May 9, 2008 / 4:24 AM / 11 years ago

UPDATE 2-Thai PM cancels trip to Myanmar over aid workers

(Adds Samak quotes)

By Nopporn Wong-Anan

BANGKOK, May 9 (Reuters) - Thai Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej said on Friday he had cancelled a planned trip to Myanmar this weekend after the junta said it would not welcome foreign aid workers, just hours after he said he would.

“They told me yesterday Prime Minister Thein Sein would be free to see me on Sunday,” Samak told Reuters in a telephone interview.

“But after they said today they would not welcome foreign staff, there is no point of me going there,” Samak said.

The Myanmar foreign ministry said in a statement carried in official media on Friday that the country would accept foreign aid, but not foreign aid workers.

“Myanmar is not in a position to receive rescue and information teams from foreign countries at the moment,” it said after a disaster rescue team from Qatar that arrived in Yangon on an aid flight was turned back.

The statement said Myanmar “is giving priority to receiving relief aid and distributing them to the storm-hit regions with its own resources”.

Samak said he had sent a letter via the Thai embassy in Yangon to Thein Sein to ask the Myanmar government to allow the World Food Programme and its staff into the country.

Samak said earlier on Friday, after meeting British Ambassador Quinton Quayle in the Thai capital, that he would fly to cyclone-stricken Myanmar on Sunday after British and American envoys urged him to ask the ruling generals to open the door to Western aid. Quayle told reporters he had asked Samak to contact Myanmar’s leaders to allow British humanitarian staff and cyclone relief aid worth $10 million into the former Burma, which gained independence from Britain in 1948.

“We are the country that is most willing to help Burma, but our problem is we cannot send our people yet because the Burmese government has not issued visas to us,” said Quayle, speaking in Thai. (Additional reporting by Pracha Hariraksapitak; Editing by Bill Tarrant)

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