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By Marwaan Macan-Markar
"It is a desperate picture out there," Lynn Yoshikawa of the Washington D.C.-based Refugees International told journalists in Bangkok last Friday following a two-week mission to an area in the Kachin state close to the fighting. "There is potential for a dire humanitarian crisis with the number of displaced growing and little aid available."
The plight of the victims was worsened by the politics of international aid after the quasi-civilian government of Myanmar, as Burma is also known, pushed through a policy of isolation to defeat the KIA.
Western governments were reluctant to channel aid directly to local relief groups like the KDG preferring U.N. agencies instead, according to a Rangoon-based diplomatic source.
Such cross-border assistance raised the touchy issue of sovereignty, given that relief would have to be channeled through China. "China is concerned about international assistance flowing into the Kachin state from its end," Yoshikawa said. "China has been permitting some aid to go through, but they don’t want anything high-profile."
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