Myanmar Lifts Blocks to Aid for Kachin State

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A mother feeds her child at a refugee camp in Kachin state, May 25, 2012.
A mother feeds her child at a refugee camp in Kachin state, May 25, 2012.

The government of Myanmar has lifted a ban on the delivery of humanitarian aid to thousands of people displaced by fighting in rebel-held Kachin State following the signing of a tentative cease-fire at the end of May.

A U.N.-led convoy of trucks carrying food and other necessities arrived on Friday in the northern state in the first delivery of aid in nearly a year, a U.N. spokesman in Myanmar’s commercial capital Yangon told RFA’s Myanmar Service on Friday.

“We know that the trucks arrived in [the town of] Lagayan today,” U.N. spokesman Aye Win said.

“They brought food, household goods, and personal hygiene supplies for 5,000 people,” Aye Win said, adding that the U.N. had been denied access to the area for nearly a year.

“We are happy we could get there before the rainy season begins, but we will need to continue to go there,” he said.

“When the trucks return, we will know the details of the situation there, and we will know how to prepare for the other places that need our help.”

The U.N.-led 10-truck convoy left Myanmar’s Bhamo town for Kachin State on June 12 and “aims to reach about 5,100 people displaced in fighting in multiple camps along the route, before it returns to Bhamo by 16 June,” the U.N. said in a June 14 statement.

Many forced from homes

The latest round of fighting between the ethnic Kachin Independence Organization and Myanmar’s central government since June 2011 has forced an estimated 100,000 people from their homes, with some 60,000 of those displaced now living in areas beyond the government’s control, according to the U.N.

“Although local partners have had access and have provided some assistance to people displaced in these areas since the beginning of the emergency, UN-led missions have been on hold since July 2012 because permission has not been granted by the authorities,” the U.N. said on Friday.

“The humanitarian community is ready to assist all people affected by the conflict, and looks to the Government and the Kachin Independence Organization for their continued support in guaranteeing regular safe and unimpeded passage for humanitarian assistance, including for those delivering it.”

On May 30, Myanmar signed a tentative cease-fire agreement with Kachin rebels following three days of talks aimed at ending the hostilities that have marred the country’s transition to democracy from a military dictatorship.

Fierce fighting had occurred as recently as December, when the Myanmar military used air strikes against Kachin fighters.

According to rights groups, civilians in Kachin State were subject to severe rights abuses during the two-year conflict, with displaced persons reporting widespread sexual violence, torture, arbitrary execution, forced labor, and the burning and looting of villages.

Reported by Khin Khin Ei for RFA’s Myanmar Service. Translated by Khet Mar. Written in English by Richard Finney.





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