The parallel National Unity Government (NUG) and its allied organizations has urged the international community not to deliver humanitarian assistance to the Myanmar people via the military regime.
“The regime views civilian victims as the enemy. So assistance will not come through the regime,” NUG humanitarian minister Dr. Win Myat Aye said in an interview with The Irrawaddy.
The NUG’s request was made in April, when United Nations (UN) agencies in Myanmar and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) were holding talks with the junta’s Minister for International Cooperation, U Ko Ko Hlaing, on the delivery of humanitarian aid to the Myanmar people.
ASEAN agreed a peace plan, known as the Five-Point Consensus, with coup leader Senior General Min Aung Hlaing in Jakarta last year. The plan includes provisions for providing humanitarian assistance, but international aid has yet to reach the Myanmar people. The NUG and its allied organizations has instead called for the provision of cross-border humanitarian assistance through local service providers, and not through the regime.
An independent coordination committee is working together with the NUG’s humanitarian affairs and disaster management ministry to channel assistance to displaced people through civil society and community-based organizations. Coordination committee member Ma Mai Mai, an ethnic Chin representative, said relief supplies provided via the junta did not reach civilians.
“Many people say that they don’t want to receive relief supplies through the regime which they consider unethical. We would like to suggest providing assistance that they can take with dignity, and finding ways that can effectively reach people. We have local organizations across the country that are helping people,” she told The Irrawaddy.
Over 550,000 people have been displaced nationwide by fighting since last year’s coup, with Kayah and Chin states and Sagaing and Magwe regions hit the hardest, according to the NUG.
The NUG said it has only been able to deliver assistance to two-thirds of the affected people. It provided some 1.6 billion kyats, or 62 percent of the cash donations it has received, to Kayah, Karen and Chin states and Sagaing and Magwe regions.
In its efforts to crush the resistance movement, the regime has been targeting villages and using arson attacks as a weapon to demoralize civilians.
By the end of March, over 7,700 houses had been destroyed by regime troops and pro-junta armed groups such as the Pyu Saw Htee militias, according to Data for Myanmar, an independent research organization documenting the regime’s atrocities.
Hundreds of thousands of people have been forced from their homes by junta raids. In Chin State alone, nearly 70,000 people have been displaced by fighting.
“That figure only represents the people who have remained in Chin State after being displaced. The actual figures are higher considering the people who have fled outside Chin State. If we can’t handle the internally displaced person (IDP) problem, the problem could become a regional one affecting neighboring countries and ASEAN,” said Ma Mai Mai.
Thousands of people from Kayah State and Karen State in southeast Myanmar have fled to neighboring Thailand. In western Myanmar’s Chin State, many people have fled to India.
A report released in March by the Karen Human Rights Group reported multiple cases of forced labor and the use of civilians as human shields, as well as torture and beatings and the looting of people’s possessions including food and livestock.
Scores of civilians have been killed or injured by artillery and air strikes, with women and children especially vulnerable, said the report.
Many displaced people have to stay in temporary shelters along the Moei River, which separates Thailand and Myanmar, and are facing food shortages with little humanitarian assistance from the international community, added the report.
In Kayah State, over 1,000 houses have been destroyed by artillery strikes and arson in Loikaw, Demoso and Hpruso townships, and half of the state’s population has been displaced by the fighting, said Ko Banyar, a representative of the Karenni State Consultative Council.
“We have been expecting international assistance. Two-thirds of the population of our state has been forced into the forest. They have lost their livelihoods and have no income now,” he added.
The NUG lacks the cash to help the IDPs, many of whom have lost their homes. It has only been able to help them with funds donated by Myanmar nationals at home and abroad.
Dr. Win Myat Aye said: “We were empty-handed when we initiated relief efforts. We need funds. We have to rely on the people. The people only have each other.”
As many as 14 million people could be going hungry due to growing poverty amid the post-coup political turmoil, said the UN.
Of Myanmar’s 54 million population, 25 million people are facing poverty in 2022 and 14.4 million people are in need of humanitarian assistance. The UN is targeting helping six million of those people.