U.N. Obtains Visas for Myanmar, Reporter Says As nearly 2 million survivors of a cyclone that struck Myanmar remained at risk Wednesday, an unidentified NPR reporter there told co-host Steve Inskeep that there is a bit of good news: The United Nations was able to get a few visas for personnel who have been waiting in Bangkok.
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U.N. Obtains Visas for Myanmar, Reporter Says

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U.N. Obtains Visas for Myanmar, Reporter Says

U.N. Obtains Visas for Myanmar, Reporter Says

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We're going next to Myanmar, where two million people remain at risk after a cyclone. We've reached an NPR correspondent who made it into the country within a few days of the storm. Still there. We're not able to identify him for security reasons, and we'll just get right to the conversation.

What is happening today?

NPR CORRESPONDENT: Well, there's a little bit of good news today. It appears that the U.N. was able to get a few visas for personnel that it's had waiting in Bangkok. Unfortunately, the bad news is visas for NGO workers still aren't really coming through.

There have also been these reports of the government siphoning off some of this aid to sell. And I have investigated some of those reports. They're very hard to prove. I have talked to a number of aid agencies about them. They say that they've seen no systematic abuse of the aid that's been coming in. However, I've talked to some business people here and the business people say that it's happening, but you know, whether it's actually the government doing this deliberately, whether it's the government policy or whether this is just a case of something falling off the back of the truck and ending up in the markets here - you've got to remember, this is a place where this is a great deal of corruption - which one of those it is, it's hard to say. I'm inclined to believe it's the latter.

INSKEEP: Well, what have you been able to see as you moved about whatever parts of the country are accessible to you?

NPR CORRESPONDENT: Well, I tried to get down to the delta yesterday and I was turned back by the police. And they've been turning back many people, including some international relief workers, even though they have visas or are working here. The reasons for that are still unclear.

Obviously the reasons they would want to stop someone like me is for reporting the scale of the problem down there. It's just embarrassing for them. They want to control the situation there.

I was able to get to a place about an hour and a half outside of Yangon - and I went to a small village - 42 houses - that was almost completely destroyed. These people in this village when the storm came, they huddled in this Hindu temple and this temple saved their lives. They crammed into the small space - about the size of a studio apartment.

They spent ten hours there. When they came out, 38 of their 40-odd houses were gone. And they say since that time - and that's 12 days ago now - since that time they've received absolutely no assistance from the government whatsoever. They've received two 20 kilogram bags of rice from some local charities, and that's it. That's all they've gotten. And they also complain that when they go to a nearby office, it's about five miles away and say they need help they're ignored.

INSKEEP: I should mention that one of the people we're hearing from on MORNING EDITION today is an American four-star admiral who got into Myanmar to argue with the government for a different attitude for allowing in more aid. Given everything that you've seen, do you think that the government's attitude is changing?

NPR CORRESPONDENT: I don't think there's any change at the top, really. I think their basic attitude remains the same. I don't think they want large numbers of outsiders here.

You have to see this through their prism. Their prism is not that these international aid workers, for example, are coming in to provide help, necessarily. It's that they're from foreign countries and they're long suspicious of foreign countries and international aid organizations. And I'd be very surprised if you saw the floodgates open here in terms of visas being granted.

The government here wants to be the one that controls how the aid comes into the country and then is distributed throughout the country and decides how it goes out, where it goes out, and by whom it goes out. I don't think that's going to change in a big way in the near future.

INSKEEP: We've been listening to an NPR reporter, who's in Yangon, Myanmar's major city, who we are not identifying for security reasons.

Thanks very much for your update. Appreciate it.

NPR CORRESPONDENT: You're welcome.

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