Myanmar allows Red Cross to reopen field offices

Myanmar's military government had ordered the International Committee of the Red Cross on October 23 to shut five field offices.

india Updated: Dec 14, 2006 13:43 IST

Myanmar's military junta has told Red Cross officials that the humanitarian group can reopen its field offices that the government had ordered shut in October, the aid agency said on Thursday.

The Southeast Asian country's military government ordered the International Committee of the Red Cross on October 23 to shut five field offices that provide humanitarian assistance to people in sensitive border areas.

The offices also support prisoners and their families, and work with land-mine victims.

The move drew criticism from international rights groups. A group of ICRC representatives met with government officials last week but no details of the meeting were made public at the time.

Thierry Ribaux, deputy head of the ICRC delegation, said Thursday that during the meeting Home Minister Maj Gen Maung Oo "confirmed that our field offices in border areas could reopen, and we take good note of that."

"It is indeed an improvement," he said, but noted that "modalities of works in border areas and how to continue with the activities in remote border areas still need to be discussed."

The ICRC remains barred from accessing prisons in the country, a ban imposed last December. Discussions with Myanmar's military government have failed to end that ban.

Ribaux said the ICRC will continue dialogue with the junta to gain access to prisons.

Since 1999, when the ICRC began working in Myanmar, it made more than 450 visits to about 90 prisons and labor camps across Myanmar, meeting detainees and providing them with medicine, soap and other assistance.

First Published: Dec 14, 2006 13:43 IST