Thursday, December 27, 2012

Japanese foundation delivers aid to Mon refugees

Thursday, 27 December 2012 15:20 Peng Qinqin

The Nippon Foundation said that it had completed the shipment of relief goods including rice and medicines to Mon State on December 25, the first of an expected US $3 million donation to ethnic refugees.

The Nippon Foundation president Mr.Yohei SASAKAWA, Chairman Nai Htaw Mon of the New Mon State Party (NMSP), peace negotiator Aung Min and State Minister Ohn Myint at the State office in Mawlamyine, Mon State in December 22. (Photo: Hein Htet / Mizzima)

The Japanese NGO said the activity was designed to promote peace between Burma’s central government and the country’s ethnic minorities.

It said that the supplies will reach the internally displaced people of the area by the end of the year. More than 4,000 ethnic Mon refugees have been displaced by armed conflict between Burmese government forces and ethnic rebels.

Relief goods will be delivered to other areas for displaced minorities as soon as transportation routes are secured, the Nippon Foundation said in a statement.

The Japanese foundation, a nonprofit grant-making organization, is the first private group to deliver humanitarian aid into the region under an MoU between the Burmese government and an ethnic bloc of minority groups: the United Nationalities Federal Council (UNFC).

The UNFC is an alliance of 11 armed ethnic groups, all of which have signed ceasefire agreements—some tentatively— with the Burmese government.

"I would like to make the present relief efforts a catalyst for realizing peace," said Yohei Sasakawa, the Chairman of the Nippon Foundation who is also Japan’s Goodwill Ambassador for the Welfare of National Races in Burma.

Chairman Nai Htaw Mon of the New Mon State Party (NMSP) said he welcomed the aid, adding that it would constitute the first step toward promoting political dialogue with the government.

“Now, due to the transportation and geographic situation, the aid will preliminarily be provided to Mon and Karen areas. Meanwhile, negotiations regarding the provision of aid to other ethnic areas are underway, and will lead to delivery when finished,” said Nai Hong Sar Bon Khine, an NMSP Foreign Affairs official, speaking on a trip to Japan organized by the Nippon Foundation last month.

“It is unprecedented that such a large aid package is to be given to the armed forces of a minority group, and an extraordinary move for the [Myanmar] government,” said a previous statement released by the Nippon Foundation.

Decades of conflicts between the Burmese army and minority groups have caused more than one million refugees, mostly ethnic minorities, to be displaced among Burma’s mountain regions and in neighboring countries such as India, China and Thailand.

Aung Min, a Chief Minister in the President’s Office and the government’s principal peace negotiator, said at a ceremony held with Mon residents on December 22 that the Nippon Foundation was a representative of those increasing international NGOs who have begun to support the building of peace in Burma.
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