Neutrality Has Its Limits

The Red Cross has a policy of neutrality, so it does not make statements with regard to the various nefarious regimes around the world. It is has finally found a situation so bad that it has found it necessary to denounce the repeated violations of international humanitarian law. It does not surprise me that the regime in question is the ruling junta in Burma.

The statement issued by the president of the International Committee of the Red Cross , Jakob Kellenberger, particularly addresses the issue of portering:

Under the prison system set up by the government, every year thousands of detainees have been forced to support the armed forces by serving as porters. This institutionalized and widespread practice has frequently led to the abuse of detainees and exposed them to the dangers of armed conflict. Many detainees used as porters have suffered from exhaustion and malnutrition and been subjected to degrading treatment. Some have been murdered.

It has also addressed the destruction of the economy and acts of violence:

The Myanmar armed forces have committed repeated abuses against men, women and children living in communities affected by armed conflict along the Thai-Myanmar border. These have included the large-scale destruction of food supplies and of means of production. The armed forces have severely restricted the population’s freedom of movement in these areas, making it impossible for many villagers to work in their fields. This has had a significant impact on the economy, aggravating an already precarious humanitarian situation. Furthermore, the armed forces have committed numerous acts of violence against people living in these areas, including murder, and subjected them to arbitrary arrest and detention. They have also forced villagers to directly support military operations or to leave their homes.

On top of all this, the authorities refuse to talk seriously to Red Cross officials and directly restrict its work.

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