Sri Lanka’s camps ‘most appalling’ in the world – Ban Ki-Moon

[TamilNet, Sunday, 24 May 2009, 10:53 GMT]
"I have traveled around the world and visited similar places, but this is by far the most appalling scenes I have seen," UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon told CNN after visiting Manik Farm, the most presentable of Sri Lanka’s squalid and dangerous internment camps for Tamils civilians. "I sympathize fully with all of the displaced persons," Mr. Ban said Saturday. The UN Chief has also promised international action regarding the heavy shelling of civilian populations during the recent fighting.

"I'm very moved after what I have seen," Mr. Ban told reporters on Friday after visiting Manik Farm, one of the listed camps where some of nearly 300,000 Tamils are concentrated behind barbed wire.

Mr Ban said many of the displaced people needed help as they were sick or injured and most had lost their homes, belongings and livelihoods.

"I've seen so many wounded," he told CNN.

"Wherever there are serious violations of human rights as well as international humanitarian law, proper investigation should be instituted," Mr. Ban also told reporters during his visit.

But the scenes that appalled the UN Chief are not the worst in the Manik Farm camp itself.

A resident of Manik farm told Voice of America: "All the VIPs are coming and they are showing this area only. If they go the downside they can see the real situation of this camp. The people, they're suffering."

During his visit to Manik Farm, Ban went to a small field hospital, where he saw severely emaciated elderly people attached to saline drips and children with shrapnel wounds.

But UN officials told Reuters the most severely injured Tamils – amputees, victims of mine explosions or heavy artillery blasts – were at other hospitals Ban’s delegation was not shown.

Press reports quote Oxfam aid agency as saying chicken pox and skin diseases are soreading in the camp and hepatitis is a growing problem because of poor sanitation.

Mr. Ban said his first priority was "unimpeded access" for U.N. agencies and humanitarian workers. "I know that there are more than 300,000 displaced persons who are badly in need of humanitarian assistance - food, water and sanitation," he added.

The Voice of America reports also pointed out the widely recognized truism that Sri Lanka’s hardline government appears not to have made any concessions on Mr. Ban's calls for unhindered access to the camps by international aid organizations and that screening of the displaced be expedited so families can be reunited.

Yet Mr. Ban told reporters on his flight from Frankfurt to Sri Lanka: "This is going to be a defining trip, a very crucial trip for the future of Sri Lanka and peace and stability in the region."


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