ASIA/MYANMAR - Escalation of civil conflict, restrictions on humanitarian aid and accommodation in Buddhist monasteries

Friday, 16 December 2022 wars   war crimes   buddhism   humanitarian aid  

Yangon (Agenzia Fides) - From 1 February 1, 2021 to December 14, 2022, in 2,130 days of civil conflict in Myanmar, the clashes, which also included 232 air raids carried out by the Burmese army, produced a total of 1.132 million people displaced within the Burmese population, in different states and among different ethnic groups. Fifty-eight meetings were organised, in different places and with different interlocutors, to negotiate a ceasefire or the opening of negotiations, without much result. These are the figures published by the "Myanmar Peace Monitor", managed by fifteen independent Burmese newspapers, united within the "Burma News International" network.
According to reports, the civil conflict in Myanmar is escalating day by day as violence and reprisals by the Myanmar military against civilians continue. In recent days in Mandalay, central Myanmar, the bodies of six civilians aged 20 to 43, who worked in a local motorcycle repair shop, were found with signs of torture, their hands tied in the back, throat slit. Residents of the village of Ywar Thit in the Mandalay region who found the bodies blamed the soldiers for the massacre.
"The victims were innocent civilians working for a workshop. Simple villagers, who were not involved in any political activity. Tatmadaw troops cruelly killed them, possibly to extort information about the People's Defense Forces from them" , notes a local Fides source, requesting anonymity for security reasons. "The soldiers instill terror in the population with the intention of exhausting and crushing popular resistance," he notes.
Among the measures taken to suppress any possible help to the popular forces, the junta of Myanmar has prohibited Buddhist monasteries in the Yangon region from accepting overnight guests, unless authorized by the military authorities. The reason for the measure, as reported, was to reduce crime, but the monks called it a "deliberate insult to their religion". The Yangon Region "Sangha Maha Nayaka" Council, which oversees Buddhist clergy in Yangon, had to reluctantly take notice and announce that monasteries will no longer be able to accommodate needy people seeking shelter at night.
Meanwhile, the travel ban on national and international NGOs continues, despite the ceasefire reached in Rakhine State on 26 November. Here, the army has been preventing humanitarian aid to displaced people for more than six months. In recent days, the international NGO “Doctors Without Borders” (MSF) announced that its team in Rakhine State was unable to provide health care due to restrictions imposed by the Myanmar junta.
The new NGO law, enacted by the regime on October 28, requires the special registration of organizations for political and security reasons, under penalty of not being authorized to carry out the work of assistance. Several local groups intend to boycott the new law, but this could impede the ability to respond to the humanitarian crisis. Running an unregistered organization is punishable by up to three years in prison, while members of an unregistered NGO can be fined up to 500 000 kyats (about 300 euros) and, if they refuse to pay, a prison term of up to two years. The organizations had 60 days to register with the Ministry of the Interior, ie before the end of December. Among Burmese organizations, the "Mandalay CSO Network" has announced that it will not comply with the new law, which will probably lead to the suspension of aid operations.
In its report "Denied and Deprived", published in June 2022, the "Karen Human Rights Group" denounced, six months ago already, the serious deterioration of humanitarian aid and the terrible crisis that the civilian community is going through. Many of them flee to the Thai border to find refuge, but the majority, forced to stay within their borders, are victims of armed clashes, airstrikes and other forms of violence, such as, such as the premeditated withdrawal of humanitarian aid.
According to the Association for Assistance to Political Prisoners, junta troops killed at least 2,604 civilians and arrested more than 16,500 people in the 22 months following the February 1, 2021 military coup, mostly during peaceful protests. (PA) (Agenzia Fides, 16/12/2022)