London, May 14 : The military regime in Myanmar has been accused of hoarding high-quality foreign aid for itself, even as people badly affected by 'Cyclone Nargis' are making do with rotten food.
"There is obviously still a lot of frustration that this aid effort hasn't picked up pace" ten days after the cyclone hit, The Scotsman quoted Richard Horsey, the spokesman for the UN humanitarian operation in Bangkok, as saying.
The UN said the World Food Programme is getting in 20 per cent of the food needed because of bottlenecks, logistics problems and government-imposed restrictions.
The delays have only served to bolster complaints that the military is appropriating the aid for itself.
A long-term foreign resident of the country's biggest city, Rangoon, said government officials have complained to him about military leaders misappropriating aid, though the UN could not confirm the report.
He said the officials told him that quantities of the high- energy biscuits rushed in on the World Food Programme's first flights were sent to a military warehouse.
They were exchanged with what the officials said were "tasteless and low-quality" biscuits produced by the industry ministry to be handed out to victims of the cyclone, the foreign resident said in a telephone interview.
The WFP said it had not heard of its supplies disappearing.
"We've had no reports whatsoever about any incidents of this kind," Marcus Prior, a WFP spokesman, said in Bangkok.
A Burma government spokesman refused to comment, but the fact is that the military - which has ruled the country with an iron fist since 1962 - has taken control of most of the aid sent by other countries.
State television said the death toll had gone up by 2,335 to 34,273, and the number of missing stood at 27,838 after many of those listed as missing were accounted for. The United Nations says the actual death toll could be between 62,000 and 100,000.
Unicef estimates a third of those killed were children, based largely on population data from the affected areas as well as the scant information on those who survived.
State television said the navy's commander-in-chief, Rear-Admiral Soe Thein, told Admiral Timothy Keating, commander of the U.S. Pacific forces, that basic needs of the storm victims are being fulfilled and that "skilful humanitarian workers are not necessary".
Many survivors also said they were either not getting any aid or were being handed rotten, mouldy rice.
Cyclone Nargis devastated the delta on 2-3 May, washing away homes and submerging large tracts of land. Some two million survivors, mostly poor rice farmers, are living in abject misery, facing disease and starvation.
Tens of thousands of people throughout the delta have been crammed into Buddhist monasteries and schools after arriving in towns that were on the breadline even before the disaster.
Lacking food, water and sanitation, they face the threat of killer diseases such as cholera. Heavy tropical rains added to their misery.
The government has also barred nearly all foreigners experienced in managing such catastrophes from going to the delta west of Rangoon, and is expelling those who have managed to go in.
Meanwhile, France, Britain and Germany have called for the world to deliver aid to cyclone victims in Burma - if necessary without the military junta's permission.