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UN humanitarian chief calls on Myanmar to increase access for aid agencies

The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) [official website] on Thursday expressed concern [press release, PDF] over the shortage of humanitarian assistance for the over half a million internally displaced people in Myanmar [BBC backgrounder; JURIST news archive] and called for increased access for aid agencies. At the end of his four-day mission to the country OCHA Director of Operations John Ging [official profile] acknowledged the results gained from the Myanmar authorities' efforts toward democratization and peace, but he warned that there are still "significant humanitarian needs" to be addressed. Ging also noted that aid agencies are denied access to the displaced people in Kachin and Rakhine States where they are in immediate need of humanitarian assistance:

Emotions are running high, grievances are decades old and the recent violence has ignited a potent combination of fear and anger within both communities. It is vital that people's immediate humanitarian needs are met, while, at the same time, fundamental issues are addressed to prevent future occurrences of communal conflict.
Ging called all parties to respect the rule of law and to resolve their tension in a peaceful way rather than through armed conflict. He also addressed the recent detention of 14 humanitarian staff from the UN and international nongovernmental organizations by calling for their immediate release. Lastly Ging urged donors to support the $32.5 million Rakhine Humanitarian Response Plan [text], which focuses on immediate relief requirements such as shelter, food and sanitation support for the displaced people in Myanmar until December of this year.

Myanmar has been unsuccessful in resolving the sectarian violence prevalent in the country despite attempts by President Thein Sein [BBC profile] to bring peace to the communities, making the country subject to international criticism. Earlier this month the US Congress on a voice vote approved a bill [JURIST report] extending the ban on imports from Myanmar. A day earlier Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] released a 56-page document [report, PDF] accusing Myanmar security forces of human rights abuses against a minority religious community [JURIST report] in June. In July UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay [official profile] expressed concern over the continued violence and human rights violations prevalent in Myanmar's Rakhine state since clashes began between its Buddhist and minority Rohingya [BBC backgrounder] Muslim communities in May. A week earlier Amnesty International (AI) [advocacy website] reported [JURIST report] that the violence between the two groups has increased since a state of emergency was declared in the western state of Rakhine. Earlier in July a spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) [official website] reported that 10 UN staff and aid workers had been arrested [JURIST report] in the northwestern Rakhine state and three of them are facing unknown criminal charges.

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