Friday, May 23, 2008

[BurmaSolidarity] UN chief arrives in Myanmar in bid to gain relief access

from: Salong
date: Thu, May 22, 2008 at 3:58 PM
subject: [BurmaSolidarity] UN chief arrives in Myanmar in bid to gain relief access
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News Headlines

1. UN chief arrives in Myanmar in bid to gain relief access

2. UN's Ban in Myanmar to push for cyclone relief

3. Chevron sticking with Myanmar

4. ADB may support needs assessment after cyclone in Myanmar


UN chief arrives in Myanmar in bid to gain relief access

Associated Press - May 22, 2008 12:33 AM ET
YANGON, Myanmar (AP) - U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon (bahn kee-moon) is on the diplomatic mission of a lifetime. He hopes to convince Myanmar's military regime to open its border to international relief efforts.
Ban arrived in Myanmar's capital early Thursday. Before leaving Thailand, he told reporters that this is "a critical moment for Myanmar."
The military leadership is deeply suspicious of outsiders. It has been reluctant to accept more than a relative handful of foreign disaster relief experts.
By the government's own count, at least 134,000 people are dead or missing from the cyclone that swept through the country's heartland nearly three weeks ago.
The U.N. says up to 2.5 million survivors are hungry and homeless and there are worries about disease outbreaks.
Ban is scheduled to meet with government ministers and international aid agencies. He's also to be flown by helicopter to the hard-hit delta area.
Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


UN's Ban in Myanmar to push for cyclone relief

May 22, 2008 - 4:09PM

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon arrived in Myanmar on Thursday in a high-profile bid to convince the regime to welcome a major international relief operation three weeks after the cyclone disaster.

With around two million desperate survivors still facing dire shortages of food, water, shelter and medicine, the junta's isolationist leader Than Shwe has stunned the world with his refusal to accept a major aid effort.

He was to meet with Than Shwe on Friday in the regime's remote capital of Naypyidaw. Ban repeatedly failed to get the general to take his phone calls after the May 2-3 storm, which left at least 133,000 people dead or missing.

"Our focus is on saving lives," he said in Bangkok on the eve of his trip, aimed at winning a bigger role for the international community in the relief effort. "This is a critical moment for Myanmar."

The secretary general began his official programme by making an offering for the storm's victims at the Shwedagon Pagoda, the holiest Buddhist shrine in Myanmar.

Keeping with tradition, he removed his shoes and socks as he walked around the site, offering flowers to a golden statue of Buddha and donating money for the catastrophe's survivors.

Ban also met Prime Minister Thein Sein in the main city Yangon before he was to set off to overfly some of the most devastated regions of the Irrawaddy Delta, which bore the brunt of the storm.

It is the first visit to Myanmar by a UN secretary general since 1964. The last trip was by U Thant, a Myanmar national, who led the world body when this country was still known as Burma.

Armed police lined the roads leading from the airport before Ban's arrival, while soldiers busied themselves cleaning the storm-damaged streets of Yangon.

The United Nations estimates that only 25 percent of those in need have been reached by international aid.

Although the United Nations has been critical of Myanmar's human rights record, Ban has insisted the aid effort should not be politicised.

The impoverished nation has accepted tonnes of donations from around the world, and has allowed US military planes to airlift supplies into the Yangon airport.

The regime this week also agreed to allow nine UN helicopters to work in remote regions hit by the storm, but still refuses to allow five US and French ships laden with relief supplies to enter the country.

Scores of medics from around Asia have been allowed to begin treating victims of the tragedy, but Myanmar has refused to issue visas to most disaster relief specialists, whose skills are needed to run a complex aid operation.

Ban said he wanted a logistics hub inside Myanmar, which has agreed to a joint mechanism between the United Nations and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) to coordinate the emergency effort.

Exactly how that mechanism would work remains unclear, but the United Nations and ASEAN are set to host a donor meeting Sunday in Yangon to raise money for the operation.

Despite the tragedy and the intense diplomatic manoeuvring, Myanmar's junta is pressing ahead with its own political agenda.

Just days after the storm, the regime held a first round of voting on a new constitution, which dissidents say will entrench military rule.

The regime now insists on holding a second round of voting in the referendum Saturday in towns and villages that were devastated by the cyclone.

The regime's main foe, Nobel peace prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi, is under house arrest, and her detention is expected to be extended by Monday.

Aung San Suu Kyi led her National League for Democracy to a landslide victory in Myanmar's last national elections in 1990, but the regime has never recognised the result and instead has kept her locked up for more than a decade.

Her detention is a key reason for years of sanctions by the United States and European countries, which tightened their restrictions last year after Myanmar staged a deadly crackdown on anti-junta marches led by Buddhist monks.

© 2008 AFP
This story is sourced direct from an overseas news agency as an additional service to readers. Spelling follows North American usage, along with foreign currency and measurement units.


May 21, 2008, 8:18PM

Chevron sticking with Myanmar

U.S. company delivering aid to battered nation

Bloomberg News

Chevron Corp. has no plans to leave Myanmar, where it is producing natural gas, a company executive said.

The company has committed $2 million in aid to Myanmar to help with the aftereffects of Cyclone Nargis, Peter Robertson, vice chairman of Chevron, said Wednesday at a Senate hearing.

"We are delivering aid even though a lot of others cannot," he said. "What Chevron can do, we're doing. We have plans to stay in Burma."

San Ramon, Calif.-based Chevron owns a 28.3 percent stake in the Total-operated Yadana natural gas project in the Andaman Sea.

The company acquired the stake as part of its 2005 purchase of Unocal Corp. The Yadana project sells natural gas by pipeline to Thailand.

Legislation has been introduced in Congress to withdraw millions of dollars in tax breaks Chevron gets from the pipeline and prevent any future payments to the junta that rules Myanmar, formerly Burma.

"In the last few weeks, many American have gotten a glimpse into the insular and oppressive world of Burma," Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., said in a prepared statement after the hearing. "American taxpayers should not have to subsidize Chevron's presence in Myanmar, which only helps to prop up a brutal, despotic regime."

Before its 2001 merger with Chevron, Texaco divested from Myanmar in 1997 after protests by human-rights activists. Texaco sold a stake in the Yetagun gas project in Myanmar to Premier Oil before the asset was acquired by Malaysia's Petroliam Nasional in a share and asset swap.

"The Burmese government is benefiting from the fact natural gas is being produced," Robertson said in response to questioning from Schumer.

If Chevron were to leave, it would only help the government, which would gain taxes from the sale of Chevron's interest in the country, Robertson said.

The people in the region where Chevron operates "are better off by us being there than by anyone else being there," Robertson said.


ADB may support needs assessment after cyclone in Myanmar
+ -
13:21, May 22, 2008

The Asian Development Bank (ADB) is exploring the possibility of providing experts to conduct an on-the-ground assessment of post-cyclone rehabilitation and reconstruction needs in Myanmar, the lender said on Thursday.

Based on the findings of the assessment, other additional assistance measures may be considered, ADB said in a press release.

Deadly tropical cyclone Nargis, which occurred over the Bay of Bengal, hit five divisions and states -- Ayeyawaddy, Yangon, Bago,Mon and Kayin -- on May 2 and 3, of which Ayeyawaddy and Yangon inflicted the heaviest casualties and infrastructural damage.

According to an updated official death toll, as many as 77,738 people have been killed with 55,917 still missing, totaling 133,655, in the disaster. The number of the injured went up to 19,359.

It is Southeast Asia's worst natural disaster since the Indian Ocean tsunami of 2004, which killed more than 160,000 people, the majority in Indonesia's Aceh province.

ADB, headquartered in Manila and established in 1966, is an international development finance institution whose mission is to help its developing members reduce poverty and improve the quality of life of their people. ADB is owned and financed by its 67 members, of which 48 (including Myanmar) are from the region and 19 are from other parts of the globe. Its main instruments for helping its developing members are low interest loans, grants, advice, and knowledge.



Myanmar appears to nix US Navy help, saying 'strings attached'

Thursday, May 22, 2008 01:20 PM

BANGKOK (AP)-With their history of xenophobia, no one expected Myanmar's generals to welcome with open arms an uninvited flotilla of US warships trying to help bring relief to millions severely affected by Cyclone Nargis.

But on Wednesday, the situation grew even bleaker as state-run media said the ships a major force in relief efforts after the 2004 tsunami would not be allowed in, appearing to dash what few hopes remained of the helicopter-equipped flotilla joining the relief operation.

Instead, Myanmar gave a go-ahead for a far smaller operation of 10 helicopters from the UN's World Food Program which must be chartered, flown in on cargo planes and reassembled in Bangkok.

"The strings attached to the relief supplies carried by warships and military helicopters are not acceptable to the Myanmar people," said the New Light of Myanmar newspaper, a mouthpiece for the ruling junta.

The announcement did not say exactly what strings were attached, and US military officials have repeatedly said that there were none.

"This is purely a humanitarian mission," said Lt. Col. Douglas Powell, a spokesman for the stalled Operation Caring Response. "We have no ulterior motive other than to assist the Burmese people."

Mr. Salong
News Desk
Shwe Gas Movement- India

Ph: +91-9899138581

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