Tuesday, May 27, 2008

[BurmaSolidarity] United Nations chief ends Myanmar mission

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date: Mon, May 26, 2008 at 6:43 PM
subject: [BurmaSolidarity] United Nations chief ends Myanmar mission

News Headlines

1. United Nations chief ends Myanmar mission

2. $100 million offered to Myanmar

3. Fire at Myanmar embassy in Bangkok destroys consular offices

4. Hidden strings attached to feds' pledge to match donations for Myanmar, China,

5. India committed to assist Myanmar in its reconstruction phase, says Jairam Ramesh

6. UN urges Myanmar not to alienate orphans

7. Myanmar's charter sails through referendum

8. Cambodia provides $250,000 to help cyclone-hit Myanmar

9. PGMA sends off medical contingent to cyclone-devastated Myanmar

10. Aid workers ready for action after Myanmar promise

11. Myanmar monks beat controls to provide aid


United Nations chief ends Myanmar mission

Associated Press - May 26, 2008 4:33 AM ET
YANGON, Myanmar (AP) - U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon (bahn kee-moon) is headed back to New York today, hopeful that more foreign aid workers will be allowed into Myanmar.
He helped lead a weekend conference in Myanmar where various countries offered more than $100 million to help the country recover from Cyclone Nargis more than three weeks ago. But nations warned Myanmar's ruling junta they won't fully open their wallets until they are given access to the hardest-hit areas.
Aid workers hoping to get visas hit another snag today when the Myanmar Embassy in Bangkok, Thailand, closed down its visa section. A fire, blamed on an electrical short, destroyed the second floor. The Embassy is the main gateway to Myanmar.
Speaking to The Associated Press, Ban says if leaders keep their word about letting foreign experts in, it could be "a turning point for Myanmar to be more flexible, more practical."
Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.



Published Monday May 26th, 2008

$100 million offered to Myanmar

YANGON, Myanmar - Donor countries said they were ready to provide Myanmar with more than $100 million to help it recover from cyclone Nargis, but warned the ruling junta Sunday they will not fully open their wallets until they are provided access to the hardest-hit areas.
The Associated Press Photo
WAITING PATIENTLY: Cyclone survivors are receiving biscuits donated by volunteers at a monastery in Twante town, around 50 km southwest of Yangon, on Sunday.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, speaking to The Associated Press after a one-day meeting of 51 donor nations, said he believed a turning point had been reached in getting Myanmar's isolationist junta to allow foreign aid

workers unhindered entry into the devastated Irrawaddy Delta.

"I'm cautiously optimistic that this could be a turning point for Myanmar to be more flexible, more practical, and face the reality as it is on the ground," Ban told The AP.

But Myanmar's leaders - and potential donors - continued to take a guarded tone.

Myanmar's Prime Minister Lt.-Gen. Thein Sein said international aid "with no strings attached" was welcome. But he hedged on the sensitive issue of direct access, saying only civilian vessels could take part in the aid operation, and they would have to go through Yangon.

"Relief supplies can be transported by land, air or sea," he said. "But if relief supplies have to be transported by water, civilian vessels can come in through Yangon port."

That seemed to nix plans for U.S., British and French warships loaded with humanitarian supplies to join in the relief operation. The ships have been off Myanmar's coast for more than a week.

Myanmar's leaders have virtually barred foreign aid workers and international agencies from the delta because they fear a large influx of foreigners could lead to political interference in their internal affairs.

The junta is also hesitant to have its people see aid arriving directly from countries such as the United States, which it has long treated as a hostile power seeking to invade or colonize the country.

Thein Sein, saying that about 3,000 tonnes of humanitarian supplies have already been delivered from abroad, presented a long list of urgent needs, including temporary shelters, rice seeds, fertilizer and fishing boats.

Official estimates put the death toll about 78,000, with another 56,000 missing.

Myanmar has estimated the economic damage at nearly $11 billion and the United Nations has launched an emergency appeal for $201 million.

At Sunday's meeting:

* The European Community, which has already pledged $72.5 million, offered another $26.8 million.

* China boosted its pledge to $11 million.

* Australia pledged $24 million.

* The Philippines doubled its previous pledge to $20 million.

* South Korea upped an earlier pledge for a total of $2.5 million.

Ban said the relief operation would last at least six months.



Fire at Myanmar embassy in Bangkok destroys consular offices
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15:59, May 26, 2008

The big fire at the Myanmar embassy in Bangkok on Monday morning destroyed the second floor of the Myanmar's embassy in consular offices.

The blaze that engulfed the second floor of the two-story building in the embassy compound on Sathorn Road, was under control in 30 minutes. The cause of the fire is still unknown.

No one was injured in the incident as the fire broke out early in the morning before office hours, but the office was completely destroyed.

Visa applicants queued awaiting the opening of the consular offices were set to have a longer wait due to the embassy's closure. Local radio FM 100 said many documents were destroyed in the fire.




Hidden strings attached to feds' pledge to match donations for Myanmar, China,
Sunday, May 25, 2008

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OTTAWA - The federal government's offer to match Canadian donations to disaster relief efforts in China and Myanmar turns out to be nowhere near as generous as it initially appeared.

Humanitarian groups have been disappointed to discover the bulk of donations they've received thus far - in the immediate aftermath of the disasters - won't be matched at all.

"It is certainly somewhat disappointing that we cannot count all the donations that we've received since the start of this crisis (in Myanmar)," said Kieran Green, communications manager for Care Canada.

"Nevertheless, matching funds certainly will help."

When International Co-operation Minister Bev Oda announced the matching funding May 15, she made no mention of any strings attached.

"Today, I am announcing that our government will match the contributions of Canadians to humanitarian organizations working in Burma and China," she told the House of Commons.

"Let me assure all Canadians our government will do our share of the international effort and ensure that our help does get to the victims and their families."

However, details subsquently posted by the Canadian International Development Agency revealed the government will match only those individual donations received by aid groups between May 15 and June 6.

That excludes all the donations that poured in immediately after the devastating May 2 cyclone in Myanmar, also known as Burma, and the May 12 earthquake in China.

Typically, humanitarian groups say the flow of donations is greatest within the first 72 hours of a disaster. Green said that was particularly true in the case of the Myanmar tragedy.

"In this case, particularly, we did see the bulk of our donations that we've received to date come in in that very early period and they diminished significantly by the end of the first week."

Green estimated Care and its partner groups in the Humanitarian Coalition have thus far raised about $200,000 through private donations from individuals for the relief effort in Myanmar.

He said some donors have asked Care to refund their original early contributions so they can make new donations that will be matched by the government.

The Canadian Red Cross reported it pulled in $555,500 in private donations from individuals for Myanmar and $1.1 million for China, all before May 15. Hence, none of those donations will be matched by the federal government.

Dave Toycen, president and CEO of World Vision Canada, said his group received at least $500,000 to $600,000 prior to May 15, which won't be matched by the federal government.

In the last two major international disasters - the Asian tsunami in 2004 and the Pakistan earthquake in 2005 - the federal government pledged to match donations received by aid groups starting on the very day the tragedies struck, World Vision said.

Still, humanitarian groups are reluctant to criticize the government's response to the latest disasters, noting Ottawa is providing direct funding to various relief agencies in addition to the matching funds.

Oda pledged Friday an additional $12 million for relief efforts in Myanmar, in addition to the initial $2 million kicked in by the federal government. She has also pledged $1 million to the International Federation of the Red Cross to help in the emergency response to the earthquake in China.

However belated or limited, aid groups are hopeful the promise of matching funding will encourage a second wave of donations from Canadians.

"All in all, I still have to say this is a positive thing," said Toycen.

"We know from past experience, when there is a match, it definitely lifts public giving. Even when it's further away from the onset of a disaster, our understanding with our donors is that people appreciate knowing that their gift in a sense is going to be doubled in its value."



India committed to assist Myanmar in its reconstruction phase, says Jairam Ramesh

The Minister of State for Commerce and Power, Shri Jairam Ramesh led the Indian delegation to attend the ASEAN-UN International Pledging Conference in Yangon on 25th May, 2008. Forty five countries and several international agencies participated.

In his statement at the International Pledging Conference, the Minister conveyed that keeping in mind the civilisational, historic and expanding economic ties, it was natural that there has been a spontaneous outpouring of sympathy in India for the people of Myanmar. Recalling the prompt response of the Government of India to this catastrophe, he expressed satisfaction that, at a time when the international community was still in the process of getting its act together, India had already sent to Myanmar the much-needed relief and medical supplies. Shri Ramesh called on the international community to provide assistance to Myanmar expeditiously in the true humanitarian spirit and keep the process apolitical. He expressed India's full commitment to assist in the reconstruction phase as well.

In the aftermath of the devastating cyclone in Myanmar early this month, India had rushed relief and medical supplies to Myanmar. Two Indian Navy ships and six Indian aircrafts have so far carried immediate relief material, food, roofing material and medical supplies. Two Indian medical teams, comprising of 47 personnel, are currently in Myanmar, stationed in Pyapon and Bogale towns located at the heart of the disaster areas. They have been treating an average of more than one thousand five hundred patients a day and their work has been greatly appreciated. India is in the process of sending in more relief material and another Indian aircraft will reach Yangon early next week.

The Minister met Prime Minister of Myanmar U Thein Sein and the UN Secretary General Mr. Ban Ki Moon. During his meeting, the Prime Minister of Myanmar expressed the gratitude of the Government of Myanmar for India's prompt and generous assistance and commitment to assist in their rehabilitation efforts. He also commended the work of the Indian medical team.




UN urges Myanmar not to alienate orphans

26 May 2008

YANGON - The United Nations children's agency (UNICEF) is trying to convince army-ruled Myanmar not to place at least 2,000 youngsters orphaned by this month's cyclone into state-run homes, a senior official said on Monday.

"We should try and place children within family environments as a priority, and not in institutions," Anne-Claire Dufay, UNICEF's child protection chief in the former Burma, told Reuters in an interview on Monday.

"We should try to keep them in their community and even in the interim, before we are able to trace families, we should be able to place children in temporary foster care families. That's the message we are sending," she said.

The junta said last week it would build orphanages in Labutta and Pyapon, two of the hardest-hit areas of the Irrawaddy delta, where the May 2 cyclone left 134,000 people dead or missing and another 2.4 million destitute.

In an attempt to reverse this policy, UNICEF is flying in its Asia head, Anupama Rao Singh, to speak in person to Welfare Minister Major-General Maung Maung Swe on Monday.

Despite government restrictions on aid workers in the delta, the United Nations says it has established that at least 2,000 children have lost both parents.

In Labutta, 282 children were separated from their families, and of those 50 now in the care of officials had no known family, UNICEF said.

Their story is repeated across the delta, where -- as in the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami -- children made up a disproportionate number of the dead because they were unable to cling to trees or buildings when the storm surge swept in.

Even before Cyclone Nargis, children in Myanmar faced a challenge to stay alive. Infant mortality rates of 76 per 1,000 live births are among the highest in Asia and the U.N. says one in three toddlers is malnourished.

One of the few positives is that decades of military rule and international isolation have at least protected youngsters from the child trafficking networks that operate elsewhere in southeast Asia.

"If there is one area in Myanmar where we can say the government has taken positive steps, it is child trafficking," Dufay said.

Even though a trickle of aid is getting through, Dufay said Nargis would affect families for months to come as poverty forced children to leave home in search of work, causing a so-called "second separation".

"You have family breakdowns, poverty, single-headed households, women with five children and no husband to go fishing. Child protection issues tend to surface over many months," she said.

As with nearly all outside aid agencies, UNICEF has had problems with access to the delta, although said it had been fortunate enough to have some emergency supplies already stockpiled in the area.



Myanmar's charter sails through referendum

Mon 26 May 2008, 7:53 GMT
[-] Text [+]

YANGON (Reuters) - Myanmar's army-drafted constitution sailed through this month's referendum, with 92.48 percent of the vote on a turnout of 98.1 percent despite the carnage wrought by Cyclone Nargis, state media said on Monday.

The plebiscite, part of a seven-step "roadmap to democracy" that is meant to culminate in multi-party elections in 2010, was delayed by two weeks until May 24 in cyclone-hit Yangon and the Irrawaddy delta, where 134,000 people are dead or missing.

(Reporting by Aung Hla Tun; Writing by Ed Cropley; Editing by Ed Davies)



Cambodia provides $250,000 to help cyclone-hit Myanmar

PHNOM PENH, May 26 (Xinhua) -- Cambodia will provide additional 250,000 U.S. dollars to help Myanmar after the cyclone disaster, Prime Minister Hun Sen announced here on Monday.
"Including the 50,000 U.S. dollars that Cambodia has already provided, we will provide up to 300,000 U.S. dollars to Myanmar," Hun Sen said while addressing an inauguration ceremony at the National Institute of Education.
"The amount of money is from our honest heart to help Myanmar but it is still little because we are also poor," he said.
He added that Myanmar used to help Cambodia with 500 tons of rice seeds in 2000 when Cambodia suffered from floods.
Editor: Bi Mingxin



Source: Government of the Philippines
Date: 26 May 2008
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PGMA sends off medical contingent to cyclone-devastated Myanmar

President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo sent off today a 30-man medical mission to Myanmar to augment its government's search and retrieval efforts as well as to provide medical and humanitarian service after cyclone Nargis devastated much of its landscape in early May.
The President was joined in the ceremonial send-off this morning by members of her Cabinet namely: Defense Secretary and National Disaster Coordinating Council (NDCC) Chairman Gilbert Teodoro, Jr., Foreign Affairs Secretary Alberto Romulo, and Social Welfare and Development Sec. Esperanza Cabral.
Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Chief of Staff Alexaner Yano, Philippine Air Force Commanding General Pedrito Candungog and other government officials also joined the President in the send-off.
In her statement, the President said the sending off of a medical mission to Myanmar was part of the country's obligation as a member of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). She made an appeal to all countries for cooperation and brotherhood, they being part of a 'community of nations.'
'Bilang kalapit-bahay ng ASEAN, tungkulin natin ngayon na tugunan ang mga pangangailangan ng mga taum bayan ng Myanmar. Hangarin nating maging bahagi sa saklolo, tulong at ginhawa para sa mga taga-Myanmar sa mga araw na darating,' the President said.
'The Philippines knows by heart the tragedy that such calamities bring. We also know how the kindness of the international community and the private individuals can positively assist and uplift the spirit of the people in the affected area,' the President added.
She thanked the government of Myanmar for allowing the entry of foreign aid to assist the victims of the cyclone.
'Nagagalak tayo na tinanggap ng gobyerno ng Myanmar ang ating tulong para sa mga nagdurusa nitong mamamayan,' the President said.
Dr. Arnel Rivera, leader of the Philippine medical team, said the 'seasoned experts' who comprise the medical team, are veterans of the numerous relief and rescue missions conducted by the government during natural disasters hitting the country.
He added that the team is well-versed in 'multi-tasking' so they will be able to work more quickly to administer aid to those who desperately need it.
The medical team, composed of general surgeons, internists, infectious disease specialists, pediatricians, sanitary engineers, psycho-social interventionists and paramedics from the Department of Health (DoH), will bring P13-million worth of aid which includes medicines, water, used clothing, blankets and family food packs.
Accompanying the team and aid on the six-hour direct flight from Manila to Yangon, Myanmar's former capital, is a crack team of PAF personnel led by Majors Ramil Oloroso and Manuel Zambrano, Jr.
They will be backed up by Captains Michael Edrik Encarnacion and Rommel Padere as co-pilots, Technical Sergeants Ma. Majella Querubin and Constantino Lobrigas as flight engineers, Sergeant Arnold Diesta as crew chief, and Technical Sergeant Florentino Evengelista as flight mechanic.
Before boarding, the crew and team were blessed by PAF Chaplain Lieutenant Colonel Eustacio Galindo who prayed for their safe journey to and from Myanmar.



Aid workers ready for action after Myanmar promise

By Aung Hla Tun 1 hour, 26 minutes ago

YANGON (Reuters) - Foreign aid workers saddled up for the cyclone-ravaged Irrawaddy delta on Monday to see whether army-ruled Myanmar will honor a promise made by its top general to give them freedom of movement.

We're going to head out today and test the boundaries," one official from a major Western relief agency told Reuters in Yangon shortly before his departure for a region that has been off-limits to nearly all foreigners since the May 2 cyclone.

Thousands of beggars have been lined up along the roads of the delta, where the storm left 134,000 people dead or missing and another 2.4 million clinging to survival.

Droves of children shouted "Just throw something" at passing vehicles. But police told drivers and volunteer donors not to give them anything as they were "just begging."

"Go directly to where you want to go. Don't throw anything from the car. Know your own people," they shouted at the cars at one checkpoint on the way to the devastated town of Bogalay.

Three weeks after the disaster, there are still many villages that have received no outside help and waterways of the former Burma's "rice bowl" remain littered with animal carcasses and corpses, either grotesquely bloated or rotting to the bone.

The stench of death is widespread, as are the swarms of flies.


Donors pledged nearly $50 million in aid at a landmark conference on Sunday but Western countries said much of the cash would be contingent on access to the delta.

Many of the donations are destined for the U.N.'s $201 million emergency appeal, which was nearly a third full before the meeting. It is meant to provide help for three months only.

Besides denying and delaying visas to aid officials, army and police checkpoints on roads leading out of Yangon have prevented all but a handful leaving the former capital.

However, junta supremo Than Shwe promised visiting U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon last week that all aid officials and disaster assessment teams would be allowed in "regardless of nationalities."

Given the army's reputation for breaking its word during the 46 years it has held power, the reaction was cautious from aid agencies and countries such as the United States, which regards Myanmar as an "outpost of tyranny."

Washington told the Yangon conference it was ready to raise its offer of $20.5 million in aid if the junta opened up, but added it was "dismayed" the generals went ahead with a constitutional referendum in the middle of the disaster.

The re-imposition, expected in the next couple of days, of a rolling, year-long house arrest order for opposition leader and Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi is only likely to rile the Bush administration further.

Increasing the frustrations of aid agencies and governments, the Myanmar embassy in Bangkok was closed on Monday after a fire caused extensive damage to one building in the compound. Thai police said the blaze did not appear to be suspicious.


The U.N. says three in four of those most in need have yet to receive any help -- and that hunger and disease could send the death toll soaring if things do not change fast.

The junta, by contrast, says the relief phase of the disaster is already over, and is angling for $11 billion in long-term reconstruction assistance. Diplomats say they don't know how the government arrived at that figure.

The disaster, one of the worst cyclones ever to hit Asia, has forced the reclusive generals to talk to the outside world but they have managed only in part to overcome their innate distrust of anything foreign.

In particular, there appears to be no chance of the generals ever allowing U.S. and French navy ships near the delta to deliver aid directly to survivors, either by boat or helicopter.

France said on Sunday it had ordered its ship, Le Mistral, to head for Thailand, where its cargo of 1,000 tons of drugs, food and tents will be unloaded into the care of the World Food Program (WFP).

(Writing by Ed Cropley; Editing by Darren Schuettler and Sanjeev Miglani)



Myanmar monks beat controls to provide aid
Published: Monday, 26 May, 2008, 02:01 AM Doha Time

A cyclone-affected family build a shack in Kungyangon
YANGON: While big international donors try to persuade Myanmar's military rulers to open their doors wider to aid, small groups of volunteers are getting past army checkpoints to reach desperate survivors of Cyclone Nargis.
Among them were Catholics and Buddhists seeking to fulfil a charitable mission under extreme circumstances three weeks after the devastating storm left 2.5mn people destitute, most of them in the hardest-hit Irrawaddy delta.
Yesterday, larger than normal crowds of worshippers gathered at Myanmar's biggest Catholic cathedral to hear priests criticise the slow pace of aid "for our suffering countrymen".
"We need the world to speak out because our people are dying every minute," one priest, who asked not to be identified, said at Saint Mary's Cathedral, built in 1899.
Small groups of parishioners had been able to get past military checkpoints in recent days and visited delta fishing villages where they found starving people, he said.
Elsewhere in Yangon, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon was attending a donor pledging conference days after he received a promise from junta leader Than Shwe to allow more Western aid workers into the delta.
Critics say the seven-day visas already granted to some foreign relief workers are too short and that some Myanmar nationals have also been barred from the delta.
"One of the most disturbing things that we heard was even Burmese were being intimidated and harassed and prevented from helping their own people," activist Debbie Stothard, co-ordinator of the Alternative Asean Network on Burma, said in Bangkok.
"They are also blocking communications and transportation equipment," she said.
However, a European aid official said the generals had begun to talk about funding and the need for foreign advisers.
"So there are the first signs of a wider opening," said the official, who declined to be named.
Army checkpoints on the main road south to the delta stood empty on Saturday on the Maha Bandula bridge, named after the Burmese general who fought against British colonial rule.
Army trucks carrying sacks of rice were seen driving across the Yangon river, but people in the town of Kyauktan, 30km from the former capital, said they had received little aid.
"We are homeless. Every time something goes wrong we get help only from the monks," a woman said as she sat with hundreds of others on the wooden floor of a monastery.
Around 252 people, including scores of children, were crammed into the small building with 10 resident monks. Parts of the roof in three corners are missing.
Around them, the palm, coconut and betel nut trees look as if their trunks have been shorn by cannon fire. Houses and factories had their windows blasted out by the fierce winds.
Still, Kyauktan got off relatively lightly compared with the western delta, where aid workers have yet to reach many in need.–Reuters



Mr. Salong
News Desk
Shwe Gas Movement- India

Ph: +91-9899138581
Email: shweinfo@gmail.com

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