UK opposition leader calls for Burma aid to be dispatched by air if access for aid workers does not improve

Monday, May 12, 2008

David Cameron, the leader of the main UK opposition party, the Conservative Party, has said that aid to Burma should be dispatched by air if the Burmese government does not improve access to the country for aid workers.

David Cameron said this in a statement, which was released today. Below is part of the statement:

If the Burmese government does not agree to the distribution of aid on the scale required, then the case for unilateral delivery of aid by the international community will only grow stronger. There was general frustration at what the United Nations itself can or would do. Again, as time runs out for the people of the Irrawaddy Delta, and as a fresh storm approaches the area this week, the case for the United Nations invoking the 'responsibility to protect' - which could trigger action by the rest of the international community - grows stronger too. The argument against this is that China - and Russia - would be bound to block it. But the Chinese have a choice: either they put effective pressure on the regime to save lives, in which case aid will get through - or not, in which case the argument for invoking the UN's 'responsibility to protect' will get stronger still.

However David Miliband, British Foreign Secretary and Labour Party member, told the BBC's Politics Show yesterday that air delivery is "not a very effective way of delivering aid" and that "humanitarian experts and aid workers who make all the difference on the ground are clear that that is very much the third, fourth, fifth or even sixth best solution."

Nick Clegg, leader of Britain's second largest opposition party, the Liberal Democrats, took Cameron's side however, saying that the international community ought to support direct aid-dropping "to show that we mean business".

22,464 people have been confirmed dead from Cyclone Nargis, with the majority of the casualties having taken place in Burma. Only once rescue workers reached the hardest hit areas of the storm did they begin to realize the extent of damage that had occurred. At least 10,000 people died in one town alone, Bogalay in the Pyapon District of the country.

The United Nations has reported that one million people are homeless, or in need of help in some other way.