Relief for Myanmar should not be politicised: UN Sec Gen

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Bangkok, May 21 (UNI) International relief efforts for victims of the Myanmar cyclone should not be politicised, UN Secretary-General Ban ki-Moon said here on his arrival here today on way to Myanmar.

"We must all do our utmost for the people of Myanmar. I say now what I have said before: issues of assistance and aid in Myanmar should not be politicized," Mr Ban told reporters.

The top UN official leaves for Myanmar early tomorrow to visit the cyclone-hit areas and meet senior government leaders, including senior General Than Shwe.

Mr Ban returns to Bangkok a day later to hold talks with Thai Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej before returning to Yangon on May 25 to take part in the international aid pledging conference for Myanmar that day.

A major focus of the May 25 conference in Yangon will be to strengthen collaboration between Myanmar and the international community, especially with Southeast Asia and key neighbouring countries like India and China, the UN Secretary-General said.

"This is a critical moment for Myanmar. The government itself acknowledges that there has never been a disaster on this scale in the history of their country. We have a functioning relief programme in place. But so far we have been able to reach only about 25 percent of the people in need," Mr Ban added.

The Myanmar government has allowed the UN use of nine World Food Programme (WFP) helicopters for post-cyclone relief work, he disclosed.

In Myanmar, the UN Secretary-General will seek to expedite international relief efforts, including establishment of logistical bases in Myanmar and assess medium and long-term rehabilitation needs.

According to the UN Secretary-General, Myanmar's Foreign Minister Nyan Win has estimated the cyclone loss at more than ten billion US dollars.

UNI XC ATI DB2156

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