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Myanmar: new chapter opens for ICRC

19-01-2013 News Release 13/06

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


Photos

ICRC president Peter Maurer meets the vice-chairman of the Union Solidarity and Development Party, U Htay Oo, who said that the ICRC’s work would help the people of Myanmar. 

ICRC president Peter Maurer meets the vice-chairman of the Union Solidarity and Development Party, U Htay Oo, who said that the ICRC’s work would help the people of Myanmar.
© ICRC

During his visit to the Myanmar parliament, Peter Maurer met the Chairman of the National League for Democracy, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi. The two exchanged their views on humanitarian concerns in Myanmar. 

During his visit to the Myanmar parliament, Peter Maurer met the Chairman of the National League for Democracy, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi. The two exchanged their views on humanitarian concerns in Myanmar.
© ICRC

Near Sittwe, Myanmar. ICRC president Peter Maurer visits IDP camps. The humanitarian situation in Rakhine State continues to be a source of concern to the ICRC. 

Near Sittwe, Myanmar. ICRC president Peter Maurer visits IDP camps. The humanitarian situation in Rakhine State continues to be a source of concern to the ICRC.
© ICRC

Sittwe, Mynamar. ICRC president Peter Maurer talks to a Myanmar Red Cross worker during a joint ICRC/Myanmar Red Cross water distribution operation at an IDP camp. 

Sittwe, Mynamar. ICRC president Peter Maurer talks to a Myanmar Red Cross worker during a joint ICRC/Myanmar Red Cross water distribution operation at an IDP camp.
© ICRC