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Myanmar accused of blocking humanitarian aid

MANDALAY (UCAN): “Depriving civilians of aid in an attempt to overcome an ethnic army is a perverse, unlawful and ineffective strategy,” Matthew Smith, chief executive of Fortify Rights, said on August 30. 
“All parties to this war have a duty to protect civilians and that includes by ensuring access to adequate aid,” he said.
In their 68-page report, They Block Everything: Avoidable Deprivations in Humanitarian Aid to Ethnic Civilians Displaced by War in Kachin State, Fortify Rights accused Myanmar’s government of having blocked humanitarian aid to thousands of people displaced by conflict in Kachin State for more than seven years.
“Consecutive governments and the military have willfully obstructed local and international aid groups, denying Kachin civilians access to aid,” said a statement from Matthew Smith, chief executive of Fortify Rights. 
“This may amount to a war crime, giving even more reason for the UN (United Nations) Security Council to refer Myanmar to the International Criminal Court,” the statement said.
The group’s report details how Myanmese authorities—particularly the military—have weaponised the denial of humanitarian aid in Kachin State for years.
It reveals how the authorities and the military have imposed restrictions on access to food, healthcare, shelter, water and sanitation to tens of thousands of internally displaced persons.
It also stated administration of the previous president, Thein Sein, and the current administration of state counselor, Aung San Suu Kyi, have demonstrated continuity in their respective policies “to deprive war-affected Kachin civilians of adequate humanitarian aid.”
More than 100,000 people have been displaced in Kachin and neighbouring Shan state after being driven from their homes since in 2011. More than 8,000 have been newly displaced since a fresh bout of fighting began in early April when the military stepped up offensive operations in Kachin State, launching attacks against the Kachin Independence Army.
The report said that without ready access to basic and lifesaving aid and assistance, displaced civilians have been forced to take risky journeys in search of food and essential items outside displacement camps, exposing them to the dangers of landmines and armed conflict in Myanmar as well as exploitation and arbitrary arrest and detention in China.
Fortify Rights said the Myanmese government’s willful deprivation of humanitarian aid to displaced civilians in Kachin State violates both “international human rights law and international humanitarian law,” also known as the laws of war.
A UN fact-finding mission report, released on August 27, confirmed consistent violations of international law in Kachin, Rakhine and Shan states and said that Myanmar’s top generals should face prosecution for crimes against humanity and war crimes.
Hkalam Samson, president of the Kachin Baptist Convention, said the report reveals the reality of the dire situation faced by displaced people.
“We have been facing human rights violations by Myanmar’s military in Kachin State for decades and our wounds are already ripe, but the world only knows when it erupted in Rakhine State,” Samson said.
Kachin State been beset by sporadic fighting for several decades.

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