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Canadian military transport heads for Myanmar with load of relief supplies

OTTAWA - A giant, Canadian Forces C-17 Globemaster plane took off Wednesday bound for Thailand with a cargo of relief supplies for victims of the Myanmar cyclone.


OTTAWA - A giant, Canadian Forces C-17 Globemaster plane took off Wednesday bound for Thailand with a cargo of relief supplies for victims of the Myanmar cyclone.

Its 40-tonne load included about 2,000 emergency shelter kits.

Bev Oda, minister of international co-operation, said the aid will be distributed in Myanmar - also known as Burma - through international relief agencies.

"Right now, we're able to work with the Burmese Red Crescent Society, who can assure us that they will be able to accept the shelters that are being sent and distribute them directly to the people," she said.

The kits each contain two tarpaulins and a set of tools, including a shovel, rope, hammer, nails and a hand saw, to allow people to rig makeshift shelters.

They were designed by the International Federation of the Red Cross after wide consultations with humanitarian agencies on a practical solution for disaster shelter.

Canada has pledged $2 million in aid for the storm victims. Hundreds of thousands were left homeless and struggling to find food, shelter and clean water.

Since the cyclone crashed over the Irrawaddy Delta last weekend, there have been protests that the xenophobic military junta governing Myanmar has been siphoning off relief supplies.

The generals have also been reluctant to let foreign-aid workers into the country and aid shipments have been held to a trickle.

Foreign Affairs Minister Maxime Bernier told the House of Commons that Canada is still pressing for an emergency meeting of the United Nations Security Council to discuss the emergency.

He said the "odious regime" that rules Myanmar is adding to the emergency. Much of its effort in recent days has focused on a constitutional referendum that would cement its power.

"We call upon the Burmese government to move rapidly to meet the immediate needs of the affected communities, rather than pushing forward with the upcoming referendum on the constitution," Bernier said in a statement.

"We continue to advocate, both with Burma directly and through diplomatic contacts with other countries in the region and around the world, for full and unhindered access for all humanitarian organizations and aid workers."

The Harper Tories touted the Globemaster relief mission as a symbol of their rebuilding of the Canadian Forces. The giant transports were first used last summer to carry relief shipments to Jamaica in the wake of Hurricane Dean.

After the Indian Ocean tsunami in 2004, the military had problems with its aging fleet of Hercules transport planes. The Forces had to charter civilian planes to fly the Disaster Assistance Response Team, or DART, to Sri Lanka.

One of the Conservatives' first military purchases after taking office was four C-17s for strategic airlift.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper said the Globemasters stand ready to fly the DART to Myanmar if the junta accepts the team.

Canada has also offered the DART and other humanitarian aid to China in response to Monday's terrible earthquake in Sichaun province, but there is still no word on whether China wants or needs the help.

Canadian civilian aid agencies are collecting donations for both countries, with the greater focus on Myanmar.

 
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