International donors and the junta are meeting in Yangon to hammer out a plan to bring relief to the Nargis cyclone survivors. Burma is expected to ask for over 10 billion dollars in aid. UN chief Ban Ki-Moon will argue for more foreign relief teams.
YANGON, May 25 (Reuters) - International donors and
Myanmar's military government hoped to reconcile major
differences over relief and rebuilding needs for millions of
cyclone survivors at a pledging conference in Yangon on Sunday.
Three weeks after Cyclone Nargis left nearly 134,000 people
dead or missing and up to 2.5 million destitute, large areas of
the stricken Irrawaddy Delta have not been reached,
humanitarian workers said.
But the government has said the combination of its own
relief efforts and international help has already moved the
operation into the rebuilding phase, asking for $11 billion in
pledges for resettlement, reconstruction and rehabilitation.
"I'm encouraged that many countries are represented at high
levels," U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon told Reuters TV as
he left Bangkok for the conference in the former Burma, which
has been under military rule for 46 years.
Forty-four delegations, some at ministerial level, were
attending the one-day meeting jointly organised by the United
Nations and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN),
of which Myanmar is one of 10 members.
Ban's mission to ramp up international aid to cyclone
survivors made a breakthrough on Friday when junta supremo Than
Shwe promised him that all disaster experts, regardless of
nationality, would be allowed in after weeks of restrictions.
A U.N. official said the conference was more about getting
the secretive generals to open doors than the world to open its
"The content of it is clearly much broader than a 'pledging
conference' in the sense that the sole aim is not to raise
money. The aim is to remove the various obstacles to getting
assistance to the people," the official said.
Much of the fund-raising is likely to centre on the U.N.'s
$201 million emergency appeal, which has racked up $57 million.
The head of ASEAN has said donors would not pledge money
unless there was a detailed plan of action, including
monitoring of aid and transparency.
ASEAN Secretary-General Surin Pitsuwan told reporters in
recent days that the group's "Coalition of Mercy" was calling
for "some form of agreement to garner international assistance,
based on figures that are scrutinised and validated by
competent neutral agencies".
Only a quarter of those in need have been reached in
Myanmar and experts fear more will die if they do not receive a
steady supply of food, medical care and equipment such as tents
in the coming months.
A European humanitarian official in Yangon said foreign
NGOs were cautiously optimistic that Than Shwe's agreement with
Ban would get more aid moving into the Irrawaddy Delta, which
used to be one of Asia's largest rice-growing areas.
She said it was unclear whether Sunday's meeting to secure
more funding from international donors would provide any
"So far it's been bits and pieces. We don't even know what
aid the government has delivered, so we can't draw any
conclusions," she said.
There were some signs of a loosening of restrictions on the
outskirts of Yangon, the former capital, on Saturday.
Roads to the southwestern Delta were no longer guarded by
the military, but instead by upturned tree roots and tree
trunks, now slowly being cut by villagers using double-ended
In Kyauktan 20 km (12 miles) outside of Yangon, homeless
survivors were taking refuge in a Buddhist monastery.
"We are homeless. Every time something goes wrong we get
help only from the monks," one woman said.
Date created : 2008-05-25