YANGON, Myanmar — After snubbing a U.S. aid offer, Myanmar indicated today that it wants foreign relief to help recover from a devastating cyclone, but not foreign workers.
The statement came a day after Myanmar's military government allowed in the first major international aid shipment. Up to 1.5-million people are now believed to be facing the threat of starvation and disease.
With relief efforts still largely stymied by the country's isolationist military rulers, frustrated U.N. officials all but demanded Thursday that the government open its doors to supplies and aid workers.
The Foreign Ministry said it had given priority to receiving foreign aid but was using its own nationals to deliver it to stricken areas. But five days after the storm, the junta continued to stall on visas for U.N. teams and other foreign aid workers eager to deliver food, water and medicine to survivors amid fears that the death toll could hit 100,000.
Four airplanes carrying high-energy biscuits, medicine and other supplies reached Yangon on Thursday, U.N. officials said.
Among those stranded in Thailand were 10 members of the USAID Disaster Assistance Response Team. Air Force transport planes and helicopters packed with supplies also sat waiting for a green light.
"We are in a long line of nations who are ready, willing and able to help, but also, of course, in a long line of nations the Burmese don't trust," U.S. Ambassador Eric John said in Bangkok. "It's more than frustrating. It's a tragedy."
More than 20,000 people are known dead and tens of thousands are listed as missing. The U.N. estimates more than 1-million people are homeless.
By rejecting the U.S. aid offer, the junta is refusing to take advantage of Washington's enormous ability to deliver aid quickly, which was evident during the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami that killed 230,000 people in a dozen nations.