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Myanmar shadow govt calls for urgent aid for refugees

National Unity Government fears further military air strikes will worsen the situation in Karen state
Myanmar shadow govt calls for urgent aid for refugees

Myanmar refugees who fled their homes amid a surge in violence gather at a temporary shelter in Thailand's Mae Sot district on Dec. 18. (Photo: AFP)

Published: December 23, 2021 05:36 AM GMT
Updated: December 23, 2021 05:40 AM GMT

Myanmar’s National Unity Government (NUG) has appealed to the international community to provide humanitarian assistance to refugees who are in urgent need of food and non-food items.

More than 5,000 people were forced to flee across the border to Thailand following clashes between the military and the combined forces of Karen rebel groups and local militia in Lay Kay Kaw township in Karen state last week.

The fighting flared up on Dec. 15 following military raids on the area controlled by the Karen National Union (KNU) and the arrest of at least 20 dissidents including a lawmaker from Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy.

The NUG, which was established by ousted lawmakers, activists and some ethnic groups, launched an appeal to the international community, especially the Thai government, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and NGOs, to deliver emergency humanitarian aid to refugees.

“Provisions of food, clothing and medicine are urgently needed and can be delivered through local groups responding to the refugees,” the NUG said.

“The current incident in Karen state and the continued fighting in different parts of Myanmar are a reminder how the failed coup is directly and inevitably impacting our neighboring countries.”

The KNU has engaged in sporadic clashes with the Myanmar military in Karen state and along the Thailand border since the Feb. 1 coup

The KNU, one of the largest armed groups which has been fighting for self-autonomy for more than 70 years, has further requested the Thai authorities to provide access to international aid organizations so that aid agencies can provide humanitarian assistance to refugees.

It has also called for an emergency meeting of the UN to impose a no-fly zone over Karen state, citing possible further air strikes by the junta which could lead to more deaths and spark other human rights abuses.

The KNU has engaged in sporadic clashes with the Myanmar military in Karen state and along the Thailand border since the Feb. 1 coup.

The mountainous region in southeast Myanmar has some 1.5 million people, mostly ethnic Karen, also known as Kayin. Government records show that 9.5 percent or 142,000 are Christians.

More than 100,000 people in Karen state have been forced to flee their homes since March when Karen fighters seized a military post and the army retaliated with air strikes, the first in more than 20 years in the region.

The Southeast Asian nation is descending into political turmoil and widespread civil war following the coup that toppled the elected civilian government.

The ensuing reign of terror against civilians and pro-democracy protesters has led to at least 1,300 deaths and more than 10,000 people detained.

Almost 300,000 people have been displaced in the predominantly Christian areas of Chin, Kayah, Kachin, Karen and Shan states since the Feb. 1 coup.

In addition, more than 370,000 people remain in protracted displacement due to conflict before 2021, according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs report on Dec. 16.

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