UCA News
Contribute

Thailand urged to allow humanitarian aid into Myanmar

NGO calls on neighboring states to ensure protection for people fleeing conflict-torn country
This handout photo from humanitarian group Free Burma Rangers taken on May 3 shows civilians hiding in a cave after military air strikes and mortar attacks on their village in eastern Karen state

This handout photo from humanitarian group Free Burma Rangers taken on May 3 shows civilians hiding in a cave after military air strikes and mortar attacks on their village in eastern Karen state. (Photo Free Burma Rangers/AFP)

Published: July 13, 2022 08:04 AM GMT
Updated: July 13, 2022 08:24 AM GMT

Thailand has been urged to allow cross-border humanitarian aid to be delivered to Myanmar and protect refugees fleeing the ongoing fighting, according to a new report.

The Southeast Asian nation is grappling with political, economic and humanitarian crises following the Feb. 1, 2021 military coup which toppled the elected civilian government, triggering nationwide protests and armed resistance across the country.

“The military junta has committed widespread atrocities and blocked international humanitarian groups from delivering aid to areas that desperately need it,” Refugees International said in a report released on July 12.

“In the meantime, delivery of international aid through Myanmar’s neighbors, particularly through local groups active along the Thai-Myanmar border, presents an underutilized path for getting assistance to those in need.”

Thailand is restricting cross-border aid while the junta’s control of main roads and tough terrain limit how much and how far informal aid can reach Myanmar, according to the report.

The NGO said Myanmar’s neighbors should work with local actors and humanitarian and health agencies of ethnic organizations to facilitate aid to areas accessible across borders.

“There’s no safe place in Kayah state. If you stay in the village, you risk bombs"

“Neighboring countries must also ensure the safety and support of people fleeing from Myanmar by not pressuring them to return home and by allowing UN agencies and local and international NGOs to access newly arrived refugees,” the report said.

The most intense fighting in recent months has occurred in northwestern Chin, Sagaing and Magway states and in Karen and Kayah states in the southeast, bordering Thailand.

More than one million people are now displaced in Myanmar, 750,000 of whom were forced to flee their homes since last February’s putsch. A quarter of the population — an estimated 14 million people — needs humanitarian assistance as the military junta has continued to restrict or outright block access to aid, according to the report citing UN figures.

Refugees International said it spoke with several people from Karen and Kayah states who described widespread displacement from villages, children hiding in the jungle in caves and trenches, and constant fear of air strikes and artillery fire.

“There’s no safe place in Kayah state. If you stay in the village, you risk bombs. But if you flee too far, it is tough to get aid,” one Kayah representative said.

The NGO said for those living in non-military controlled areas in Karen, Kayah and southern Shan states, unofficial aid provided by local civil society organizations with links to Thailand has been a vital lifeline.

According to the report, there are four main limitations to delivering aid across the border from Thailand — Thai restrictions reflecting junta pressure, military control of roads and banks, difficult terrain and lack of sufficient funding.

The report said the engagement of the US and key allies with Thailand will be critical in creating political space for cross-border aid and protection of people from Myanmar seeking refuge in and near the border.

The latest report by the NGO came two days after US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken visited Thailand and called for China and other ASEAN countries to pressure Myanmar’s military regime to return to a democratic path and to hold them accountable.

Help UCA News to be independent
Dear reader,
Trafficking is one of the largest criminal industries in the world, only outdone by drugs and arms trafficking, and is the fastest-growing crime today.
Victims come from every continent and are trafficked within and to every continent. Asia is notorious as a hotbed of trafficking.
In this series, UCA News introduces our readers to this problem, its victims, and the efforts of those who shine the light of the Gospel on what the Vatican calls “these varied and brutal denials of human dignity.”
Help us with your donations to bring such stories of faith that make a difference in the Church and society.
A small contribution of US$5 will support us continue our mission…
William J. Grimm
Publisher
UCA News
Asian Bishops
Latest News
UCA News Catholic Dioceses in Asia
UCA News Catholic Dioceses in Asia
UCA News Catholic Dioceses in Asia