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Foreign powers step up pressure on Burmese junta

Latest update : 2008-05-16

The UN is due to hold an emergency summit as international pressure is mounting on Burma's junta to allow the cyclone relief force to help the millions in need. Alice Beaumont and Anaïs Boussat report.

Watch our Top Story to find out more about hampered efforts to assist the victims of Cyclone Nargis.

 

The United Nations is due to convene a summit in Asia to address the aid crisis in Burma, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown announced on Thursday, as the ruling military junta remained determined  to block further foreign aid from entering into the cyclone-hit country.

 

"I understand that this emergency summit will be convened by the UN secretary-general with the Asian group of countries and in the region and I think that is great progress," Brown told reporters in London. “We will stop at nothing in trying to pressure the regime into doing what any regime should have done long ago.”  The date and venue of the summit is still unclear.

 

Foreign powers are signaling more strongly than ever for the Burmese military government to open up to international help,  warning that further delay could lead to starvation and disease among up to 2.5 million people left homeless by Cyclone Nargis. The United Nations’ secretary general Ban Ki-moon announced that the organisation’s humanitarian chief John Holmes would visit Burma soon.

 

EU Humanitarian Aid Commissioner Louis Michel visited the cyclone-hit country to urge the ruling junta to open its doors to a complete emergency response. In an interview from Rangoon, Michel warned the military government's restrictions on foreign aid workers and equipment were increasing the risk of starvation and disease in Burma. But Michel dismissed suggestions from some European countries that they should bring in aid without waiting for the authorities' permission.

 

 

A “parody of democracy”

 

 

The warning comes as the Burmese population faces a new cyclone threat, days after the passage of the deadly storm which left thousands dead or missing. “Deteriorating weather conditions and the threat of a cyclone are hampering relief work,” reports FRANCE 24 correspondent Cyril Payen from the Thai-Burmese Border.

 

 

Meanwhile, the junta announced 92.4% of the population had voted in favour of a referendum on its Constitution, held just days after the cyclone devastated the country. “It’s a parody of democracy. And it shows just how far from the people’s preoccupations the government is,” Payen said.

 

 

Out of reach

 

Nearly two weeks after the storm, most victims of Burma's devastating cyclone remain without emergency food, according to aid agencies, although life-saving goods are slowly snaking out to survivors. A United Nations report said between 1.6 and 2.5 million people were severely affected by the storm, with about 550,000 people now huddled in temporary shelters in the Irrawaddy Delta. “People have been migrating outwards from the most affected areas in search of basic necessities,” the report said.

 

The storm rammed into the rice-growing Irrawaddy Delta region and the economic hub Rangoon on May 2-3. Nearly two weeks later, people are still in dire need of food, clean water, shelter and medicine. According to the UN, as many as 128,000 people are dead or missing since Cyclone Nargis struck Burma.

Date created : 2008-05-15

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