Friday, December 9, 2011

Myanmar: Conflict between the government's army and ethnic rebels.

Humanitarian crisis looms in Myanmar: activists
(AFP) –

BANGKOK — A global campaign group expressed grave concern Friday for tens of thousands of displaced people in northern Myanmar, where conflict is intensifying between the government's army and ethnic rebels.
Despite growing optimism over the pace of political reform in the military-dominated country, Refugees International called on the world community to address the escalating crisis in Kachin State, bordering China.
"Tensions... are at boiling point with the potential for a serious humanitarian crisis with long-term implications," Lynn Yoshikawa, Southeast Asia Advocate of Refugees International, told reporters in Bangkok.
She said her group was "extremely concerned" for at least 30,000 displaced people estimated to be living in camps in rebel-controlled areas, which international aid agencies are unable to access.
"We feel that the evolving situation warrants particular concern from the international community," said Yoshikawa, who recently returned from two weeks in the country formerly known as Burma, including in Kachin.
Myanmar has been riven by decades of civil war with various ethnic groups, but recent attempts to shake off its pariah state image have included bids to reach out to such guerrillas, who are fighting for greater autonomy and rights.
This month a ceasefire deal was inked with one of the biggest militias still battling the regime, the Shan State Army South, and there are cautious hopes of forthcoming deals with other groups.
But, although talks have been held with the Kachin Independence Organisation (KIO), "in the meantime the Tatmadaw (Myanmar military) is continuing to launch an offensive against the KIO", Yoshikawa said.
She said rights abuses by both sides had been reported, with accusations against the Myanmar military including extrajudicial killings, use of child soldiers and rape.
The KIO's army has allegedly used landmines and child soldiers, she added.

On a landmark visit to the country last week, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called for nationwide peace and welcomed what she said were efforts by the regime to resolve the ethnic conflicts.

"People on the ground were not so hopeful that she would achieve anything from the military side," said Yoshikawa.
Copyright © 2011 AFP. All rights reserved.

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