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Myanmar Cyclone Refugees Forced Out of Camps

BY Admin  May 30, 2008 at 10:15 AM EST

Cyclone survivors queue for the rice; AP photo

Aid workers said 39 camps south of Yangon were being cleared out as part of a general eviction plan, according to Reuters.

“It is better that they move to their homes where they are more stable,” a government official at one of the camps said, reported Reuters. “Here, they are relying on donations and it is not stable.”

The U.N. Children’s Fund said eight government camps set up for homeless in the Irrawaddy delta town of Bogalay have been cleared, but could not confirm widespread evacuations throughout the delta.

“The government is moving people unannounced,” Teh Tai Ring, a UNICEF official, told the Associated Press.

Authorities are “dumping people in the approximate location of the villages, basically with nothing,” Ring said. Some rations were given out, but people who lost their government identity cards were being denied aid, UNICEF said.

About 2.4 million people were left homeless by the May 2 cyclone that ravaged Myanmar’s delta region.

The refugee evictions come a day after government run media criticized foreign aid donors for demanding access to the disaster region, saying the “Myanmar people are capable enough of rising from such natural disasters.”

“The people from Irrawaddy can survive on self-reliance without chocolate bars donated by foreign countries,” the Kyemon newspaper said in an editorial.

The editorial also condemned donor pledges of aid for being too small. The government has said it needs $11 billion, while $150 million has been pledged.

Aid organizations like the International Red Cross have had difficulty getting permission to enter the country and provide aid directly. Myanmar is also keeping ships loaded with humanitarian supplies from the United States, France and Great Britain from entering the country’s waters, leaving them to wait offshore.

The United Nations says fewer than half of the affected cyclone victims have received any form of help from either the government or other aid groups.

“We certainly don’t endorse premature return to where there are no services, and any forced or coerced movement is completely unacceptable,” U.N. spokeswoman Amanda Pitt said in Bangkok, according to the AP.