Accessibility links

US Lawmakers Urge Burma Military to End Aid Restrictions


Lawmakers in the U.S. House of Representatives have criticized Burma's military government for restricting broad international humanitarian support for cyclone victims. VOA's Dan Robinson reports from Capitol Hill, discussion of the situation in Burma came as the House prepared to approve a resolution urging Burma's military to lift all restrictions on aid.

Lawmakers express condolences and sympathy to the people of Burma for what the resolution calls the grave loss of life and vast destruction from Cyclone Nargis.

Pointing to the tens of thousands of people killed and thousands still missing, the measure notes that several hundred thousand people were left homeless, in dire need of emergency shelter and clean drinking water.

House lawmakers focus on what they call inadequate humanitarian assistance provided by Burma's military government and failure to address basic needs to prevent further loss of life.

New York Democrat Joseph Crowley says Burma's military lacks the capacity and skills to handle a humanitarian crisis, and he draws a comparison with the quite different attitude of the Indonesian government following the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami:

"It has allowed only the smallest trickle of international aid into the country. At this point, in the post-tsunami relief operation, the hard-hit [Indonesian] region of Aceh was receiving one aid flight every single hour. In Burma, the regime is only allowing three or four flights a day after not allowing any in the first five days after the cyclone hit." he said.

By Tuesday, the cyclone death toll in Burma had climbed past 34,000, according to Burmese government figures. United Nations officials say the toll could reach over 100,000, with 1 1/2 million people severely affected by the disaster.

Burma's military only recently allowed two aircraft from the United States and Britain to land in the country.

Lawmakers urge Burma's the ruling State Peace and Development Council to "consider the well-being of [Burma's] people and accept broad international assistance."

Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, a Florida Republican, referred to reports, denied by the military government, that Burma's military has diverted high quality food aid meant for cyclone victims.

"What kind of regime steals the food literally out of the mouths of starving babies? The answer is the one in Burma today," she said.

The House resolution also contains more criticism of the national constitutional referendum Burma's military rulers held, despite the devastation caused by the cyclone.

"Even if the Constitution was legitimate, the decision to go forward with the referendum as millions of the people of Myanmar [Burma] are fighting for survival totally defies any sense of logic and [is] a denial of human dignity," said Eni Faleomaevega, the representative in Congress of the U.S. Pacific territory of American Samoa.

The House of Representatives approved the Burma resolution by a nearly unanimous 410 to 1 vote, and after the vote, lawmakers stood and observed a moment of silence for the victims of the cyclone disaster.

Earlier this month, the U.S. Senate approved a similar resolution criticizing Burma's military government for blocking relief efforts in the country and urging it to allow free access to U.S. government disaster assistance teams.

XS
SM
MD
LG