Myanmar: UN denies rights group's claim of aid adding to abuses

The United Nations' Office of the Humanitarian Coordinator in Myanmar today rejected claims made by a human rights group that some of the UN agencies' aid programmes in Burma have added to rights abuses.

The Karen Human Rights Group in a new report titled "Development by Decree: The Politics of Poverty and Control in Karen State" released on Tuesday said development projects implemented under the Burmese military regime caused further abuses of the rights of villagers in Karen state.

While the report said, it is not making a blanket statement against all aid, it stated that aid needed to be implemented in a way that "minimizes its harm and maximizes its benefit."

The report highlighted widespread land confiscation and forced labour resulting from the construction of the Asian Highway, which is supported by the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (UNESCAP).

The report also criticised the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) for giving US $ 14 million to finance oil crop cultivation programme in Burma, saying the project has increased forced labour, forced cultivation, and forced relocation in the regions where the cultivation is implemented.

However, the United Nations in Burma today, in a press statement, rejected the claims by the report, saying that many of the points concerning UN agencies are incorrect and that it leads to a depiction of the humanitarian response by the international community that does not reflect the reality.

"It is regrettable that, prior to publication, the authors of the report were not able to review or discuss with UN agencies, or even with the UN Humanitarian Coordinator on some of the assertions in the report concerning UN agencies," the statement said.

"The UN response to alleviation of the suffering in Myanmar [Burma ] is defined by a strict adherence to basic humanitarian principles," the statement added.