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US Says Burma's Cyclone Aid Obstruction Costs Thousands of Lives

  • VOA News

The United States says the Burmese government's obstruction of international aid following Cyclone Nargis has cost tens of thousands of lives.

At a security forum in Singapore Saturday US Defense Secretary Robert Gates charged that Burma had not allowed the US military to deliver relief supplies to cyclone victims. He said Indonesia and Bangladesh had granted approval for similar assistance after other natural disasters.

Gates' comments follow reports Friday that Burma's military government is forcing victims of the May third cyclone to leave refugee camps and return to their destroyed villages.

Witnesses say victims are being given nothing more than bamboo poles and tarpaulins to rebuild.

Meanwhile, the United Nations' International Labor Organization has expressed concern that the Burmese junta might use forced labor to rebuild storm damaged areas.

The ILO has called for increased attention to prevent relief efforts from inadvertently promoting child labor and other human rights abuses.

UN assessment teams that traveled to the delta said Friday that major logistical difficulties remain in delivering aid to an estimated one million people in need of assistance.

Cyclone Nargis tore through Burma's Irrawaddy Delta leaving more than 134-thousand people dead or missing and wrecking much of the country's southern infrastructure.

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