UN concerned as Myanmar gov't troops clash with rebels

- UN’s humanitarian coordinator says more than 1,000 people forced to flee recent fighting in country’s north.

By Joshua Carroll

YANGON, Myanmar (AA) -- A United Nations official has called on rebels and Myanmar government troops locked in fighting in the country’s north to allow civilians safe passage from conflict zones and access to aid.

Renata Dessallien, the U.N. Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator in Myanmar, said in a statement Friday that she was “deeply concerned” about civilians in the area, urging both ethnic Kachin rebels and the military to remember their “obligations under International Humanitarian Law.”

More than 1,000 people have been forced from their homes in Aung Bar Lay village, Hpakan township, since a fresh wave of fighting broke out Jan. 14, according to the statement.

Dessallien said: “I appeal to all parties to the conflict to allow the displaced people and other civilians who remain in close proximity to the area of conflict to be permitted to move to a more secure location and to allow for humanitarian assistance to reach this population in the safe areas.”

Human rights groups have long accused Myanmar’s army of targeting civilians and other abuses. Ethnic militias, including the Kachin Independence Army, have also faced accusations -- though not on the same scale.

The latest round of fighting has led to more allegations of abuse. After the bloodied bodies of two volunteer teachers were found Jan. 19, activists said the military had raped and murdered the Kachin women.

The military has denied involvement, threatening legal action against journalists and campaigners who accuse them of being responsible.

Myanmar’s reformist government, which came to power following five decades of military rule in 2011, is trying to secure a nationwide ceasefire with various rebel groups.

The Kachin Independence Army is one of the only groups yet to sign a deal.

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