A coalition of nine local humanitarian organisations active in Kachin State released a statement on Friday voicing their concern over restrictions imposed by the Burmese government and military on humanitarian aid access to camps housing villagers displaced by the ongoing Kachin conflict.
“Humanitarian access is unfortunately politicised consistently by the Myanmar [Burmese] government,” said the Joint Strategy Team for Humanitarian Response (JST) in its statement. “The Myanmar Tatmadaw [armed forces] consistently hinders food transportation to the most needed area in Kachin State. This is an outright violation against the right of the IDPs [internally displaced persons] and breaching of the IHL [International Humanitarian Law].
“After five years of displacement, ensuring human dignity for IDPs and meeting their basic needs, like food and shelter, is a constant struggle; protection of the most vulnerable groups remains a great challenge,” the statement noted.
Fighting between the Tatmadaw and the Kachin Independence Organisation (KIO) has displaced more than 120,000 people in Kachin and neighboring Shan State since a 17-year-old ceasefire ended in June 2011. Access to IDPs has been difficult for aid groups trying to assist those who have sheltered in areas controlled by the KIO.
The JST statement also indicated that the aid groups were particularly concerned by a series of incidents last month which saw soldiers from the army enter refugee camps in Kachin and Shan states in order to ostensibly carry out registration checks of those living in the camps, something that involved photos of camp residents. The statement alleged that the army’s actions violated the rights of the refugees who were left “extremely anxious and terrified with these intrusions.”
The statement from the groups called on Burma’s government and the army “to take full responsibility and accountability for its own people,” and take steps to ensure “unlimited humanitarian access.” The statement also called on all parties to immediately halt all hostilities.
Clashes between the Burmese army and the KIO have intensified significantly since August. The KIO in a statement issued earlier this month blamed government forces for carrying out aggressive actions against KIO-held positions, and undermining the peace process.
“While the current government is trying to initiate a dialogue process by political means, the Tatmadaw is taking advantage of the situation by launching heavy military attacks on the KIO’s strategic military posts with the intention of seizing them. These kinds of military actions are undermining and interrupting the genuine peace, which is just emerging”, said the KIO in a statement released 8 October.
The JST is comprised of the following groups: Bridging Rural Integrated Development and Grassroots Empowerment (BRIDGE); Kachin Baptist Convention (KBC); Kachin Relief and Development Committee (KRDC); Kachin Women’s Association (KWA); Kachin Development Group (KDG); Karuna Mission Social Solidarity (KMSS); Metta Development Foundation (Metta); Nyein (Shalom) Foundation; and Wunpawng Ninghtoi (WPN).