Canada PM blasts Myanmar, sends DART for relief

May 10th, 2008 - 10:50 am ICT by admin  

By Gurmukh Singh
Toronto, May 10 (IANS) Canada has blasted Myanmar’s military junta for preventing international relief from reaching the victims of last week’s cyclone, which may have claimed up to 100,000 lives. The government has despatched its famed Disaster Response Assistance Team (DART) to Thailand, to be deployed in neighbouring Myanmar when its military government gives it the green signal.

DART is made up of about 200 members of Canadian armed forces who are deployed to disaster-hit regions of the world to provide quick medical help and safe drinking water to the victims.

Expressing frustration at the attitude of the military rulers, Prime Minister Stephen Harper said the world community was willing, for a while, to ignore its concern for their human rights record if it was allowed to help the cyclone victims.

Speaking to a Toronto radio station, Harper said the military regime would deserve condemnation if it didn’t allow relief for the victims.

“We obviously will condemn them if they do not allow that kind of assistance. This is a regime that hasn’t been known to take the interests and rights of its people to heart. We know about their abuses, not just of democracy but also of human rights in Burma.

“Nevertheless, the Burmese people are suffering. Tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, are dead or displaced. The world community wants to help, and I think we’re all prepared to put aside our concerns about how Burma is run for the next few weeks, just to deliver humanitarian assistance,” he said.

However, the prime minister said that relief should go directly to the victims, making it clear that his government will not assist the regime. “We would urge the regime to allow us to help.”

Deepak Obhrai, Indo-Canadian MP and parliamentary secretary to the minister of foreign affairs, also condemned the military regime for stopping international relief to the cyclone victims.

Making a stinging statement in the House of Commons, Obhrai said: “It is time for the Burmese (Myanmar) dictatorship to stop playing politics when people’s lives are at stake. We are alarmed by reports that the military junta is seizing international aid shipments from the World Food Programme (WFP). This is unprecedented and must stop.”

He said the dictatorial regime’s response to the disaster was another example of their denial of human rights to the Myanmar people.

“Canada stands ready to help. We have pledged $2 million in aid. We have offered our DART team. The minister of foreign affairs personally assured the UN secretary general that Canada is there for the Burmese people,” Obhrai said.

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