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Posts Tagged ‘Southeast Asia’

By The Sunday Times

A SEVEN-YEAR-OLD Tamil girl with a severe leg injury was sharing a hospital bed yesterday with her elder sister, who had burns to her face. Their mother was dead and their father was in intensive care with a 50% chance of survival.

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COLOMBO, Sri Lanka – Facing imminent battlefield defeat, Sri Lanka’s Tamil Tiger rebels declared a unilateral cease-fire Sunday and called on the government to halt its offensive to spare the tens of thousands of civilians trapped by the fighting.

The government rejected the appeal and accused the rebels of playing for time as the military stands poised to rout them and end the separatist war that has plagued this Indian Ocean island nation for a quarter century.

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By The Guardian

Paul McMaster works as a Médecins Sans Frontières surgeon in Vavuniya hospital. This is an excerpt from his diary:

Wednesday 4.45am Woke up and started operating. A 15-year-old boy with severe blast injuries to his abdomen. He was on his own and in shock. Surgery took about two and a half hours and he was reasonably stable. The last I heard, at least, he was stable. But our concern is what happens to him now. This is a hospital with 450 beds, three intensive care beds, and we now have 1,700 patients with up to 50 coming in a day. There are patients on the floor, in the corridors, even outside. This boy is going to be on the floor. Infection is the main worry. The wounded take days to get to us by bus and infection has often set in by the time they get here. Many of them are dying on the buses that bring them, and the bodies are taken off along with the living.

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By BBC News
The Sri Lankan army has said there will be no more breaks in fighting against the Tamil Tigers in the north of the country, as it closes in on the rebels.

Spokesman Brig Shavendra Silva said the only way civilians could leave the area was if the army rescued them, as the rebels would not let any more out.
Rebel leader Velupillai Prabhakaran was still in the conflict zone, he added.
The UN has been calling on both sides to pause hostilities so aid can be sent in and people evacuated.
It is sending an aid team to the area, where it says 50,000 are trapped.
The BBC’s Charles Haviland, who travelled through areas close to the frontline and saw refugees who had recently fled from the fighting, says many looked seriously ill and most very weak.
The government says 100,000 people have fled since Monday’s military push. An estimated 60,000 people had already fled in recent months.
A UN document being circulated around diplomatic missions in Sri Lanka estimates that nearly 6,500 civilians have died and 14,000 have been injured.
(The BBC’s Charles Haviland, in Puthukkudiyiruppu near the front line).
A jolting ride in armoured vehicles took us across the swathe of north-east Sri Lanka which until a couple of months ago was held by the rebels. Buildings are badly damaged and the land is devoid of people. They’ve all been taken to areas the government calls welfare villages. Then suddenly, in coconut groves, we saw a long line of people who’ve freshly fled from the conflict zone. Many looked seriously ill, and most very weak. Surrounded by soldiers, people told us briefly that they’d been hungry or thirsty, or were happy to be out, or that the Tamil Tigers had prevented them from leaving. We and they were then moved on.
Meanwhile senior Indian officials have met Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa in Colombo, following Foreign Minister Pranab Mukherjee’s call to end the killing of civilians.
No details of the meeting have been released, but Foreign Secretary Shivshankar Menon and National Security Adviser M K Narayanan were expected to stress the severity of the humanitarian crisis.
Brig Silva said intelligence reports indicated that Velupillai Prabhakaran and other rebel leaders were still in the conflict zone and appeared to be preparing to make a last stand.

He has not been seen for 18 months, and there was speculation that he was killed or fled the island.

The army spokesman added that the Tamil Tigers were dressing in civilian clothing to blend in, and firing into the zone using heavy weaponry so people would think the army was firing at them.
But our correspondent says there is no way of verifying these reports.
On Thursday, the representative of the UN refugee agency (UNHCR) in Colombo, Amin Awad, called on the Sri Lankan government to allow pauses in the fighting so the necessary work could be completed.
“We are calling on the government to restrain itself and have the moral upper ground by allowing the humanitarian aid in, and we’re asking the LTTE [Tamil Tigers] to open the gates of hell and allow these people out into safety,” he said.
Hours earlier, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon announced the immediate despatch of the humanitarian team.
Thousands of people are caught with the Tamil Tigers in a 12 sq km (5 sq m) area in the north of the country as the military closes in.
The UN’s humanitarian coordinator, Neil Buhne, said tens of thousands of people were living in camps in the northern town of Vavuniya.
“I saw infants with dysentery, malnourished children and women, untended wounds, and people dressed in the ragged clothing they’ve been wearing for months,” the Associated Press quoted him as saying.
Paul McMaster, a British surgeon with Medicins Sans Frontieres (MSF), told the BBC a “continuous stream” of patients had been arriving at the hospital in Vavuniya since the weekend.
He said the hospital was equipped with 400 beds but was treating nearly 2,000 patients, many of them with gunshot wounds and blast injuries.
“We are doing emergency surgery, but the hospital is completely overwhelmed,” he said, with patients lying on the floor, in corridors and outside under trees and temporary shelters.
‘Rescue operation’
On Thursday, Sri Lankan Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa rejected a UN appeal to allow aid agencies in.

While the government has allowed aid agencies to help those fleeing the conflict, Sri Lanka’s UN ambassador says only the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and the Catholic charity, Caritas, have been let into the war zone itself.
On Wednesday the UN Security Council, which had been accused of inaction, called on the Tamil Tigers to lay down their arms and urged the Sri Lankan government to allow international aid agencies into areas of need.

The UN and Western nations – including the US and the UK – have been pressing for an immediate halt to the fighting to allow time for civilians to leave the war zone safely.

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By RAVI NESSMAN, Associated Press
COLOMBO, Sri Lanka – Indian officials took a demand for an immediate cease-fire in Sri Lanka’s civil war to the country’s president on Friday as the U.N. reported that nearly 6,500 ethnic Tamil civilians were killed in the last three months.
Concern for the safety of civilians trapped in the ever-shrinking war zone has increased in recent weeks as the government pushed ahead with its offensive to crush the rebels and end the nation’s quarter-century civil war.
The U.N. estimates that 50,000 people are still trapped in the war zone, spokeswoman Elisabeth Byrs said Friday.

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By By C. Bryson Hull, Reuters News

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said
on Thursday he was sending a humanitarian team to Sri Lanka’s war
zone, where thousands are trapped while troops push to end to a 25-
year war with Tamil Tiger rebels.

Ban’s decision came after the military said an exodus of 103,000
people from the tiny coastal strip had slowed, four days after troops
blew up an earthen barrier the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE)
built to stop them escaping. (more…)

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By Agence France-Presse

ZAMBOANGA, Philippines, April 23, 2009 (AFP) – Troops clashed with Islamic militants holding hostage a sick Italian Red Cross worker in the southern Philippines as the crisis entered its 99th day Thursday, the military said.

There were no immediate details of casualties and no word on the fate of Eugenio Vagni, 62, who intelligence reports earlier said was unable to walk due to a hernia.

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