Myanmar Embassy Fire May Delay Visas for Cyclone Relief Workers

By Michael Heath

A big fire breaks out at Myanmar embassy in Bangkok, capital of Thailand, in the morning of May 26, 2008. Cause of the fire was unknown yet.  



May 27 (Bloomberg) — International aid workers seeking permission to enter Myanmar to help survivors of Tropical Cyclone Nargis may be delayed after a fire at Myanmar’s embassy in Bangkok, the United Nations said.

The fire “prompted the closure of the visa section and created a fresh obstacle for the aid community,” the UN’s news service IRIN said in a report from Thailand’s capital. It didn’t give any details of how long visa applications may be delayed.

Myanmar’s ruling junta agreed on May 23 to allow all aid workers to enter the southern Irrawaddy River Delta, the region hardest hit by the cyclone, after a meeting with UN Secretary- General Ban Ki-moon.

The military government was criticized for preventing international workers reaching the delta since the cyclone hit May 2-3. More than half of the 2.4 million people affected probably haven’t received international or domestic aid, UN emergency relief coordinator John Holmes said two days ago.

“We are ready to help the Myanmar embassy find out what caused the fire,” Thai police investigator Lieutenant Tanapat Seehawong said yesterday, Agence France-Presse reported. “But the embassy informed us that they will investigate themselves.”

Myanmar, formerly known as Burma, hosted an international donor conference in its former capital, Yangon, on May 25 for aid to rebuild after the cyclone that left at least 133,000 people dead or missing.

Aid Pledges

The UN collected $57 million, or 28 percent of the funds it is seeking, in an appeal for Myanmar, IRIN reported. It received an additional $42 million in non-binding pledges.

The U.S. has offered $20.5 million and said it is ready to donate more if humanitarian workers have unhindered access to the delta and can carry out an independent assessment.

During the conference, Myanmar’s Prime Minister General Thein Sein said the authorities “will consider” requests for entry into the delta on a “township-by-township” basis, according to IRIN.

He ruled out allowing U.S., French and British warships off the coast and carrying relief supplies to deliver their cargo directly to the delta by airlift or special landing craft.

Instead, Thein Sein said, supplies will have to be delivered via civilian vessels to the Yangon port, a process aid workers say is a time-consuming and logistically difficult journey to the worst affected areas, according to IRIN.

Junta’s Plan

The junta has drawn up an $11.7 billion cyclone reconstruction plan for projects including rebuilding 100,000 houses, replacing lost livestock and constructing dykes in the delta area and “artificial hills” to act as barriers against tidal surges. The delta was swamped by a wave of water as high as 12 feet (3.6 meters) when the cyclone struck.

Donors didn’t discuss the junta’s plan in any detail, Aunpama Rao Singh, regional director of the UN Children’s Fund for East Asia, said yesterday.

“People listened but the overall theme coming from the meeting was that it’s premature to talk about reconstruction damage — there is still outstanding work for relief and early recovery,” he said.

The junta yesterday announced the results of a constitutional referendum held three days ago in Yangon and 47 townships in the delta that were devastated by the cyclone.

It was approved by 92.93 percent of ballots and 93 percent of the 4.5 million eligible voters in the region participated, AFP cited state media as saying. A first round of voting was held May 10 in regions spared by the storm.

Nationwide, state media said the constitution was approved by 92.48 percent of voters, with a 98 percent turnout. The new constitution takes effect once a parliament convenes, after elections scheduled for 2010.

“The United States is dismayed by the fact that, in the midst of a major humanitarian disaster, in which a majority of those affected have not received assistance yet, the Burmese regime conducted on May 24 a second round of voting,” the State Department said in a statement from Washington yesterday.


Monday, 26 May 2008

Arson ! Burmese embassy fire

Fire at the Burmese embassy in Bangkok destroyed the area visa section is located. Now, the regime has a brand new excuse to delay issuing entry visas for foreign disaster relief experts. I wonder who started the fire.

UN is duped again. Regime is only interested in getting money from donors and have no interest in saving lives. We, Burmese can see that clearly. Why UN and ASEAN can’t see that? We have lost faith in UN/ASEAN mediated intervention. Thousands of lives will soon be perished while UN and ASEAN playing a deadly games with junta.

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