Secretary-General's remarks to the press on arrival at Bangkok airport
Bangkok, Thailand, 21 May 2008Thank you very much Mr. Minister [Foreign Minister Noppadon Patama] for your kind welcome and friendship. Good afternoon ladies and gentlemen. Sawadikrap [greetings in Thai]. Thank you very much for your participation and for welcoming me like this, I am very much impressed. It's good to see you after this long flight from New York.
As you all know, early tomorrow morning I will go to Myanmar, to see for myself the affected areas and to meet the people who are in need, and I will demonstrate my sympathy and support for all those people who are suffering from Cyclone Nargis. Afterwards I will meet with senior government officials in the Myanmar Government including Senior General Than Shwe.
On Friday evening, I will return to Bangkok for a series of bilateral meetings with Thai officials including the Prime Minister and Foreign Minister. On Sunday, 25 May, I'll go back to Yangon to participate in the pledging conference for Myanmar.
This is a critical moment for Myanmar. The government itself acknowledges that there has never been a disaster on this scale in the history of their country. We have a functioning relief programme in place. But so far we have been able to reach only about 25 percent of the people in need.
My aim in going to Myanmar is to demonstrate my solidarity again with the people for the plight of the Myanmar people. I intend to do all I can to reinforce their efforts, in coordination with Myanmar authorities and international aid agencies. I will discuss with everyone ? Myanmar government officials, the leaders of neighboring countries, relief coordinators and international donors ? the way forward and how best to save lives and prevent further hardship.
I welcome the government of Myanmar's decision to allow foreign relief workers, under the auspices of ASEAN, to oversee and begin distributing international aid and medical supplies. We have received the Myanmar government's permission to have nine WFP helicopters. With further cooperation, I hope we will be able to scale up these relief operations quickly.
I commend ASEAN governments for swiftly taking necessary measures, such as facilitating the flow of aid and aid workers, establishing a logistics hub and for working so effectively with the United Nations and the international community.
I have several specific objectives:
First, to expedite all arrangements for facilitating the free movement of international relief aid and workers. We have established a logistics hub in Thailand. Building on ASEAN assessment reports, I would hope we could also ensure the badly-needed establishment of forward logistics bases in Myanmar, in coordination with the government, to speed up the delivery of supplies and better coordinate our mutual assistance efforts.
Second, even as we attend to today's emergency, we must give thought to Myanmar's medium and longer-term assistance. We must therefore continue working quickly to better understand the longer-term needs of Myanmar.
We know that approximately 60 percent of the national infrastructure in the Ayeyarwady Delta has been destroyed or damaged, as have three quarters of the area's schools. Foreign Minister Nyan Win of Myanmar has estimated losses at more than $10 billion.
We also know that Cyclone Nargis has devastated Myanmar's agricultural heartland. It may be already too late for farmers to plant for the next harvest, compounding the present crisis. In this sense, the economic effects of the natural disaster that has struck Myanmar are severe.
Third, I hope to reinforce a partnership between Myanmar and the international community including ASEAN and key neighbouring countries like India and China. This will be a primary focus of the 25 May pledging conference, and of the Special Task Force comprising of ASEAN and the United Nations. Again, our aim is to make sure that our immediate relief and longer-term efforts are well-coordinated, efficiently delivered and effective in helping Myanmar's people overcome this terrible tragedy.
I would like to offer my special thanks and appreciation to the Prime Minister of Thailand His Excellency Samak Sundaravej and Foreign Minister His Excellency Noppadon Patama. They have played a major role, both in terms of logistical support and broader diplomatic efforts to help the Myanmar government and the international community to work more closely together to deal with this dire humanitarian crisis.
The Prime Minister's visit to Myanmar and the offer of the Don Mueang airport as a staging post for aid to Myanmar, just as examples, are very much appreciated.
We must all do our utmost for the people of Myanmar. I say now what I have said before: issues of assistance and aid in Myanmar should not be politicized. Our focus now is on saving lives.
Thank you very much. Kapkhunkrap (thank you)!