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Commons adopts motion urging Myanmar military to accept world aid

OTTAWA - The Commons has unanimously adopted a resolution urging Myanmar's reclusive military regime to accept international aid in the wake of last weekend's destructive cyclone.


OTTAWA - The Commons has unanimously adopted a resolution urging Myanmar's reclusive military regime to accept international aid in the wake of last weekend's destructive cyclone.

The government has already offered to send the military Disaster Assistance Response Team to the storm-ravaged country. Canada has also pledged $2 million for relief efforts. The motion denounces the military junta's foot-dragging since the disaster and condemns its seizure of international relief shipments.

It urges the regime to open the borders to relief efforts.

The motion came as the UN announced it would suspend further aid shipments because supplies have been seized by the junta.

A Toronto-based rapid-response team trying to get into the country has been stymied in efforts to get visas for its workers.

Rahul Singh of GlobalMedic told The Canadian Press in an interview from Bangkok that the Myanmar embassy was closed Friday for a public holiday in Thailand.

He said he is still hopeful the team will be able to get visas on Monday - even though Myanmar's government has said it doesn't want foreign aid workers entering the country.

Cyclone Nargis, which crashed over the low-lying Irrawaddy Delta on Saturday is believed to have killed more than 100,000 people and left countless others without clean water, food, medicine and shelter.

Myanmar's isolationist regime has indicated it wants international relief but not foreign aid workers.

The UN decision to halt air shipments is causing problems for Singh.

GlobalMedic's team, which left Toronto on Wednesday, was equipped with five million water-purification tablets, 21 water-purification units and $1 million worth of medicine to stave off water-borne diseases.

Singh says the team plans to train aid workers from Myanmar on how to use the purification equipment in Bangkok and start sending it in with them to Myanmar this weekend.

But he says the UN's decision to suspend aid shipments to Myanmar means the air bridge will be shut down and GlobalMedic will have to funnel the equipment across the border a bit at a time instead of all at once by air.

In announcing the offer of the disaster assistance team, Foreign Affairs Minister Maxime Bernier and International Co-operation Minister Bev Oda said they were heartened that some relief flights were getting into Myanmar, but said more are needed.

They called on the junta to provide the necessary visa and customs clearances and "grant immediate full and unhindered humanitarian access" to the country's desperate populace.

"The window of opportunity to save lives and alleviate suffering is rapidly closing," they said in a joint statement.

"We cannot afford to wait any longer."

The disaster team is an air-portable organization of about 200 soldiers.

It includes doctors and medics who can provide basic medical care. Its engineers can rebuild basic infrastructure and run water-purification units that can produce up to 50,000 litres of drinking water daily.

It can also provided sophisticated communications services.

Since it was established in 1996, the team has been deployed to Turkey, Honduras, Sri Lanka and Pakistan.

 
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