July 30, 2008

UN must stop covering up for Burma regime.

The Burma Campaign UK today expressed surprise and concern about claims by the United Nations that they were ‘slow to recognise’ the problem of Burma’s military regime stealing aid money through a fixed exchange rate that is below the market rate.

“It is astonishing that they are claiming ignorance, the United Nations has known about this problem for years,” said Mark Farmaner, Director of the Burma Campaign UK. “In early 2006 we raised concerns with the UN in Rangoon about the regime taking aid money in this way. They downplayed it, and since then have taken no serious action to challenge it.”

The Burma Campaign UK also raised concerns about the fixed exchange rate in a report in July 2006. The report was distributed to the UN and governments. It can be downloaded at:
http://www.burmacampaign.org.uk/reports/Aid_Paper.pdf

Burma’s brutal military dictatorship not only pursues policies that impoverish the people of Burma, but also does all it can to steal aid. The generals clearly see Cyclone Nargis as a major money-making opportunity. Ways that the regime has been attempting to profit from Cyclone Nargis include:

  • Forcing the UN and aid agencies to change currency at fixed non-market rates which enable them to keep between 10 and 25 percent of aid.
  • Taking aid supplies delivered by plane after the cyclone. Some aid agencies were forced to buy aid supplies on the market in Burma after it had been given to regime cronies.
  • Allocating areas of the cyclone-hit Delta to regime cronies for so-called ‘reconstruction’ work, to be paid for by aid from the international community. This would be a major cash-cow for the regime and its cronies through corruption and kickbacks.
  • Indicating that aid access will be restricted if they face pressure for political reform.

“It is disgraceful that the UN has only admitted there is a problem because of media reports,” said Mark Farmaner. “They have even misled journalists by claiming there was no problem earlier this month. Nor have they spoken out about the regime going back on its word to Ban Ki-Moon to allow full and free access for aid workers, or the show refugee camps, the list goes on. Sometimes it almost seems like they are doing public relations for the generals. It is no wonder many people in Burma see the UN as consistently siding with the regime.”

For more information contact Mark Farmaner, Director of the Burma Campaign UK on 020 7324 4713

 


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