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
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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.”


Pyongyang summit ‘an audacious step’ towards denuclearization, end of Korean War

Updated 43 min 33 sec ago
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Pyongyang summit ‘an audacious step’ towards denuclearization, end of Korean War

SEOUL: A third summit of Korean leaders planned for next month will be a further step toward denuclearization of the peninsula and a peace treaty to end the Korean War, South Korea’s President Moon Jae-in said on Wednesday.
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un vowed to work toward denuclearization at a landmark summit in Singapore with US President Donald Trump in June, but the two countries have since struggled to agree on how to reach that goal.
Advancement in ties between North and South Korea is the “driving force” behind denuclearization, Moon said in a speech, lauding Monday’s pact for next month’s summit in Pyongyang, the North’s capital.
The two leaders will “take an audacious step to proceed toward the declaration of an end to the Korean War and the signing of a peace treaty as well as the complete denuclearization of the Korean peninsula,” Moon added.
The neighbors remain technically in a state of war since the Korean War of 1950 to 1953 ended in a truce rather than a peace treaty.
Moon said he hoped for speedy progress in talks between the US and North Korea, with steps by Pyongyang to abandon its nuclear programs matched by “corresponding comprehensive measures” from Washington.
“When the deep-rooted distrust between the two Koreas and between the North and the US is lifted, the mutual agreement can be implemented,” he said on the peninsula’s 73rd anniversary of liberation from Japanese rule, which lasted from 1910 to 1945.
During their first summit in April, Moon and Kim had agreed to push for an end to the Korean War together with the US this year, but Washington has said its focus is on denuclearization, although Trump in Singapore had promised security guarantees for the North.
“When peace is established on the Korean peninsula along with complete denuclearization, economic cooperation can be carried out in earnest,” Moon said.
Plans to build a railway across the peninsula will kick off this year, he added, proposing an East Asian railroad community that groups China, Japan, Mongolia, Russia and the US.
Moon seeks to resume business cooperation with the North, including the railroad and a joint industrial park, but has been cautious because of international sanctions, chiefly spearheaded by Washington, over Pyongyang’s nuclear and missile programs.
Moon said he aimed for “unification economic zones” along border provinces when military tension eases and there is lasting peace.
He estimated cross-border economic cooperation could be worth at least 170 trillion won ($149.9 billion) over the next 30 years, citing a study by a state-run think tank.