Bangkok: Two years after a devastating
cyclone struck Myanmar its military regime is continuing to
frustrate efforts to provide humanitarian aid to survivors, a
leading rights group said on Thursday.
With elections expected by the end of the year, 22 aid
workers remain behind bars while restrictions on travel are
further hampering efforts to deliver much-needed assistance,
Human Rights Watch (HRW) said.
"Two years after one of the world`s worst natural
disasters, local aid workers still feel the brunt of continued
repression by the military authorities," said Elaine Pearson,
the group`s deputy Asia director.
Officials are slow to issue travel permits required to
transport aid, while the state is taking a more central role
in running humanitarian operations, fanning fears of
manipulation, the New York-based group said in a report.
Humanitarian access to the country is "again narrowing
ahead of elections," it said.
Restraints on aid delivery and oppressive election
regulations targeting opposition political parties show that
the junta`s mindset "emphasises maintenance of control over
the well-being of its citizens," it added.
The military government faced a storm of international
criticism over its slow aid response to Cyclone Nargis, which
hit the country on May 2-3, 2008, killing more than 138,000
people and severely affecting 2.4 million people.