Burma's beggars being forced off the roads: SMH
Police have begun clearing roads of thousands of cyclone survivors in Burma's Irrawaddy Delta whose desperation has reduced them to begging for food from passing cars.Agence France Presse, Associated Press, The New York Times
Most of the 2.4 million people in need of food, shelter and medicine have yet to receive any international aid, according to the UN. Volunteers from Rangoon and other cities have been driving to villages to deliver aid themselves.
But police are warning volunteers against making donations, and have threatened to suspend their driving licences.
"Aid goods should be given out at relief centres only," one officer told a volunteer trying to give food to cyclone victims.
"The people should learn to feed themselves. They should return to their homes. We do not want foreigners to think we are a country of beggars."
Police say they are trying to ensure the safety of the crowds of people who are lining the region's few roads. Desperation has grown so intense that hundreds of people stampede every passing car.
Six foreign staff based in Rangoon with the UN children's fund, UNICEF, were allowed by the junta to join teams of mainly Burmese workers to assess the scale of the devastation from Cyclone Nargis, which left 133,000 dead or missing.
Other charities such as Doctors Without Borders were also sending foreign staff into the delta.
"We're very pleased that we've been able to get international colleagues out" into the delta, a UNICEF spokeswoman, Shantha Bloemen, said in Bangkok.
Police, soldiers and immigration officers have staged roadblocks to question foreigners on the main route from Rangoon into the devastated town of Dedaye in the delta, which bore the brunt of the cyclone.
Police in Rangoon also yesterday detained 15 members of Aung San Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy as they marched to her home ahead of the annual deadline for renewal of her house arrest.
The group was shoved into a truck by riot police after 30 of her party marched from their headquarters to Ms Suu Kyi's home, where she has been under house arrest for more than 12 of the past 18 years.
Security was stepped up around Ms Suu Kyi's home as the junta faced an annual deadline to decide whether to extend her current period of house arrest or release her. Most analysts expect her detention to be extended again this year.
The Indonesian Foreign Minister, Hassan Wirayuda, urged the junta to release Ms Suu Kyi, in light of the goodwill the world has shown in recent weeks. But in the aftermath of the cyclone, the anticipated extension has drawn little other international attention.