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Burma relief hangs on access

by
29 May 2008

by Ed Beavan

Reminder: members of the National League for Democracy party hold a portrait of their leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, during a protest in Rangoon, Burma, on Tuesday PA

Reminder: members of the National League for Democracy party hold a portrait of their leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, during a protest in Rangoon, Burma, on...

AID AGENCIES were this week waiting to see whether the military regime in Burma would keep its word and allow complete access to foreign aid-workers for the Cyclone Nargis relief effort.

After a meeting with the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, the junta agreed to let in all aid workers, regardless of nationality, to assist the estimated 2.4 million people who are in need of assistance after the cyclone on 2 May. It is estimated that 134,000 have been left dead or missing.

Judith Melby of Christian Aid said that the agency would be monitoring the situation. “We are waiting to see if the regime is going to be true to its word to the UN Secretary-General, and whether we’ll have open access as we’ve been promised.

“There are still lots of questions which need to be answered, such as who is in charge, to make sure people get supplies on the ground and

to make sure food is not resold

by government troops. We need accountability from the government.”

Staff from Christian Aid’s partner-organisations are currently clearing human bodies and dead animals from village water sources, particularly in the Irrawaddy delta area. It is hoped that the work will reduce the threat of cholera and dysentery.

There has been wide criticism of the decision by Burma’s military regime to extend the house arrest of Aung San Suu Kyi, the opposition and pro-democracy leader. Ms Suu Kyi’s party, the National League for Democracy, won the elections in 1990, but was denied power by the military regime.

Mr Ban Ki-moon said that he regretted the decision to extend the politician’s detention, and President Bush said the news left him “deeply troubled”.

The human-rights organisation Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) condemned the detention: Ms Suu Kyi has spent 12 of the past 18 years under house arrest. The national director of CSW, Stuart Windsor, said: “At this time of crisis in Burma, we call for the immediate and unconditional release of Aung San Suu Kyi and all political prisoners.

“We also call for increased, sustained, and substantial efforts to ensure the regime allows unrestricted access for international aid workers to all parts of the country, and we urge the international community to impose specific deadlines for the regime to respond.”

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