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Published on Friday, 18 January 2013 07:49
A plea earlier this week by the European Union to ensure unhindered access to international humanitarian aid in Kachin State, where fighting between government troops and the Kachin Independence Army has escalated, is being met with caution by the government.
"Before we talk about the distribution of humanitarian relief to the refugees in the KIA-controlled area, we should check how many members [of the ethnic army] are hiding there," Deputy Information Minister Ye Htut said in an interview with the 7 Day News Journal.
His comment followed a statement from the EU’s High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security on Tuesday, which said it was “deeply concerned” about the ongoing fighting in the state where an estimated 60,000 of the more than 100,000 people in need of humanitarian aid have yet to receive it.
The conflict is “putting at risk the nation-wide peace process and the gains already made”, the statement warned. “The latest reports of the shelling of Laiza and the resulting deaths of innocent civilians are particularly troubling. They point to a dangerous escalation of the conflict leading to more suffering for the people in Kachin."
The EU called for talks that would lead to an immediate end to the fighting.
The Kachin Independence Organisation said it welcomed international aid organisations in the KIA-controlled state, including United Nations agencies, but said such aid was difficult to access due to restrictions placed on it by the Union government.
Ye Htut indicated that the government was concerned that the aid would be used to bolster the KIA, saying it needed to monitor whether KIA troops and their families were hiding among the refugees.
A government military camp in Dokphoneyan Region on Monday fired four rounds of 105mm shells on residential areas of Laiza town, where the KIA is headquartered, killing two civilians and injuring six more, local sources said.