Martin begins tour of tsunami damage

Prime Minister Paul Martin flies to Thailand to visit tsunami-hit region; also visiting Sri Lanka, India, Japan and China.

Prime Minister Paul Martin has arrived in Asia to see for himself the devastation caused by the Dec. 26 tsunami.

He spent part of Sunday in Thailand and then travelled to Sri Lanka, where he says he'll make good on a promise to verify that Canadian aid is getting through to parts of Sri Lanka controlled by Tamil rebels.

Martin will also question Tamil parliamentarians about reports that Tamil militants are recruiting children who've been orphaned by the disaster.

Martin's tour began in Thailand where more than 5,000 died in Thailand, including four of the six Canadian who died in the disaster. Thousands are still missing from the Thai coast, including at least 28 Canadians.

Many of the relief workers are Canadian volunteers, like Greg Baytalan, a public health inspector from Kelowna B.C. who was vacationing in Australia when the tsunami hit. He hopped on a plane and came to the relief centre in Phuket. He's been working in a morgue. "It's grim to say the least."

Baytalan is just one of a number of Canadians Martin says he was proud to meet. "I felt very very good, I felt very good about being a Canadian," said Baytalan.

But Martin's next stop in Sri Lanka will mean asking tough questions. The prime minister has promised Canada's community of 250,000 Tamils that he'll verify that humanitarian aid is getting through to areas in Sri Lanka's northeast, an area controlled by the insurgent Tamil Tigers.

Martin will question Sri Lanka's president and prime minister, as well as several MPs who are members of the Tamil National Alliance, which speaks for the Tamil Tigers in Sri Lanka's Parliament.

"I can tell you unequivocally, we're not going to take one answer. This is something we are going to monitor and we'll insist it be monitored on a continuous basis," Martin told reporters travelling with him.

A Canadian official recently in the area has reported no problems. But the meeting is expected to be charged because two of the Tamil MPs Martin will greet were denied visas to enter Canada last year. The concern was that they would use the opportunity to raise money for the Tamil Tigers for terrorist purposes.

Martin has also promised to ask questions about reports that Tamil rebels are recruiting orphaned children.

with files from the Australian Broadcasting Corporation