Junta stalls aid workers
YANGON, Myanmar — Relief supplies from the United Nations began arriving in Myanmar today, but U.S. military planes loaded with aid were still denied access by the country’s isolationist regime five days after a cyclone.
The military junta also continued to stall on visas for U.N. teams seeking entry to ensure the aid is delivered to the victims amid fears that lack of safe food and drinking water could push the death toll above 100,000.
Two airplanes carrying high-energy biscuits, medicine and other supplies arrived in Yangon, and two others were to follow, U.N. officials said. The planes had waited for the last two days while the world body negotiated with the military regime to allow the material into the nation.
In Yangon, the roof of Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi was blown off and she was living in the dark after the electricity connection to her dilapidated lakeside bungalow was snapped in the cyclone, a neighbor said.
The Nobel Peace Prize laureate is using candles at night since she has no generator in her home, where she is being held under house arrest, said the neighbor, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
U.S. Ambassador to Thailand Eric John told reporters that U.S. and Thai authorities earlier believe they had permission from Myanmar to land U.S. military C-130s. But Myanmar officials later made it clear that this was not the case.
John said it was not clear if they had reversed an earlier decision or if there was a misunderstanding.
Thailand Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej offered to negotiate on Washington’s behalf to persuade the junta to accept U.S. aid.
The U.S. military, meanwhile, sent more humanitarian supplies and equipment to a staging area in Thailand. A C-17 transport plane with water and food landed today, joining the two C-130s in place, Air Force spokeswoman Megan Orton said at the Pentagon. Another C-130 loaded with supplies was on its way, she said.
The Navy also has three ships participating in an exercise in the Gulf of Thailand that could help in any relief effort, including an amphibious assault ship with 23 helicopters aboard.