Burma's junta on Saturday came under renewed international pressure from rights groups and the United States defence chief, who said its slow response to the cyclone disaster had cost "tens of thousands of lives". US Defence Secretary Robert Gates criticised the delay in allowing in foreign aid, saying US ships could have swiftly brought relief.
Foreign aid workers on Tuesday pressed into Burma's Irrawaddy Delta, testing the junta's pledge to open up areas where one million people have yet to receive aid three weeks after the cyclone. Six foreign staff based in Rangoon with the United Nations Children's Fund were allowed to join teams of mainly Burma workers.
The United States sent its first aid flight to Burma on Monday, but experts warned the relief effort was floundering and 1,5-million cyclone survivors were at grave risk from hunger and disease. The US military transport plane laden with emergency supplies was permitted to land by the ruling junta.
Burma said on Monday that nearly 4Â 000 people had been killed in the cyclone that tore into the impoverished and secretive Asian nation at the weekend, and that tens of thousands more could also be dead. The announcement on state television increased the death toll from Tropical Cyclone Nargis more than ten-fold.
Burma Prime Minister Soe Win, considered one of the hardliners of the isolated military regime, died on Friday after a long illness, state media said. "The Prime Minister, General Soe Win, died this evening" at a military hospital in the country's main city, Rangoon, state radio said.
Burma's military regime kept up the pressure on its people on Wednesday after last week's bloody crackdown on protesters as the European Union agreed in principle to punish the junta with sanctions. Troops who last week killed at least 13 and arrested over 1 000 people continued overnight arrests and mounted patrols to strike terror into the population.