Myanmar failed to warn citizens, first lady Laura says
Myanmar failed to adequately warn the population in advance of the cyclone that hit the Southeast Asian nation over the weekend and killed thousands of people, US First Lady Laura Bush said Monday, the dpa reported.
"Although they were aware of the threat, Burma's state run media failed to issue a timely warning to citizens in the storm's path," Bush said, using the country's historical name.
Bush has taken up the cause of Myanmar's political dissidents in recent years and has been the leading White House voice on the issue alongside her husband, President George W Bush.
The United States announced it would provide 250,000 dollars in immediate emergency aid through the US embassy in Yangon, and the first lady said there will be a "substantial" amount more if Myanmar's ruling military junta agreed to accept US help.
Bush urged Myanmar's rulers to accept US and other forms of international assistance and called on Yangon to permit a US disaster response team into the country to assess humanitarian needs.
"The government of Burma should accept this team quickly, as well as other offers of international assistance," Bush said.
Cyclone Nargis struck Myanmar over the weekend. The death toll so far has reached 4,000, but Myanmar officials have said that number could climb to 10,000. Myanmar's military regime is somewhat notorious for its reluctance to allow international aid organizations direct access to the people.
Bush said the regime's response to the cyclone coupled with the repressive policies and mismanagement of the country showed the ineptitude of its leaders and the need of the international community to pressure the government for democratic change.
"The response to the cyclone is just the most recent example of the junta's failure to meet its people's basic needs," Bush said.
The United States has sanctions on Myanmar for human rights violations, which means any US aid would have to go through thirds parties or international organizations like the World Food Programme.