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Myanmar’s junta chief visits cyclone victims – finally

19 May 2008

YANGON – Myanmar’s junta chief Senior General Than Shwe finally visited victims of Cyclone Nargis over the weekend, two weeks after the storm struck leaving 133,655 people dead or missing, state media reports said Monday.   
Than Shwe, who heads the State Peace and Development Council (SPDC), as the junta styles itself, visited cyclone-affected areas in Yangon and the Irrawaddy Delta on Sunday, according to The New Light of Myanmar.
It was Than Shwe’s first visit to the storm-devastated regions since Cyclone Nargis struck Myanmar’s central coast on May 2 to 3, leaving more than 133,000 dead and missing and up to 2.5 million people in need of food, water, shelter and medicine.
Than Shwe was accompanied by other senior members of the regime, including Defence Minister General Thura Shwe Mann, Navy Commander Vice-Admiral Soe Thein and Air Force Commander-in-Chief Lieutenant General Myat Hein.
"At Yangon Command Headquarters Chairman of National Disaster Preparedness Central Committee Prime Minister General Thein Sein reported on relief works and rehabilitation tasks in storm-stricken regions to Senior General Than Shwe. Senior General Than Shwe made discussions on the reports and gave guidance on works to be done," said The New Light of Myanmar, a government mouthpiece.

The junta has allocated 5 billion kyat (USD 4.3 million) to the relief effort for the cyclone-affected regions, according to the newspaper, but the paper claimed 50 billion kyat (USD 43 million) had already been spent on relief, apparently including foreign contributions.
While it has welcomed international aid, the regime has been harshly criticised for refusing to grant visas to international aid workers, and otherwise slowing the emergency operation.
Than Shwe’s sudden show of interest in the plight of his people comes days before a planned visit to the country by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon.
Ban plans to  arrive on Wednesday for a three-day visit and hopes to meet with officials of Myanmar’s military regime, UN spokeswoman Michele Montas said Sunday at UN headquarters in New York.

[dpa / Expatica]