Myanmar’s NUG, Allied EAOs Urge ASEAN, UN Not to Work With Junta on Aid

By The Irrawaddy 1 June 2022

Myanmar’s parallel National Unity Government (NUG) and three allied organizations have objected to ASEAN’s decision to provide humanitarian aid to post-coup, conflict-torn Myanmar through the country’s military regime, reasoning that the junta “will weaponize the aid and allow international whitewashing of the regime’s ongoing atrocities” against civilians.

In a statement issued Monday, the NUG’s Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs and Disaster Management (MoHADM) along with the Karenni National Progressive Party (KNPP), Karen National Union (KNU) and Chin National Front (CNF) called on the UN and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) to negotiate with ASEAN and Myanmar’s neighbors India and Thailand to allow cross-border aid to reach those in need.

The request came before an expected visit by Noleen Heyzer, the UN Special Envoy for Myanmar, to the country, as delivery of aid to those in need in Myanmar is expected to be one of the issues she will focus on during her visit.

The statement said the regional bloc’s aid would be used by the regime and, instead of being delivered to the most needy communities—the very ones it is attacking—delivered to military outposts in the agreed areas, which the military itself strategically selected.

During an online meeting last month, regime leader Min Aung Hlaing told Hun Sen, the prime minister of Cambodia, which currently holds ASEAN’s rotating chair, that he was ready to facilitate aid distribution, initially in two pilot areas before expanding to five regions and states that have been identified as priority areas.

The NUG and its allied organizations said the approach would cause real harm on the ground because the communities that most need humanitarian assistance were the ones being bombed by the regime and were excluded from the list.

“We welcome all assistance that will genuinely relieve the people at this time when they most need life-saving aid. Still, we must object to this initiative that will only embolden the SAC to further commit atrocity crimes,” the statement said, referring the State Administration Council, the regime’s governing organ.

The regime has been launching airstrikes and artillery attacks in anti-regime strongholds in Sagaing and Magwe regions and Chin State in the country’s northwest as well as Kayah and Karen states in the south.

According to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), as of April 11, 346,000 of the 566,100 people internally displaced since the military takeover were from Chin State and Sagaing and Magwe regions. Amnesty International said the regime’s air strikes in Karen and Kayah states killed nine civilians and wounded at least nine others from December to March this year. The armed wings of the NUG, KNPP, KNU and CNF are actively fighting the regime in the five states and regions.

The NUG and its allied organizations said they were troubled by the inclusion of the junta-controlled Myanmar Red Cross Society (MRCS) in the plan to deliver aid, while the ICRC is excluded.

“ASEAN and the UN cannot claim to comply with humanitarian principles if they work through organizations such as the MRCS and SAC in this manner,” it said.

They also warned ASEAN that it was wrong to focus solely on humanitarian aid for Myanmar, saying it should be viewed in context as one of the points in the bloc’s peace plan for Myanmar, known as the Five-Point Consensus.

“It would irretrievably undermine the entire Consensus through a process that emboldens the party committing ongoing atrocity crimes and undermines the first two points of ‘constructive dialogue among all parties concerned’ and the ‘immediate cessation of violence’,” they said.

Regime leader Min Aung Hlaing agreed to the consensus in April last year but has so far failed to honor most of his commitments. Since the coup, his soldiers have killed more than 1,800 people for their anti-regime activism.

Padoh Saw Taw Nee, the head of the KNU’s Foreign Affairs Department, told The Irrawaddy an emergency humanitarian dialogue should be established between the resistance forces, the SAC and the neighboring countries who had to receive the internally displaced people (IDPs).

“A nonpolitical emergency humanitarian dialogue should be set up. There is daily fighting in my region and over 400 clashes every month. Without a humanitarian ceasefire, it cannot work,” Padoh Saw Taw Nee said.

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