US sharply skeptical of Myanmar constitution

WASHINGTON (AFP) — The White House on Friday expressed frustration at the pace of aid flows into Myanmar after devastating Cyclone Nargis and said the ruling junta’s new constitution lacks legitimacy.

Continue reading

Burma needs humanitarian intervention: NCGUB

May 21, 2008 (DVB)–Humanitarian intervention is needed if the Burmese regime continues to obstruct the delivery of international aid to cyclone victims, the prime minister of the Burmese government-in-exile told DVB. 

National Coalition Government of the Union of Burma prime minister Dr Sein Win criticised the Burmese junta’s response to the disaster and failure to provide timely assistance to victims. Continue reading

Cyclone Survivors Forcibly Evicted

By SAW YAN NAING Saturday, May 24, 2008

Myanmar cyclone survivors grab a free banana from a local donor ...

                                                                                                                       photo:AP

Thousands of homeless cyclone survivors from rural areas who sought shelter and aid in Bogalay and Mawlamyinegyun have been forcibly expelled from the towns by local government officials over the last five to six days, said sources in Rangoon and Bogalay.

Speaking to The Irrawaddy by telephone, a resident in Bogalay said, “The authorities won’t allow refugees to stay in town. They are sending them back where they came from. Continue reading

Cyclone Nargis survivors ousted from shelters in Myanmar

YANGON, Myanmar (AP) — With few places to seek refuge, the wooden schoolhouse seemed as good as anywhere.Though its roof was partially blown off by Cyclone Nargis, and panels were ripped from its walls, hundreds of people swarmed here after the storm.Now the government has forced them out to make space for a weekend vote on a new pro-military constitution — a referendum delayed in parts of Myanmar because of the deadly cyclone.

“The school will be used as a polling station,” said Sandar, a teacher who refused to give her last name. “We needed people to leave.”

“Most of them set up temporary bamboo huts,” Sandar said Wednesday. Like most people in Myanmar, she did not want to be fully identified because the government dislikes people talking to the press. Continue reading

Ban Ki-moon to meet Burma leader

British Broadcasting Corporation

Thursday, 22 May 2008

Mr Ban visited the

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon is to meet with Burma’s military leader, Gen Than Shwe, after touring cyclone-hit areas of the country.

On a tour of the Irrawaddy Delta, Mr Ban flew over flooded rice fields and destroyed villages and visited a relief camp set up by the government.

Mr Ban said his mission was to urge the Burma’s rulers to accept more aid. Continue reading

The senseless junta

The senseless junta

Manjit Bhatia’s opinion in Malaysiakini | May 20, 08 12:59pm

Even after a week, when Cyclone Nargis hit the Irrawady delta regime and close to 100,000 people had perished or were missing, and tens of hundreds more utterly displaced, Burma’s military junta continued to sit on its hands. Why?

After initially asking for help from the international community, who had rallied so speedily, the regime’s generals changed their minds and disallowed international aid into the country. Why?

This is the height of stupidity.

But the stupidity of the regime does not end there. In its breathless, most mind-numbing display of outright idiocy, after stating that it would postpone by two weeks the planned Constitutional reform plebiscite, Yangon (Rangoon) changed its minds and brought it forward by a week. Why?

  • Never mind that the world’s media has been denied visas to cover the devastation. After all, like China and Zimbabwe, it is a hideous regime with lots of hideous deeds to hide – deeds like corruption and murder.
  • Worse is that all foreign aid workers – people who are experts at aid and development logistics – too have been denied entry.
  • Burmese red tape is debilitating to foreign donours and non-government organizations. It is also debilitating to Burma’s people.
  • They’re desperately holding out for help not from their regime but foreign donors.

Early estimates put at least 20 percent of children in the most devastated areas are suffering from diarrhoea. The situation could worsen if water-borne diseases, such as cholera, break out. But the military men have the gall to offer this most ridiculous rationalisation: “Myanmar has prioritised receiving emergency relief provisions and making strenuous effort delivering it with its own labour to the affected areas,” a junta’s statement said. “(But) Myanmar is not ready to receive rescue and media teams from foreign countries.” How can this be? It’s bollocks. It makes utterly no sense at all.

Logistical nightmare

burma myanmar cyclone typhoon catastrophe 070508 01With the carnage likely to claim over 100,000 lives, and the cyclone’s path of destruction is writ large, restoring normalcy will take a Herculean effort. And the reconcontruction of the region will take years and several billion dollars. Burma has key natural resources whose financial windfalls haven’t accrued to the Burmese people but the Burma’s top brass, its local and foreign business cronies, and its sympathisisers. The logistical nightmare of the scale of the aid distribution perhaps leaves the regime out of its depth for effective and just distribution. Foreign aid that arrived in cargo 747s and other planes has been seized in Rangoon. There’s every reason to belief that this kleptomaniac regime has siphoned off the seized cargo and distributed it to its troops instead.

For one thing, this illegitimate and vile regime cannot exist in power without the full backing of the military’s rank-and-file, especially the military Young Turks. The regime’s top brass has virtually bought the loyalty of the Young Turks, not unlike former Philippines president Corazon Aquino and incumbent Gloria Macapagal Arroyo. How else do incompetent and corrupt regimes retain power if not by dictatorial means? Look at Zimbabwe’s abominable dictator Robert Mugabe.

For another, the junta has been peddling an absurdly populist ideology to legitimise its rule by barring specialist foreign aid workers, especially from the United States. It argues that these ‘foreigners’ have hidden agendas for entering Burma: to invade and take over the country. Trouble is, there are enough Burmese who believe the regime’s claptrap. After all, Washington had pushed the United Nations Security Council to impose international sanctions against the junta that routinely abuses human rights. And it won’t be long before the regime points to the US-led invasion and occupation of Iraq.

Effectively, what the junta is saying is that it’ll be the main driving force of relief operations in Burma. If that’s the case, why, after just a week, it had not mobilised its disaster relief effort? Easy. It is fundamentally incapable of doing so. Burma may be resource rich but look at the way the junta has singularly failed to redistribute wealth to its people. Conversely, George W Bush too dithered after Hurricane Katrina banged up New Orleans? Three years later, New Orleans was still a total disaster zone. Bush was too busy eating birthday cake with Republican presidential nominee John McCain and playing his new guitar at his Texas ranch.

Problem is, the junta has neither sufficient trucks nor helicopters to organise aid delivery on a large scale. And it is a massive operation. Many of these places are inaccessible by road. The US Essex Strike Group is in the neighborhood for a military exercise with Thailand. It says it can fly at least 10 military choppers, loaded up with supplies, to Burma within hours. With airplanes already stranded in Rangoon, and the junta already allowing one US C-130 with supplies to land in Rangoon, it will not give the Essex Strike Group idea the time of day.

Selling in the black market

burma myanmar monk protest 260907 pissed offThere was no vacillating when the junta rushed through voting for a Constitutional referendum on May 10. Politics was put head of Burmese lives and misery. In the absence of popular legitimacy, cementing its militarist-dictatorial grip on power was vital to quash pro-democracy dissent in the aftermath of last October’s Saffron protests. The regime murdered in cold blood dissenters in a manner not dissimilar to Chinese communist regime’s murder of pro-democracy protestors in Tiananmen Square in 1989. There’s more: natural resources developments are about to come on stream, bringing vital foreign exchange revenue that will only fill up the junta’s coffers.

Another thing: don’t hold your breath that the so-called international community will come racing to the rescue of the Burmese with aid money in the way it did in the aftermath of the Asian tsunami. Rescuing Burma could be doomed even before it starts. And it looks that way already, thanks to the junta’s criminal madness and irresponsibility. That’s not the end of it, though. With the global financial crisis delivering massive shocks and untold billions of dollars people’s wealth wiped away, world aid could rapidly slow to a trickle. As the world economy hurtles south, ordinary Burmese will have to turn to the heavens for a miracle to bury their dead, look after the injured and rebuild their lives. Because the corrupt junta doesn’t give a damn.

There’s growing evidence that the Burma’s generals are keeping the aid that they’ve confiscated and keeping it for themselves and the military, and there is growing evidence that sections of the military have been selling the aid on the black market. Such is the hide of this kleptomanic state whose generals are not only brutalisers of human rights of Burmese men, women and children but also cold-blooded murderers of Burmese men, women an children. And now they’re thugs too – thieves of the worst kind.

DEAD BODIES ALONG THE RIVER OF TEARS(photo album)

AAA

 

Source:NYILYNNSEK

more photos:here

 

 Myanmar survivors living with dead

By Los Angeles Times

WAT MYON, Myanmar — They are living with the dead.

More than two weeks after Cyclone Nargis wiped away all but one of this village’s houses, decomposing corpses still lie on muddy pathways or are trapped in eddies along the shore of the broad Pyamaia River nearby.

The stench overpowers every corner of U Thon Tun’s badly damaged home, where 25 survivors have taken refuge.

The villagers, all tenant farmers, want to go back to work and earn money again before another rice crop is lost. But their paddies are ruined, they have no seeds to plant and there are no tools to work soil flooded by the sea.

Without any tools, the villagers say they can’t solve another pressing problem: the corpses that are poisoning the river, where they wash themselves each day.

Soldiers sent in to gather the corpses suddenly disappeared Sunday and villagers say they heard the troops were refusing to dispose of any more bodies, leaving survivors no choice but to live with them.

“It’s not 10, it’s not 100, it’s thousands of bodies,” Thon Tun said. “We gave up collecting corpses around here. It’s impossible to bury them properly.”

Local authorities have provided small rations of food but not the seeds, equipment and water buffalo that villagers say they need to start planting by the end of June.

Meanwhile, saltwater is poisoning the soil and freshwater reserves. Yet villagers have no salt, which is essential to a healthy diet, for their meager meals. The Irrawaddy River delta produces most of the country’s salt, but the factories were destroyed in the storm.

Local officials have provided small rations of rice, chicken-flavored instant noodles and cookies that don’t provide the nutrition that the United Nations and other agencies say as many as 2.5 million survivors need for a long struggle ahead.

The military regime that rules Myanmar, also known as Burma, says at least 78,000 people have died and 56,000 are missing since the storm’s 120- to 150-mph winds ravaged the country’s south May 2.

Save the Children, one of the most experienced foreign-aid agencies in Myanmar, estimates that 30,000 children in the delta region were malnourished before the cyclone hit and could be starving in two to three weeks if adequate help doesn’t arrive.

Ignoring intense pressure and suspicious foreigners would serve as spies, the regime has refused to open the disaster zone to a massive international-relief effort.

The U.N. World Food Program said it had managed to deliver food aid to just 212,000 of the 750,000 people it thinks are most in need.

The United States and France have naval vessels just outside Myanmar’s territorial waters and are prepared to deliver supplies directly to affected areas along the coast, but they have not received clearance from the government.

On Monday, the government agreed to let its Southeast Asian neighbors help coordinate foreign aid, Singapore’s foreign minister, George Yeo, said. It also approved a visit by U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and prepared to host a meeting of aid donors, while claiming that losses from the May 2-3 disaster exceeded $10 billion.

As Tuesday dawned, a three-day official period of mourning began for the dead.

Yeo said Myanmar agreed to allow in medical teams from any of its nine Asian neighbors. Thailand already has sent more than 30 medical workers.

In addition, Myanmar has allowed in 50 medical workers from India. China reported a team of 50 Chinese medics arrived in Yangon on Sunday night.

NLD committee helps cyclone victims in affected areas

May 17, 2008 (DVB)–The National League for Democracy’s cyclone rescue committee visited cyclone-affected areas earlier this week and said victims were still lacking essential support while some had been forced to work. 

Committee chairman U Ohn Kyaing, secretary Dr Win Naing, U Sein Hla Oo and a team went to Bogalay, Pyapon, Dadaye and Mawlamyaingkyun on Monday and Tuesday to donate money to help refugees. 

Win Naing said refugees had been forcibly taken to Ma-Upin from Bogalay and made to work in a quarry for 1000 kyat a day. Those who were unable to work were given no support and returned to monasteries in Bogalay to seek shelter. 

“It is very hard to find a good house in Bogalay. The whole town is in ruins and looks as though a bomb has hit it,” Win Naing said. 

Win Naing said the NLD committee was focusing its efforts in the townships with the highest death tolls, including the areas below Mawlamyaingkyun, where a two-storey monastery built last year was washed away. 

“We couldn’t even find so much as a broken brick and you can’t see where it was built any more,” he said. 

The areas around Bogalay, Pyapon, Dadaye and Laputta have also been devastated, Win Naing said. 

“The estimated death toll below Laputta is 80,000 to 100,000, over 50,000 in Bogalay, 5000 to 6000 in Pyapon, and around 5000 in Kunchankone,” he said. 

Win Naing said the lack of government assistance meant that local cyclone victims had to rely on monks for food and shelter. 

“In Bogalay, they sent villagers back to their villages with three or four potatoes and one pyi of rice,” he said. 

“When the villagers saw that there was nothing in the villages, they took a boat back and went to stay in the monastery,” he went on. 

“When they came back to repatriate the villagers, the monks said they would follow them and only allow them to stay there when they had homes to live in and food to eat. Only then did the authorities give up their efforts.” 

According to the monks, around 10,000 storm victims are taking refuge in monasteries. 

Reporting by Aye Aye Mon

 

 

Myanmar Cyclone photo album from Reuters Part 5

Myanmar Cyclone photo album from Reuters Part 5

Reuters

Photo

A boy watches as a man builds a shelter in a village hit by Cyclone Nargis, near the Myanmar capital Yangon, May 16, 2008.

REUTERS/Stringer

 Photo

People take shelter in a pagoda in an area affected by Cyclone Nargis, near the Myanmar capital Yangon, May 16, 2008.

REUTERS/Stringer

Photo

 

A marine walks past boxes of packaged potable water on the USS Essex about 80 nautical miles south of Myanmar’s Irrawaddy Delta May 16, 2008.

REUTERS/Vivek Prakash

Photo

 

A boy carries water at a village hit by Cyclone Nargis, outside Yangon, May 16, 2008.

REUTERS/Stringer

Photo

 

The USS Essex is seen from a helicopter about 80 nautical miles south of Myanmar’s Irrawaddy Delta May 16, 2008. The USS Essex is currently stationed in international waters to the south of the delta pending permission to carry out the delivery of humanitarian relief goods to people hit by Cyclone Nargis.

REUTERS/Vivek Prakash

Photo

 

Buddhist monks from the Sitagu Missionary Association travel on a boat carrying donated rice for cyclone victims as they move out from Kyaiklat to Bogalay, one of the worst-hit areas by Cyclone Nargis, May 14, 2008.

REUTERS/Aung Hla Tun

 

Photo

People take shelter in a pagoda in an area affected by Cyclone Nargis, near the Myanmar capital Yangon, May 16, 2008.

REUTERS/Stringer

 

Photo

A young monk adjusts his robe next to a pagoda in an area affected by Cyclone Nargis, near the Myanmar capital Yangon, May 16, 2008.

REUTERS/Stringer

 

Photo

Photo

 

A woman and her children stay in their home at a village hit by Cyclone Nargis, outside Yangon, May 16, 2008.

REUTERS/Stringer

UN to press Burma on aid access

                                 

British Broadcasting Corporation

 18 May 2008      

A UN humanitarian envoy is due in Burma to try to persuade the ruling junta to grant more access to UN workers to help with the cyclone relief efforts.

17 May 2008

John Holmes will carry a letter from UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon to Burma’s leader, Than Shwe, who has refused to answer Mr Ban’s calls.

Burma says some 78,000 people have died and 56,000 are missing since Cyclone Nargis hit the country on 2 May.

                                                         

                                                       photo:    Aid agencies are warning supplies
                                                                  are not getting to the areas worst hit

Burma has so far been refusing most offers of international aid. However, a team of 50 Indian medical personnel has been given permission to fly into Burma, equipped with medical supplies.

Meanwhile, a UK-based charity says young children may already be dying of starvation.

Save the Children estimates that 30,000 children under the age of five in the worst-hit Irrawaddy Delta were already “acutely malnourished” before the cyclone struck.

It says that thousands of children will die within several weeks unless food reaches them soon.

‘Show’ visit

On Saturday, UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown condemned Burma’s government for not allowing international aid to reach the cyclone victims.

Mr Brown told the BBC that a natural disaster had been turned into a “man-made catastrophe” because of the negligence of the ruling generals. He said their actions since the cyclone amounted to inhuman treatment.

France has said Burma is on the verge of committing a crime against humanity.

Burma has refused to allow in French and US aid ships which are waiting off the coast.

On Saturday, Burma took foreign diplomats on a helicopter tour of the Irrawaddy Delta.

But Shari Villarosa, the top US diplomat in Burma, dismissed the visit as a “show”.

However, Bernard Delpuech, head of the European Commission Humanitarian Office in Rangoon, said the trip had at least shown “the magnitude of the devastation”.

Asian role

Meanwhile, UK Foreign Office Minister Lord Malloch-Brown told the BBC that the international community was trying to organise a team of Asian and UN aid workers in the hope this will be more acceptable to Burma’s rulers.

He said the idea of a mixed relief team was a “last best effort to try and meet the anxieties and paranoia… of the regime”.

Lord Malloch-Brown travelled to Burma on Saturday and met aid workers and UN officials, according to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO).

The Association of South East Asian Nations (Asean) is due to meet on Monday, with plans for an aid donors’ conference likely to be discussed.

Photo:TIME -3

Saving Burma

TIME

 

Flooded fields, shattered homes

               

Storm Clouds
Cyclone Nargis swept across Burma’s Irrawaddy Delta on May 2nd, flooding fields and shattering homes

               

Homeless
The storm destroyed hundreds of thousands of dwellings

A rice mill damaged by the storm

Recovery
A rice mill in a village near Kawhmu. Nargis cut through Burma’s agricultural heartland, destroying the harvest

Last house standing
The storm swallowed this village near Kawhmu

A damaged home in Bogalay

Collapse
The cyclone has left at least one million people without power, food or shelter

High and dry
A woman collects water from a tanker

A home torn apart by the storm

The earth is flat
Residents pick through debris in Kyaiklat, a town that lost nearly all its buildings to Cyclone Nargis

Flattened
What remains of a building in Tan Man village, near Bogalay

Waiting

Few Burmese believe the ruling junta will deliver on promises of aid

Swamped
A boat passes a destroyed home near Kawmu.

Adrift
This boat was tossed ashore by the storm.

 

Photos from TIME 1

                                                  Waiting to Save Burma

TIME

the Irrawaddy river

Devastated
A remains of a home teeter on the edge of the Irrawaddy River front in Bogalay, Burma, where official reports say 30,000 people have been killed in a cyclone that ravaged the nation on May 2.

Damage in Bogalay

Wiped Out
Villages like Bogalay, pictured here on May 9, were torn to the ground by Cyclone Nargis, the worst natural disaster in the southeast Asian nation’s modern history.

Farmers try to salvage the rice crop

Salvaging
Farmers in Thar Yar Wae village, on the road to Bogalay, try to save what they can of their rice crop by drying it on the road on May 8.

Rice distribution

Trying to Keep Hunger at Bay
Rice is distributed at a monastery at Phayargyi village near Rangoon on May 11, as the ruling junta started to allow a trickle of food aid into the country a full week after the cyclone hit.

Cyclone affected people cook barley rice

On Their Own
Cyclone victims cook barley rice in the Ywan Chyan Kone township near Rangoon on May 11. As of Monday, less than 10 shipments from the World Food Program had been delivered.

Damage in Bogalay

Powerless
Damaged electrical wires dangle over the road in Bogalay on May 9. Foreign aid workers still have not been allowed in to help.

People queue to get clean water

At Risk
People line up for clean water in Kyaiklat, on the road to Bogalay. Relief groups have said up to half a million buckets for clean water are needed in the nation, according the Wall Street Journal

A destroyed temple at Pyin Taung Su village

Perfect Storm
A destroyed temple at Pyin Taung Su village sinks into the water on the bank of the U Yin Chaung River. On Sunday, Oxfam said Burma faces a “public health catastrophe” due to lack of water, food, and new storms expected this week.

Homeless refugee families

Waiting
Refugees at a monastery in the town of Kyaiklat on May 8. Health officials say up to 1.5 million people are now at risk of deadly disease if aid continues to be blocked.

George Clooney and Hollywood stars donate $250,000 for Myanmar cyclone victims

George Clooney and Hollywood stars

donate $250,000 for Myanmar cyclone victims

The Associated Press
Published: May 15, 2008

               International Herald Tribune

       

NEW YORK: The humanitarian organization founded by actor George Clooney and other “Ocean’s Thirteen” stars has donated US$250,000 to help children and families in Myanmar affected by Cyclone Nargis.

Not On Our Watch said it will provide an additional matching contribution of up to US$250,000 to the relief agency Save the Children for every dollar donated to its emergency relief fund for cyclone victims.

The nonprofit organization was founded by Clooney, fellow actors Don Cheadle, Matt Damon, Brad Pitt, producer Jerry Weintraub and human rights lawyer David Pressman to focus global attention and resources on ending mass atrocities and human rights violations around the world. It has donated millions of dollars to help the 2.5 million people in Darfur uprooted by the five-year conflict .

Alex Wagner, executive director of Not on Our Watch, said the organization chose Save the Children for the donations because it is one of the few aid agencies on the ground in Myanmar and has already helped over 100,000 people around the capital, Yangon, and in the hard-hit Irrawaddy delta, including about 40,000 children under the age of 12.

“Until the military regime prioritizes the welfare of its own citizens and allows full-scale deployment of relief operations, we must continue to support the very few that stand in a position to help combat this crisis,” Wagner said in a statement Tuesday.

Myanmar’s military government on Wednesday revised its death toll from the May 3 storm to 38,491 and the number of missing to 27,838. But the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies said the number of people killed is probably between 68,833 and 127,990, and the number needing help is between 1.64 million and 2.51 million.

Charles MacCormack, president and CEO of Save the Children, said in a statement Tuesday that the donation “will help us meet children’s survival needs in Myanmar and assist them on their path to recovery from this devastating event.”

Save the Children, one of the largest nongovernmental organizations at work in Myanmar, has 500 staff, almost all local nationals. It has worked in Myanmar since 1995 and currently operates programs in all five districts severely affected by the cyclone.

                

 

U.N. says up to 2.5 million affected in Myanmar cyclone

U.N. says up to 2.5 million affected in Myanmar cyclone

 

Wed May 14, 2008                                     Reuters

By Aung Hla Tun

YANGON (Reuters) – The United Nations said on Wednesday up to 2.5 million people might have been affected by the Myanmar cyclone and proposed a high-level donors conference as the Myanmar junta again limited foreign aid.

 

The European Union’s top aid official said the military government’s restrictions on foreign aid workers and equipment were increasing the risk of starvation and disease.

 

U.N. humanitarian affairs chief John Holmes told reporters between 1.6 and 2.5 million people were “severely affected” by Cyclone Nargis and urgently needed aid, up from a previous estimate of at least 1.5 million.

 

Thai Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej met Myanmar Prime Minister Thein Sein in Yangon and urged him to ease visa rules for relief workers. He said he was told Myanmar could “tackle the problem by themselves.”

 

Myanmar state television raised its official toll to 38,491 dead, 1,403 injured and 27,838 missing.

 

The International Federation of the Red Cross estimated on the basis of reports from 22 organizations working in Myanmar that between 68,833 and 127,990 people had died.

 

In New York, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, who has repeatedly expressed frustration over the slow response of Myanmar’s reclusive leaders, proposed holding a “high-level pledging conference” to deal with the crisis.

 

Ban spoke to reporters after meeting with representatives of Myanmar and countries from Asia, Europe and America.

 

Britain’s U.N. ambassador, John Sawers, however, indicated that the high-level conference would be more than a donors’ meeting, calling it a “major international meeting” in line with Prime Minister Gordon Brown’s calls for a U.N. summit on coordinating aid efforts in Myanmar.

 

Ban also proposed appointing a joint coordinator from the U.N and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations to oversee aid delivery and said he would soon send Holmes to Myanmar.

 

Myanmar’s U.N. ambassador, Kyaw Tint Swe, said he was pleased that participants had agreed the crisis should not be politicized but must remain a humanitarian issue.

 

However, Ban, Sawers and U.S. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad all said failure to properly handle the crisis would inevitably politicize it.

 

“The way it will get politicized is if … assistance is not allowed to arrive in a timely manner to save lives, and no time should be lost,” Khalilzad said. “The Myanmar government has a responsibility to ensure lives are saved, not lost.”

 

TRICKLE OF AID

 

Nearly two weeks after the deadly cyclone swept through the heavily populated Irrawaddy delta, foreign aid was still a trickle.

 

Myanmar, formerly called Burma, was once the world’s biggest rice exporting country, but more than 40 years of military rule have left it impoverished. The military junta has repeatedly crushed pro-democracy movements and tightly restricts visits by foreigners.

 

Samak told reporters in Bangkok that Myanmar’s leaders had insisted that teams of foreign experts, who have been refused entry, were not needed.

 

“They are confident of dealing with the problem by themselves. There are no outbreaks of diseases, no starvation, no famine. They don’t need experts, but are willing to get aid supplies from every country,” Samak said.

 

Louis Michel, the top European Union aid official, disagreed. “There is a risk of water pollution. There is a risk of starvation because the storages of rice have been destroyed,” he told reporters in Bangkok.

 

“We want to convince the authorities of our good faith. We are there for humanitarian reasons,” he said. He dismissed suggestions from some European countries that they should bring in aid without awaiting permission from the authorities.

 

Adm. Timothy Keating, the commander of U.S. forces in the Pacific, also rejected that idea.

 

He said U.S. emergency aid flights would continue for the time being, despite Myanmar refusing permission for U.S. officials to monitor, or help with, distribution.

 

A senior U.S. military official in Washington said there were signs aid was stacking up at Yangon airport and said Washington wants to fly choppers to the areas hit worst.

 

The official said there were reports that some 230 camps had been set up to house more than 230,000 displaced people. “They’re springing up all over the place,” he said. “The problem they have is a lack of water and sanitary facilities.”

 

Officials said despite reports that some supplies were being stolen or diverted by the army, the humanitarian needs were so great that they would keep making deliveries — while continuing to urge that U.S. aid workers be granted visas.

 

World Food Program chief Josette Sheeran said in Washington her organization had so far reached 28,000 people.

 

“A critical issue now is access,” she said. “Our flights are allowed to bring in some supplies, but far from enough – a massive effort is needed to save lives…” she told a U.S. Senate hearing.

 

Holmes also warned that epidemics of diseases like cholera, malaria and measles “can break out at any time now.”

 

One group of Christian doctors has been treating children in churches, operating below the government’s radar. “We have to try to do something,” said one of the doctors, giving children diarrhea medicine in a church north of Yangon.

 

More heavy rain and winds were forecast in the delta as a tropical depression moved in, but the U.N. weather agency discounted fears a new cyclone was forming.

 

In a gesture to critics, Myanmar’s rulers invited 160 personnel from Bangladesh, China, India and Thailand to assist in the relief, but experts said that was a fraction of the number needed.

 

(Additional reporting by Darren Schuettler, Nopporn Wong-Anan, Carmel Crimmins amd Pracha Hariraksapitak in Bangkok; Louis Charbonneau at the United Nations; Susan Cornwell and Missy Ryan in Washington)

 

(Writing by Louis Charbonneau and Jerry Norton; Editing by Alan Elsner)