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Activist slams China, India over cyclone aid

  • Story Highlights
  • Founder of dissident group: China, India need to be more persuasive with junta
  • Maung Zarni questions usefulness of ASEAN regional group over disaster
  • Activist criticizes Myanmar junta for not doing more to help victims
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LONDON, England (CNN) -- The founder of the Free Burma Coalition accused Myanmar neighbors China and India on Thursday of failing to do their share of "heavy lifting" in aiding victims of the Myanmar cyclone.


A young survivor waits for relief supplies by a makeshift house in Bogaley.

Maung Zarni, a visiting research fellow at Oxford University, said both nations could do more in trying to persuade the Myanmar junta to allow international aid workers and equipment into the country.

Zarni also slammed the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), for the same reason.

"The latest episode involving the junta's handling of the cyclone victims in Burma really calls into question the meaning and the usefulness, the value of ASEAN," he added.

The organization of 10 nations promotes economic growth, social progress and cultural development in the region.

"China isn't doing its share of heavy lifting, and the same can be said about India as well," Zarni said.

"China is a country on the rise, and it can really repair its tarnished reputation around Tibet if it puts pressure on the regime and says, 'This is unacceptable, even to Chinese standards.'"

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Zarni was referring to critics of last fall's Chinese crackdown on pro-democracy demonstrators, led by Tibetan monks.

He directed most of his criticism toward Myanmar's military rulers, who he said are solely concerned with their own security and political ambitions, while neglecting the cyclone victims.

The government has been bitterly criticized for being too slow in responding to the May 2 disaster, then blocking large-scale, international emergency aid. The government has relented somewhat in the past few days.

The official death toll from Cyclone Nargis rose Thursday, with Myanmar state television reporting more than 40,000 fatalities. Many believe the toll will be much higher. Video Watch scenes of widespread destruction »

Referring to Myanmar's 75-year-old top leader, Than Shwe, Zarni complained, "His major number one concern is his own personal and family security, and also other officers who are caught in a system where fear and rewards are manipulated to whip them in line."

The government's response to the cyclone is complex, and has "psychological, institutional and personal dimensions," which have produced an "institutionalized madness," Zarni said.

The Irrawaddy newspaper, which covers Myanmar and Southeast Asia, said a team of ASEAN experts would arrive in Yangon on Thursday to assess the scale of the disaster and requirements for aid.


ASEAN Secretary-General Surin Pitsuwan said Wednesday that the Myanmar government had agreed to grant visas to an "emergency rapid assessment team."

The Myanmar government also agreed to accept 160 relief workers from India, China, Bangladesh and Thailand, the newspaper said.

All About MyanmarNatural DisastersGordon BrownBan Ki-moon

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