Myanmar agrees to accept ASEAN cyclone aid

Myanmar has agreed to let its South Asian neighbors send medical personnel and an assessment team to the cyclone-ravaged country, reported CNN.

Monday's decision came after an emergency meeting in Singapore of the 10 countries that make up ASEAN -- the Association of Southeast Asian Nations -- Indonesian Foreign Minister Hassan Wirayuda said.

The assessment team will go to Myanmar on Wednesday to gauge the impact of the disaster and the scope of aid needed, Wirayuda said.

The same day, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon is expected to arrive in an attempt to "accelerate relief efforts."

In addition, each ASEAN country outside of Myanmar committed to send 30 medical personnel -- for a total of 270 -- to help with the medical needs of the displaced population.

The U.N. estimates that Cyclone Nargis has killed more than 100,000 people and affected some 2.5 million. The official death toll provided by Myanmar's government is much lower.

Aid agencies have struggled to gain access to the country from the secretive military junta that rules Myanmar, though some relief flights landed. The regime has indicated that it would like supplies but not international aid workers.

ASEAN is comprised of Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.

Meanwhile, the ruling junta has announced a three-day mourning period for victims of the cyclone beginning Tuesday morning, The Associated Press reported Monday.

State television announced that the national flag would be flown at half-mast, AP said.

Ban's visit will follow the short tour by U.N. humanitarian chief John Holmes.

Video broadcast on state television on Sunday showed Holmes, flanked by troops, touring a hospital and speaking with doctors and cyclone survivors.

He was to meet with the country's rulers and try to convince them that a disaster of such magnitude cannot be handled by one nation alone, spokeswoman spokeswoman Amanda Pitt said.

The country's reclusive junta leader Than Shwe was also shown visiting a refugee camp outside Yangon, two weeks after Cyclone Nargis devastated Myanmar.

Surrounded by fellow junta members dressed in olive-green military suits, Shwe walked through streets talking with the people who lined up outside their neatly constructed tents.

The 75-year-old military ruler touched the cheeks of young survivors held by their mothers.

The junta leaders -- who traveled about 320 km (200 miles) south to Yangon from the new capital Naypyidaw -- looked on as aid workers at the camp opened plastic cases filled with relief supplies.

Forecasts show that in the coming days, the Irrawaddy Delta -- the part of the country hardest-hit by the cyclone -- could receive another 12 cm (4.7 inches) of rain, adding to the woes of the cyclone-affected masses.

Meanwhile, the United States will be sending relief funding and supplies directly to non-governmental organizations, said Ky Luu, director of overseas foreign assistance for USAID.

"This will give us assurance that the supplies will reach the victims," she told CNN on Sunday.


Myanmar's junta has been distributing U.S. aid to cyclone victims, but there were concerns over whether the victims were receiving it.

The United States wanted to send a disaster assessment team to Myanmar, but the junta did not accept the offer, Luu said.

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