New chapter opens for ICRC
Yangon / Geneva (ICRC) – The president of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), Peter Maurer, today concluded the first-ever visit by an ICRC president to Myanmar. .
Mr Maurer met Union President Thein Sein, the ministers of home affairs, foreign affairs and defence, the speakers of the two houses of parliament, the leaders of two political parties (U Htay Oo of the Union Solidarity and Development Party, and Daw Aung San Suu Kyi of the National League for Democracy), as well as the president of the Myanmar Red Cross Society. He also visited Sittwe, in Rakhine state, to acquaint himself with the situation of people affected by inter-communal violence there.
“My visit marks the start of a new chapter in both our relationship with Myanmar government and in our humanitarian activities here,“ Mr Maurer said. “President Thein Sein showed that he well understands the importance and relevance of the ICRC’s neutral, impartial and independent action in Myanmar and expressed his commitment to working with our organization." A good example of this, he said, was that the ICRC would be able to resume its visits to places of detention next week.
President Maurer had talks with government officials about a range of issues of humanitarian concern. Their discussions dealt among other things with visits by ICRC delegates to places of detention for the purpose of improving treatment and conditions of detention, medical care for people affected by the ongoing conflicts in Kachin State and by inter-communal violence in Rakhine state, and the support needed to boost production of artificial limbs for amputees, including mine victims.
In his visit to Rakhine state, Mr Maurer learned first-hand about the situation there and the needs of the people affected by it. “That situation is of great humanitarian concern,” he remarked. “The ICRC intends to expand its activities to ensure that people have access to health care despite the practical difficulties involved.”
Mr Maurer met Rakhine state's chief minister, U Hla Maung Tin, and leaders of both communities. He also visited camps for people who have had to flee their homes. Working closely with the Myanmar Red Cross Society, the ICRC provides basic but vital aid in terms of health care, water supply and sanitation in the camps. The ICRC president and the president of the Myanmar Red Cross agreed to further strengthen their joint activities in this field.
In another realm, the ICRC has agreed to provide police and security forces with training in internationally accepted humanitarian principles on law enforcement and the legal framework for police power. This could pave the way to broadening cooperation between the ICRC and the Myanmar armed forces in implementing international humanitarian law.
“My discussions have been very positive overall," Mr Maurer concluded. "The ICRC's proposals have been well received. But we are still at the beginning of a new relationship – we need to pursue our dialogue and proceed step by step."
For further information, please contact:
Takanori Hosokawa, ICRC Yangon, tel: +95 1 662 613 or +95 94 199 18 81
Carla Haddad Mardini, ICRC Geneva, tel: +41 22 730 24 05 or +41 79 217 32 26
Philippe Stoll, ICRC Geneva, tel: +41 22 730 31 40 or +41 79 536 92 49