Burma junta gags NGOs from telling the truth

Numerous aid agencies are being prevented from criticising the military junta's 'callous handling' of the cyclone crisis in Burma, leaving just a handful of groups to speak out.

Aid: arrival in Burma
Aid: arrival in Burma

Burma Campaign UK claims that many development agencies have to keep quiet in order to maintain a presence in the country during the crisis.

The charity's head Mark Farmaner said such organisations have their hands tied because they fear they will be kicked out of Burma for opposing its government.

'Other development agencies such as Save The Children and the Red Cross are handling media enquiries, but they are not able to speak on what is going on,' he said.

Save The Children media manager Ben Dempsey said: 'We have been in the country now for 13 years, so we have a good working relationship there. Our priority is getting aid to people who need it. We don't comment on the political dimension of the debate.'

Burma Campaign UK, along with Amnesty International is trying to highlight the apparent blocking of aid. The Department for International Development is also speaking out to urge the junta to allow aid to get through faster.

As well as handling around 100 media enquiries a day, Burma Campaign UK's team of seven has been lobbying the UN Security Council and individual governments to challenge the junta on its actions.

THE CYCLONE IN NUMBERS

34,273 - Latest death toll caused by the cyclone

1.9million - Number of people made homeless since the cyclone struck

5 - DEC member organisations working in the area before the disaster

300,000 - People already provided with supplies

5 - Press officers seconded to the DEC team each day

600 - World Vision staff on the ground

7 - Number of press people handling the stories at Burma Campaign UK

BURMA: WHO IS INVOLVED IN THE COMMS EFFORT?


The Disaster Emergency Committee (DEC) is an umbrella organisation for 13 humanitarian aid organisations. Press officers have been seconded to the DEC press office. The British Red Cross is leading the media effort for the DEC and is updating the media daily.

The Department for International Development (DFID) is leading for the Government, coordinating comms efforts with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) and the Ministry of Defence (MOD). Ministerial interviews have been set up along with interviews with officials in Thailand.

The various agencies of the UN such as UNICEF and the World Food Programme are briefing the media independently. Key messages are the UN's call for an air bridge or a sea corridor to get aid to the survivors of the disaster. The UN has also spoken out about the risk of trafficking and sexual abuse of orphans and children separated from their parents.

Amnesty International has been lobbying the key influencers in the area: China, South Korea, Japan and India.

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