Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Burma slow to issue visas to UN relief workers

The Bangkok Post reports that international aid has yet to reach Burma:
(T)he United Nations is facing "enormous difficulties" making an assessment of the disaster wrought by Cyclone Nargis on central Burma, which is likely to hamper any emergency aid programme in the devastated countryside.

The UN had around 40 people from its Burma office on the ground inside the country, said a spokesman, but its special five-man disaster assessment team (UNDAC) was in Thailand awaiting visas. So were staff from other humanitarian agencies. So were workers from Unicef.

"We are facing enormous difficulties right now in getting out there and unless there is an assessment ... the first thing you need is an assessment and then you can gauge your response on that," said Aye Win, spokesman for the United Nations Information Centre (UNIC) in Rangoon.
Meanwhile, Mizzima (hat-tip Jeg) reports:

A secret circular by the junta has directed all security agencies to be on high alert, monitor international organizations and disallow their free movement until May 10, the scheduled date for the referendum. . . .

Soldiers from Light Infantry Division (LID) 11, 22 and 66 have been deployed at government warehouses and factories in Rangoon. Some news reports said that there was looting by mobs in some areas given widespread hunger and scarcity of drinking water and food.

The paranoia of the junta is legendary. Moreover, the regime has a long trackrecord of denying foreign aid agencies access to the country.

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