Malaysia to Burma: Allow S. Asian militaries to help
The appeal by Deputy Prime Minister Najib Razak at an international security conference came after Burma’s Deputy Defense Minister Aye Myint used to forum to claim his government acted promptly to provide relief in the aftermath of the May 2-3 Cyclone Nargis.
Najib said the tragedy is of such a huge scale that it is “something that we cannot take lightly.” More than 75,000 died from the cyclone and some 2.4 million survivors are in need of fresh water, food and medical care.
Burma has not allowed foreign militaries to deliver aid directly to cyclone victims, but Najib suggested that militaries of the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations be allowed to do so.
“Certainly … we would like to see ASEAN being allowed to play a much bigger role because the situation is very, very serious in Burma,” Najib said, sitting on the stage with Aye Myint.
“The only viable organization that can really be effective is the military,” he said, because of its ability to deploy a large number of helicopters and boats.
“At the risk of offending my colleague here I would certainly speak on behalf of ASEAN that we do want to play a bigger role in the context of tragedy in Burma,” Najib said.
It was the most direct public appeal so far by a member of ASEAN for Burma’s military rulers in to give up their stubborn refusal to allow foreign intervention. ASEAN has generally followed the principle of noninterference in each other’s affairs, and Najib’s plea was unprecedented.
Najib, however, rejected the suggestion that countries should unilaterally go into Burma to provide relief if the junta does not provide help for its people quickly.
“You cannot simply override (national sovereignty) no matter how strongly you feel about the need to provide support,” he said.
Several people in the audience spoke up after Najib’s comments to lambast Burma, with one questioner calling its actions “a scandal.”
Aye Myint sat stoically through the verbal attack and he also did not respond to Najib’s plea, saying only that his government is not preventing aid workers from doing their work.
Earlier in a speech, Aye Myint claimed his government acted promptly in rescuing and providing relief the 2.4 million cyclone survivors. He also claimed that food, water and medicines have been provided to all victims, and the government has now moved to a rehabilitation phase.
Many international aid agencies and foreign governments say little government aid had reached most of the survivors.
Aye Myint said the cyclone killed 77,738 people and left 55,917 missing. At least 19,359 were injured.
Najib said that according to Malaysian aid workers in Burma, the scale of the disaster could become even bigger than the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami if aid does not soon reach people.
“I don’t know if that is a correct assessment but it is one view delivered to us by people who have been on the ground,” he said.
BURMA TAKES A BEATING
SINGAPORE, June 1 (Reuters) – Malaysia’s deputy prime minister warned on Sunday that the disaster caused by Cyclone Nargis in Myanmar had the potential to …
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SINGAPORE – Malaysia’s deputy leader has urged Myanmar’s junta to let Southeast Asia’s main bloc play a bigger role in providing relief to cyclone victims. …