May 15, 2008 in Nation/World

U.S. will keep sending emergency supplies

Matthew Lee Associated Press

WASHINGTON – The Bush administration will continue to send emergency assistance to Myanmar’s cyclone victims despite concerns the country’s military government may be confiscating the aid or diverting it away from those most in need.

Officials from the State Department and U.S. Agency for International Development said Wednesday the crisis is so severe that they are willing to risk American aid winding up in the wrong hands, or for sale, to ensure that at least some gets through. So, for the moment at least, they said supplies would keep flowing if the junta allows it.

Since last week, Myanmar has allowed only eight U.S. military flights to land in Yangon with assistance, but it has declined offers to help with the distribution of the supplies and rejected direct outside oversight of the process. U.S. disaster relief experts have been stuck in neighboring Thailand for more than a week awaiting permission to go in.

At the Pentagon on Wednesday, a senior military officer said Myanmar has given verbal approval for an additional five U.S. relief flights today.

There have been reports that the military has confiscated some aid, that material is showing up for sale at local markets and that authorities have substituted low quality domestically produced food for better items provided by donors.

USAID administrator Henrietta Fore and deputy State Department spokesman Tom Casey said the United States was trying to verify those reports but stressed they had anecdotal evidence from aid workers on the ground that at least small amounts of U.S. assistance is getting to victims.

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