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Thailand starts aid deliveries to Myanmar under plan aimed at managing conflict

Thailand starts aid deliveries to Myanmar under plan aimed at managing conflict
People queue to receive free soup distributed by the Nwe Aye mosque to fasting Muslim faithfuls on their first day of Ramadan in Yangon, Myanmar, 12 March 2024. EPA-EFE/NYEIN CHAN NAING

BANGKOK, March 25 (Reuters) - Thailand started the delivery of aid to military-ruled Myanmar on Monday, in a humanitarian initiative that seeks to pave the way for talks between warring camps after three years of instability and violence triggered by a coup.

The first batch of 4,000 relief bags carrying rice, dried food, and other essentials for 20,000 people was delivered in a convoy by the Thai Red Cross to its Myanmar counterpart at the Mae Sot-Myawaddy border crossing, Thailand’s foreign ministry said in a statement.

The project is part of a wider peace initiative by Thailand to establish a humanitarian corridor, backed by the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), as a civil war intensifies between Myanmar’s military on one side and ethnic minority armies and a resistance movement on the other.

The United Nations has said at least 2.6 million people have been displaced by fighting and more than 18 million people are in need of assistance.

ASEAN’s five-point peace plan, which Myanmar’s generals agreed to in April 2021, has yet to advance, with frustration in the bloc about the junta’s lack of commitment and its use of air strikes and artillery in civilian areas.

The commitment includes humanitarian access, a halt to fighting and dialogue, which the generals have so far refused to pursue. Thailand is hoping it can play a role in bringing the fighting to a manageable level and encouraging talks.

“This is a display of good intention from Thailand to the people of Myanmar,” Thailand’s vice foreign minister Sihasak Phuangketkeow said, adding, “with the hope that Myanmar will see peace, stability and unity.”

The aid will be distributed in three pilot locations in Myanmar’s Kayin State, observed by ASEAN’s humanitarian and disaster agency.

Sihasak said there was a readiness to support dialogue between and the humanitarian assistance would expand to other areas in the future. He did not elaborate.

(Reporting by Panu Wongcha-um; Editing by Martin Petty)

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