For Immediate Release
Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) strongly condemns the recent attack in Burma (officially the Union of Myanmar) on a Myanmar Red Cross convoy that was evacuating civilians from a conflict area. The convoy was clearly marked with Red Cross insignia when it came under gunfire in the Kokang region of Shan State, where fighting recently erupted between the Myanmar Army and the insurgent Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA). It is not immediately clear which group was responsible for the attack, during which two people were wounded.
This is the first time the Myanmar Red Cross has been attacked, and it shows blatant disregard for the Geneva Conventions and also customary international humanitarian law. By violating the most basic laws of war and respect for humanity, the perpetrator is laying the groundwork for a humanitarian disaster in the region. “Attacks on medical and humanitarian convoys are grave violations of human rights and international law,” said Donna McKay, PHR’s executive director. “Those providing medical and humanitarian assistance during such emergencies deserve protection and must be allowed to carry out their critical work without fear of attack.”
It is estimated that tens of thousands of people were forcibly displaced in the first week of fighting in Kokang, which will likely necessitate the distribution of humanitarian aid, and humanitarian actors must be able to operate with guaranteed safety. Medical neutrality – the longstanding principle which obligates states and armed groups to protect medical personnel and facilities and compels health care providers to treat all individuals regardless of religion, race, ethnicity, or political affiliation – must be respected by both state and non-state actors.
PHR urges all groups in Burma to guarantee the safety of humanitarian aid workers in Kokang and the rest of the country.
Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) is a New York-based advocacy organization that uses science and medicine to prevent mass atrocities and severe human rights violations. Learn more here.