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Myanmar aid groups call for help for displaced civilians

Military blocks passage of assistance into rebel-held territories

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Myanmar aid groups call for help for displaced civilians

A Kachin mother tends to her son, who lives with polio, in a camp for displaced persons in Myitkyina, Myanmar, in December 2014. (Photo by John Zaw)

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Aid groups in Myanmar have strongly condemned the blocking of relief supplies to more than 1,000 newly displaced Kachin civilians by the military as a violation of international humanitarian law.

“We demand unconditional and free humanitarian access to those displaced by the current fighting and urgently request the withdrawal of troops from the villages and the creation of safe corridors for villagers to safely return home,” a coalition of nine local aid groups said in a July 24 statement.

La Ma Yaw, a spokesman for the Kachin Baptist Convention, said that the situation remains tense in northern Kachin state as the military has increased troops in the region.

“We held a meeting with the UN and other aid groups in Myitkyina on July 24 to discuss how to carry out aid for the displaced, but the roads remain blocked by the military. We were forced to suspend our humanitarian response, but we are still observing the situation,” La Ma Yaw told ucanews.com July 27.

Renewed fighting between the military and the Kachin Independence Army in Suprabum township in northern Kachin state forced more than 1,000 civilians from nearby villages to flee to the jungle in rebel-controlled territory.

The most recent data shows 1,402 newly displaced Kachin civilians as of July 24, according to La Ma Yaw.

“War goes on in parts of the country. Families are broken in Kachin state with more than 100,000 displaced people,” Cardinal Charles Maung Bo of Yangon said in a July 21 statement.

Meanwhile, more than 100 civil society groups appealed to President Thein Sein, and military Commander-in Chief Min Aung Hlaing to stop military activity and troop movement in Kachin, Shan and Karen states.

“We condemn the military offensive and [demand] the withdrawal of troops from the villages in ethnic areas,” read the July 23 letter.

The groups also called for a national ceasefire “for the sake of the people and peace.”

The latest round of peace talks is set to resume in early August.

The Kachin conflict intensified in 2011, after a 17-year ceasefire between the rebels and government broke down, driving nearly 100,000 civilians from their homes. 

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