Fortify Rights Accuse Burma Authorities and Government of Cutting Aid to Civilians as Bombing Continues – Demands China Does More to Protect Refugees

Fortify Rights, an international human rights organization called on the government of China to offer safe refuge to “thousands of ethnic Kachin civilians fleeing ongoing armed conflict in Myanmar and prevent forced returns.”

Fortify Rights in a statement on Friday 13 January said Kachin civilians running from the fighting in Burma were caught in a hard place.

“China should provide asylum seekers with sanctuary, not send them into the line of fire,” said Matthew Smith, Chief Executive Officer of Fortify Rights. “The Myanmar military is effectively forcing civilians out of the country while China pushes them back in.”

Fortify Rights reports that on January 10, “an estimated 4,000 civilians—the majority of whom are women, children, and the elderly—fled Myanmar military air strikes and heavy artillery attacks in the Nagyang area, which is close to Zai Awng/Mungga Zup and Hkau Shau IDP camps in Kachin State.”

Nine local organizations, operating under the banner, the Joint Strategy Team (JST) and based in Northern Burma have documented the intensity of the Burma Army’s offensives against the armed groups in the region.

“The Myanmar Armed Forces (Tatmadaw) continues its military offensives and violations of Human Rights. Continuous fighting, use of airstrikes and heavy artillery have increased civilian casualties and intensified fear and anxiety for IDPs [displaced people].”

The JST claimed that the Burma government and its armed forces are using aid as a weapon against the displaced people by stopping “food transportation to KIO [the Kachin Independent Organization] control area as well as in Northern Shan state in their own control area. Government issued a letter that agencies need to get prior permission from state government for any food distribution in IDPs camps.”

Fortify Rights said that it had received reports that “Chinese state security forces initially allowed some families seeking asylum to cross into Chinese territory. Shortly after dawn on January 11, Chinese state security forces began turning back refugees at the border and forcibly returned all who had crossed earlier.”

Fortify Rights accused the Burma’s government and its authorities of continuing “to effectively restrict humanitarian aid groups from operating freely in Kachin State and northern Shan State, resulting in avoidable deprivations of food, healthcare, and other humanitarian provisions for displaced communities.”

Fortify Rights chief-executive-officer, Matthew Smith accused the Burma’s government of “putting the squeeze on civilian populations, bombarding them with attacks while cutting off humanitarian aid,” said Matthew Smith. “Chinese authorities should do the right thing and provide protection.”

Fortify Rights estimate that fighting between the Burma military and the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) has displaced as many as 23,000 people during the past several weeks.”

Fortify Rights cite in their statement that the JST report that an estimated 2,560 IDPs fled Zai Awng IDP camp, north of Laiza, on December 27 after several mortar shells landed nearby. Similar attacks forced several hundred other displaced civilians to move from Mung Lai Hket IDP camp to Woi Chyai IDP camp in Laiza, the administrative capital of the KIA. In early December, the Myanmar military reportedly bombed churches, schools, and other non-military targets in northern Shan State during counter attacks against the Brotherhood of the Northern Alliance (BNA)—a coalition of four non-state ethnic armed groups, including the KIA. These attacks displaced 15,000 Kachin and Shan civilians, who likewise fled into China.”

Fortify Rights urged the Burma government to “immediately grant the United Nations and international humanitarian aid groups free and unfettered access to all conflict-affected areas in Myanmar. Fortify Rights also calls upon the United Nations, international aid groups, and donor governments to redouble their support for Kachin-led relief efforts.”

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