Myanmar’s junta use food aid to maintain iron grip
The first US relief plane landed in Yangon on Tuesday. Myanmar’s military junta has been accused of hoarding relief goods to placate its military rank and file at the expense of its civilian population. Brian McCartan of The Asia Times reports, that the Myanmar leadership has "an almost pathological fear of a split within its own ranks," as soldiers found it difficult to fire on citizens and monks during the September protests last year. He further states that "from the junta’s perspective the group that needs to be fed first is the 400,000 strong military rather than the desperate survivors of the crisis." It is from this perspective that Myanmar’s leadership "has consistently said it wants the relief supplies, but not the aid workers." The regime, by placating its rank and file, will ensure that it maintains its iron grip on power.
VOICE OF ZAA NKWETA, PRODUCER/PRESENTER: The first airlift of US relief goods for Myanmar cyclone victims arrived on Monday, following prolonged negotiations with its military rulers, who are accused of endangering the lives of up to 1.5 million survivors by restricting international aid efforts. Myanmar’s military junta has been accused of hoarding relief goods to feed its 400,000 strong military at the expense of the local population. Brian McCartan of the Asia Times reports that the country’s military leaders are afraid of dissent within the rank and file, which occurred during last September’s demonstrations. He goes on to state that falling morale remains a problem with notable levels of desertion and discontent within the ranks before the cyclone hit. Now with severe food shortages looming, the possibility of mutiny is a distinct possibility. The military regime has consistently said it wants relief supplies but not the relief workers who go with it. Aid workers would control the distribution of relief supplies, preventing the military from monopolizing the dispersal of aid and distributing it to its own members. Marcus Prior of the World Food Programme:
MARCUS PRIOR, SPOKESMAN, WORLD FOOD PROGRAMME: Yes, there is an emergency response but there is also a duty to look slightly beyond that and say we will stay around until you are really back on your feet.
NKWETA: UN spokesman for humanitarian affairs Richard Horsley spoke of the severity of the humanitarian situation:
RICHARD HORSEY, SPOKESMAN, UNITED NATIONS OFFICE FOR THE COORDINATION OF HUMANITARIAN AFFAIRS: We are not reaching enough people quickly enough. We’re reaching maybe a quarter, maybe a fifth of that scale. And obviously we need to scale it up very very urgently.
NKWETA: The government has said about 62,000 people are dead or missing but the UN has suggested the death toll is likely to be more than 100,000. With the situation getting worse as the days go on, the possibility of mutiny that the military is trying to prevent, may as the Asia Times reports “stoke more unrest than it avoids.”
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