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May 9, 2008

Junta blocks US aid for victims

US ambassador to Asean Scot MarcielThe United states is not conditioning its assistance on sending its disaster relief team to Myanmar, Scot Marciel, the US ambassador to Asean, in a recent interview in Kuala Lumpur with a correspondent from Al-Jazeera.

“We do hope that the Burmese (Myanmar) authorities will let in international experts – international humanitarian organizations – to make sure that the assistance does get to the people who need it,” he said, adding that on a disaster of this scale, virtually any government would be overwhelmed, and it would be very normal and important for the international community to come in and assist.

Marciel however said there would be no changes in the US’s overall policy on Myanmar, which, he said, is to try to encourage the sort of dialogue and political transition in Myanmar that would help the country begin to address its long-term challenges.

“What we’re talking about here is this enormous disaster, and our focus right now is doing what we can to get assistance to the people of Burma. As you know, their needs are urgent, and that’s really our focus,” he said.

Meanwhile, the C-130 aircraft assigned to deliver the first installment of US relief aid was not permitted to fly to Yangon, the former Myanmar capital, according to the US ambassador to Thailand Eric John announced Thursday.

The United States mission still hopes that American aid workers would be let into Myanmar, even as Myanmar is stalling issuing visas to foreign aid workers. John said he was "optimistic" that "the Burmese leadership" will make the correct choice regarding visas, and other aspects of the emergency aid situation.

The American diplomatic mission in Thailand, and US authorities in Washington, however remain unclear regarding the prospects for American assistance to cyclone victims in Myanmar. While the Americans claim there is no political coloration to their offer, the Myanmar authorities apparently do not agree.

According to a Thai government spokesman, the US ambassador met with Thai Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej at Government House Thursday and asked the Thai government to help negotiate with the Myanmar government to allow US military aircraft carrying necessities to land in Myanmar.

American assistance will fall under the World Food Program and could offer food to 600,000 people per day for six consecutive months, the spokesman said.

More on Myanmar


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