Sunday, May 11, 2008

[BurmaSolidarity] Myanmar still exporting rice

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News Headlines

1. Myanmar still exporting rice

2.China reluctant to prod ally Myanmar to ease limits on foreign cyclone aid

3.
Now is not the time for power plays in Myanmar

4. India sends more relief to Myanmar

5.
Voting begins in Myanmar referendum, despite cyclone

6.Travel companies in Myanmar provide cyclone relief

7.UN SEEKING $US187 MLN FOR CYCLONE VICTIMS IN MYANMAR

8. Myanmar and the world court
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Myanmar still exporting rice

By Los Angeles Times

THILAWA, Myanmar ― While Myanmar's military regime Friday restricted the rush of international aid offered to help hungry and homeless cyclone survivors, the government was exporting tons of rice through its main port.

A crane was loading sacks of rice into a freighter destined for Bangladesh, according to the transport drivers.

The junta has a monopoly on rice exports and said this week that it plans to meet commitments to sell rice, which has reached record high prices on the world market, to countries including Bangladesh and Sri Lanka even though Myanmar's main rice-producing region suffered the worst cyclone damage. The cyclone caused massive destruction in the Irrawaddy River delta, with farmers now desperate for food.

Yet as rice was loaded for export at Thilawa port, cyclone survivors in nearby villages said authorities had handed out rations of rotting rice, apparently from ruined stocks in the port's massive warehouse. The storm soaked approximately 40 percent of the stored rice supplies worth millions of dollars, according to the chief driver, who did not want to be named.

Cyclone Nargis packed winds of 120 to 150 mph, snapping large trees and concrete fence posts, and bending steel electricity poles at a 45-degree angle. About 23,000 people died, according to officials, with tens of thousands still missing. One survivor described the sound of the storm as otherworldly.

The wind pummeled Thilawa port so hard that it toppled a 10-story crane.

A private charity that normally provides coffins so the poor can get a proper burial, the Free Funeral Service Association, headed by movie star and opposition supporter Kyaw Thu, used the charity's pickups to deliver two kilos, or 4.4 pounds, of rice to many families Wednesday. They promised to return in a few days with more.

Villagers say they saw cartons of instant noodles unloaded at a government office and say officials kept them for themselves. The villagers said they received from the government a half-pound of rotting rice.

Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company

http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/nationworld/2004404917_cyclonerice10.html?syndication=rss

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China reluctant to prod ally Myanmar to ease limits on foreign cyclone aid

The Associated Press
Published: May 10, 2008

BEIJING: China faces mounting appeals to prod cyclone-ravaged Myanmar to allow access to foreign aid workers but is giving no sign it will use its influence over its ally, insisting instead that the world respect the military junta's sovereignty.

The disaster is a reminder of China's close ties with dictatorships such as Zimbabwe, Sudan and Myanmar ― also called Burma ― at a time when Beijing wants to use the Summer Olympics to polish its global image.

Human Rights Watch appealed Saturday to China to help persuade Myanmar ― or force it, if necessary ― to drop restrictions on assistance.

"China and Burma's other friends should lead international efforts, including at the U.N. Security Council, to persuade or compel Burma to accept the international aid that cyclone survivors so badly need," the group's Asia director, Brad Adams, said in a statement.

China has promised $5.3 million in aid to survivors of Cyclone Nargis. But it is using its influence to shield Myanmar's generals from pressure to let foreign aid workers into the country.

An exiled leader of Myanmar's opposition also called Friday for pressure on China to use its influence with Myanmar.

"The world is not telling China to do what they should do ... to save people," Sein Win said in Washington. China has leverage, and "the question is whether they are going to use it or not," he said.

China is adamant that governments should not interfere in each other's internal affairs ― a reflection of Beijing's unease about scrutiny of its own record in Tibet and other areas.

This week, Beijing blocked a proposal to have the U.N. humanitarian chief brief the Security Council on Myanmar, saying governments should not politicize the issue.

"We should take full consideration of Myanmar's willingness and sovereignty," Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang said.

Beijing has faced criticism for forging ties with international pariahs ― including Sudan, Iran and Myanmar ― in its search for diplomatic allies and for resources and markets for its booming economy.

China faced an international outcry after it sent a shipload of weapons to Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe's government last month during an election standoff.

Critics said the bullets and mortar grenades might be used against Mugabe's opponents, and China was forced to recall the shipment after neighboring countries refused to unload it for their landlocked neighbor.

Activists also are lobbying Olympics sponsors to prod Beijing to use its status as a major investor in Sudan to help end bloodshed in the African nation's Darfur region.

http://www.iht.com/articles/ap/2008/05/10/news/China-Myanmar.php

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Now is not the time for power plays in Myanmar

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Our world is filled with lots of complicated issues and myriad make-believe ones, actual tragedies and manufactured morass.

I'm as liable as anyone to get caught up in hypotheticals and to debate topics that don't really matter.

But today is not the day for those things.

Today is the day to address the fact that, according to Myanmar officials, more than 22,000 people died in the wake of Cyclone Nargis, which struck the Southeast Asian nation a week ago.

A top U.S. diplomat estimates that 100,000 people may lose their lives as a result of the disaster.

Sandwiched between India and China, the nation known to many as Burma is not unacquainted with strife.

Last September, Seth Mydans recalled in this week's New York Times, the military shot into crowds to "quell a huge non-violent pro-democracy uprising led by Buddhist monks." The country is home to Aung San Suu Kyi, the democratic leader and Nobel Prize winner to whom U2 dedicated "Walk On." Tuesday, President Bush signed legislation giving the Congressional Gold Medal to the woman who's spent 12 of the last 18 years under house arrest.

Now, as many as 1 million of her fellow citizens may be homeless, according to a United Nations spokesman cited by The Times.

Despite the desperate situation, some have seemed more interested in making power plays than providing help.

For days, Mydans wrote, the military junta there resisted international offers of large-scale aid. The United States, meanwhile, has insisted that American relief experts be allowed to enter the country along with donations of American aid, according to Mydans.

Not until Thursday did the first seven tons of United Nations relief supplies arrive in Myanmar by aircraft, Mydans wrote.

At press time, a day later, the country's government said it would receive aid, but not aid workers, Mydans reported. He added that the government claimed to have turned back a flight because it carried disaster assessment experts and an unauthorized media group along with relief supplies.

Meanwhile, World Vision, a Christian humanitarian agency, reported Monday that the Myanmar government had invited the group to provide assistance and that its assessment teams had been deployed to the hardest-hit areas to determine the most urgent needs. Already, the organization was providing food, water, clothing and blankets to those in need.

Their actions call to mind the Gospel account of the Good Samaritan.

After telling the story, Jesus admonished a legal expert to follow the Samaritan's example and have mercy on all whom he encountered no exceptions.

The pithy directive is harder than it sounds.

Not only is it difficult for most of us to accept, much less ask for help, it's almost impossible to remember that the only strings connected to a real gift are part of the wrapping.

Still, the biblical challenge remains.

"Do this," Jesus told the man after he cited the biblical admonition to love God and neighbor, and "you will live."

In the process, you just might save someone else too.

(Kristen Campbell is the religion editor for the Press-Register. You may call her at 219-5680 or send her e-mail at kcampbell@press-register.com. Read and respond to the newspapers religion blog at http://blog.al.com/forthelove/)

http://www.al.com/religion/mobileregister/kcampbell.ssf?/base/news/1210410903166660.xml&coll=3

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India sends more relief to Myanmar

New Delhi, May 10 : India dispatched its second transport plane IL-76 with necessary relief material to Myanmar today for people affected by Cyclone Nargis.

The Government has already sent relief material to Myanmar on three Air Force planes and two Naval ships.

Myanmar has also expressed its gratitude to India for prompt and generous humanitarian assistance.

Meanwhile Myanmar has said in a statement that it is not ready to receive search and rescue team or media from foreign countries.

The statement said that Myanmar would only accept donations of cash or emergency aid, saying that the country needed medical supplies, food, clothing, generators and shelters.

The United States has said that it is ready to work with countries like India and China to provided material assistance if Yangon does not allow direct entry to its military for relief operations.

Britain has announced an initial contribution of five million pounds to help Myanmar in its relief efforts.

--- ANI

http://www.newkerala.com/one.php?action=fullnews&id=58414

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Voting begins in Myanmar referendum, despite cyclone

5/10/2008 2:34:17 PM


Polling stations opened on Saturday (May 10) in parts of cyclone-hit Myanmar, as the military regime asked voters to approve a new constitution just one week after tens of thousands of people died in the storm.

The military delayed the vote for two weeks in the areas hardest-hit by Cyclone Nargis, including in the main city and former capital of Yangon.

But the ruling generals pushed ahead with the referendum in other parts of the country, with polling stations opened by 6:15 am .

The referendum is the first vote here since 1990, when detained opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi led her National League to Democracy (NLD) to a landslide victory in elections, a result the junta has never recognised.

The regime says the constitution will clear the way for democratic elections in two years, but the NLD says it will entrench military rule and has urged voters to reject the charter.

The junta has ignored the NLD's calls to delay balloting and focus instead on helping the 1.5 million people still in desperate need of aid in the wake of the cyclone.

The regime has withheld even basic information about the polls. The number of registered voters is not publicly known. The social welfare minister has said that Myanmar is home to 27 million people over the age of 18, but that includes monks, prisoners and others not eligible to vote.

Registration was carried out door-to-door by the authorities and lists of voters were displayed last Saturday at some local council offices.

People who could not find their names on the list had just one week to appeal to the military authorities. They have given little information about the number or location of polling stations across the country, though most voting was taking place at schools or religious centres.

http://www.timesnow.tv/NewsDtls.aspx?NewsID=8189

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ASIA | RELIEF EFFORTS

Travel companies in Myanmar provide cyclone relief

With offices and staff already in place, two U.S.-based companies jump in to offer person-to-person aid after Tropical Cyclone Nargis.

By Mary Forgione, Los Angeles Times Staff Writer
05:58 PM PDT, May 09, 2008

While governments and some relief agencies seemed stymied in their efforts to rush aid to cyclone-battered Myanmar, two tour companies that have staff and offices in the Asian nation have turned into aid givers.

Marilyn Staff, president of Boulder, Colo.-based Asia Transpacific Journeys, said the staff of 75 locals and three Westerners on the ground in Myanmar were able to respond immediately after Tropical Cyclone Nargis, which left tens of thousands dead.

"We are in the enviable position of being very small [players] but able to trump the big guys in terms of being able to provide critical services because we're already there," Staff said. "We are activated, motivated and working 24/7."

As of Friday,

Myanmar's government continued to thwart large-scale relief efforts. The U.N. temporarily halted its relief operations.

That left tour operators that were in place uniquely poised to respond.

For three years, Asia Transpacific Journeys' nonprofit foundation has been in Myanmar producing clay water filters that produce clean drinking water. The foundation operates two facilities, one of which was severely damaged by the cyclone.

The 2,000 filters the company has on hand, Staff said, were being distributed in Yangon, the capital, to village centers, hospitals and schools using the company's trucks, cars and even a boat.

It will take at least two weeks to produce more filters, which cost about $20 each to make and provide a family of six with potable water for about two years. Using the filters, residents can scoop up water -- provided it's not chemically tainted -- and strain out bacteria, Staff said.

"There's no potable water in the capital and no potable water up and down the river," she said, adding that the foundation would "stick to its mission" of producing and distributing water filters instead of food and other relief items.

Abercrombie & Kent, another company that operates tours in Myanmar, is contacting past clients and asking them to contribute to its aid effort.

So far, A&K has mobilized its ground crew with $15,000 to buy essential supplies such as rice, drinking water, cooking oil, medicines, clothing and tents.

Staff members are "driving the truck with the supplies they have purchased . . . and personally delivering them hand to hand to refugees in Pathein," said A&K spokeswoman Pamela Lassers. The company is enlisting help from its offices in Hong Kong and Thailand.

"This is person to person, nothing to do with the government," Lassers said. "This is a tragedy of enormous scale, just beyond imagination. Everyone wants to see as much aid as possible going directly to these people, and we're able to work through our local office."

Both companies lead tours of Myanmar in October, far from summer's monsoon season.

A&K welcomes donations from the public through Friends of Conservation. Asia Transpacific Journeys' nonprofit also is taking donations to keep its water filter production facilities open to meet the crucial need.

http://travel.latimes.com/articles/la-la-trw-myanmar10-2008may10

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UN SEEKING $US187 MLN FOR CYCLONE VICTIMS IN MYANMAR

BernamaBy Muin Abdul Majid Bernama - 29 minutes ago

DUBAI, May 10 (Bernama) -- The United Nations (UN) has launched the "Flash Appeal" to raise US$187 million (RM598.55 million) to assist more than a million people affected by the deadly 'Cyclone Nargis' in Myanmar. Aimed at providing humanitarian relief for the next six months, the bulk of the funding sought is for food, water and sanitation, logistics, health and shelter. Speaking in New York, Under Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and UN Emergency Relief Coordinator John Holmes suggested that between 1.2 and 1.9 million people were severely affected by the calamity. The UN news centre quoted him as saying that the number of deaths was on the rise and "could be anywhere between 63,000 and 100,000 or even higher". He launched the appeal on behalf of 10 UN agencies and nine non-governmental organisations which are scrambling to deliver aid to the survivors of the cyclone which hit the military-ruled Southeast Asian nation on May 2. Among others, the UN World Food Programme is seeking US$56 million to provide daily food rations to 630,000 people in severely affected areas or temporary shelters. -- MORE MAM MAM GR

http://malaysia.news.yahoo.com/bnm/20080510/tts-un-appeal-993ba14.html

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Posted on 10/05/08

Myanmar and the world court

IRWIN WALKER

Ancaster, Ont. -- Myanmar's military regime, which continues to hamper the relief effort, not only fails to live up to the responsibility that every governments has, to protect its population, it willfully impedes the efforts of others to help, thereby exposing its people to the further dangers of starvation and disease (Cholera Stalks Myanmar Storm Survivors - May 9).


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Mr. Salong
Coordinator
News Desk
Shwe Gas Movement- India

Ph: +91-9899138581
Email: shweinfo@gmail.com
simtui@gmail.com
www.shwe.org

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