UN relief chief asks Burma to let aid deliveries for Kachin refugees
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UN relief chief asks Burma to let aid deliveries for Kachin refugees

The people of Burma are still questioning whether President Thein Sein is a reformist. The argument is that the regime just changes its army-uniforms into civilian clothes, but it has been exercising authoritarian practices so far. It has disclosed its true nature throughout the ongoing war in Kachin state. If President Thein Sein is reform-minded, the first thing he ought to do is to end the war in Kachin state urgently in order to reinstate peace.

The United Nation’s Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, Valerie Amos, has spoken about urgent access to some 40,000 people in northern Burma who have been displaced by warfare between government troops and Kachin Independence Organization (KIO). Ms Amos said that the Burmese military has permitted only limited aid motor vehicles into the conflict area.

“For almost six months now, the UN has not been able to provide assistance to almost 40,000 people as we are not permitted to go to KIA-controlled areas,” the Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, Valerie Amos, told a news conference, according to the UN News Centre.

During her four day visit to Burma, Valerie Amos publicly urged Burmese government to allow the UN to resume aid consignments to refugee camps in non-government controlled parts of Kachin state held by the KIO.

“Local partners are providing food and other assistance, but their stocks are depleted, and, with the winter months approaching, getting more supplies in is critical,” Ms. Amos added, according to a news release from the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).

Some 75,000 people have been forced from their homes in Kachin and Shan since fighting began in June 2011 between Government troops and Kachin rebels.

Ms. Amos said the UN has substantial experience working in insecure environments, and so it has asked the government to give traveling permission to the restricted areas in order to provide the emergency aid.

“We are working in other countries where the security situation is much worse,” she added.

Ms. Amos was on her last day of her Burma visit after arriving on 3 December to assess humanitarian needs throughout the country. She was accompanied by Lt-General Thein Htay (Minister of Border Affairs) on her visits. She met with several Government officials, including President Thein Sein.

In addition to visiting Kachin, Ms. Amos also visited Rakhine state on Myanmar’s west coast. Inter-communal ethnic violence throughout Rakhine this year has left 115,000 people displaced, as well as more than 100 dead, according to UN estimates.

In June 2012, one year anniversary of Kachin war, Human Rights Watch released a 68-page report, “Isolated in Yunnan: Kachin Refugees from Burma in China’s Yunnan Province,” estimating that 7,000 to 10,000 Kachin refugees and asylum seekers were in squalid, improvised camps in Yunnan that were largely isolated from international humanitarian aid because of restrictions imposed by the Chinese authorities. Most of the refugees had fled wartime abuses in Burma such as forced labor, killings, rape, and torture by the Burmese army, or the threat of violence.

“Adding thousands more Kachin to the camps in Burma will only compound the crisis for internally displaced people in Kachin State,” Bill Frelick, Refugee Program director said.

“President Thein Sein urgently needs to let the aid agencies reach everyone who needs their help,” Bill Frelick underlined the reality.

Human Rights Watch criticizes Burma’s newly shaped National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) which has not played an effective role to scrutinize human rights violations in Kachin State. In February 2012, the commission’s chairman, Win Mra, said that the commission would not look into allegations of abuses in the country’s ethnic armed conflict areas due to the government’s efforts to negotiate ceasefires.

HRW has also made a recommendation to the parliament of Burma which needed to pass legislation that would bring Burma’s NHRC in line with the Paris Principles on national human rights institutions in order to establish it as an independent and effective institution.

During her four day visit to Burma, Ms. Amos raised the issue of internally displaced people in Kachin State with the President and her concern about the lack of humanitarian access in the conflict zone.

“We hope the Government will give us permission to travel to these areas and provide the aid that is so desperately needed,” Ms. Amos added.

Even though the Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs Ms. Amos has made a candid call, President Thein Sein alone may not have enough power to allow the UN to resume aid delivery. It will certainly be in the hands of the 11-member National Defense and Security Council.

To end the war against the Kachin rebels is a puzzle for most people in Burma thus far.