Image: John McCain, Cindy McCain
Ross D. Franklin  /  AP file
Cindy McCain, with husband Sen. John McCain, says that Myanmar leaders' reluctance to accept help has caused many deaths in the country.
updated 6/20/2008 3:56:54 PM ET 2008-06-20T19:56:54

Cindy McCain, wife of Republican presidential nominee-in-waiting John McCain, praised the U.N.'s effort to help victims of Cyclone Nargis in Myanmar and panned that country's military regime for failing to welcome aid.

Cindy McCain, a beer heiress active in international charity, spoke Friday after touring a warehouse at an airport in the Thai capital Bangkok where the United Nations' World Food Program collects supplies it then airlifts to Myanmar, also called Burma.

She praised the efficiency of its operation, saying that there are millions of well-meaning people willing to help out in such emergencies, "but unless it's organized, unless there's some control to it and theory to how we do this, it's all for nothing ... the effort's wasted."

Cindy McCain said also she wished Myanmar's ruling junta "had been more caring of their own people."

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Video: Is the role of first lady changing? She said she was "disheartened" at the regime's reluctance to admit skilled foreign aid workers and helicopters that could deliver aid quickly to remote areas.

"There have been many, many people who died as a result of their lack of ability and their lack of interest in helping their own people," she said.

The WFP consolidates aid from some 45 humanitarian and charity groups and flies it into Yangon, Myanmar's biggest city, for onward shipment to areas affected by the May 2-3 storm. Inside Myanmar it operates a network of 10 helicopters chartered from around the world, along with locally hired trucks, boats and barges.

While touring the warehouse, Cindy McCain met a group of about a dozen U.S. Marines who were helping pack tarpaulins for shelter kits for the storm survivors.

Cindy McCain was briefed by officials for the food program — which often see it takes a lead ensuring aid can get delivered — and was told that it has developed a good relationship with Myanmar's government since it has been working there for 14 years.

"I'm very encouraged to hear that WFP has developed a relationship with Myanmar," she said. "There's some trust back and forth now and I think that it's imperative not only for this particular situation but imperative from a global aspect for people to begin to trust and talk."

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