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Military junta blocks lifesaving aid for displaced civilians

  • Diplomatic Correspondent
  • 11 November, 2021 12:00 AM
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The Myanmar military junta blocked lifesaving humanitarian aid for forcibly displaced civilians in Karenni State by arbitrarily arresting aid workers, destroying food stocks, confiscating aid, and other ongoing acts that may constitute war crimes, said Fortify Rights.

In a new flash report published on Wednesday, it recommends that the governments of Thailand, India, China, and Bangladesh immediately authorize humanitarian agencies to provide cross-border aid to growing numbers of civilians in need in Myanmar.

“Blocking aid and targeting humanitarian workers in the context of armed conflict are war crimes,” said Ismail Wolff, Regional Director of Fortify Rights.

“The Myanmar junta poses a threat to regional peace and security. U.N. and ASEAN member states should urgently support emergency cross-border aid for the displaced and ensure accountability for the junta’s heinous crimes.”

The 31-page flash report, entitled Access Denied: The Myanmar Military Junta’s Deprivation of Lifesaving Aid in Karenni (Kayah) State, draws on 23 interviews conducted by Fortify Rights, including 21 interviews in Karenni State and two in Thailand, between June and October 2021.

Fortify Rights interviewed survivors of human rights violations, internally displaced persons, religious leaders, humanitarian workers, as well as members of People’s Defense Forces—civilian-founded militias formed in response to the Myanmar military’s deadly coup d’état on February 1.     Fortify Rights also reviewed internal files and documentation from humanitarian agencies working in Karenni State, including photo and video evidence of alleged violations. Since the coup, Fortify Rights documented how the junta killed, tortured, and arbitrarily arrested civilians with impunity, while also using forced labor, including human shielding.

The ongoing attacks forced the displacement of more than 100,000 people in Karenni State and more than 223,000 nationally. Rather than facilitate necessary humanitarian aid, the junta has taken concrete steps to deny displaced civilians access to it, including by arbitrarily arresting aid workers.

“Until now, they have not been released,” a local aid worker with knowledge of the incident told Fortify Rights. “We are all afraid to work under these conditions, but we do as much as we can.”

Karenni State residents also reported how Myanmar junta forces looted civilian possessions, carried out arson attacks, and destroyed civilian property, including food, medicine, and aid supplies intended for displaced civilians.

Local and international aid workers active in multiple townships in Karenni State, including Demoso, Loikaw, Hpruso, and Hpasawng, told Fortify Rights that the military routinely stopped vehicles at military checkpoints and confiscated supplies meant for displaced civilians.