by William M. Reilly
UNITED NATIONS, April 25 (Xinhua) -- The United Nations on Wednesday called on all parties in Myanmar's northeastern Kachin State to respect their obligations under international humanitarian law and end the violence.
Chief UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric said that "humanitarians must be able to access and provide assistance to those in need, the parties must take constant care to spare civilians and civilians should be able to safely and voluntarily return to their homes as soon as conditions allow."
"Thousands of civilians have been displaced by renewed fighting between the Myanmar military and the Kachin Independence Army (KIA), while many others are trapped in conflict-affected areas, unable to flee," he said. "There are grave protection concerns for these communities as a result."
The violence in Kachin is separate from the alleged government and militia attacks in western Rakhine State where the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) said 671,000 Rohingya, ethnic Muslims, fled into neighboring Bangladesh since August 2017.
The Rohingya refugees -- mainly in the Cox's Bazar region of southeastern Bangladesh -- said they were routed when their villages were razed and women raped.
The UNHCR has said it is "one of the largest and fastest growing refugee crises in decades."
On the opposite side of Myanmar in Kachin State, "a UN assessment team met with displaced civilians in one area, Namti, on Monday and identified high levels of immediate need -- notably food, shelter, healthcare, water and sanitation, the spokesman said.
"Local authorities and humanitarian partners are now moving to respond but access for the UN and international humanitarian partners to civilian populations in need continues to be extremely limited in Kachin, notably in non-government controlled areas," he said.
The KIA and government forces have clashed several times since the beginning of the year with reports from humanitarian agencies of a number of civilians killed or wounded.
Staff members of UN agencies have not been permitted in Kachin State conflict areas to verify the reports.
Government forces and the KIA have been fighting since 2011 when a 1994 cease-fire was breached. The conflict has receded to the background recently with the outpouring of refugees from Rakhine State into Bangladesh.