Fri 11 Jul 2008
Filed under: Inside Burma,News
Myanmar’s military government Friday challenged Western donors to give more aid to the cyclone-hit nation, state media reported.
The ruling junta ran an editorial in the official New Light of Myanmar comparing Western nations’ military spending with their aid donations.
“Powerful countries have spent hundreds of billions of dollars on the Iraqi and Afghanistan issue. How much will they spend on rehabilitation of the victims to the storm ‘Nargis’?” the newspaper editorial said.
The article came a day after the United Nations and aid organisations more than doubled their appeal from an initial 201 million dollars, now 70 percent funded, to 481.8 million dollars.
The revised appeal is to fund remaining relief needs as well as 103 early recovery projects.
Cyclone Nargis left 138,000 dead or missing early May and Myanmar authorities were strongly criticised for blocking emergency aid efforts.
Despite retaining a 400,000-strong army and earning two billion dollars a year in revenue from natural gas supplies, the junta was slow to rally its own supplies to the 2.4 million people severely affected by the storm.
The editorial also claimed journalists had falsely reported the extent of the need in the worst-hit Irrawaddy delta region.
“In practice, make-up and imaginative news stories are contrary to prevailing objective conditions,” the paper said.
“And if such a news story has an impact on the goodwill of the donors, that will harm the interests of the storm victims,” it added.
Despite seeking further aid, the paper claimed life had returned to normal for cyclone victims, contradicting a joint assessment by the UN and the Southeast Asian bloc ASEAN last month, which reported only 45 percent of survivors were receiving food from international aid agencies.
“Victims no longer need to stay in public rest houses, prayer halls of pagodas, and monasteries en masse … they are ploughing fields that were flooded with saltwater…. Fishermen are having a good time with new fishing boats and fishing nets… schools are now lively with voices of studies,” the paper said.
The military has ruled Myanmar since 1962, refusing to relinquish power to the opposition led by detained Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi which won elections in 1990.