Stop Military Regime’s Bombing of Villages – Ethnic Armed Groups Call for Immediate Protection – No-Fly Zones and Safe Zones to Protect Civilians

Ethnic Armed Organizations outraged at the military regimes bombardment of civilian areas by airstrikes and heavy artillery have issued a joint statement calling for no-fly zones and safe zones to protect civilians.

The statement issued on January 20, by Karen, Karenni, and Chin Ethnic Armed Organizations (EAOs) demanded international governments, ASEAN and UN establish safe zones for the protection of civilians and to declare military no-fly zones in Burma where the military has ordered airstrikes and artillery shelling targeting civilian areas.

In response to the UN Secretary-General’s Special Envoy’s proposal to send urgent humanitarian aid to Burma, the three armed organizations, the Karen National Union (KNU) The Karenni National Progressive Party (KNPP), and the Chin National Front (CNF), demanded safe zones and military no-fly zones to stop the destruction of villages and the death and injury of civilians.

Padoh Saw Taw Nee, a KNU spokesperson, told Karen News, “when there is an evacuation, humanitarian aid is the best thing to do. If there is no way to provide safety or protection for civilians, there will be no guarantee they will be able to live and work. The priority is to protect them.”

The UN Special Envoy’s office issued a statement after meeting with the current ASEAN leader, Cambodia’s Prime Minister, Hun Sen on January 13, that urgent humanitarian assistance needs to be given to Burma.

The joint EAOs statement proposed humanitarian aid is not enough, they propose military no-fly zones, international monitoring of the conflict, setting up refugee camps, villages, hospitals, clinics, and schools in a Safe Zone to protect civilians with international guarantees of security.

The EAO’s called for an internationally negotiated humanitarian [safe] route where humanitarian aid can be accessed without restrictions and to work with relief organizations to cross borders through the designated safe route to provide aid to the areas in need.

After the 1st February 2021 military coup, heavy fighting broke out between the military-appointed State Administrative Council (SAC) soldiers and pro-democracy armed forces in Karenni (Kayah), Chin, Kachin, Shan, and Karen States as well as military retaliation bombings in the Sagaing and Magway Regions. Some observers including KNLA officials said the heavy losses of its soldiers had weakened the Burma Army and resulted in its using airstrikes, leading to heavy civilian casualties and destruction of thousands of buildings – homes, hospitals, schools and shops.

Even though basic emergency food assistance is available for civilians fleeing the fighting, members of the military’s SAC troops have been obstructing access to these humanitarian delivery routes and arresting the aid workers assisting those fleeing.

Padoh Saw Taw Nee said the country’s current humanitarian aid crisis is only part of Burma’s political crisis and international political dialogue is needed urgently to resolve it.

The three Ethnic Armed Organizations have strongly condemned the acts of violence committed by the Burma Army since the coup and demanded that Burma’s neighboring countries and the international community work together on declaring safe zones and humanitarian routes.

The Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (AAPP) has confirmed, as of January 25, the military junta has killed 1,493 people, arrested 8,788, sentenced 84 to death and 1,966 are evading arrest warrants since the coup.

The Karen National Union is also demanding a no-fly zone in response to numerous airstrikes and bombing of Lay Kay Kaw New Town during December last year.

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