Human Rights Watch to Myanmar army, KIA: Respect international humanitarian law

The Myanmar government and the Kachin Independence Army should ensure the displaced in remote camps get the food and shelter they need, Human Rights Watchsaid Wednesday (Dec. 21), stressing it is both parties’ obligation under the international humanitarian law.

Fighting between the KIA and the Myanmar army since June has displaced an estimated 50,000 ethnic Kachins. The government finally granted U.N. agencies access to Kachin states to provide humanitarian assistance to the displaced in early December. But assistance, according to Human Rights Watch, remains limited.

“That Burmese authorities granted UN aid agencies access to displaced people in Kachin state is an important step, but it demands a long-term commitment from the government and foreign donors alike,” Human Rights Watch deputy Asia director Elaine Pearson said, adding that foreign donors should also seek to expand support to groups delivering aid in the country.

“Kachin’s highly vulnerable population remains in need of a sustained and coordinated relief operation. Many Kachin civilians in remote areas are still desperately in need of food, warm clothing, improved shelter, and access to medical care,” she said.

The organization said that under the international humanitarian law, parties in internal armed conflict must allow humanitarian relief to reach civilian populations in need of essential items such as food and medicines. They must ensure the “freedom of movement” of relief personnel and pose temporary restrictions on personnel activities only in cases of military necessity.

But apart from reported military attacks to civilians, the organization said it has documented the use of child soldiers and anti-personnel landmines by both parties, which are serious violations of the law.

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About the author

  • Ravelo jennylei

    Jenny Lei Ravelo

    Jenny Lei Ravelo is a Devex Senior Reporter based in Manila. She covers global health, with a particular focus on the World Health Organization, and other development and humanitarian aid trends in Asia Pacific. Prior to Devex, she wrote for ABS-CBN, one of the largest broadcasting networks in the Philippines, and was a copy editor for various international scientific journals. She received her journalism degree from the University of Santo Tomas.