Three months ago Myanmar was struck by the devastating cyclone 'Nargis'. 140,000 people were killed or remain missing. Over 2 million lost their homes. Myanmar's military government was severely criticized because of its reluctance to accept international assistance. Even now many problems remain unsolved.
Cyclone survivors on the outskirts of Yangon, Myanmar
About three months after the cyclone victims are still not able to provide for themselves. According to the United Nations, the inhabitants of the worst affected Irrawaddy Delta region will be reliant on international aid for the next 6 months that is until the next rice harvest.
John Holmes, UN Emergency Relief Coordinator, last week personally assessed the situation in the region and urged Myanmar's military government to cooperate closer with international aid organisations. The New York based rights group Human Rights Watch asked the donor countries to closely scrutinize how donations are distributed. David Mathieson, Burma expert of Human Rights Watch: ”The problem is how much can we trust the military government and I think any aid that goes into Burma has to be closely monitored but has to be provided on a trust basis that the donations are spent on the right people and not on the military itself."
Around 1 billion US-Dollars are required for the next months. UN Coordinator John Holmes believes that about 20 per cent of the money donated is lost due to distortions in the country's official exchange rate. The loss comes from a complicated system whereby the UN uses foreign exchange certificates with a nominal value of 1 US-Dollar each that are then exchanged for the local currency, the kyat, at a rate set by Myanmar's military government.
The United States meanwhile have extended their economic sanctions against the military junta and threaten to increase them further if the democratization process in Myanmar does not progress significantly.
The US Ambassador to the United Nations, Zalmay Khalilzad, hopes that the next visit of the UN special envoy to Burma, Ibrahim Gambari, will lead to significant changes: ”If there is no progress on these issues on the negotiating track between the government and the opposition including Aung San Suu Kyi, including a UN role in those negotiations, if there is no progress on the political track with regard to prisoners' release, change circumstances of Aung San Suu Kyi we would have to look that at what we do and we would have to look at other measures bringing more pressure to bear on the regime."
Although Myanmar’s military junta held a referendum on a new constitution in May to pave the way for parliamentary elections in 2010, the new constitution guarantees that key functions remain in the hands of the military rulers.