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Cablegate: Burma: Encouraging Signs On Access to the Delta

VZCZCXRO4923
OO RUEHCHI RUEHDT RUEHHM RUEHNH RUEHTRO
DE RUEHGO #0427/01 1491137
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
O 281137Z MAY 08
FM AMEMBASSY RANGOON
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 7687
INFO RUCNASE/ASEAN MEMBER COLLECTIVE
RUEHGG/UN SECURITY COUNCIL COLLECTIVE
RUEHBY/AMEMBASSY CANBERRA 1240
RUEHNE/AMEMBASSY NEW DELHI 4784
RUEHUL/AMEMBASSY SEOUL 8328
RUEHKO/AMEMBASSY TOKYO 5890
RUEHCHI/AMCONSUL CHIANG MAI 1622
RHHMUNA/CDR USPACOM HONOLULU HI
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC
RUCNDT/USMISSION USUN NEW YORK 1692
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHDC
RUEKJCS/JOINT STAFF WASHDC

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 03 RANGOON 000427

SIPDIS

DEPT FOR EAP/MLS, DRL, AND IO
PACOM FOR FPA

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PREL PHUM BM EAID
SUBJECT: BURMA: ENCOURAGING SIGNS ON ACCESS TO THE DELTA

REF: RANGOON 417

RANGOON 00000427 001.2 OF 003


1. (SBU) Summary: The Ministry of Social Welfare is granting
UN international staff permission to travel to the Delta with
two days notice. Six staff applied for permission to travel
on May 26 and all requests were granted. NGO international
staff are also being granted permission to travel, though not
as quickly. The Foreign Ministry will prioritize visas for
UN staff and approve all applications. The ASEAN
Humanitarian Task Force will hold their first meeting via
teleconference on May 29, and the UN expects the Tripartite
Core Group will hold its first meeting shortly afterwards in
Rangoon. The ASEAN assessment team will return to Rangoon on
May 30 to prepare a needs assessment by mid-June. The GOB
notified the UN that large tents were urgently needed to set
up classrooms for school children in the affected areas.
Responsibility for relief efforts in the affected areas has
been transferred from government ministers to the regional
military commanders. End summary.

2. (SBU) UN Resident Coordinator Bishow Parajuli and Acting
Humanitarian Assistance Coordinator Dan Baker briefed the dip
corps today on developments regarding coordination of Cyclone
Nargis relief efforts.

-------------------
Access to the Delta
-------------------

3. (SBU) On May 26, the Minister of Social Welfare told
Baker that his ministry would give permission to UN workers
to visit the Delta with two days notice. Baker speculated
that NGOs would have to work with their line ministries and
bilateral missions with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to
obtain permission to visit the affected areas. Baker
reported that since Monday, six UN international staff
members been granted permission to visit the Delta: three
from UNICEF and three from WFP. The UN has consolidated
travel requests from all of their agencies into one
submission to ensure coordination and expeditious approval.
Baker informed the diplomatic corps that the Social Welfare
Ministry required three items to grant travel permission:
certification that the traveler is attached to a UN agency,
purpose of travel, and itinerary. They do not need to travel
with GOB officials.

4. (SBU) Baker said that six international staff from INGOs
had already been granted permission to travel to the Delta,
and several others were in the process of applying. INGO ACF
was told their permission would not be granted until the
beginning of June. Baker also reported that during a trip to
Labutta yesterday, he had met a five-member team of Germans
manning a water purification plant that was producing 11,000
liters of purified water per hour for cyclone victims there.
Additionally, two MSF-Switzerland staff were in Bogale. The
UN will keep a centralized database of international staff
working in the Delta to track movements and access of
international staff. Today, WFP submitted a request for an
international staff member to work for 30 days in the Delta.

5. (SBU) Baker noted that UN agencies, such and WHO and NGOs
requesting travel permission through line ministries, would
not necessarily receive approvals in two days. The UN
requested to the Minister of Social Welfare to urge line
ministries to grant travel permission in two days as well.
NGOs Merlin and Malteser had both attempted to send
international staff out to the Delta without permission, but
authorities turned them around at check points.

-----
Visas
-----

6. (SBU) Baker noted that the UN also consolidated all of
its agencies' visa requests to simplify visa issuances for
the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. After receiving
instructions from Nay Pyi Taw, the Minister of Foreign
Affairs informed Baker the MFA had a new "liberal policy" for

RANGOON 00000427 002.2 OF 003


granting visas to UN staff. The Ministry would "prioritize"
UN visas, and any UN employee that applied for a visa would
be granted one. Unfortunately, Baker added, these visas had
only two-week validities, with an option to extend. Baker
believed this was an attempt by the GOB to ensure
humanitarian workers eventually left the Delta. The UN would
urge the MFA to grant visas of longer validity. Baker noted
that several visas had been issued to UN staff in the last
few days.

---------------
ASEAN Mechanism
---------------

7. (SBU) Baker told diplomats the first meeting of the ASEAN
Humanitarian Task Force would take place by teleconference on
May 29. He hoped that soon afterwards the Tripartite Core
Group (TCG) would meet in Rangoon. Although membership in
the TCG had not been finalized, Baker indicated the Thai
Ambassador would be the lead ASEAN representative, Deputy
Foreign Minister Kyaw Thu would be the lead GOB
representative, and Baker himself would be the UN
representative. He added the UN may rotate its other two
members according to the subjects discussed at the task
force's meetings. Charge d'Affaires urged Baker to organize
a meeting for bilateral donors with the TCG as soon as
possible, so that donors would be able to plug into the
relief efforts. The ASEAN Secretariat had already set up
offices in the Chatrium Hotel in Rangoon. Separately, we
have received a request to fund some office equipment which
OFDA is processing. However, this fact should not be
publicized.

----------
Assessment
----------

8. (SBU) Parajuli notified donors the ASEAN Emergency Rapid
Assessment Team (ERAT) would return to Burma on May 30 to
prepare a needs assessment by mid-June. The UN would try to
loop the GOB in on the ERAT's assessment in order to
incorporate GOB data. The UN was coordinating with UN
Headquarters, the World Bank, and the Asian Development Bank,
to add expertise to the assessment of relief and early
recovery needs. Parajuli emphasized the UN wanted to move
quickly in order to speed up disaster response efforts.

---------------------
Tents Urgently Needed
---------------------

9. (SBU) Baker remarked that he had returned from a "very
productive" tour of the Delta with the Minister of Social
Welfare. Baker had been reluctant to go on another
GOB-sponsored tour, but took the opportunity to explain to
the Minister the differences between a "tour" and a regular
monitoring mechanism that international donors would require.
He said the Minister acknowledged the need for proper
monitoring. The Minister requested large tents that could be
used in place of classrooms because schools had been severely
damaged. The GOB had postponed the resumption of the school
year until July 2 in the affected areas but required 8,000
large tents (the equivalent of the U.S. military's GP Large
Tents) so that makeshift classrooms could be set up before
this date. The NGO Swiss Cooperation had supplied some, but
several thousand more were needed.

----------------------------------------
Regional Commanders Now Directing Relief
----------------------------------------

10. (SBU) The UN also confirmed that the Ministers who had
been assigned areas of responsibility in the Delta had been
recalled to Nay Pyi Taw, so Regional Commanders were now
directing relief efforts in their respective areas. The UN
remarked that NGOs and UN staff reported this change had made
access easier for their employees.


RANGOON 00000427 003.2 OF 003


11. (SBU) Comment: Way too slowly, more experts are on the
way to the Delta. The UNICEF rep predicted it would be
another week or two before we would know how much access
expanded. Today's New Light of Myanmar carried the headline,
"Donors may go right down to storm-hit areas of their
choice." We intend to test this commitment by dispatching
one of our poloffs to the Delta tomorrow. End comment.
VILLAROSA

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