UN concerned over new fighting in Burma’s north

A UN human rights expert has expressed grave concerns over a sharp escalation in hostilities in Burma's Kachin State, which has reportedly killed at least 10 civilians, left several wounded and forced thousands to flee their homes in the north of the country. The Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Burma, Yanghee Lee, said she had received reports that the military had carried out aerial bombings, and used heavy weapons and artillery fire against civilian areas near the Chinese border. "What we are seeing in Kachin State over the past few weeks is wholly unacceptable, and must stop immediately,” Lee said. “Innocent civilians are being killed and injured, and hundreds of families are now fleeing for their lives."

"Civilians must never be subjected to violence during the course of conflict. All parties must take all necessary measures to ensure their safety and security," she added.

In March, Lee told the Human Rights Council in Geneva that as the world's attention was focused on the crisis in Rakhine State, violence was escalating in other areas such as Kachin. She urged all parties to the conflict to abide by their obligations under international humanitarian law, and said it was incumbent upon all forces to observe the principles of distinction, proportionality and precaution.

According to UN reports, more than 5,000 civilians have been displaced from villages near the border with China in the last three weeks. Children, pregnant women, the elderly and people with disabilities are among those displaced.

Lee said she had received reports that a food convoy organized by the Myanmar Red Cross was prevented from entering the village of Man Wai on April 23. More than 100 civilians have been trapped in the village for three weeks with no or very limited access to food, medicine and other items needed for survival.

"All parties to the conflict must allow the passage of humanitarian assistance," the Special Rapporteur said. "Any wilful impediment of relief supplies may amount to war crimes under international law." (OHCR, May 1)

Note: A peace process with the rebel Kachin Independence Army has recently broken down.

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