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Aid efforts begin to gather momentum in Burma (Myanmar)

More workers are being allow in, but some who have been in cyclone-affected areas say bureaucracy is impeding access to victims.

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As relief workers fly to Rangoon (Yangon) with a ray of hope after three weeks of frustrated efforts to get into Burma (Myanmar), aid efforts are gathering momentum in the cyclone-damaged Irrawaddy Delta. Yet many workers are voicing fresh complaints about bureaucratic restrictions and government efforts to move people out of shelters and back to their devastated villages.

"The government is a bit more relaxed now that the [constitutional] referendum is done," says Marvin Parvez, who has been working in Rangoon with a number of agencies. "They were so fixed on the referendum, especially [junta leader Gen.] Than Shwe, it was blocking everything else. Now aid is getting there.

"The level is still not where it should be," he continues. "But given the unique context of Burma, it's good. Things are moving, maybe not at the speed aid agencies are used too, but it's moving now."

At the Burmese Embassy in Bangkok, an immigration officer wears a jacket labeled "United Nations," while others peruse a list on a computer screen of reporters banned from Burma. Though many exasperated missionaries and members of smaller nongovernmental organizations are told to come back in two weeks, Burmese visa officers have largely upheld the promises of General Shwe and allowed larger numbers of aid workers, especially United Nations staffers, to obtain entry permits.

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