ASEAN NGOS APPEAL FOR END TO FIGHTING IN KACHIN STATE, REFUGEES’ SAFETY
A GROUP of non-government organisations from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) on Wednesday urged the government to end all fighting in Kachin State and ensure the safety and security of the refugees and noncombatants.
Progressive Voice, which consists of 25 NGOs from among the 10 members of ASEAN, expressed concern about “the recent escalation of armed conflict and humanitarian crisis in Kachin …that has resulted in the displacement of thousands of civilians.”
It also called on the Myanmar government to allow immediate access to all humanitarian aid in Kachin and other areas affected by the ongoing conflict and “work toward building trust with ethnic people by recognising their right to self-determination.”
It also called on ASEAN to take action to end the clashes.
“ASEAN as a regional body must urgently respond to this ongoing conflict and humanitarian crisis …to allow safe passage for those trapped in conflict in Kachin, and end the ongoing offensives and human rights violations against all ethnic people,” it said.
The Office of the United Nations Office of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) estimated the number of newly displaced people in Kachin at 7400, since fighting between the Tatmadaw (military) and the ethnic armed group Kachin Independence Army intensified in April.
These new refugees are sheltering in local churches, internally displaced persons camps or with host families across eight townships in the state, where they were able to receive assistance, the UN agency reported.
The OCHA is appealing for more support for these people who are in need of food, health, education and water and sanitation services.
The agency said the newly displaced number of refugees was on top of the approximately 92,000 people who were displaced in earlier clashes and were living in IDP camps.
Hostilities between the Tatmadaw and the KIA erupted in 2011 after the breakdown of a 17-year ceasefire. Since then sporadic clashes between the two armed forces broke out, forcing villages to flee their homes to escape harm.
The Kachin Independence Organisation, the political arm of the KIA, had been negotiating with the government over signing the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement, but the talks failed in 2016 following renewed fighting.
Progressive Voice said the Myanmar government should heed the call of its people and the international community to end the fighting.