Myanmar rulers under fire over cyclone

YANGON, May 6, 2008 (AFP) – Myanmar’s military rulers were under fire Tuesday after revealing more than 10,000 people died in the cyclone that battered the secretive and impoverished nation, with thousands more missing.

As relief agencies scrambled to get food, clean water and supplies into a country that normally scorns foreign aid, US First Lady Laura Bush accused the regime of not doing enough to warn its people about the storm.

The criticism from Bush, one of the most prominent critics of Myanmar, came after the junta acknowledged the death toll was far higher than first announced — and made a rare appeal for help from abroad.

“Although they were aware of the threat, Burma’s state-run media failed to issue a timely warning to citizens in the storm’s path,” she said at the White House, using the country’s former name.

“The response to the cyclone is just the most recent example of the junta’s failure to meet its people’s basic needs,” she said.

The United States has pushed hard for international sanctions against Myanmar, which is perhaps best known worldwide for keeping democracy activist Aung San Suu Kyi in detention for much of the past two decades.

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