Open

Coming up

Don't miss

Replay


LATEST SHOWS

MEDIAWATCH

Israeli strikes on Gaza as seen on social media

Read more

DEBATE

Africa's Newest Failed State: How to Stop Civil War and Famine in South Sudan? (part 2)

Read more

DEBATE

Israel and the Palestinians: How to Break the Cycle of Violence?

Read more

DEBATE

Africa's Newest Failed State: How to Stop Civil War and Famine in South Sudan?

Read more

AFRICA NEWS

Somalia : Al Shebab attack on presidential palace

Read more

FOCUS

Sharia law to be enshrined in British legal system?

Read more

ENCORE!

How a comedy dud became one of France's biggest box office hits

Read more

AFRICA NEWS

Kenya: Clashes at anti-government rally in Nairobi

Read more

WEB NEWS

ISIS leader challenged over expensive-looking wristwatch

Read more

  • Palestinian death count tops 60 as Israeli airstrikes pound Gaza

    Read more

  • Argentina beat the Netherlands on penalties to reach World Cup final

    Read more

  • Foiled French jihadist ‘targeted Louvre and Eiffel Tower’

    Read more

  • Obama in Texas to urge action on child migrant crisis

    Read more

  • Iraq’s heritage 'in danger' from ISIS militants

    Read more

  • Froome crashes out of Tour de France

    Read more

  • South Sudan independence heroes ‘have lost their way’

    Read more

  • Dozens of blindfolded bodies found south of Baghdad

    Read more

  • Alps Murder wife had ex-husband who died on same day

    Read more

  • Both candidates say they won Indonesian presidential election

    Read more

  • Brazil players should never wear 'sacred uniform' again, press says

    Read more

  • Exiled Syrian opposition elects new president

    Read more

  • China’s first Tour de France cyclist chases his dream

    Read more

  • Ukraine imposes new conditions on peace talks with pro-Russia rebels

    Read more

  • Sarkozy's UMP party 'almost €80 million in debt'

    Read more

Reclusive Burmese leader meets cyclone victims

©

Latest update : 2008-05-18

A first public appearance in relation to cyclone aid efforts by Burmese leader Than Shwem, and UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon travel to Burma signal a possible breakthrough on foreign aid impasse.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon will travel to Myanmar this week to discuss the troubled cyclone aid operations, his spokeswoman said on Sunday, as signs of a breakthrough on the issue mounted.
 
Ban's spokeswoman Michele Montas also said she expected there would be a conference in Bangkok on May 24 to marshal funds for the relief effort.
 
"I can confirm he (Ban) is going to Myanmar this week," she said by telephone, adding he was expected to arrive by Wednesday or Thursday.
 
Britain's Asia minister said a turning point could be near on a framework to accelerate international aid to the millions needing help after Cyclone Nargis slammed into Myanmar's Irrawaddy delta early this month. 

Than Shwe, the reclusive leader of Myanmar's military junta, made a public appearance on Sunday for the first time in relation to the cyclone aid effort.

Aid has been trickling in for the up to 2.5 million people affected by the cyclone. Myanmar's military rulers, suspicious of the outside world, have been reluctant to admit major foreign operations and the workers to run them.
 
But Britain's Asia minister, Mark Malloch-Brown, said a framework was being set up for a U.N.- and Asian-led system that could solve the impasse and make it easier to channel in aid.



TURNING POINT
 
"I think we're potentially at a turning point but, like all turning points in (Myanmar), the corner will have a few 'S' bends in it," he told Reuters in an interview.
 
Later Myanmar state television showed Than Shwe meeting in Yangon with ministers involved in the rescue effort, and touring some cyclone-hit areas in the immediate vicinity.
 
The generals moved the country's capital to Naypyidaw, 400 km (250 miles) north from Yangon, the former Rangoon, in 2005, and Than Shwe has rarely been seen in public since. 

The United Nations' chief humanitarian officer, John Holmes, arrived in Yangon on Sunday night, and was expected to deliver a message from Ban to the generals.
 
Ban had previously proposed a "high-level pledging conference" to deal with the crisis, as well as having a joint coordinator from the U.N. and ASEAN to oversee aid delivery. 

Than Shwe had refused to talk to Ban on the phone since the cyclone. But analysts speculated his appearance in Yangon meant he was likely to meet Holmes, or possibly Ban later in the week. 

Thousands of children could die within weeks if food does not get to them soon, the aid organisation Save the Children said on Sunday.
 
The World Food Programme (WFP) said separately that it had managed to get rice and beans to 212,000 of the 750,000 people it thinks are most in need after the May 2 storm, which left at least 134,000 dead or missing. 

Malloch-Brown said the United Nations estimated that help had so far reached fewer than 25 percent of the people in need.

But now, he said, "I'm confident we've got movement here in the sense we've diplomatically found an answer to the stand-off".


HISTORIC DISASTER
 
In the last 50 years, only two Asian cyclones have exceeded the human cost of Nargis -- a 1970 storm that killed 500,000
people in neighbouring Bangladesh, and another that killed 143,000 in 1991, also in Bangladesh. 

If the reclusive military government does not open its doors to a large-scale tsunami-style aid operation, disaster experts say Nargis's body count could still climb dramatically.

Malloch-Brown came to Yangon after first visiting some members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.
 
He said the Asian/U.N.-led process had already begun, with Asian nations considered friendly by Myanmar sending aid teams in, and an ASEAN assessment team on the ground.
 
That team will report to a meeting of foreign ministers from ASEAN, of which Myanmar is a member, in Singapore on Monday. Other countries would make their contributions through this channel, he said.
 
Despite his optimism about a possible breakthrough, Malloch-Brown said that, because of Myanmar's suspicions of the outside, operations were still unlikely to involve foreign aid worker numbers comparable to other recent disasters in Asia.
 
The reluctance of the Myanmar military, which has ruled for the last 46 years, to allow a foreign aid worker influx appears to stem from fear of losing its vice-like grip on power.

Date created : 2008-05-18

Comments

COMMENT(S)