Prodding Burma's (Myanmar's) neighbors
Western states want Asian nations to pressure Burma to accept help.
Officers in crisp longyis stare incredulously at a Westerner walking into the police station. One calls for backup from senior government officials.Skip to next paragraph
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Asked how foreigners can help the Burmese, they seem offended. "Why do you think we need your help?" asks one. "We warmly welcome the supplies from your country. We can take care of our country by ourselves."
In a state where officials lack authority and mistrust Westerners, it's not easy to plug in aid workers from Western nations that have sought to isolate the regime.
Amid warnings of another storm, pressure is mounting on Southeast Asian nations, which have come under fire for failing to prod the country to better respond to the disaster. Western countries and aid groups hope Burma's neighbors will be more able to open the door.
"If the Burmese government is going to listen to anybody, they're going to be most receptive to ASEAN," says Ian Rodgers, an adviser with Save the Children in Washington. "I actually think that if anything is going to work, then this is it. It won't work at the speed at which we want it to work."
But a regional effort has been slower. ASEAN should have immediately intervened on the shipment of foreign aid, said Philippine opposition figure Sen. Aquilino Pimentel Jr., adding that it was "barbaric" for Burma (Myanmar) to refuse foreign supplies of water, food, and medicine.
Diplomats confirmed Wednesday that Burma has agreed to meet with Southeast Asian foreign ministers in Singapore next Monday to discuss bringing in aid.
"The ministers will discuss the humanitarian situation in Myanmar and consider how best to assist Myanmar in its relief and recovery efforts," Singapore's Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement, the Associated Press reported.
But the "emergency meeting," which comes more than two weeks after the cyclone hit, may be too late for many.
ASEAN's tradition of noninterference in domestic affairs does not bode well for European calls for unilateral military aid deliveries.
After visiting a government relief center in Rangoon (Yangon), Thai Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej said the junta guaranteed him that there are no disease outbreaks and no starvation among survivors.