Friday, June 24, 2011

US appeals for safety of Myanmar refugees

Fri Jun 24, 6:07 pm ET

WASHINGTON (AFP) – The United States called Friday for protection of people fleeing fighting between government and rebel forces in Myanmar's northern ethnic minority regions and renewed an appeal for an end to hostilities.

"The United States is concerned by on-going violence in (Myanmar?s) northern Kachin State and other regions of the country and calls for a halt to hostilities," State Department spokesman Victoria Nuland said.

"We are particularly concerned by the reports of human rights abuses in the area, including reports of casualties, rape, and displacement of thousands of local residents," she said in a statement.

Fierce fighting between government troops and rebels began two weeks ago near a large hydropower project being built in Kachin State to provide power to China, and has since spread to northern areas of neighboring Shan State.

The rebel Kachin Independence Army said that thousands have crossed into China during the fighting. It appealed for mediation from Beijing, one of the closest allies of Myanmar's military-backed government.

"We urge all appropriate authorities to ensure, in line with international standards, adequate support, safety, and protection for those persons fleeing conflict" in the north, Nuland said.

"This recent violence underscores the need for an inclusive dialogue between the government of Burma and opposition and ethnic minority groups to begin a process of genuine national reconciliation," she said in a statement.

Myanmar is also known as Burma.

President Barack Obama's administration in 2009 opened a dialogue with Myanmar, concluding that efforts to isolate the regime had failed.

But the United States has repeatedly voiced disappointment with Myanmar's progress on democracy, human rights and other key concerns.

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