(New York) – The Burmese military and ethnic armed groups in northern Burma should commit to protecting civilians and expediting aid in the face of escalating rights abuses and civilian displacement, Human Rights Watch said today.
On December 17, 2016, Burmese army forces captured a key stronghold of the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) on Gidon mountain in Kachin State. Government airstrikes and shelling were confirmed to have hit close to several camps for internally displaced people near the KIA headquarters of Laiza, causing damage to shelters and forcing the evacuation of more than 400 people.
Humanitarian access to conflict areas in Myanmar is currently worse than at any point in the past few years. Predictable, timely humanitarian access is vital for organizations to ensure that the needs of all affected people are adequately met and that protection issues are being addressed. Unfortunately, our ability to reach people who depend on humanitarian assistance in Kachin State is getting worse not better.
On December 12, the United States embassy in Rangoon issued a statement on fighting in Kachin and Northern Shan States calling for “restraint from all sides and urging immediate, unfettered humanitarian access to all those affected by conflict throughout the country.” This followed a December 1 statement from several local nongovernmental organizations and international relief organizations based in northern Burma urging the “removal of all impediments and restrictions, formal or informal, to the movement of humanitarian aid including personnel, goods, and services to ensure timely response to humanitarian needs.”
The existing regional peace process has seen little progress. Three Northern Alliance members – the Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army, the Ta-ang National Liberation Army, and the Arakan Army – have been excluded from the official ceasefire process.
“Nongovernmental groups in conflict areas in Burma’s north are routinely documenting serious abuses with very little action by the central government to ensure that abuses stop and civilian protection becomes a priority,” Adams said. “Burma’s many friends and donors should demand full and unfettered access for humanitarian groups and that all parties facilitate the delivery of urgently needed aid.”