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UN World Food Program decries looting and burning of its warehouse in western Myanmar combat zone

BANGKOK (AP) — The United Nations’ World Food Program on Tuesday strongly condemned the looting of food supplies and burning of one of its warehouses in a war-torn area in Myanmar’s western state of Rakhine.

A statement released by the U.N. food agency said the destroyed building in Rakhine’s Maungdaw township held 1,175 metric tons (1,295 U.S. tons) of food and supplies, enough to sustain 64,000 people for a one-month emergency.

The Sunday incident makes even more desperate a humanitarian crisis caused by bitter fighting between troops of Myanmar’s military government and guerrillas of the Arakan Army belonging the Rakhine ethnic minority, which seeks autonomy from the central government.

The wider context of the fighting is Myanmar’s nationwide civil war, in which pro-democracy guerrillas and ethnic minority armed forces battle the country’s military rulers, who took power in 2021 after the army ousted the elected government of Aung San Suu Kyi.

The fiercest fighting is currently taking place in Rakhine, but the United Nations says that more than 3 million people have been displaced nationwide by fighting since the 2021 army takeover, causing a massive and largely unmet need for humanitarian assistance.

“WFP calls on all parties to the conflict to uphold their obligations under International Humanitarian Law to ensure that humanitarian facilities and assets are respected and protected, and safe and secure access is provided for the delivery of vital assistance to those in urgent need,” said the statement from the U.N. agency.

The statement did not identify the perpetrators of the looting, which took place on Sunday. The Arakan Army blamed the attack on the army’s soldiers and local Muslims said to be fighting alongside