Myanmar driving Red Cross out

US seeks UN Security Council resolution to press government to change policies.

    The ICRC has not been allowed unaccompanied visits to prisoners in the past year

    Although the ICRC stopped short of a clear threat to pull out, the humanitarian organisation said it would "review its operational framework" in the country.
     
    Antonella Notari, a spokeswoman for ICRC, said the group hoped that it would not leave Myanmar, formerly known as Burma.
     
    "But we need to be able to work in the manner in which we always work," she added.
     
    A decision on the ICRC's future in the Southeast Asian country would be taken within days or at the most a few weeks.
     
    "We are not going to sit around idly, we need to be able to work," Notari said.
     
    Florian Westphal, ICRC's regional communications adviser in Kuala Lumpur, told Al Jazeera: "We need to make our own opinions and observations to be effective."
     
    The ICRC stopped visiting detainees in December 2005 because the Myanmar government required that the visits be accompanied by government officials.
     

    The ICRC has been working
    in Myanmar since 1999

    It says the government will not allow the visits to resume.
     
    In October, the government ordered the ICRC to shut five of its field offices, although the order has yet to be enforced.
     
    Myanmar's government has not issued a reason for the closures.
     
    Westphal says the ICRC has had difficulty convincing the government that its activities are strictly humanitarian and not political.
     
    The ICRC has been working in Myanmar since 1999 and has made assisting people deprived of their freedom and those living in areas affected by armed conflict its top priorities.
     
    John Bolton, the US ambassador to the UN, said Washington would pursue the UN resolution because the military government had failed to curb trafficking in people and drugs, leading to one million people to flee the country and increasing the likelihood of the transmission of "highly contagious diseases across international borders".
     
    Bolton said the US would not seek sanctions against Myanmar yet but focus on concrete changes to Myanmar's policy.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and agencies


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