A report led by the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Medicine has
called for a United Nations investigation into Burma's handling of aid
and assistance to cyclone hit regions last year, accusing the military
government of crimes against humanity. Relief groups are calling on Asian countries and the international
community to press Burma's military government towards greater
transparency and accountability in receiving assistance.
report, a joint project of aid workers from the Thai-Burma border and
Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, charges Burma's
military government with abuse and corruption in its handling of aid
and recovery to the devastated Irrawaddy Delta region hit by last
year's cyclone Nargis.
The report charges Burma's military of
resisting international and regional aid, interference in assistance,
confiscation of aid and resale, arrest of aid workers, discrimination
in aid along ethnic lines, forced labor and confiscation of land.
Beyer, of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, says the
key recommendation is for a United Nations investigation into the
charges that may represent "crimes against humanity."
together there is an argument to be made for an assessment and we call
for an investigation of crimes against humanity - that is based on the
Rome Statute article 7-IK - essentially its based on the argument that
there has been intentionally great suffering, mental and physical
health," he said.
The project report, After the Storm: Voices
from the Delta, was centered on interviews with relief workers and
Burmese army defectors over several months after the devastation of the
cyclone in May that claimed tens of thousand of lives.
after the cyclone, over 300 Burma aid workers from the Thai-Burma
border worked as teams delivering assistance into the devastated
Irrawaddy Delta region, often undercover to avoid military checkpoints
Burma's military government has been widely
criticized for its slow response to the disaster and restrictions it
placed on access of assistance to the region, including direct aid from
neighboring Asian countries.
Beyer says, based on the interviews
with aid workers, the allegations of misconduct and abuse highlighted
in the report appeared to be widespread throughout the Delta Region.
can say with some confidence that most of what was being reported was
common," he said. "Force relocation, virtually everybody we interviewed
reported forced relocation, forced labor was also common, forced child
labor less common. The confiscation, thefts and resale of relief aid
was ubiquitous - that appeared to be very much standard operating
procedure throughout the area."
Dr. Cynthia Maung, who oversees a
Burmese health clinic in the Thai border town of Mae Sot, said the
Association of South East Asian Nations - ASEAN - and international
community had to pressure the military to be held accountable in the
delivery of aid.
"As you see in the report and as we found out
in the information inside Burma - the relief effort should be more
thorough and more accountable," she said. "Our aim is to how to become
more effective to deliver assistance as well as for the reconstruction
of the country, how to rebuild or broaden the cooperation between the
community organization and the international comunity".
report stands in contrast to a recent positive review by the tripartite
U.N, ASEAN and Burma's military, that the leadership "had gained a
higher degree of confidence" in working with the international
community. The tripartite assistance group called for a further $700
million in funding over three years to assist in longer term recovery
to cyclone affected regions.