The more we hear the worse this terrible tragedy gets. People need clean water, fuel, and food, but the junta, especially with its constitutional referendum coming up, will resist letting foreign aid agencies in.

Witnesses said the government was slow to address the disaster, and exile groups said some residents had told them they were angry about the weak response of the military, which just nine months ago carried out a violent crackdown on pro-democracy demonstrations led by monks.

“This is what people I have contacted complain about,” said Aung Zaw, editor of the Thailand-based exile magazine Irrawaddy. “These people were so active in September killing the monks, but where are they now?”

Aung Zaw of Irrawaddy Magazine said that groups of monks joined residents in clearing the streets, but that in one case they had been prevented from leaving their monastery by armed police. As centers of the September uprising, some monasteries remain under police or military guard, he said.

In advance of the referendum, riot police had been reported patrolling the streets in a show of force said to have been more visible than the current military relief efforts.

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