FROM THE DVB NEWSROOM
The U.N. Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator Ramanathan Balakrishnan met with military regime officials in Sittwe, Rakhine State on June 15 to discuss Cyclone Mocha relief operations, regime media reported. Its ministers for Border Affairs, International Cooperation and Social Welfare, Relief and Resettlement were in attendance. The meeting discussed the distribution of relief materials, the conditions in cyclone-impacted areas, and ways to manage international aid deliveries. Balakrishnan’s meeting came after he called on the regime to rescind its decision of banning international humanitarian aid access to Rakhine State on June 12. The regime claimed that it is allowing aid groups to operate with proper authorization from local authorities. But aid groups on-the-ground confirm that no access has been granted.
Amnesty International criticized the ban. “The suspension prevented cyclone-affected people from receiving life-saving assistance,” it stated. The Cyclone Mocha response has been under increasing international scrutiny as CNN and Nikkei Asia have reported on the suspension of aid access to Rakhine State. A local aid worker called on the U.N. and other international humanitarian organizations to bypass the regime in Naypyidaw entirely and work through local armed resistance groups. At least 163 bodies have been recovered in Rakhine State, according to local journalists and rescue teams interviewed by DVB. Locals believe that the true death toll, caused by Cyclone Mocha when it made landfall on May 14, may be much higher.