Surin dismissed suggestions that the funding problems were due to the Myanmar junta’s poor human rights record and suppression of democracy. He attributed the lack of funds to the global financial crisis and competing humanitarian disasters around the world.

Cyclone recovery aid needed

PHUKET – THE head of a regional grouping of Southeast Asian nations called om Thursday for governments to do more to help rebuild areas hit by last year’s deadly cyclone in Myanmar, saying only a third of the US$300 million (S$432 million) needed has been raised.

Surin Pitsuwan, secretary general of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, or Asean, said Myanmar’s neighbors need to take the lead in financing new schools, homes and other infrastructure projects.

‘The Asean member states themselves pledged they would come forward to help and contribute,’ Mr Surin said at the end of an Asean conference in Thailand.

‘Some have allocated funds and budgets but have not released it.

Now is the time,’ he said. ‘With Asean taking the lead, there will be more international support coming through.’

He dismissed suggestions that the funding problems were due to the Myanmar junta’s poor human rights record and suppression of democracy. He attributed the lack of funds to the global financial crisis and competing humanitarian disasters around the world.

The May 2008 cyclone crashed into Myanmar’s southwestern coast, sweeping away entire farming villages. Some 140,000 were killed or left missing.

A study released this month in the journal Nature Geoscience described it as one of the deadliest storms to hit the Bay of Bengal, producing waves of 16 feet (5 meters) high and a storm surge that reached 30 miles (50 kilometers) inland.

The study found that in the hardest-hit areas, up to 80 per cent of villagers were killed. All survivors interviewed in the Irrawaddy Delta for the study said they ignored warnings about the impending storm due to a lack of awareness about cyclones and evacuation plans.

More than a year after the disaster, survivors are still struggling to rebuild their lives. — AP

Click to access ngeo558-s1.pdf

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