In Profound Reversal, Myanmar Opens to 'All' Aid
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PESCA: A breakthrough in Myanmar. Three weeks after Cyclone Nargis struck, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon says the ruling junta has agreed today to allow aid workers into the country to help cyclone survivors.
SMITH: The Secretary General spent more than two hours meeting with Senior General, Than Shwe, the most powerful figure in the country, also known as Burma. The UN chief says he also secured permission to use Yangon airport as a logistical hub for humanitarian relief.
PESCA: It is a welcome sign for international aid workers whose efforts have been largely stifled by Myanmar's military regime. A senior UN official says the junta has agreed to let foreign aid workers have access to the hardest hit areas of the Irrawaddy delta, but there has been no confirmation from the government.
SMITH: The BBC's Jonathan Head is in neighboring Thailand. He said Ban's announcement has been met with caution.
JONATHAN HEAD: The statement that Ban Ki-Moon gave when he came out was all aid workers, but you know, this is a very general phrase, and we are dealing with a government that we know is intensely suspicious of the idea of giving foreigners free reign or free movement in Burma, they've never done it before. And which has a track record of offering things to the United Nations and then withdrawing them, with lots of misunderstandings over what was promised. So I think everyone, including Ban Ki-Moon is going to be very cautious at this stage. When he was asked if this was a breakthrough, he simply said, I think so.
SMITH: The Secretary General has gone to great pains to assure Myanmar's leaders that if they open their borders for aid, they aren't opening themselves to political unrest. Here's Ban on Wednesday in Bangkok as he prepared to travel to Myanmar.
Secretary General BAN KI-MOON (United Nations): Aid in Myanmar should not be politicized. Our focus now is on saving lives.
PESCA: But the BBC's Head says Myanmar's rulers remain skeptical.
HEAD: I think they genuinely fear that once you open the door to large numbers of foreigners, you internationalize the situation in the delta, they are going to lose control of it. Their mind set is one of obsessive control. They think always in terms of security first. But the implications for Burma, if they do allow large numbers of foreigners in, are probably quite significant, it could actually bring about significant changes that we can't predict.
PESCA: Cyclone Nargis killed at least 78,000, another 56,000 are missing, with some two and a half million survivors at risk of disease, starvation and exposure to monsoon rains.
SMITH: You can go to npr.org throughout the day for updates on this story. Now, let's get some more of today's headlines with the BPP's Mark Garrison.
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