Rights group calls for aid to civilians in Myanmar’s north

In this file photo, soldiers of Kachin Independence Army (KIA) man their position at the front line in Kachin state. (Reuters)
Updated 09 February 2018
0

Rights group calls for aid to civilians in Myanmar’s north

BANGKOK: Myanmar’s military should ensure humanitarian aid reaches all civilians who have been affected by clashes in the country’s north between the army and an ethnic armed group, an international rights group urged Friday.
Hostilities between Myanmar’s military and guerrillas of the Kachin Independence Army escalated in mid-January to include three townships of Kachin state. The Kachin force is one of the most powerful ethnic militias and has skirmished with the military after a 17-year-old cease-fire pact broke down in 2011. Since then, more than 120,000 people have been displaced in the region along the border with China.
The ongoing crisis in the state has been overshadowed by one in Myanmar’s western state of Rakhine, where almost 700,000 members of the Muslim Rohingya ethnic group have fled to Bangladesh since last August to escape a brutal crackdown by the military and social and economic discrimination.
New York-based Human Rights Watch urged in a statement that Myanmar’s military allow humanitarian aid to reach civilians caught up in the military’s current offensive utilizing heavy weapons and airstrikes.
Government attacks targeting Kachin rebels killed at least five civilians and wounded more than a dozen others in late January, according to activists and a local lawmaker. Aid groups active in Kachin also said that more than 3,000 other civilians — miners of amber and their families — are believed to be trapped in the military offensive in Tanai township.
“The embattled civilian population in Kachin state should not be forgotten amid the dire humanitarian situation facing the Rohingya,” said Brad Adams, Asia director of Human Rights Watch. “Both the Myanmar army and the KIA should do everything possible to ensure that aid reaches civilians in need.”
The United Nations last week said its agencies and their humanitarian partners are concerned about the safety of civilians in these areas, likewise urging the Myanmar government to guarantee the protection of civilians and safe access to humanitarian assistance for all those affected by the conflict. It said in a statement that it has not been granted access to conflict-affected civilians.
More than 5,000 Kachin civilians marched on Monday in the Kachin capital, Myitkyina, to call for a halt to the military’s offensive and to allow civilians trapped by the fighting to seek refuge.
“The current situation in Kachin state is extremely worrying because it’s not just one or two areas, it’s happening everywhere,” said Gum Sha Aung of the Joint Strategy Team, a coalition of local groups seeking to coordinate humanitarian activities in northern Myanmar. “The military consistently hinder humanitarian assistance such as food transportation in the region, which is an outright violation against the international humanitarian law.”


North Korea slams US for ‘evil’ sanctions push

Updated 26 min 15 sec ago
0

North Korea slams US for ‘evil’ sanctions push

  • The declaration threatens to upset the negotiations between Washington and the nuclear-armed North
  • Washington has been adamant the measures should be maintained until Pyongyang’s complete denuclearization

SEOUL: North Korea’s state media on Tuesday slammed the United States for an “evil” attempt to maintain sanctions against Pyongyang, accusing President Donald Trump of blocking progress in inter-Korean relations.
The declaration threatens to upset the negotiations between Washington and the nuclear-armed North, in which Trump is expected to hold a second summit soon with Pyongyang’s leader Kim Jong Un.
At their first meeting in Singapore in June they signed a vaguely-worded pledge on denuclearization, but little progress has been made since then with the two sides sparring over the meaning of the text.
Pyongyang has not made any explicit public promise to give up its existing arsenal but has repeatedly called for UN Security Council sanctions imposed over its weapons programs to be loosened, citing a freeze in its nuclear and missile tests.
For its part Washington has been adamant the measures should be maintained until Pyongyang’s complete denuclearization.
Washington was playing a “double game,” said a lengthy commentary carried by the North’s official KCNA news agency, and was “little short of destroying” the rare diplomatic opportunity between the two.
“Hostile policy and reciprocity can not go together,” it said, and negotiations would not move forward “an inch with an obstacle called sanctions.”
“The US... is responding to good faith with evil,” it added.
KCNA said the article, nearly 1,700 words long and titled “What Do Ill-boding Remarks from US Signify,” had been “made public” by Kim Chol Myong.
No further details about its origins or the author’s affiliation were given, suggesting that “Kim Chol Myong” is likely to be a pseudonym.
But the fact that it was carried by Pyongyang’s official news agency indicates that it has the authorities’ approval.
It was published just days after US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo visited Pyongyang and said he had “productive” talks on denuclearization with the North Korean leader.
After an earlier Pompeo visit in July the North issued an angrily-worded official foreign ministry statement condemning what it called his “unilateral” demands for its disarmament, describing them as “gangster-like.”
It cast doubt on the prospects for progress — even though it proclaimed “our good faith in President Trump” — and prompted the US leader to cancel a scheduled August trip to Pyongyang by his Secretary of State, before a fresh round of visits and a letter from Kim restarted the process.
But Tuesday’s declaration went further, implicitly criticizing the US leader — who is known to consider personal relationships important.
Without naming Trump, it referred to his comments last week that Seoul would not lift its own sanctions against the North “without our approval.”
“Even the White House made such threatening words,” KCNA said, “enraging not only south Koreans but all other Koreans.”
South Korea’s dovish President Moon Jae-in — who has held three meetings with Kim this year — has vowed to honor the UN sanctions but agreed to pursue a handful of joint economic projects with the North.
After his visit this month Pompeo said Kim had agreed to allow international inspectors to visit a nuclear test site that the North dismantled in May but did not elaborate on any offers made by the US in return.