YANGON, Myanmar – Myanmar’s ruling junta is lashing out at international donors for not providing more aid for victims of cyclone Nargis.
Speaking through the state-run media, the junta blasts donors for only pledging up to $150 million, a far cry from the $11 billion it says is needed for reconstruction.
In a defiant article, the Myanma Ahlin newspaper, a government mouthpiece, says the people of the Irrawaddy delta can survive on their own, “even without bars of chocolate donated by the international community.”
The reference to chocolate bars appeared to be metaphorical since no aid agency is known to be distributing them.
The newspaper commentary also slammed an unnamed monetary institution, saying its refusal to help cyclone survivors was “an act of inhumanity.”
World Bank Managing Director Juan Jose Daboub said last week that the bank would not extend any financial aid or loans to Myanmar because it has not paid its debts for a decade.
Meanwhile, Thursday’s newspaper article said the same countries that criticized Myanmar for not opening its door to aid workers were being stingy with relief aid. It appeared to single out the United States without naming it.
“There is one big nation that extended economic sanctions on Myanmar even before it was known that a powerful cyclone was going to strike Myanmar,” it said.
Despite the blistering rhetoric, the United Nations reported that dozens of visas had been approved for international relief workers to enter the country.
It said more foreigners were also being allowed into the delta, which had been off-limits to westerners since the storm hit May 3.
Japan, which has so far donated $13 million in aid, sent a 23-member medical team to the country Thursday, the Foreign Ministry said in Tokyo.
The junta only agreed to allow foreign aid workers in after UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon met with junta leader Senior Gen. Than Shwe last weekend.
While issuing some praise for the opening to the international aid community, global powers have voiced disappointment at a decision announced by the government Wednesday to extend pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi’s house arrest for a sixth year.
Under Myanmar law, people deemed security threats can be detained for a maximum of five years without trial, which Suu Kyi has just completed. The regime has not officially announced its decision to extend Suu Kyi’s detention, or explain why it is violating its own law.
In Geneva, the World Health Organization said that it and other agencies were launching a $28-million plan to replace destroyed medical facilities and equipment and fight any outbreaks of cholera, malaria, dengue fever and other diseases.
The storm left an estimated 2.4 million people in desperate need of food, shelter and medical care. Myanmar’s government says the cyclone killed 78,000 people and 56,000 others are missing.