COMMENTS: Junta Refuses Aid

"Myanmar is facing a grave humanitarian crisis," stated NBC's Ian Williams flatly from Bangkok. The storm surge from Cyclone Nargis destroyed 95% of the structures in the Irrawaddy Delta, he reported, and one million peasants are thought to be homeless. The global relief effort is being stalled, explained CBS' Barry Petersen, because the military junta in Myanmar has refused to allow assessment teams to monitor its delivery "to make sure aid gets to the survivors and not into the pockets of the generals." Celia Hatton, CBS Radio's Bangkok based correspondent, told anchor Katie Couric that the junta is "suspicious of the motives of NGOs and the US government." She cited that widespread belief that the regime "wants to get political credit for distributing aid itself."

ABC's Jim Sciutto reported that France has urged the United Nations to invoke a charter clause known as the Responsibility to Protect Civilians if access continues to be blocked: "That would authorize the delivery of assistance without the permission of Myanmar's military rulers." From the Pentagon, ABC's Jonathan Karl told us that a three-ship humanitarian relief group headed by the USS Essex, with 19 transport helicopters and 1,800 Marines, is in the Gulf of Thailand waiting for an invitation. "There is no indication that Myanmar will accept any US military presence in the country even if it is just to deliver relief supplies."


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