Aid resumes to cyclone-hit Myanmar as referendum goes ahead
The World Food Programme (WFP) Saturday resumed flying emergency supplies into cyclone-devastated Myanmar despite an ongoing dispute with the country's junta over how the aid will be distributed.
While aid agencies hashed out terms with Myanmar's military regime, the country's rulers pushed through a "sham" referendum intended to cement their political power, the dpa reported.
Marcus Prior, a spokesman for the WFP in Bangkok, said: "Given the humanitarian crisis, we felt the need to continue the supplies." The agency was allowed another three air shipments of supplies to Yangon, scheduled to arrive Saturday and Sunday.
The UN refugee agency, UNHCR, said its first trucks had also arrived in Myanmar carrying 20 tons of emergency aid - enough to provide shelter for up to 10,000 people.
"This convoy marks a positive step in an aid effort so far marked by challenges and constraints," said Raymond Hall, UNHCR's Representative in Thailand. "We hope it opens up a possible corridor to allow more international aid to reach the cyclone victims."
While aid agencies hashed out terms with Myanmar's military regime by which the emergency supplies may be released, Myanmar's rulers pushed through a "sham" referendum Saturday intended to cement their political power.
Meanwhile the military's referendum went ahead despite international appeals to postpone the vote in the wake of Cyclone Nargis that could have killed up to 100,000 people.
Although the junta postponed the vote to May 24 in 47 of the districts worst-hit, including much of the former capital Yangon, it rejected international appeals for a general delay.
The referendum process, held under the strict control of Myanmar's military masters, has been call a "sham" by human rights activists and western democracies for being neither free nor fair.
The country's 400,000-strong military was been given the double task of monitoring the referendum and taking the lead in the distribution of emergency aid.
Over the past week, state-controlled newspapers and TV have highlighted pictures of military men passing out emergency supplies to the people affected by the cyclone, including, oddly, some shots showing officers handing out VCD and DVD players to the needy.