Civil Society, Solidarity Activists Express Alarm over Escalation of Conflict in Burma’s Kachin State; Urge ASEAN to Act Decisively on Humanitarian Crisis

MANILA, THE PHILIPPINES – Alarmed over the escalation of armed conflict in Burma’s Kachin state that has now displaced thousands of civilians, solidarity activists belonging to the Asia-Pacific Solidarity Coalition (APSOC) and the Global Partnership for the Prevention of Armed Conflict – Southeast Asia (GPPAC-SEA) today urged the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) to ‘act more decisively’ to help prevent the worsening humanitarian crisis in the said state before the conflict further spirals out of control.

According to reports sent to APSOC and GPPAC-SEA, the renewed armed confrontation between Myanmar Government’s Armed Forced called the Tatmadaw and Kachin Independence Organization/Army (KIO/KIA) has spiked since April 11. The Tatmadaw, reportedly used heavy artillery and aerial bombings dramatically affecting the lives of the local civilian population resulting to heavy casualties, destruction of properties, civilians trapped in conflict zones, hundreds of villagers stranded in the jungle, and multiple-displacements of people in various townships across Kachin State.

‘UTTERLY DEPLORABLE’

Gus Miclat, APSOC convener and GPPAC-SEAs regional initiator said, “This is utterly deplorable because this renewed conflict reveals the insincerity of Burma’s posturing as a changing and newly restored democratic society. This will expose the bankruptcy of the government’s own peace process and ceasefire agreements. Continued violence perpetrated by the Burmese Army in Kachin, northern Shan, Rakhine and other ethnic states must be stopped immediately.”

He added, “We reiterate our demand for civilian protection specially in times of conflict and urge the Burmese government to heed the call of citizens in the region and the rest of the international community for the cessation of hostilities in the Kachin and northern Shan states. It is important to stress the urgent need to put an end to this systematic disregard of basic human rights, international humanitarian law, and the universal tenets on moral decency and human dignity in Burma.”

Meanwhile, fresh military clashes are also taking place in Karen state, which have displaced hundreds of residents. Incident reports indicate that about 2,000 civilians from AwngLawt villages in Tanai township have fled into the jungle and are still trapped in an active conflict zone.

About 170 civilians from Man Wai village in LainawngHku location, Kamai Sub-township were reportedly also trapped in their own villages since the government military forces are purportedly preventing people from leaving their villages. Myanmar’s military has allegedly detained scores of villagers for security reasons and has restricted access to the area.

Miclat explained, “The government of Burma must recognize the deep historical roots of the ethno-nationalist conflicts and struggles for self-determination of its peoples, which cannot be resolved by employing brute military force.”

CHALLENGING ÁSEAN AND AUNG SAN SUU KYI

Mïclat stressed, “Now is the most appropriate time for the ASEAN to translate its vision of a “caring and sharing community” into concrete reality and action.  All ASEAN member-states should help in finding resolution to this humanitarian crisis as this may threaten the peace and stability in the whole region. This event may further undermine Burma’s presence from decades of diplomatic isolation. At the minimum ASEAN must send an independent mission to help defuse the tension and propose ways towards mitigating the conflict”.

He stressed, “ASEAN must hold Burma fully accountable especially if the latter’s actions and inactions will cause cross-border problems that may surely affect the whole region. Burma can no longer hide behind the obsolete non-interference principle of the ASEAN while it massacres its ethnic populations in broad daylight.”

Challenging the sincerity of Burma’s government particularly de facto leader State Counselor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, APSOC and GPPAC-SEA renewed its call urging the Aung San Suu Kyi-led government and the Tatmadaw, to fully ensure civilian protection and adherence to International Humanitarian Law on internally displaced persons (IDPs) and Human Rights Law.

GPPAC-SEA and APSOC also called on all humanitarian actors to take all measures to ensure the security and safety of internally displaced persons (IDPs), particularly of women and children in refugee camps, and to help facilitate the safe and dignified return of IDPs to their respective communities by restoring lost livelihood caused by the armed conflict.

GPPAC-SEA and APSOC also asserted that it is crucial for the Myanmar government to ensure the unimpeded and safe humanitarian assistance and access to ensure immediate aid and relief to peoples affected by the humanitarian crisis in Kachin and the Northern Shan states.

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