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Telecoms Workers Wait On Burma Visas

After the cyclone hit Burma nine days ago, the UN asked the charity group Telecoms San Frontieres (TSF), which is used to going into disaster areas and setting up emergency telecoms systems, to send a group and equipment to Thailand where they’d be ready to fly into Burma. They’re still there, waiting for entry visas from the military-run Burmese government.

In that regard they’re no different from workers from so many other aid groups, as the Burmese government states it will accept aid but no aid workers.

But TSF have a special role, with the ability and equipment to set up lines of communication, even in the worst-hot areas – it’s something they’ve done many times before. They can also offer calls to local residents to contact friends and family, a vital service where destruction has been so widespread.

TSF spokesman Oisin Walton told the BBC:

"There is a lot of frustration among aid workers. We want to help the people of Burma but the authorities aren’t letting us do our job."

TSF volunteers use special kits when they go into a disaster zone, then use satellite links for communication.
Nine days after the cyclone struck, with estimates of a million dead in Burma, the TSF workers are still waiting in Burma.

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