A month after Burma’s devastating cyclone left 133,000 people dead or missing, the chair of EI’s Asia Pacific Regional Committee has lashed out at the Burmese military government for continuing to thwart humanitarian and rescue operations by international aid agencies.
The United Nations estimates that about 2.4 million people are in need of food, shelter, clean water or other humanitarian aid, with 60 per cent yet to receive any help whatsoever, even in the hardest-hit parts of the Irrawaddy Delta.
Yuzuru Nakamura, President of the Japan Teachers’ Union, conveyed a heartfelt message of condolences to families and friends of the cyclone victims on behalf of education trade unions across the Asia Pacific region.
In his opening remarks to the annual meeting of the regional committee, held 5-6 June in Chiang Mai, Thailand, Nakamura also discussed the global crises which are slowing down the achievement of the millennium development goals. In addition, he expressed concern over violations of democratic freedoms and human and trade union rights in the region.
In his own country of Japan, for example, the Japan Teachers’ Union was recently refused access to a conference centre for their annual meeting, even though the courts determined that this refusal was illegal.
In other business, the regional committee approved a program of activities for 2008 and 2009. Chief Regional Coordinator Aloysius Mathews informed the assembled union leaders that the current EI program entails 73 projects in 22 countries. He warned that the capacity of regional staff to implement so many projects is rapidly reaching the limit.
EI General Secretary Fred van Leeuwen, who also attended the meeting, said that for new programs, including those to be developed in Central Asia, as well as the projects foreseen under the EFAIDS program, he is committed to finding the means for additional staffing.
Among the other issues discussed by regional committee members were the forthcoming Commonwealth Ministers of Education meeting, the cooperation with Public Services International, and the upcoming World Indigenous Peoples Conference, which will take place in Melbourne, Australia, in December.
The regional committee comprises of union leaders from 17 countries and the EI Executive Board members for the Asia Pacific region.