West assembling armada to intervene in Myanmar: Report

May 19th, 2008 - 2:53 pm ICT by admin  

A file-photo of Gordon Brown

London, May 19 (IANS) Britain will consider unilaterally intervening in Myanmar if the country’s military regime continues to refuse Western aid for people affected by Cyclone Nargis, a British minister was quoted saying Monday. Foreign Office Minister Lord Mark Malloc-Brown, who made the remarks to The Times, was in the Myanmar capital of Yangon Sunday ahead of a United Nations mission to convince India, China and Southeast Asian countries to put together an Asian aid initiative for Myanmar.

It was not immediately clear if Britain was proposing an intervention outside an Asian initiative or only if such an Asian one failed.

According to British estimates some 2.25 million people are in need of immediate humanitarian assistance in Myanmar. Malloch-Brown and French leaders have already spoken about the possibility of the military junta being guilty of crimes against humanity by continuing to block western assistance.

The Times said unilateral western action could be enforced by a foreign armada of American, British and French ships that is “discreetly assembling” off the coast of Myanmar.

The ‘armada’ comprises the French ship Le Mistral, which arrived in international waters Saturday carrying 1,000 tonnes of aid for 15,000 people; the British frigate HMS Westminster, which is in the region carrying helicopters rather than supplies; and the American USS Essex.

British Prime Minister Gordon Brown spoke Saturday about the possibility of unilateral air-drops of aid to stricken areas of the Irrawaddy delta, where as many as 129,000 people are believed to have died a fortnight ago.

“As far as air drops are concerned we rule nothing out, and the reason we rule nothing out, is that we want to get the aid directly to the people,” Brown told the British Broadcasting Corporation.

Asked under what circumstances Britain would invoke the responsibility to protect, Malloch-Brown told The Times: “How do we define if it [the plan for Asian-led aid] isn’t working? If there are massive outbreaks of disease and secondary deaths, or if it gums up and no aid is delivered.”

The newspaper said Britain has not ruled out supporting such unilateral action under the terms of the UN’s 2005 New York declaration, which sets out the “responsibility to protect” populations from crimes against humanity using “appropriate diplomatic, humanitarian and other peaceful means”.

“They [the military rulers] are not going to agree to a lot of British and American aid workers fanning out across the delta. We’ve got an emerging model where the likes of us will work within a framework, led by Asean, other Asian nations and the UN,” Malloch-Brown said.

“The price of recognising historical suspicions and the political past is that it won’t allow direct Western aid to be delivered to a village by a Brit, for example. [For the Burmese Government], the price of us accepting that has to be a strong UN operation.”

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