US voices concern about escalating violence in Myanmar

The U.S. State Department expressed concern Wednesday about escalating violence in and urged parties to take necessary precautions to protect local communities amid the coronavirus pandemic.

"The United States is deeply troubled by escalating in northern Rakhine State and Chin State, where dozens have been killed and thousands have been displaced in recent months," agency spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus said in a statement.

The U.S. encourages "all parties to cease fighting, take necessary precautions to protect local communities, and pursue peaceful dialogue," she said.

Underlining the U.S. efforts to decrease violence and ease humanitarian suffering in Myanmar since 2012, including $820 million in funding, she said: "The current situation is exacerbated by ongoing restrictions on humanitarian and media access, and the prolonged internet blackout, which cut communities off from lifesaving assistance and vital information."

Ortagus emphasized the importance of access to humanitarian assistance and information during the COVID-19 pandemic.

"We call on the Government of [Myanmar] to allow unhindered humanitarian access and to restore internet access," she said. "We also call on others to provide additional assistance and avoid actions that would further destabilize the region."

According to a running tally of U.S.-based Johns Hopkins University, there are 15 coronavirus-related cases in Myanmar with one fatality.

More than 300 advocacy groups there Monday called for an immediate cease-fire in , with hundreds of thousands displaced by fighting vulnerable to the virus.

Access to health facilities is extremely restricted in Rakhine state, where 130,000 Rohingya Muslims have been confined to open-air detention camps since communal violence in 2012.

After originating in Wuhan last December, the virus has spread to at least 180 countries and regions across the world, with its epicenter shifting to Europe, while China has largely come out of the crisis.

The virus has killed more than 44,200 and infected nearly 885,700 globally, while the number of patients who have recovered approaches 185,500.

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