After allowing a group of Indian doctors, a team of Thai health workers has been granted permission from Myanmar's military government to help cyclone victims in areas that have been off limits to most foreigners, raising hopes that others may soon be allowed into the secretive country.
About 30 doctors, nurses and other medical experts are expected to travel to the devastated Irrawaddy delta in the coming days to treat victims living in camps or remote villages, said Dr Surachet Satitniramai, director of Thailand's National Medical Emergency Services Institute.
A group of 50 Indian military doctors and paramedics also was given approval to enter Myanmar, but it was unclear today whether they would be allowed to travel from the main city of Yangon to the hard-hit delta, said Indian Air Force spokesman Wing Cmdr Manish Gandhi.
Myanmar health officials insisted on civilian doctors, no military health workers, from Thailand and said the group would not be given access to hospitals already staffed by local physicians, he said.
"The team's mission is very important," Surachet said. "If we can gain trust from the Myanmar government, I think they will open up more to outside aid."
Myanmar's paranoid military junta has been slow to accept outside aid and has granted very few visas to relief workers desperate to help.
No foreign experts from the World Health Organisation have been given approval to enter the country. And because only local staff have been allowed into the worst areas, data collection has been hindered.