International aid groups and world leaders have welcomed Myanmar’s decision to accept help for the survivors of cyclone Nargis. Hundreds of thousands of people are still struggling with the aftermath of the disaster, with disease and hunger threatening many more deaths.
The generals have a deep mistrust of the outside world, but the junta leader Than Shwe agreed to allow international agencies into his country under strict conditions, after a plea from the UN’s Ban Ki-Moon: “We will carefully watch the implementation, a process in close coordination with the Myanmar authorities and ASEAN partners, but I believe that they will keep and honour their commitments.”
For now, agencies will be restricted to aid flights into the former capital Yangon; foreign ships are still banned from entering Myanmar’s waters.
The desperate situation has forced desperate measures. In the Irrawaddy Delta, Myanmar’s monks defied their military leaders and organised their own clandestine aid operation. The people of Bogalay have received little or no aid so far, but the monks were able to offer some help.