Secretary-General's remarks at the Official Opening of Don Mueang Air Hub [scroll down for Q&A]
Bangkok, Thailand, 24 May 2008Your Excellency Samak Samak Sundaravej, Prime Minister of Thailand,
Your Excellency Surin Pisuwan, Secretary-General of ASEAN,
Mr. Foreign Minister,
Ladies and gentlemen,
We meet at a time of profound mourning. Over the past few days, I had the opportunity to see for myself the devastation caused by Cyclone Nargis. As I said in Yangon last night: I am humbled by the scale of this natural disaster and humbled by the courage and resilience of the people of Myanmar .
It is our duty to do everything we can to prevent further deaths and suffering.
That is why today's official opening of the Don Mueang Air Hub is so vital. We are still in the relief phase of the crisis. The needy and the vulnerable depend on the delivery of emergency assistance. Therefore, the channeling of aid into Myanmar should be as efficient and logistically sound as possible.
This facility will provide a critical staging area for the relief effort. It will enable larger planes to land, and more relief supplies to be flow-in from all over the world. It will save lives.
Our collaborative work will begin immediately and it will be bolstered along the way.
We are very grateful to the Government of Australia for providing aircraft to fly to Johannesburg , South Africa , in order to pick up two United Nations helicopters and fly them to Bangkok early next week for use in the Nargis response.
We are also very grateful to the Canadian Government for their support in helping to airlift up to five helicopters from the Ukraine to Bangkok , providing another major boost to the relief operation.
In this connection, Mr. Prime Minister, I thank you and your Government for making this facility available to us in such a timely manner. Your generosity comes at a crucial time, and it provides all those involved in the relief effort with a valuable asset.
Indeed, this arrangement underscores the collaborative spirit between key ASEAN member states, the Government of Myanmar and the United Nations. I thank the people and the Government of Thailand for joining hands with us and for playing a valuable part in this aid operation.
And I look forward to working very closely with the Secretary-General of ASEAN and I count on your leadership.
I thank you very much for your cooperation.
Q: Mr. Ban Ki-moon, how can the UN set up the accord mechanism to make sure that all the supplies will be in the hands of victims?
SG: You're seeing now WFP, UNICEF and all the United Nations relief-related agencies are working [together] very closely. Launching this hub as a forward base is very important and encouraging and I thank the Government of Thailand [inaudible] and the Prime Minister for this initiative.
Q: Will all the international aid workers be able to go to the Delta region without any limitations?
SG: That is what I have agreed with Senior General Than Shwe yesterday, and I'm sure that they will keep their commitment.
Q: You were in China this morning - can you please tell us something about your trip to the quake area?
SG: Again, my heart was filled with great sadness by all this devastation caused by the earthquake. At the same time, I saw for myself the Chinese people under the leadership of the Chinese president and prime minister were working very hard to overcome this national tragedy with the strong spirit of self-help, cooperation, resilience and great strength and courage. I was very much moved. I'm quite confident that China 's people will overcome this. The United Nations stands ready, as we have been doing, and the whole international community and the United Nations are standing behind this very important effort to overcome these daunting challenges.
Q: Do you consider using the Thai marine corps as relief aid workers?
SG: We are now talking about international aid workers who are coming for humanitarian purposes and grounds. I heard from the Myanmar authorities that there are some sensitivities vis-a-vis using military vessels or aircraft but we will see. Maybe we may continue consultations on this matter. But what is more important is that we have set up now functioning aid programmes but much more needs to be done at this stage.
Q: Yesterday, have you discussed Aung San Suu Kyi?
SG: I was there for purely humanitarian grounds. I am sure that I will have some other opportunities for addressing this issue.
Off-the-Cuff on 24 May 2008