Myanmar says foreign broadcasters worse than Cyclone Nargis

Other News Materials 8 June 2008 10:16 (UTC +04:00)

Myanmar's state-controlled media on Sunday claimed that foreign broadcasts were spreading false news about the government's aid efforts for victims of Cyclone Nargis in an effort to "undermine national unity."

"At present, some foreign broadcasting stations are making attempts to undermine the national unity under the pretext of Nargis," said The New Light of Myanmar, in an opinion piece under the title of "The enemy who is more destructive than Nargis."

Cyclone Nargis swept through Myanmar's central coastal region on May 2-3, leaving at least 133,000 dead or missing and 2.4 million in desperate need of humanitarian aid, the dpa reported.

Myanmar's ruling junta, whose past record of human rights abuses and dictatorial rule have won it pariah status for Western democracies, has drawn widespread criticism for hampering an international effort to get emergency aid to the regions hardest-hit by the cyclone where even now, a month after the catastrophe, up to a million people have yet to receive assistance.

There have been numerous reports of the military's attempts to monopolize aid distribution, or worse, have siphoned off international aid for their own benefit.

The New Light of Myanmar, a government mouthpiece, attributed such negative reports to foreign plots to undermine the government.

It cited a recent broadcast by "certain foreign radio stations" that claimed that packets of instant noodles meant for cyclone victims were being sold at public markets.

"I visited several markets to find out whether foreign-made instant noodle packets were on sales there," said the author, who identified himself as Ngar Min Swe. "I found them, but not many. The exaggerated news story was intended to destroy the generosity of donor countries and organizations.

"But we Myanmar people were able to overcome the instigation of those broadcasting stations that are worse than Nargis," he concluded.

Myanmar has been under military rule since 1962, when former strongman Ne Win seized power with a coup and put the country on the disastrous " Burmese Way to Socialism."

Ne Win's nationalization spree included all newspapers and radio stations, which have been under government control for the past 46 years. Foreign journalists are barred from working in the country and are only occasionally permitted to visit officially.

No visas have been issued to foreign journalists since Cyclone Nargis, although many have gone in as tourists.