepts aid offers, shipments being prepared at once. U.N. says hundreds of thousands of people are without shelter and drinking water. United States says government won't let its disaster assistance response team in.

- Soldiers and police kill 36 prisoners after riot at Yangon's notorious Insein prison in chaos following cyclone, Thailand-based human rights group says.

- Cyclone was a Category 3 storm, with winds of 190 kph (120 mph).

- Junta leaders say they will go ahead with May 10 referendum on a new army-drafted constitution that critics say will entrench the military.


"The basic message was that they believe the provisional death toll was about 10,000 with 3,000 missing," a diplomat tells Reuters in Bangkok after a briefing from Foreign Minister Nyan Win.

"Last time, they came here, just like ants, from where I don't know." - Yangon resident, comparing the reaction of security forces when they cracked down last September on Buddhist monk-led protests against the military junta. "Now I can't see any -- no army, no police."

"The lights went out, we have no water." - local trader, washing in a lake in Yangon. "The storm destroyed so much, I have to take a bath here."

"We know that it's several hundred thousand needing shelter and clean drinking water, but how many hundred thousand we just don't know." - Richard Horsey, U.N. disaster response office.

"The government indicated willingness to accept international assistance through the U.N. agencies. I'd say it was a careful green light. The U.N. will begin preparing assistance now to be delivered and transported to Myanmar as quickly as possible." - World Food Programme spokesman.

Burma cyclone death toll tops 10,000: foreign minister

May 5, 2008 (AFP-DVB)- More than 10,000 people have been killed in a tropical cyclone that struck Burma at the weekend, foreign minister Nyan Win told state television, adding that his nation would welcome international aid.

"According to the latest information, more than 10,000 people were killed," Nyan Win said, after briefing foreign diplomats.

"Information is still being collected, and there could be more casualties," he added.

Nyan Win also welcomed Thailand's promise to send emergency food and medicine, saying Burma would welcome international aid from other countries.

"We will welcome help like this from other countries, because our people are in difficulty," he said.

He said 57 ships had sunk in the Irrawaddy River, adding that smaller boats had also been destroyed.

State television showed images of entire communities that had flooded since Tropical Cyclone Nargis struck late Friday. Earlier, state media said tens of thousands of people may have been killed in the township of Bogalay alone.

The United Nations said hundreds of thousands of people had been left homeless when the storm, packing winds of 190 kilometres (120 miles) per hour, ripped through the countryside, destroying entire villages in its fury.

Thousands of buildings were flattened as the furious cyclone also ripped power lines to shreds, uprooted trees that blocked key roads and disrupted water supplies in the main city and former capital, Rangoon.

Former NMSP Army Chief reacts to party accusation


05 May 2008 - Former New Mon State Party (NMSP) army chief, Nai Aung Naing who has disassociated himself from the party has reacted to a party statement accusing him of being a traitor.

His peace group released a statement recently. This is the first time, that the Nai Aung Naing led peace group called, Kae-Kon-Hport-Lae-Lorn-Htaw-Nyi-Sar-Kon-Gae-Kao-Mon, has released a two page statement to the people.

His peace group denied the NMSP's accusation and appeal to the people to take strong action against the army chief, Nai Aung Naing and his group.

The statement said, Nai Aung Naing has not surrendered to the Burmese military government and he is taking a positive step to work with the junta for the nation while NMSP is taking a retrograde step. He is not taking any weapons from the party in order to surrender.

The statement also said, the army chief did not know that he was told to retire by the party for medical treatment. The statement in a five point charter of demands said the NMSP should not monitor peace group supporters; not to make false accusations for their leaving the party and allow free movement to the people.

Nai Aung Naing led 12 NMSP members to negotiate with the military government for better business prospects four months ago without informing the NMSP headquarters. Nai Aung Naing went to Rangoon ostensibly for medical treatment and talked to the military junta to found a peace group for supporting referendum and elections in 2010.

His peace group asked the junta to allow it to run businesses freely in Three Pagoda Pass area, Tenasserim Divison, Myawaddy Road, and an area, near NMSP's Thaton District. Currently his group is mobilizing people to make the peace group stronger.

The 76-year old Nai Aung Naing headed for Nay Pyi Taw a couple of times for the deal with the junta after treatment in Rangoon. After the deal he formed the peace group and started moving in the Mon community. His peace group is trying to get former NMSP members who have retired to join his group.

Nai Aung Naing was appointed army chief in 2005 at a New Mon State Party central committee meeting and he worked with the party for 34 years after deserting from the Burma Army in 1974. He was a good fighter but has a background of corruption in land deals in Three Pagoda Pass area.

Referendum commission compiles list of elders foe 'Yes' votes


05 May 2008 - The Commission for Holding Referendum (CHR) in Mon State is compiling a list of elders for voting to support the draft constitution.

Recently the commission started making a list of elders who want to vote early and the commission went from house to house to collect their names. The work on it has started in Mudon Township and the commission has already covered seven villages.

According to a villager, Naing-Hlone in Mudon Township, the villagers gave a full list of their elders because of they were unaware of what the authorities were up to.

"We thought, it was for early voting. We did not know that the list we gave would be used as a list for supporting votes. But when we checked we realized the list was to be used for supporting votes," a village leader told IMNA.

A villager told to an IMNA source, if they knew the intention of the operation they would not given the list.

Similarly, the CHR did not explain clearly to the six other villages why they were collecting the list of elders.

According to a source close to the commission, the operation will be widely undertaken in Mon State and Karen State soon.

CHR also threatened government employees in Three Pagoda Pass and a list of voters was compiled to force them to support the constitution. Left to themselves many of them would want to vote against the draft constitution.

A majority of government employees in Mon State were similarly threatened and also ordered to sign a pledge to support the constitution.

According to an education department employee, they were made to sign a month ago by senior officers.

Currently, the military regime in Mon State and Karen state has tightened security and are using schools as polling stations. According to a Township and Village Peace and Development Council member, the militia and police were ordered to take charge of security at the schools and polling stations.

Burmese Monks Stage Bloody Protest in Dhaka

Dhaka (Narinjara): Exiled Burmese monks staged a protest on Sunday in front of the Burmese embassy in Dhaka, Bangladesh, against the upcoming constitutional referendum, with some monks striking their arms and drawing blood that sprayed on the white protest banners.

The protest was conducted by the International Burmese Monks Organization, Bangladesh branch, and was the biggest protest yet staged by Burmese exiles in Bangladesh.

Ashion Maygiya, president of the monk organization, said, "Our program is successful and we were able to stage our protest in front of the Burmese embassy and show our feelings on the referendum to the Burmese military government."

Many Bangladesh police constables blocked the entrance road to the Burmese embassy to prevent the demonstrators from marching to the front of the building, but the monks paid no heed to the road block and marched on to the embassy while shouting many anti-referendum slogans.

U Thuriya, who is an active monk in the organization, said, "We came here to protest the Burmese government which is now preparing to hold the referendum for approving their constitution. The constitution is not useful for our country and will be dangerous for our people in the future. The constitution is only for the army to rule Burma continually. How can we accept the constitution? So we staged a protest by punching our arms for blood to vow to fight until Burma is a democracy."

U Thuriya and some other monks spread their blood on some of the banners in the demonstration after striking their own arms, while some staff from the Burmese embassy watched the scene with interest.

The demonstration was staged for two hours in front of the embassy, beginning at 11 am and ended at 1 pm on Sunday, 4 May.

Over 60 Burmese people, including monks and women, participated in the protest, and the diplomatic area near the Burmese embassy was flooded with the protestors' shouts and slogans.

Junta called 'inhuman' for planning poll in wake of disaster

By Mungpi
Mizzima News

New Delhi – Critics blasted Burma's military regime for going ahead with plans to conduct a referendum on the country's draft constitution amidst the devastation and mourning of Cyclone Nargis.

"It is senseless to conduct a referendum while people are filled with sorrow and worries," said Nyo Ohn Myint, the foreign affairs in-charge of the exiled National League for Democracy (Liberated Area).

Monday, 05 May 2008 - Calling the decision "inhuman," Nyo Ohn Myint said the ruling generals have no sympathy for the people, who are now struggling to re-build homes and finding ways to survive.

He added that the junta appears to be taking advantage of the survivors' inability to focus on the referendum, slated for Saturday.

According to the junta's referendum law announced in February, the constitution will be approved if more than 50 percent of those who cast votes say "yes."

"So, the fewer the voters, the better the chance to win in the referendum," said Nyo Ohn Myint said, explaining that the junta had already mobilised its supporters.

In a statement carried by the official newspaper, Burma's military junta, which has ruled the country for nearly two decades, on Monday indicated that the impact of the cyclone would not alter the date for the nationwide vote.

"The referendum is only a few days away and the people are eagerly looking forward to voting," the junta said.

According to state-owned media, nearly 4,000 people were killed by Cyclone Nagris, which swept through Burma over the weekend. Many more were left injured and homeless, and the death toll was expected to rise.

In Rangoon, Burma's former capital city, reports said roads remained blocked by trees, electric poles were uprooted, and electricity and telephone lines remained cut-off. Internet connections were reportedly severed by the storm.

Following the cyclone, commodities skyrocketed. The price of one egg, which earlier cost 60 to 70 kyat, rose to 400 kyat while a liter of clean water shot up to 4,000 kyat from what was normally 700 to 800 kyat.

Pictures posted on several news agencies' websites showed people busy cleaning up debris and re-building their homes. Five regions of Burma were declared disaster zones: Rangoon, Pegu, Irrawaddy division, and Mon and Karen states.

Tanet Charoenmuang, professor in the Department of Political Science at Chiang Mai University, said the Burmese junta, like every other authoritarian government, does not want to delay the process of the referendum, as it is the only way to legitimize their rule.

"The Burmese military junta already knows the outcome of the referendum and just want to go ahead as fast as they could without any delays," Tanet added.

Win Min, a Burmese analyst in Thailand, however, said the junta is being insensitive.

"If they just postpone the dates for the referendum and engage in relief works, they are more likely to gain the peoples' appreciation," he said.

Win Min said Senior General Than Shwe, who is superstitious like other military dictators of Burma, is being stubborn in postponing the referendum as he has already chosen the date after consulting with astrologers.

"How can people think of going to the poll booths and casting their votes while their homes and lives are devastated? It could even provoke the people's anger," Win Min added.

Cases of postponing elections

Many precedents exist for postponing elections after natural disasters.

In 2007, Jamaica delayed a general election by a week when a deadly hurricane lashed the country.

After the deadly Indian Ocean tsunami, the Maldives government postponed a parliamentary election for three weeks. And local elections were delayed in the U.S. states of Alabama and Louisiana after Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

Relief first

In order for the junta to go ahead with its referendum, it must ensure that people in the disaster-impacted regions get relief first, said Human Rights Watch (HRW).

David Scott Mathieson, Burma Consultant of the HRW said, "The government must first help clean the devastation and mess and help the people who are starving."

"The government has to show responsibility. There must be a kind of mechanism in place so that these people can cast their votes," he added.

Nyo Ohn Myint said he and his NLD-LA party have asked the NLD to stop any kind of political activities but to concentrate on relief work.

"There is nothing more important that relief work at this moment," said Nyo Ohn Myint. "There is no point in conducting any kind of political activities when people are dying, starving and are homeless."

Referendum Must Take Second Place Now in Regime Priorities

The Irrawaddy News - Editorial

The response by the Burmese regime to this weekend’s cyclone disaster shows that the junta is incapable of running the country, let alone helping the victims.

Three million people are thought to have suffered in one way or another from cyclone Nargis as it ripped through Rangoon, the Irrawaddy delta and southern Burma, destroying homes, sinking boats, knocking down power lines, uprooting trees and shutting down Rangoon airport.

The death toll stands officially at more than 350, but the actual figure is thought to be higher.

The junta declared five disaster zones on Sunday—Rangoon, Irrawaddy and Pegu divisions as well as Karen and Mon states.

As the country reeled under the force of the cyclone, the regime issued a statement saying its pet project, the constitutional referendum, would be held as planned this coming Saturday. Monday’s issue of the official government newspaper, The New Light of Myanmar, carried the statement, together with an attack on last Friday’s pronouncement by the UN Security Council urging a free and fair referendum.

The government was “much surprised” by the UN statement, the newspaper said.

The referendum would be held as planned, the newspaper said, “and the entire people of the country are eagerly looking forward to that," it said.

Eagerly looking forward to the opportunity to participate in a sham election? Right now, the Burmese people are eagerly looking forward to emergency aid—clean water, food, medicines and other supplies. According to UN officials, the water supply is unfit to drink in the aftermath of the destruction, raising fears of water-borne diseases.

It is really sad to see how ineffectively Than Shwe’s regime is responding to this devastating crisis. The Burmese people are painfully aware that they can expect little help from an uncaring military regime.

State-run television tries to present a caring image, with footage of troops working to clear streets blocked by fallen trees. Yet Rangoon residents are telling
The Irrawaddy that official assistance is minimal.

Some reports from the devastated country speak of looting and even rioting, as prices of food and other essentials soar. Shock and anger are the prevailing mood of the people.

Belatedly, the junta formed a national central committee for natural disasters, with Prime Minister Gen Thein Sein as chairman, to coordinate relief and aid efforts. Although UN agencies and other international bodies stand ready to help, no call for aid has come from the regime, which is pathologically suspicious of international non-governmental organizations.

The media is also being kept out of the disaster zones, making it difficult to obtain a clear picture of the true extent of the disaster. News of national disasters is normally underplayed or covered up by the regime press, radio and TV.

It is vitally important for the regime to allow international aid agencies to operate in disaster zones, as well as free access to the international media.

The cyclone also changed the political landscape in Burma by probably persuading even more people to vote against the regime’s draft constitution in the coming referendum, despite the climate of fear and intimidation created by the junta’s “Vote Yes” campaign.
The regime’s totally inadequate response to the needs of the battered country will undoubtedly encourage undecided voters to reject the draft constitution.

The referendum should be postponed and the government’s efforts devoted totally to helping the cyclone victims. If they are unable to make this decision, Than Shwe and the other junta leaders should step down—the Burmese people are waiting eagerly for that to happen.

Cyclone Could Unleash Political Upheaval

The Irrawaddy News

Tropical cyclone Nargis was not only a natural disaster, but it could also signal a political upheaval for the Burmese junta if the generals fail to handle it well.

Nargis, a Category 3 cyclone, hit Rangoon, the Irrawaddy delta, the Pegu Division and Mon and Karen States on Saturday. The military junta named the five regions disaster zones.

A government statement on Monday, however, signed by Col Than Shin on behalf of the military regime, was not related to the disaster but contained a response to the UN Security Council’s latest presidential statement, which called for a free and fair referendum.

The junta said that it was surprised by the Security Council statement, but declared its determination to carry on with the referendum on May 10.

The junta mouth piece Myanma Alin still carries a daily campaign urging a “Yes” vote, and carried a report highlighting a canvassing tour of Sagaing Division, northern Burma, by the Minister of Information, Brig-Gen Kyaw Hsan.

State-run MRTV reported on a cabinet meeting, chaired by Prime Minister Gen Thein Sein, to discuss the cyclone disaster, with exacted an official death toll of almost 4000 people and made hundreds of thousands homeless.

The front and back pages of Myanma Alin on Monday showed Gen Thein Sein, who heads a state disaster committee, viewing cyclone damage in Rangoon’s North Dagon Myothit Township.

“The state disaster committee includes the armed forces, police, and fire squad. But the report did not name the junta’s mass organization, the Union Solidarity and Development Association, (USDA) in the committee,” said a Rangoon student.

Rangoon residents told The Irrawaddy on Monday that most of the cyclone victims received no aid from government agencies or international ones. “My house was destroyed by the storm, but no authority came to ask about damage or assistance,” said one.

A physician who runs a private clinic in Thaketa Township, Rangoon, said he had heard of no emergency plans for treating the injured. “Last night many people injured in the disaster came to my clinic for treatment. But they came by themselves, not with state aid.”

The physician said the shortage of water was now a problem for all. There was also no power.

Rangoon and other towns in lower Burma were ill-prepared for the cyclone, unlike neighboring Bangladesh, which is regularly hit by such storms.

Mismanagement and corruption in every section of the junta’s administration also take their toll, hindering a rapid response by rescue workers and security forces.

“I don’t know where the troops and Swan Ah-shin who beat up peaceful protesters in the September demonstrations are now,” said a Rangoon housewife. “They were quick to arrive in September. Now they can’t come to aid cyclone victims.”

The monks who led the September mass demonstration are helping clear the storm debris and providing victims with food, according to one Rangoon resident.

The price of basic commodities leapt in the wake of the cyclone. Markets are crowded but food is in short supply.

The junta delayed opening the door for humanitarian aid from the international community. The Burmese regime has a policy of cooperating as little as possible with international aid agencies, which are regarded by many military officials as neocolonialist “tools.”

In April, junta newspapers accused the International Committee of the Red Cross of supporting rebel groups in Karen state.

The Burma Campaign-UK, a London-based free-Burma group, said on Saturday that the Burmese regime failed to give adequate warnings to the population about the approach of the cyclone.

The junta places restrictions on the UN and international aid agencies delivering humanitarian assistance, the group said. “This is yet another example of how the regime ignores the welfare of the people of Burma,” said Mark Farmaner, director of the Burma Campaign-UK.

However, Aung Naing Oo, a Burmese political analyst, said the junta is unwilling to allow international aid and emergency teams into the country ahead of the referendum.

“The ruling generals don’t want to see many international agencies, aid workers or rescue teams near the referendum or during the referendum.”

Win Min, a Burma expert at Thailand’s Chiang Mai University, said: “I heard people are getting angry at the authorities because of lack of prevention and disaster relief. It is not good for the junta’s referendum plan.”