Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) has today written to the Burmese Embassy in London calling for an end to the block on humanitarian aid to internally displaced persons (IDPs) in Rakhine and Kachin States.
Additionally, and as part of CSW’s Stop The Block on Aid campaign, a petition signed by Paul Scully MP (Conservative), Valerie Vaz MP (Labour), Jonathan Ashworth MP (Labour), David Burrowes MP (Conservative) and 7,000 members of the public will be sent to the Burmese mission to the United Nations.
Valerie Vaz, Shadow Leader of the House of Commons and Labour Member of Parliament for Walsall South said: “A grave human tragedy is unfolding in Rakhine State, Burma, and it is imperative that immediate action is taken to ensure emergency humanitarian aid reaches those who need it. That is why I am delighted to support CSW’s campaign and to add my voice to this petition. Action is needed now to save lives”
The death of nine police officers on Burma’s border with Bangladesh in Rakhine State on 9 October, which the Burmese military claimed was an act of terrorism by a small group of Rohingya Muslims, was used as a pretext to launch a military offensive against civilians and has led to the worst human rights and humanitarian crisis in Rakhine State since 2012. On 13 December, the UN reported that out of the 150,000 people who were receiving aid before 9 October, 130,000 people no longer had access to humanitarian aid.
David Burrowes, Conservative Member of Parliament for Enfield Southgate, said: “It is essential that the government of Burma act swiftly to prevent further loss of life, by lifting all restrictions on humanitarian aid. It is vital that the world act to put pressure on Burma to prevent further loss of life and allow access to aid. It is also very important to hold an international, independent inquiry into the causes of this current crisis. I am therefore delighted to support CSW’s much-needed campaign and to stand with other Members of Parliament and over 7,000 signatories to the petition in calling for urgent action.”
Both the letter and the petition also call on the Burmese government to initiate an independent inquiry into grave human rights violations in Rakhine State and to introduce policies which combat the root causes of ethnic and religious tension. International media have been denied access to Rakhine State.
Paul Scully, Conservative Member of Parliament for Sutton and Cheam and co-chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Burma, who visited Burma with CSW in 2015, said: “We know that there are people being killed, we know that there are people being raped, and we know that people are being displaced, often with their villages being burned down. And that’s why we want more transparency, more openness and we want to allow journalists into the camps in Rakhine state and humanitarian aid to get to those most in need. So we are calling on the government in Myanmar to allow that access, to allow that support from international organizations and journalists”.
At least 30,000 Rohingya Muslims have been internally displaced, and hundreds have died in the violence. Since 1 November, it is estimated that close to 27,000 people have fled to Bangladesh. The 1982 citizenship law does not recognise the Rohingya as a Burmese ethnic group and is one of the root causes of the systematic discrimination of the Rohingya in Burma.
Jonathan Ashworth, Shadow Health Secretary and Labour Member of Parliament for Leicester South, said: “The Rohingyas have suffered intense persecution for too long, and this current humanitarian crisis requires urgent action to stop ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity. The Burma Army’s response to the attacks on the border guard posts has been grossly disproportionate, resulting in innocent civilians shot dead, children killed and people at risk of death from starvation and denial of health care. I welcome CSW’s petition and campaign to urge Daw Aung San Suu Kyi’s government to lift all restrictions on aid, and to call for an international, independent inquiry into the causes of this current crisis. This emergency has the hallmarks of another Rwanda, Darfur, Bosnia or Kosovo. Action is long overdue.”
In Kachin State, more than 100,000 of the predominantly Christian ethnic Kachin people are in IDP camps. The petition also calls for an end to military attacks in Kachin and Northern Shan State and for immediate unrestricted access to be granted to humanitarian aid agencies in Kachin State.
CSW’s Chief Executive Mervyn Thomas said, “Recent events in Rakhine State have brought a long-running humanitarian tragedy into the spotlight. CSW has been campaigning for an end to blocks on aid since the beginning of September and that call is now more urgent than ever. There must also be an inquiry into alleged crimes against humanity, and legislation such as the 1982 Citizenship Law and Section 295 (a) of the Penal Code, which entrench religious and ethnic tension, should be reviewed”.
For further information or to arrange interviews please contact Kiri Kankhwende, Press Officer at Christian Solidarity Worldwide on +44 (0) 78 2332 9663, email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.csw.org.uk.
Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) is a Christian organisation working for religious freedom through advocacy and human rights, in the pursuit of justice.