Thursday, May 15, 2008

Burma insists: We can handle it, From correspondents in Rangoon - - 15th May 2008

Burma today insisted it could handle the massive cyclone relief operation, despite warnings that many more people could die unless aid workers gain access to the two million people in need.

"Myanmar people accept any kinds of foreign aid with appreciation, regardless of the amount," said an editorial in the government mouthpiece newspaper, the New Light of Myanmar.

"However, they will not rely too much on international assistance, and will reconstruct the nation on self-reliance basis," the English-language daily said.

Since Cyclone Nargis struck the southwest delta region on May 2 and 3, leaving up to 66,000 dead or missing, reclusive military rulers in Burma have accepted foreign aid but largely rejected foreign relief workers.

International aid agencies say they are battling to provide vital food, shelter and water through the country's dilapidated infrastructure, but the junta has refused to budge on access, despite mounting international pressure.

"Relief operations were carried out effectively with the aim of helping the survivors to continue to survive the aftershocks," the editorial said.

"It is believed that the nation will be able to overcome all forms of challenges related to natural disasters," it said.

European Union aid commissioner Louis Michel yesterday warned "more people will die" unless relief workers have full access to the worst-hit areas.

Meanwhile, the United Nations has warned of a second wave of deaths from disease and starvation unless vital aid quickly reaches those in need.

Burma's military, which has ruled the country since 1962, has a history of rebuffing outside help, and international aid groups which work within the country are subject to restrictions on their movements.

Mr Michel headed into Burma yesterday to try to push the junta to allow aid workers in, but a similar mission by Thai Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej ended yesterday with the generals telling him they can manage the situation alone.

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