Wednesday, December 14, 2011

KIO refuses gov’t relief donations to refugees

Wednesday, 14 December 2011 17:10 Phanida

Chiang Mai (Mizzima) – Relief donations by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) for war refugees in northern Burma have been welcomed by the Kachin Independence Organization, but it has rejected similar aid offered by the Burmese government.

UNICEF on Monday donated 800 sets of household equipment, which included kitchen supplies, spoons, mosquito nets and tarpaulins for shelter.

However, the KIO refused to accept 1,000 sets of equipment donated by the Kachin State Rescue and Resettlement Committee; 300 bags of rice and 1,000 jackets donated by Kachin State MP Thein Zaw and 400 sets of household equipment donated by the Kachin State Red Cross Brigade.

Vehicles carry UNICEF personnel, who organized the refugee aid shipment. The relief supplies are first significant donations allowed to enter the area by the Burmese government since renewed fighting broke out in July. Photo: Kachinnet

“We cannot accept [the government’s] donations,” said Dwe P Sar, a civilian KIO relief committee official. “If we accept the government’s donations when it has launched military offensives, it is like feeding [us] on one side while they are killing us on another side.  We can’t accept the government’s donations at this time.”

Eight rucks from UNICEF, UNHCR and UNOCHA on Monday travelled to Laiza carrying relief supplies, according to Aye Win, a spokesman from the UN office in Rangoon.

“I think they have received very limited supplies so far. Now, it’s winter, so we need to take care of them more. We are asking for help from other countries. We’ll try to take more steps,” Aye Win said.

This is the first substantial donation of relief supplies to the more than 14,000 refugees in six camps near Laiza, the KIO headquarters. About 46,000 people are taking refuge at 22 camps in the area controlled by the KIO. It welcomed the UN donations and requested that it provide more help for refugees.

“We’ve encountered many problems, and we don’t know when the war will end. On behalf of the people, we welcome the help for refugees,” said Dwe P Sar.

UN representatives also observed conditions in the camps before their scheduled departure on Wednesday.

Meanwhile, a group of Union Parliament MPs made a personal donation of 70 million (about US $88,600) to the Kachin State chief minister on Monday as aid to the war refugees.

Since the fighting between the Burmese government and the KIO started in June, the government has not allowed national and International NGOs to provide aid to the war refugees.

In a related peace negotiation development, Burmese President Thein Sein on Saturday gave written instructions to General Min Aung Hlaing, the commander-in-chief of the Defence Services, to stop all government offensives in Kachin State, except for defensive purposes. However, the KIO says the fighting continues.

Renewed fighting broke out on Tuesday afternoon in the area controlled by KIO Battalion No. 15 under Brigade No. 3, said KIO officials.

The Kachin civil war has been one of the longest-running conflicts in Burma. The predominantly Baptist and Catholic Kachin account for about seven percent of the country’s population. The most recent wave of fighting has sent waves of new refugees across the northern border into China’s Yunnan Province. Chinese officials have told Kachin refugees to return to their homes, KIO officials said.

The recent efforts to negotiate a cease-fire and peace “mark one of the most significant moments in the six decades of conflict,” the think-tank International Crisis Group (ICG) said in a recent report, while adding that “lasting peace cannot be assured.”

During her landmark visit to Burma in December, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton welcomed what she said were efforts by the new government to resolve ethnic conflicts, after her talks with the country’s leaders.

But throughout Clinton’s visit — the first by such a high level U.S. politician in 50 years — U.S. officials said they expected the ethnic fighting to be one of the most difficult issues for Burma to resolve.

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