In an exclusive interview last night, Surin revealed that entry permits have been granted to members of the Asean Emergency Rapid Assessment Team (ERAT) which is scheduled to fly into Rangoon either today and tomorrow.
"This is a defining moment of Asean. We will rise to the occasion," reiterated Surin, who is working around the clock to coordinate Asean members and international aid donors. He is scheduled to meet with the senior officials from the World Bank tomorrow to discuss the long-term reconstruction plans.
He said that Burma needs all the help it can get. "I have indications that Burma would like Asean to be the coordination of the incoming foreign assistance," he said. Asean Secretariat is working out a comprehensive plan to alleviate hardships in Burma which comprises short-term plan for immediate problems, the medium-term for rehabilitation and the long-term for reconstruction.
"Works of this scale, you need a coalition of mercy which will cover many donors from many countries," he said. At the moment, an official from the Asean Secretariat is inside Burma to assess the situation along with officials from UN and international organizations.
Singapore, Brunei, Malaysia and Indonesia have said that they would dispatch officials from their country to join the Asean team. This team, according to Surin, will prepare a report of the situation on the ground and what is needed in the future reconstruction for the special Asean ministerial meeting in Singapore on 19 May.
Burma has already prepared its own report on the devastation of the cyclone which will be considered by the Asean leaders in Singapore.
Core Asean countries have already put on standby various emergencies teams such medical teams, relief experts to provide further assistance to the victims of Cyclone Nargis. "Once they have the permission, they will move," he told The Nation during a stopover in Bangkok.-.
Asean has been criticized for moving too late too little in responding to the Burmese crisis. "It is never too late to save life," said Surin adding that Asean need to work with international community for the relief operation and build consensus. "I see the light at the end of tunnel."
He is confident that Asean can coordinate and assist various international donors because after the tsunami in 2004 and previous efforts related to emergency and crisis management, Asean officials have been working together and rehearsing a few times to cope with future emergencies.