Burma: Protect Civilians in Northern Fighting All Parties Should Ensure Unfettered Aid

Posted by at 3 January, at 13 : 56 PM Print

Human Rights Watch has said the Burmese military and armed ethnic groups should commit to protecting civilians and expediting aid in the northern Burma. The announcement has come in the wake of increasing human rights abuse and civilian displacement.

On December 17, 2016, Burmese army captured Gidon Mountain, the main stronghold of the Kachin Independence Army (KIA), in Kachin State. The reports have confirmed the airstrikes and shelling by the Burmese government, which hit several camps near the KIA headquarters of Laiza. The airstrikes and shelling damaged shelters, where internally displaced people were living. This caused more than 400 people to evacuate the shelter.

ìBurmese military and armed militant groups in Burma should end abuses immediately,î Brad Adams, Asia director of Human Rights Watch said, ìand ensure civilian protection, especially for highly vulnerable villagers and displaced people close to the front lines.î According to Brad Adams international community has taken the crisis in Burmaís Rakhine State seriously, however, continuous fighting in northern Burma has increased the cases of human rights abuse and civilian displacement.

The Brotherhood of the Northern Alliance, a joint militant group of the Kachin Independence Army, Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA), Taang National Liberation Army (TNLA), and the Arakan Army (AA) attacked the police and fired rockets into civilian areas in Muse, a town near the Burma-China border, and other places on the main highway on November 20. The alliance also seized Mong Ko, another town on the Chinese border, before it was forced to retreat by the Burmese army in the early December. According to the Burmese government 10 civilians were killed in the attacks.

The military and the ethnic armed groups, both have committed serious war crimes in Kachin and Northern Shan States. Executions, torture, forced labor, looting of civilian properties etc. are some of the war crimes committed by the military. Likewise, ethnic armed groups perform abduction, forced recruitment, firing into the civilian areas and executions.

In August and October, Human Rights Watch documented numerous cases of abuse, which includes executions of seven men in Mong Yaw in June. The Burmese army admitted executing five men. After the criminal investigation, the army court martial seven officers and ranking soldiers, and sent them to five years in prison.
Since 2009, the fighting in Northern Shan State, particularly in Kyaukme, Hsipaw, and Namtu townships, has sharply increased. The fighting is between various ethnic armed groups and the military and pro-government militias. The fight is for the territory hold and the drug trade and its various revenue-raising avenues.

Due to continuous fighting, the locals have been displaced for weeks or months, some families have been displaced times several times. According to the Muse police, there have been 170 clashes since November 20.
The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) in Rangoon reports that 2,000-4,000 people have been internally displaced and estimated 15,000 people have fled to China. Since the heavy fighting began in 2011, in Kachin and Northern Shan States, more than 100,000 people have been displaced by the armed conflict. Internally displaced people are vulnerable because they are settled in the conflict prone zone. According to the various aid organizations, the military authorities have implemented restriction on access to the displaced populations in Kachin and Northern Shan States.

The OCHA spokesperson told The Irrawaddy magazine:
The current humanitarian access into the conflict zone is worse than in the past few years. To ensure that the needs of all affected people are timely met and that protection issues are being addressed, humanitarian access is vital. Sadly, our ability to reach people who depend on humanitarian assistance is getting worse in Kachin State.
The United States embassy in Rangoon issued a statement in December 12, urging immediate, unrestricted humanitarian access to the conflict hit people throughout the country.
The US embassy statement came out after various Burma based local nongovernmental organizations and international relief organizations issued a statement on December 1. The statement asked Burma to ìremove all forms of formal or informal restrictions, and allow the humanitarian aid including, goods and services, to the conflict hit people to ensure timely response to humanitarian needs.

There seems to be no progress on the current regional peace process. The Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army, the Ta-ang National Liberation Army, and the Arakan Army ñ the three Northern Alliance members ñ are excluded from the official ceasefire process.
According to Adams, various nongovernmental organizations working in Burmaís conflict-hit areas are routinely documenting human right abuse cases; however, the central government gives no priority to stop abuse and protect civilians. ìBurmaís donors and friends should demand full access to the conflict zone and conflict hit people for the delivery of humanitarian aid,î he said.

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