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Burma: Storms

Volume 476: debated on Thursday 22 May 2008

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what representations his Department has made to the government of China on its role in seeking a relaxation of the restrictions imposed by the Burmese government on the flow of international aid to those affected by Cyclone Nargis. (206599)

We have been in close contact with many of the governments of the region in our efforts to persuade the Burmese authorities to allow unhindered access to all affected areas. My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary wrote to Foreign Minister Yang recently and spoke to him on 13 May. Minister Yang agreed to convey our concerns to the Burmese.

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what representations his Department has made to members of the Association of South East Asian Nations on their role in seeking a relaxation of the restrictions imposed by the Burmese government on the flow of international aid to those affected by Cyclone Nargis. (206600)

The Burmese government's obstruction of the international aid effort is utterly unacceptable. A natural disaster is in real danger of becoming a man-made catastrophe. We have been in close contact with many of the governments of the region in our efforts to persuade the Burmese authorities to allow unhindered access for international aid to all affected areas.

Recently, my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary has spoken to his counterparts in Thailand, Singapore and Indonesia. He met the Foreign Minister of Malaysia in London on 12 May. Recently, my noble Friend Lord Malloch-Brown has visited Thailand, Singapore and Burma where he pressed senior members of the regime to allow more aid into stricken areas in full co-operation with the international donor community. I called the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) ambassadors to the Foreign Office on 14 May to express our concerns. I have also spoken to senior politicians in Brunei, Vietnam, Malaysia and the Philippines, in addition to high level lobbying by our Missions around the region.

On 19 May, with Burmese agreement, ASEAN Foreign Ministers agreed to create a regional mechanism to facilitate the effective delivery of aid from the donor community to Burma. Our current effort is to secure a means to deliver aid on the back of a logistics chain we are asking ASEAN countries to establish.