Myanmar Junta Seizes Aid Even as More Die

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WASHINGTON - The United Nations says the World Food Program is suspending relief shipments to Myanmar today after the military government began seizing the supplies.

A U.N. official says they had no choice until the controversy is resolved. He says all the food supplies and equipment that the U.N. did manage to get into the country were confiscated.

Click play to watch Gordon Robertson's analysis following CBN News Correspondent Paul Strand's report.

What's the Hold Up?

Stonewalling by Myanmar's junta is still holding up relief efforts nearly a week after the deadly hit by Cyclone Nargis.

Some put the death toll at 62,000, but one monk -- looking for food in Thailand after surviving in the worst hit region of Myanmar -- said "I want to confirm to you that more than 100,000 people died as a result of the cyclone."

He and many others worry about the death toll soaring much higher from widespread lack of food, water and shelter.

Dire Situation in Myanmar

More than a million Burmese have been left homeless.

Whole villages are still underwater after the cyclone drove a 12-foot-high surge 25 miles inland.

But the military rulers have continued to stand firm against letting aid organizations and donor governments from around the world pour into Myanmar with relief supplies.

They say they'd like the aid, but only if the Myanmar's military distributes it -- a huge task for an army that only has seven helicopters in a country the size of Texas.

"To have a huge amount of people, huge number of people, in desperate need of everything and they are just across the border, and we have the capacity to help them, and we're not allowed to -- that just kills you as an aid worker," World Food Program Regional Directory Anthony Banbury said.

Myanmar Seized with Paranoia

The junta is serious. Today it seized a whole planeload of United Nations relief supplies rather than let U.N. workers distribute them.

Why are these military rulers so paranoid about outsiders? They believe foreigners want to invade Myanmar and outside aid workers might sneak arms in.

They also worry about losing face and not appearing all-powerful.

"They want to be seen as in control," John Hopkins University's Bridget Welsh explained. "They don't want to have any alternative and any foreigner of course is an alternative and a threat to them."

In 2005, the junta moved the government from a port city to a remote dense jungle - reportedly because they were afraid the U.S. would invade.

So as American military forces gather all around Myanmar and U.S. Navy ships cruise off shore, just waiting to bring in massive amounts of aid, Myanmar leaders only see a massive threat. But the U.S. and other countries are simply using the military to try to help the people of this devastated nation.

U.S. Admiral Timothy Keating said, "We're fortunate to have experienced people.people that want to respond quickly. It's just up to Myanmar."

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Paul Strand

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