05/30/2008, 00.00
MYANMAR
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Junta says that foreign aid is not needed; Nargis survivors can live on frogs

Myanmar state media resumes its attack on western nations: they are without humanitarian spirit if they continue to link economic aid to relief workers access to the worst hit areas. The government censures all information relating to Nargis.

Yangon (AsiaNews) – Myanmar’s survivors of cyclone Nargis “do not need foreign food aid; they can feed themselves on frogs and fish that abound in the worst hit areas”.  The New Light of Myanmar newspaper, a government mouthpiece, has re-launched its attack on foreign relief workers and condemned donors for “linking aid money to full access to the hardest-hit regions in the Irrawaddy Delta”.

After several days of praising the work of the United Nations and charities, the regime's official newspaper renewed its attacks on foreign aid and insisted “Burmese people can survive without outside help”. In all probability the regime did not appreciate the “modest” results of the donor’s conference which took place in Yangon on May 25th.  Myanmar needs 11 billion dollars to recover from the storm, but donors have pledged just 150 million dollars so far, and have demanded greater transparency on the part of the military who usually pocket the donations destined for the people.  Donor nations say that most of the funds will only be handed over if the Naypydaw regime concedes access to the Delta, which has been virtually off-limits to the media and relief workers.

The New Light of Myanmar has also attacked nations which have maintained their economic sanctions against the regime, despite the destruction caused by the cyclone.  "Do such countries really have humanitarian spirit?" the paper said. It is a clear reference to the United States, the harshest critic of the Burmese junta.

The regime’s propaganda machine has also restarted one of its favourite instruments: the National censorship board, according to Mizzima News, has banned some Yangon magazines from publishing stories on the devastation caused by cyclone Nargis and on the subsequent crises in the price of rice caused by the destruction of the crops in the Delta.  According to the director of one of the magazines, they are only permitted to cover news stories on “the governments’ reconstruction program”.

However, in spite of this humanitarian agencies report that numerous visas have been issued over the past few days allowing foreign aid workers in to the country.  Up until now, three weeks on from the disaster, the UN has been granted 137 visas for its International staff.  Currently there are 2.4 million people homeless and in need of aid, only one million of them have been reached.

 

 

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