UN food agency suspends flights to Myanmar (Lead)

May 9th, 2008 - 8:44 pm ICT by admin  

DPA
Rome/Bangkok, May 9 (DPA) The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) Friday suspended relief flights to Myanmar after 38 tons of aid were impounded by authorities in the cyclone-struck Asian country. “We are in discussions with the government in Myanmar and we hope to find a resolution soon,” WFP Director of Communications, Brenda Barton, told DPA. “It’s possible that it is only a customs-related problem,” she said on the decision to impound the aid.

Before Friday’s decision, the Rome-based WFP had planned to send a further eight flights carrying aid to Myanmar, she said

The UN aid efforts have also been hampered by difficulties in obtaining visa’s from Myanmar’s military government.

The military regime has been condemned for failing to waive visa restrictions for humanitarian workers in the wake of the devastating storm.

The junta has appealed for international material aid but not extended that to personnel.

More than 22,000 people have been killed and 41,000 are missing with more than a million in urgent need of assistance since Cyclone Nargis struck Saturday.

WFP spokesman Paul Risley had earlier said food assistance was held up in a warehouse and was not put onto lorries to take them to the people who needed assistance.

“It is sitting in a warehouse, it is not in trucks heading to Irrawaddy Delta where it is critically needed,” Risley told the BBC, adding that the WFB now had no other choice than to stop further aid flights.

Richard Horsey, spokesman for OCHA, the group coordinating UN aid efforts in Myanmar, also warned about a stoppage of aid deliveries.

“If it’s not clear that UN agencies will be smoothly cleared through customs then we won’t let the flights depart, since that would imply that the goods aren’t going to delivered to the UN or might start to pile up at the airport,” he said.

Meanwhile, Thai Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej Friday abruptly cancelled plans to fly to Yangon over the weekend to persuade the ruling Myanmar junta to accept aid workers and supplies for the cyclone-devastated country from the United States. Samak said he had been informed that the Myanmar government was not ready to accept international aid workers into the country at this point, so there was no point in his flying to Yangon Sunday as planned.

US envoy to Thailand Eric John met Samak Thursday in a bid to seek Thailand’s help in airlifting $3.25 million of emergency aid to Yangon as the United States has run into resistance from Myanmar’s military.

Myanmar’s ruling junta has also refused to grant visas to the US Disaster Assistance Response Team (DART).

In Washington, Ky Luu, director of the US Agency for International Development’s foreign disaster assistance office, did not rule out the possibility of air drops of supplies.

“Yes, we’re looking at it, but the immediate needs are for open access for the current existing operational partners and for the regime in order to open up to provide for additional relief workers to get on the ground,” Luu said.

Dissident groups in Myanmar appealed for help from abroad that circumvents the junta.

“To save thousands of lives before it’s too late, we would like to urge the United Nations and foreign governments to intervene in Burma immediately to provide humanitarian and relief assistance directly to the people of Burma (which is another name for Myanmar) without waiting for the permission of the military junta,” said a joint statement issued by the All Burma Monks’ Alliance, the 88 Generation Students and All Burma Federation of Student Unions, three leading anti-government groups based in Myanmar.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has urged Myanmar’s military government to focus on its national tragedy in the wake of Cyclone Nargis as it prepared instead to hold a referendum this weekend on a new constitution. Ban hinted that the referendum should be postponed, while the United Nations urged the international community to help the more than one million victims of the cyclone, which has killed an estimated 23,000 people with tens of thousands still missing.

“The secretary general, deeply concerned about the welfare of the people of Myanmar at this time of national tragedy, has taken note of the government’s decision to proceed with the constitutional referendum on May 10,” a UN statement said.

The Myanmar government has decided to postpone the referendum only in those areas worst hit by the storm.

“Due to the scope of the disaster facing Myanmar today, however, the secretary general believes that it may be prudent to focus instead on mobilizing all available resources and capacity for the emergency response efforts,” the statement said.

A UN statement has said Secretary General Ban Ki-moon urged Myanmar’s military government to focus on its national tragedy in the wake of Cyclone Nargis as it prepared instead to hold a referendum this weekend on a new constitution.

Ban hinted that the referendum should be postponed, while the United Nations urged the international community to help the more than one million victims of the cyclone, which has killed an estimated 23,000 people with tens of thousands still missing.

“The secretary general, deeply concerned about the welfare of the people of Myanmar at this time of national tragedy, has taken note of the government’s decision to proceed with the constitutional referendum on May 10,” the statement said.

The Myanmar government has decided to postpone the referendum only in those areas worst hit by the storm.

“Due to the scope of the disaster facing Myanmar today, however, the secretary general believes that it may be prudent to focus instead on mobilizing all available resources and capacity for the emergency response efforts,” the statement said.
DPA

Related Stories

    Posted in Uncategorized |

    Subscribe