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Myanmar junta stance on foreign aid a crime – monks

May 22, 2008

From Reuters – Myanmar’s military rulers have committed crimes against humanity by delaying the entry of international workers to help cyclone victims, exiled Buddhist monks said on Thursday.

The monks, who are in Jakarta as part of an international tour to rally opposition against Myanmar’s generals, urged Indonesia to back a U.N. resolution on unfettered entry of aid shipments and workers.

The appeal came as U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon was touring Myanmar, taking “a message of hope” to victims of Cyclone Nargis that has left nearly 134,000 dead or missing.

“The situation is very terrible. Over 200,000 have died and over two million people are at risk of starvation,” said Ashin Nayaka, a monk from Myanmar who lives in the United States.

“By delaying international aid, the junta is committing crimes against humanity,” the maroon-robed monk told Reuters, adding that a single day’s delay in aid cost hundreds of lives.

The Myanmar junta, deeply suspicious of outsiders, agreed on Monday to allow aid workers from Southeast Asian neighbours after being heavily criticised for refusing to admit foreign aid workers.

Another monk, U Awbata, said he had fled Myanmar after the government’s bloody crackdown on monk-led protests in September in which at least 31 people were killed.

“I saw three monks killed by the soldiers in front of me at Shwedagon Pagoda,” said Awbata, who now lives in Sri Lanka, referring to Myanmar’s holiest site.

“I saw soldiers kick the heads of monks. In Buddhism it’s a very unthinkable, unimaginable crime,” he said.

New York-based monk Ashin Nayaka said about 10,000 monks were arrested during the crackdown.

“The problem is we don’t know many monks have been killed, we don’t know how many monks are missing. What we know is thousands of monks are suffering in interrogation centres and forced labour camps across the country,” he said.

During a meeting with the foreign affairs commission of the Indonesian parliament on Thursday, the exiled Myanmarese delegation urged Jakarta to push for a U.N. resolution allowing free access to aid workers to the former Burma.

Indonesia is the largest member of the 10-member Association of the Southeast Asian Nations, to which Myanmar belongs, and a non-permanent member of the U.N. Security Council.

“Indonesia has more responsibility to help the Burmese people,” said Ashin Nayaka, who took part in a 1988 uprising, which was also suppressed by a crackdown in which an estimated 3,000 people were killed.

“We don’t need the junta’s permission because the military regime is not a legitimate government,” he said.

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