Myanmar - ReliefWeb News
Human trafficking may have taken place in Thailand on a far greater scale than previously suspected, with dozens of mass graves containing the bodies of victims lying undiscovered throughout the country’s south, according to testimony gathered by a Bangkok-based human rights group.
The claim comes after Thai authorities uncovered two graves apparently containing the remains of Rohingya “boat people” brought to remote parts of the country from Burma by transnational criminal syndicates. The discovery of 26 corpses at a mass burial site in Songkhla province on 1 May was followed days later by the finding of two skeletons in a second southern province, Phang Nga. More corpses have since been found close to the original site.
BANGKOK, May 6 – The UN refugee agency is deeply concerned at this week's discovery of dozens of bodies in smugglers' camps in southern Thailand. The agency calls on countries in the region to strengthen cooperation on counter-smuggling and counter-trafficking measures while ensuring the protection of victims.
In recent days Thai authorities have announced that they found the remains of some 30 people believed to originate in Myanmar and Bangladesh. Investigations are ongoing, with initial police accounts citing illness and abuse as likely causes of death.
"It's distressing to hear that people who escaped difficult conditions back home have had to put their lives in the hands of ruthless smugglers, only to be killed before they could reach safety," said James Lynch, UNHCR's Regional Representative and Regional Coordinator for South-East Asia.
This is the first time that graves of a large number of people believed to be of concern to UNHCR have been identified. In the last year UNHCR has learnt from hundreds of Rohingya survivors about horrific abuse and deprivation by smugglers on boats in the Bay of Bengal and in camps along the Thai-Malaysian border. Some said they saw people dying from beatings and lack of food. These findings have been shared with governments to advocate for urgent action.
In Thailand UNHCR has been helping the authorities to care for people of concern who are caught in these situations. The agency assists people rescued in law enforcement raids from smugglers' camps by providing immediate relief such as clothes, blankets and hygiene kits. UNHCR staff also conduct interviews, help reunite families who were split during the journey, provide counseling support and identify possibilities of resettlement to third countries for the most vulnerable people.
In Malaysia, UNHCR conducts protection monitoring in Rohingya communities and intervenes for the release of new maritime arrivals known to be in detention. The agency also supports refugee communities in the implementation of livelihood, community development, or skills-building and education projects.
"Smuggling is a regional problem that requires coordinated efforts by countries in the region, including countries of origin, transit and destination," said Lynch. "Law enforcement measures must be accompanied by efforts to reduce the need for migrants and refugees to turn to smugglers in the first place, including by addressing the root causes driving people to undertake these dangerous journeys."
In Myanmar's Rakhine state – where many of the smuggling victims originate – UNHCR has long advocated for and stands ready to support concerted efforts to stabilize the situation through the realization of rights for all, reconciliation, socio-economic equality and addressing issues related to citizenship.
For more information, please contact:
Vivian Tan, UNHCR Spokesperson, firstname.lastname@example.org, mobile +66 818 270 280
Myanmar: L’ambassadeur Bennett, en visite en Indonésie et en Birmanie, annonce du financement pour la liberté de religion
Le Canada continue d’exercer son leadership en faisant la promotion de la liberté de religion partout dans le monde
Le 6 mai 2015 - Yangon, Birmanie - Affaires étrangères, Commerce et Développement Canada
L’ambassadeur canadien pour la liberté de religion, M. Andrew Bennett, a annoncé aujourd’hui que le Fonds pour la liberté de religion accorderait un soutien à deux projets en Birmanie. Il a fait cette annonce alors que son voyage en Indonésie et en Birmanie tire à sa fin. En effet, il a passé les deux dernières semaines en déplacement dans ces deux pays où il a rencontré des représentants du gouvernement, des leaders religieux et des dirigeants de la société civile pour y discuter de la liberté de religion.
En Birmanie, l’ambassadeur Bennett a rencontré des intervenants majeurs qui ont participé à la transition remarquable du pays vers une plus grande démocratie, la réconciliation et un respect accru des droits de la personne. M. Bennett a visité la Birmanie en compagnie de l’ambassadeur itinérant des États-Unis pour la liberté religieuse internationale, M. David Saperstein. Ils ont tous deux livré un message commun : l’amélioration des conditions de liberté religieuse contribuera à accroître la sécurité, la stabilité et la démocratie en Birmanie.
Les deux projets en Birmanie, qui totalisent plus de 580 000 dollars, sont financés par le Bureau de la liberté de religion du ministère des Affaires étrangères, du Commerce et du Développement. Ces projets feront la promotion de la liberté de religion par l’intermédiaire d’initiatives en éducation et permettront à la Birmanie de mieux lutter contre les violations de la liberté de religion.
La visite de l’ambassadeur Bennet en Indonésie s’inscrit dans la foulée du Plan d’action bilatéral signé par les ministres des Affaires étrangères du Canada et de l’Indonésie en août 2014, par lequel les deux pays se sont engagés à promouvoir le pluralisme et la tolérance religieuse.
Snapshot 29 April–5 May 2015
Nepal: The death toll from the earthquake has reached 7,250, with more than 14,000 injured. Aftershocks are still occurring, and some villages have still not been reached. 300,000 homes are estimated to need rebuilding or repair.
Yemen: The estimated number of IDPs has doubled since 17 April to reach 300,000, as conflict continues. Food distribution, health, and WASH systems are on the verge of collapse, due in large part to severe fuel shortages.
Nigeria: 9.7 million people are living in the areas worst affected by the Boko Haram insurgency, and 300,000 new IDPs have been recorded since February. In Damasak, Borno state, hundreds of people have been found dead following Boko Haram attacks.
Updated: 05/05/2015. Next update: 12/05/2015
The Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (IDMC) is pleased to present its quarterly update for the period January to March 2015 in a modified format that reflects IDMC’s new strategic objectives and expected outcomes. 2015 is a transitional year for IDMC during which we will meet our running commitments and at the same time engage in activities within the new strategic framework. These reports will of course continue to keep you updated on progress made towards achieving our goals.
Myanmar: Chin State introduces the first ever child focussed Local Social Plan in Myanmar to International Development Partners
Yangon, 5 May 2015 – For the first time in Myanmar, the Chin State Administration revealed today its Local Social Plan to benefit children and women, supplementing the State’s Comprehensive 5-year Development Plan 2016-21.
The plan, supported by UNICEF, in collaboration with Myanmar Institute for Integrated Development (MIID) and with financial support from the Government of Denmark, aims at producing new results for children and their families within the decentralisation reforms led by the Government of Myanmar.
Children in Chin are more likely to be underweight and stunted than their peers living in other parts of the Union of Myanmar. Only 6 per cent of children in Chin are delivered in a health facility, compared with 36.2 per cent in Myanmar on average. “The Local Social Plan addresses unmet development needs and rights, prioritised by the people of Chin State and the Chin State Government, such as food security, improved access to and retention in education, and expanded coverage of quality health services”, explained Bertrand Bainvel, UNICEF Representative to Myanmar.
To mobilise support for Chin’s LSP projects from development partners, a Development Partner Forum took place today in Yangon. “The event is a great opportunity for us to present the plan to development partners and donors, for their consideration in supporting our project proposals, thus complementing our budgetary request for 2015-16”, explained Chin State Chief Minister H.E. Hong Ngai.
H.E. Peter Lysholt Hansen, Danish Ambassador to Myanmar, confirmed Denmark’s keen interest. “Denmark is very pleased to have provided financial support to this plan, which is the result of a bottom-up participatory planning process involving key stakeholders,” he stated. “The people of Chin deserve to see tangible results in their daily life as a result of the bilateral ceasefire agreement and the plan will contribute to this aim. This is part of Denmark’s strong support for the peace, democracy, human rights and reform process in Myanmar”.
UNICEF and MIID have recently shared the methodological guidelines of LSP and Chin State experiences with the Ministry of National Planning and Economic Development.
“The development of the Local Social Plan is a methodology that we hope can be replicated in other States and Regions in Myanmar“, affirmed Joern Kristensen, Executive Director of MIDD.
Participants at the forum expressed hope that Local Social Plans such as Chin’s will help Myanmar put children and their families in the centre of the development of the country.
UNICEF in Myanmar
UNICEF has been working with the Government and the people of Myanmar since 1950. In partnership with the Government and the civil society, UNICEF’s current focus of work aims at reducing child mortality, improving access and quality of education and protecting children from violence, abuse and exploitation. For more information about UNICEF and its work in Myanmar.
http://www.unicef.org/myanmar. Follow us on Facebook.
For more information, please contact:
Alison Rhodes, Chief, Advocacy, Partnerships and Communication Section, UNICEF Myanmar, Tel: +95-1-230 5960-69, email@example.com
Mariana Palavra, Communication Specialist, Advocacy, Partnerships and Communication Section UNICEF Myanmar, Tel: +95-1-230 5960-69, firstname.lastname@example.org
By ZARNI MANN / THE IRRAWADDY| Monday, May 4, 2015 |
MANDALAY — Shan State’s famed Inle Lake is experiencing a severe drought this dry season with water levels falling so low that local boat transport has suffered, while tourist visitors are offered a view of a lake much reduced in size and scenery.
In recent years, drought has become an annual problem and local communities, activists and even government officials are now questioning whether enough is being done to avert an environmental crisis.
In 2010 the lake was hit with record low water levels and again suffered a serious drought in 2013. Local villagers said the situation has now become so dire that low water levels have become a permanent challenge for communities living on the lake.
“When I was young, our village is on the water all year-round. When I was 20, for seven months we were on the water, but now we can live on the water for only three months during the rainy season when there is heavy rainfall,” said Phyo Thu, a 36-year-old resident from Magyiseik village, located on the southern edge of the lake.
“Many families in our village have motorbikes to move around when the water dries up. We even tease each other about selling off our boats since they are useful for only three months,” he said.
Combined pressures are leading to the alarming situation at the lake, which is known for its grand views, picturesque floating villages and vegetable gardens, and iconic images of ethnic Intha fishermen who row by holding a peddle with a leg.
Environmental degradation in the surrounding hills is a major reason for the drought, researchers and government reports have said. Deforestation caused by villagers collecting firewood has damaged the watershed, with huge amounts of nutrient-rich soil washing down the denuded mountainside and into the lake, where it reduces water depth, blocks water ways and leads to a proliferation of algae and weeds.
Climate change is further compounding the problems as the amount of rainfall has begun to fluctuate greatly with each year.
“Deforestation and the impact of environmental destruction were so great that our efforts to re-grow trees and conserve the environment failed,” said Hnin Hnin Ohn, project manager of Shwe Inn Thu, one of several local environmental groups implementing initiatives to conserve the lake.
“If large amounts of silt keep entering the lake and the area of water keeps reducing at this rate, drought might occur every summer,” she said. “We worry the lake will disappear in the near future.”
Population growth and unsustainable agricultural methods, such as the use of chemical fertilizer and pesticide, on farms around the lake and on the floating gardens are polluting the water, a pressing problem for local communities that rely on the lake for drinking water.
Local villagers have expanded the floating gardens, which mostly produce tomatoes, and the gardens now cover some 7,000 acres of the lake’s surface.
“We’ve been trying to promote the use of organic fertilizer for five years. Some villages on eastern bank of the lake use it but we still need to spread this to the whole lake,” said Hnin Hhin Ohn.
A rapid increase in tourist visitors to Inle Lake following the opening of Burma under President Thein Sein’s government in recent years is adding further pressure as hotels and tourism infrastructure around the lake expand.
In 2013-2014, some 100,000 tourists made their way to the lake, according to an October 2014 presentation by the Ministry of Environmental Conservation and Forestry Department on government measures to conserve the lake.
Recently, local authorities issued a letter warning local communities against using the lake’s water for drinking purposes this dry season due to the dangerously high pH levels of between 8.2 to 8.6, which were found at nine measurement points on the lake.
“Almost every drain and waste ends up in the lake because all the houses, hotels, guest houses and restaurants were built in the lake or on its edge. So, we do not have clean and safe water to use, or to drink,” said Aung Nge, a member of Inn-Sar-Lu-Kae, another local group working to preserve the lake.
Many communities have little choice but to rely on the lake for drinking water, though some initiatives are under way to provide free bottled water to affected villages. The lake’s indigenous residents, the Intha, are traditionally completely reliant on the lake for cleaning and drinking water.
Thar Gyi, a resident of Thalae Oo, a village located on the east side of the lake, said, “Before, there were springs on the eastern and western sides that could provide enough clean water for every village. But since the hotel zone emerged, the springs on the eastern side have been destroyed.”
In 2012, work began on a new 250-hectare hotel zone on Inle Lake’s eastern edge and some forest was removed to make way for the construction of 16 hotels.
Kyaw Soe, a resident of Magyisate village and member of local environmental group Hnalone Hla Inn Maung Mae, said government measures had been half-hearted and prioritized economic development over conservation, undercutting the local communities’ environmental projects.
“The government established the hotel zone where trees were bulldozed, while the locals and environmental activists are trying their best to grow back trees to prevent silt erosion,” he said.
Aung Kyaw Zwar, head of a hospitality training school in Inn-Paw-Khone village, said the expanding tourism sector is an important source of income for local communities and was helping to develop the region. He said its negative impacts should be addressed through proper government planning.
“We couldn’t tell the businessmen to stop developing the region and the tourists not to visit us. This [growth] could open opportunities for the locals,” he said. “What we need is a strategic planning to deal with the [environmental] impact from which the lake and its inhabitants suffer. Since the planning in the past was weak, we let the lake suffer.”
Local authorities have been implementing a five-year strategic plan from 2011-2015, which includes a range of measures such as dredging of the lake and its waterways, reforestation programs and the construction of small dams in hillside gullies and streams that capture silt.
Win Myo Thu, managing director of EcoDev, a national environmental NGO, said the lake was in a critical situation and its degradation could only be halted if the government develops a comprehensive, integrated conservation strategy soon.
“If there’s no strict policy on environmental matters from the government, but priority will only be given to economic profits, then conservation work on the lake will be in vain,” he said. “I feel like the current conservation projects could not save it anymore—the only hope is that the government puts all its efforts into helping to keep the lake alive.”
Kyaw Kyaw Oo, a senior official with the department of irrigation in Nyaung Shwe, the biggest town on the lake, said government measures taken in recent years had reduced environmental degradation, but he acknowledged that an overall long-term policy for the lake was still lacking.
“We’ve built check dams on streams in the western and northern area of the lake to control the silt. We could say these dams are now reducing the flow of silt into the lake,” he said.
“In my own opinion, the conservation of Inle Lake or many other environment plans lacks a clear goal and master plan… Setting a concrete goal defines how far we will go to save the lake,” Kyaw Kyaw Oo said. “The measures we are now taking are just a response to the situation. To correct these weaknesses, all we need is an environmental law.”
By SALAI THANT ZIN / THE IRRAWADDY| Monday, May 4, 2015 |
LABUTTA TOWNSHIP, Irrawaddy Division — “I can have a proper burial only if the neighbors are willing to help,” says Than Than Nwe, rubbing away a tear that dropped from an eye that no longer sees.
With little money and no surviving relatives to arrange her funeral, she explains, only the goodwill of her neighbors will see to it that she is properly laid to rest when her time comes.
“I lost my husband and all three of my sons in [Cyclone] Nargis. It also destroyed my house and my belongings,” says Than Than Nwe, sobbing now.
Before the devastation of Cylcone Nargis, Than Than Nwe and her family lived in the village of Nagon in Irrawaddy Division’s Ngapudaw Township, where she worked on a salt farm. Despite leading a hand-to-mouth existence, she says life at home was filled with contentment.
The ferocity of Nargis, which whipped into the Irrawaddy Delta region with winds of up to 120 miles per hour on May 2, 2008, took her completely off guard.
The military regime of the time, the State Peace and Development Council (SPDC), did not issue adequate warnings about the cyclone, offering no evacuation plan to the hundreds of thousands of vulnerable residents of the low-lying region.
Than Than Nwe even attended a friend’s wedding reception in a neighboring village on the morning of May 2, leaving her family behind at their home. That evening, Cyclone Nargis killed her husband and three sons, and robbed her of all of her possessions in a matter of hours.
“I was in Kanseit village to attend a friend’s wedding reception when the storm hit. The house of the newlyweds collapsed as the storm raged. Three of us floated along on two five-gallon containers. One girl died, and me and another person survived,” Than Than New recounts of the storm surge.
The cyclone raged through the following morning, killing 84,537 people and injuring another 19,359, with 53,836 missing in 10 townships of the Irrawaddy Delta region, including Labutta, Ngapudaw, Dedaye and Bogale, and three townships in Rangoon, according to statistics provided by the Ministry of Social Welfare, Relief and Resettlement. Adding those missing to the confirmed fatalities, the human toll of the disaster approached 140,000 people.
More than 800,000 houses were damaged in the storm, which also killed 150,000 cattle and inundated 72,000 acres of farmland with crop-killing saltwater. The total financial losses were estimated at US$10 billion, making Nargis the worst natural disaster in Burma’s recorded history, and ranking it eighth on a list of the world’s worst storms in terms of fatalities and damages incurred.
Despite the widespread devastation, the ruling junta went on to hold a national referendum on Burma’s military-drafted Constitution that same month, drawing widespread criticism. Some political activists even mockingly dubbed the charter the “Nargis Constitution.”
The military regime did little to assist victims in the aftermath of the storm. Worse still, the country’s leaders were hesitant to accept international humanitarian aid.
While Naypyidaw dithered, storm-hit victims in Labutta were desperate for clean drinking water, food and medicines.
“There were many injured survivors in the aftermath of Nargis,” says a villager from Thingangyi village in Labutta Township who asked for anonymity. “There was no food and the worst thing was there was no drinking water. People in villages were expecting help for two days after Nargis. No help came and we went to Labutta for fear that we would die. Because it was a long distance to the town, many died due to weakness on the way.”
Than Than Nwe survived the storm and made an arduous return to her home. Eating coconuts and drinking saltwater along the way, she arrived back her house to find the bodies of her husband and children. Her house had been reduced to nothing.
Except for rice, oil, clothes and some kitchen utensils, Than Than Nwe received no assistance from the government that might have helped her to pick up the pieces of her former life. The ruling regime, led by retired Sen-Gen Than Shwe, included among its senior leadership Burma’s current President Thein Sein, who was serving as prime minister in 2008.
Having lost her entire family, Than Than New and other Nargis victims resettled in Peinnetaung village in Labutta Township, but the legacy of Nargis would continue to haunt her. Injuries she sustained while clinging for dear life in floodwaters that surged as Nargis made landfall worsened, and she eventually lost sight in her left eye.
“[My eye] was struck with tree branches while [I was] floating on water during the storm. I did not go to see a doctor as I couldn’t afford to pay for medical treatment. Now, my left eye is completely blind and my right one is almost blind,” says Than Than Nwe.
Seven years have passed since Nargis hit the Irrawaddy Delta, but survivors like Than Than Nwe continue to struggle with the hardship it wrought.
“I saw a man who resorted to begging in Pathein after all his family members died and he was not fit enough to work,” says Than Win from the Pathein-based National Democracy Network. “He died by the roadside because of deteriorating health. The government should provide social welfare allowances, at least daily meal allowances, for those who lost their entire families in Nargis and can no longer work.”
For her part, with one eye blind and little in the way of financial resources, Than Than New gets by thanks to the generosity of others, and hopes charitable donors might one day allow her to afford a medical procedure to restore her sight.
By Shwe Aung
More than a thousand people in Burma’s western Arakan State are facing food shortages as ongoing fighting between ethnic militia the Arakan Liberation Army (ALA) and Burmese government forces cuts off access to commercial centres.
Residents from nearby villages have been unable to travel to the main town of Kyauktaw as the Burmese military have shut down the normal waterway routes, according to San Hla Kyaw, a local relief worker.
Those affected reportedly include Arakanese [Rakhine], Mro and Khami ethnic communities from the villages such as Sapaseik, Pechaung, Myaunggyi, Mabyan and Tawpasi between Kyauktaw and Chin State’s Paletwa.
San Hla Kyaw, vice-chairperson of the Arakan Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) relief committee that was formed on 2 May, told DVB: “About six villages in the area have been cut off from the town [of Kyauktaw] as the military have shut down water routes, and ordered local boat operators to halt operations. The villagers who buy their rice from the town are now facing a food shortage,” said San Hla Kyaw.
Hundreds of IDPs who fled their homes when the fighting between government forces and the ALA broke out at the end of March are currently taking shelter in the towns of Kyauktaw and Sapaseik.
Kyauktaw Township’s government administrator Zaw Min Htike told DVB that IDPs in Sapaseik had recently been provided with aid by regional government officials and the World Food Programme.
Meanwhile in Kyauktaw Township, the army detained 11 locals who were suspected of holding rebel connections.
Three local men in the town of Minbya were also arrested by the army for alleged associations with the ALA, including a ward administration official.
Thar Kyaw, Minbya Township’s representative in the Arakan regional parliament, urged the government to ensure that the detained villagers are dealt with in accordance with the law.
“The Lahakye village administrator Win Maung, who is a school teacher from Ngasarai village, and a young man from a DVD rental shop in the town have been in the custody of the army’s Regional Operations Command 9 for about ten days now,” said Thar Kyat.
“I spoke to the town’s government administrator to insist that legal procedures are thoroughly observed, but he told me he can’t do anything about it as they were detained by the army.”
Clashes between the ALA and the Burmese army were initially reported on the 17 and 18 April in what the ALA described as the “longest and fiercest” fighting seen with government forces in the state.
Myanmar: Myanmar launches its largest ever vaccination campaign, reaching 17.4 million children with Measles Rubella (MR) Vaccine
The Government of Myanmar is committed to achieve WHO South-East Asia Regional goal of measles elimination and rubella control by 2020. In order to accelerate progress towards this goal, under the leadership of the Ministry of Health with support from WHO, GAVI and UNICEF, Myanmar conducted a National Measles Rubella Vaccine campaign in January-February 2015 targeting all children in the age group of 9 months to 15 years irrespective of their previous immunization status. This wide age range cohort was decided based on the local Measles Rubella epidemiological situation.
The National MR campaign was conducted in two phases targeting an estimated 17.4 million children. The first phase was conducted in January 2015 targeting school children 5 years to 15 years in approximately 45,000 schools, government, private and monastic schools. The second phase targeting approximately 65,000 villages/urban wards was conducted in February 2015 vaccinating children from 9 months to 5 years of age plus children missed out in school phase, children who don’t attend school. In order to achieve high quality of coverage, extensive preparatory activities were undertaken such as establishment of Central Executive Committee, development of planning, technical training guidelines for health workers, school teachers, and volunteers. Village/ward-wise micro plans, master list of all eligible children, advocacy meeting with various stakeholders like department of education, local authorities, Myanmar Medical Association, Myanmar Maternal and Child Welfare Association (MMCWA) and National & International NGOs. Extensive social mobilization was carried out in all communities using TV/Radio as mass media, displaying posters, banners, stickers and interpersonal distribution of invitation cards to families. All health workers were re-trained with special emphasis on injection safety practices, prevention and management of adverse events following immunization (AEFI). The cold chain and vaccine, logistic supply chain was thoroughly reviewed and strengthened. WHO deployed additional international technical experts to support the preparedness & planning.
The campaign reached approximately 94% of the target population. Country-wide, mobilization of nurses, teachers and efforts of countless community leaders resulted in an excellent coverage. Even in areas of conflict and intercommunal tensions such as Rakhine and Kachin States, unprecedented mobilization of health staff, volunteers and community leaders helped coverage reach levels comparable to the national average. The reasons for some unimmunized children in the population were sickness or parents traveling and some children in remote inaccessible areas. 4 major AEFI cases were recorded during the campaign, however, detailed investigation did not show any association of these AEFI with MR vaccine. The success of MR campaign is attributed to high level of political commitment, high quality preparedness supported by technical assistance from WHO and UNICEF, dedicated health staff, strong support from education department, local authorities, and volunteers. Starting May 2015 rubella vaccine (MR) will be part of National routine immunization program.
Bangkok, Thailand | AFP | Monday 5/4/2015 - 11:59 GMT
Three local Thai officials and a Myanmar national have been arrested on suspicion of human trafficking after the remains of 26 migrants were found in a mass grave in southern Thailand, police said Monday.
The decomposed bodies of migrants thought to have come from Myanmar or Bangladesh were exhumed over the weekend at an abandoned jungle camp in the Sadao district of Songkhla province.
The discovery of the site, just a few hundred metres from the border with Malaysia, once again exposed the kingdom's central role in the regional human trafficking trade.
Tens of thousands of migrants, mainly from Myanmar's Rohingya Muslim minority but also increasingly Rohingya from Bangladesh, have made the dangerous sea crossing to southern Thailand, with many bound for Malaysia.
On Monday police said they arrested three local male officials in Songhkla, and were holding a fourth man from Myanmar in Nakhon Sri Thammarat province after his arrest Tuesday.
"One is a member of the local municipal council and the other two are assistant village headmen," said a senior police official, who did not want to be named, of the Thai men arrested, adding that the other man in detention was a Myanmar national.
He also said a further four arrest warrants had been issued in connection with the mass grave but gave no more details.
Nakhon Sri Thammarat deputy police commander Anuchon Chamart said the Myanmar national -- Soe Naing, known as Anwar -- was a "central figure who ran camps and sought ransoms" in a major people-smuggling operation.
"He was involved with smuggling Rohingya from Myanmar through Thailand to Indonesia and Malaysia," Anuchon told AFP.
He added that Anwar was also being investigated for fraud based on allegations he failed to release a trafficked Rohingya migrant, who has not yet been traced, after accepting a ransom of 95,000 baht ($2,850)
Thailand's border zone with Malaysia is criss-crossed by trafficking trails and is notorious for its network of secret camps where smuggled migrants are held, usually against their will, until relatives pay hefty ransoms.
Thai police said Sunday they are searching for other camps following the discovery of the mass grave, with dozens of other people-smuggling sites believed to be based in the area.
The exodus of Rohingya -- described by the UN as one of the world's most persecuted minorities -- has followed deadly communal unrest in western Myanmar's Rakhine state since 2012.
Rohingya refugees living in Bangladesh have also been kidnapped and trafficked to Thailand, after being duped with fake job offers or even drugged.
Thailand says it is cracking down on trafficking networks on its soil after revelations that government officers, police and navy officials have been involved in the lucrative trade in humans fleeing poverty and persecution.
© 1994-2015 Agence France-Presse
Yangon, 4 May 2015 – Thousands of children in Ayeyarwady region, Kayin and Kayah states will receive birth certificates through the birth registration week campaign launched today by the Government of Myanmar with UNICEF support.
Through this campaign, free birth certificates will be issued to all unregistered children under five living in these three areas, regardless of their place of birth within Myanmar, as well as ethnic, religious or social background. An estimated 100,000 children are expected to have their births registered for the first time.
“Birth registration is a critical first step towards the fulfilment of a whole range of children’s rights. It is both a right and an important process for child protection”, said Shalini Bahuguna, UNICEF Deputy Representative to Myanmar. “Knowing a person’s age is equally essential to protecting children from child labour, forcible conscription in armed forces, and trafficking, and for ensuring children are dealt with appropriately by the justice system.” In addition, the existence of a birth certificate supports the tracing and repatriation of children who have been trafficked.
In the weeks leading up to Birth Registration Week, TV and radio spots have raised public awareness of the importance of obtaining a birth certificate. Brochures and invitation cards distributed widely urge parents to register their children. The campaign that begins today covers 40 townships and will run until May 8.
The national Birth Registration programme is a collaborative effort by the Government Ministries of Immigration and Population, National Planning and Economic Development, Health, and Home Affairs, with UNICEF technical support.
“UNICEF congratulates the Government of Myanmar for this effort to provide birth certificates to unregistered children in the country”, said Shalini Bahuguna.
Myanmar has made significant progress in birth registration rates in recent years. In 2014, the number of children receiving a birth certificate in Myanmar substantially increased, with peaks in the three states where interventions were concentrated (20% increased coverage in Mon State, 41% in Magwe, and an astonishing 300% increase in Chin state – where the coverage was the lowest in the country). Meanwhile, the first electronic platform for the permanent registration of civil data (birth and death registration) is already operational.
Nonetheless around 1.6 million children, that is three out of ten children aged under five years, remain unregistered.
“If children are not officially registered, they will be vulnerable to exclusion, including remaining unaccounted for in planning and budgeting. This has lasting consequences not only for their wellbeing but also for the development of their communities and the country,” Ms Bahuguna concluded.
UNICEF in Myanmar UNICEF has been working with the Government and the people of Myanmar since 1950. In partnership with the Government and the civil society, UNICEF’s current focus of work aims at reducing child mortality, improving access and quality of education and protecting children from violence, abuse and exploitation. For more information about UNICEF and its work in Myanmar.
Please visit: http://www.unicef.org/myanmar.
Follow us on Facebook.
For more information, please contact:
Alison Rhodes, Chief, Advocacy, Partnerships and Communication Section, UNICEF Myanmar, Tel: +95-1-230 5960-69, email@example.com Mariana Palavra, Communication Specialist, Advocacy, Partnerships and Communication Section UNICEF Myanmar, Tel: +95-1-230 5960-69, firstname.lastname@example.org
Over one week after the earthquake hit, the government reports more than 7,276 people killed and over 14,362 injured. More than 190,000 houses completely destroyed and almost 174,000 partially damaged.
7,276 people killed
190,000 houses destroyed
Five logistics hubs were established in Deurali (Ghorka District), Dhulikel (Kavre District), Bharatpur, Pokhara and Birganj to expand field operations. In addition, two humanitarian hubs were established in Gorkha (west of Kathmandu) and Chautara in Sindulpachowk (northeast of Kathmandu) to support relief operations and coordination.
As of 30 Apr, over 6,000 people evacuated and relocated to temporary camps in the earthquake affected areas in the Tibet Autonomous Region. Miltary responders treated and transferred more than 1,300 people, erected over 500 tents, transported over 520 tons of disaster relief materials and distributed medical materials. Schools in Nyalam county are reopening.
6,000 people evacuated
PAPUA NEW GUINEA
A 7.1 magnitude earthquake struck 128 km off the coast of East New Britain province on 01 May. A tsunami warning was issued and later lifted. A 6.8 magnitude earthquake struck the same region on 30 Apr.
The Papua New Guinea National Disaster Centre and East New Britain Provincial Disaster Office confirmed no casualties or damage to homes. The island lies on the 4,000-kilometre long Pacific Australia plate, which forms part of the "Ring of Fire," a hotspot for seismic activity.
The Tropical Cyclone Pam Humanitarian Action Plan (HAP), covering the period 01 May to 31 Jul, was finalised by the Government of Vanuatu with support of humanitarian partners. The HAP aims to meet the remaining life-saving and protection needs of 158,000 people in 23 islands and support the restoration of livelihoods while strengthening resilience and basic services.
158,000 people in need
At 28 Apr, around 49,700 people reached with water, sanitation, hygiene supplies and hygiene promotion messages. SMS messages on prevention of diarrhoea reached 140,000 people in Shefa and Tafea provinces.
Floods occurred in West Java, Banten, Southeast Sulawesi and East Kalimantan. In West Java, two floods resulted in one casualty and search and rescue efforts are ongoing for one missing person. In Banten, floods affected 1,238 families. Southeast Sulawesi, floods inundated 42 houses. Five sub-districts were inundated with flood waters up to 1 metre in East Kalimantan in. Local disaster management authorities conducted evacuations and assessments.
1 person killed
On 30 Apr 2015, an inter-agency mission delivered humanitarian assistance to people in Sa Par Seik village displaced by clashes in Kyauktaw Township Rakhine State in early Apr. The mission delivered non food items, blankets and school books. The government, military and civil society organizations have also provided food, medical and other assistance to those affected.
Other ongoing emergencies:
Philippines: Zamboanga crisis
Myanmar: Rakhine crisis
Myanmar: Kachin crisis
By Henry Htun,
As hundreds of internally displaced people of Myanmar’s Kokang self-administered region trickle back home, it is unclear just how long this conflict will drag on and what effect it might have on efforts to bring a full peace settlement to Myanmar.
The Myanmar military recently sent trucks to Lashio in Shan State in late April to help people displaced by fighting return home. The move came as fighting has eased between Myanmar government troops and the Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army.
The recovery operation is being administered in Laukkai, capital of Kokang, by a state-controlled relocation and resettlement programme. This raises hopes that a comprehensive ceasefire deal with Myanmar’s many ethnic groups may come about.
But aid workers worry for the people’s security as sporadic clashes continue in the volatile region.
“The people have to go back to their homes as they have no other option to choose due to the arrangement of the government-led aid group,” says U Mg Mg Than, a local aid worker and volunteer from Lashio city.
“But I have realized that almost all people have much concern for their security despite their return,” he said.
He says most returnees are worried about employment opportunities in Laukkai as most Chinese business owners have already fled the region due to the fighting.
At least 30,000 people have fled over the border into China. The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Aid (UNOCHA) says around 13,000 people, mostly ethnic Bamar migrant workers, fled into other central Myanmar areas.
Myanmar declared a state of emergency in Kokang after Myanmar’s army launched a major offensive against the MNDAA on February 9.
In two months of fierce fighting, the government occupied 20 strategic positions once occupied by Kokang rebels, a state spokesman said.
More than 350 rebels and 126 soldiers of the Tatmadaw, Myanmar’s military, have been killed. State media reported the recovery of the bodies of 74 Kokang rebel fighters left behind after an entire day of fighting on April 19.
Despite the IDPs return, the area is far from stable.
The government’s use of new 122-millimeter rockets expands the potential for civilians getting caught in the crossfire, says U Tun Myat Lin, a spokesman for MNDAA.
Even as the government convoy was bringing people home on April 22, rockets were still exploding in villages northeast of Laukkai, adds U Tun Myat Lin.
“Peace is yet to be restored in Kokang region as small clashes still go on. Myanmar’s military forced the IDPs from the camp on the China side to return to Laukkai by April 17 by threatening to kill them,” he claimed.
The government has sent 4,000 rice packages to Laukkai, the capital’s lower house MP, U Kyaw Ni Naing, told local media. He also announced a request to the president for a K2-3 billion Laukkai reconstruction fund.
That amount, however, may fall short of humanitarian needs if no permanent solution is found to the spreading conflict between Myanmar’s powerful military and ethnic rebel groups seeking greater civil, economic and political rights for their peoples.
Clashes in other ethnic areas in the Shan, Kachin and Rakhine states could also force Kokang to host other IDPs even as it struggles with recovery.
President U Thein Sein’s government has hailed the historic draft of a ceasefire deal with a host of ethnic armed groups to end more than five decades of civil war.
But unless the peace deal is comprehensive in scope, the fallout from the conflict will continue to scatter residents of conflict areas fleeing the fighting.
Trafficking problem huge, Rohingya say
Thousands of Rohingya people who are possibly victims of human trafficking are being kept in at least 60 detention camps scattered throughout mountains along the Thai-Malaysian border, says a former president of the Rohingya Association of Thailand.
"The discovery of the detention camp [last Friday at Ban Taloh in tambon Padang Besar of Songkhla's Sadao district] is just the tip of the iceberg. Currently there are at least 60 detention camps along the Thai-Malaysian border," Abdul Kalam told the Bangkok Post Sunday, adding that about 150-800 refugees are being held in each camp.
Most of the camps are situated on the Malaysian side, he said.
EDITORIAL: Shame of the nation
Pol Gen Chakthip Chaichinda, deputy national police chief, assigned by national police chief Pol Gen Somyot Pumpunmuang to lead a human trafficking investigation in the South, said he will meet investigators in Hat Yai district of Songkhla today to verify the number of camps in the area.
"According to the information I have obtained there are many detention camps along the Thai-Malaysian border," Pol Gen Chakthip said.
Lt-Gen Prakarn Chonlayuth, commander of the 4th Army Region, said he will ask Malaysia to conduct more patrols along the border to suppress human trafficking.
Deputy government spokesman Sansern Kaewkamnerd said Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha may consider using Section 44 of the interim charter to deal with human trafficking.
Gen Prayut ordered Deputy Defence Minister and army chief Udomdej Sitabutr to travel to Songkhla today to oversee progress in police investigations.
Meanwhile, Mr Kalam attended the burial ceremony of 20 of the 26 bodies recovered from graves in tambon Padang Besar of Songkhla's Sadao district.
The burial was held at a Muslim cemetery in Hat Yai district.
The bodies of the others are being kept at Songklanagarind Hospital in Hat Yai district for autopsies.
Mr Kalam said he knew of the detention camps from two Rohingya compatriots, whom he helped to escape from a human trafficking network after they fled a detention camp last month.
The men, aged 23 and 30, were lured into a human trafficking network from their homes in Myanmar's Rakhine state.
When they arrived in Thailand a few years ago, they were brought to a detention camp in tambon Padang Besar of Songkhla's Sadao district.
The men said that they were beaten by members of a human trafficking network and forced to work under slave conditions while waiting for ransom money to come in from their relatives in Myanmar.
The governments of Thailand and Malaysia need to work together to solve the problem and take legal action against all those involved, regardless of whether they are state officials or civilians, Mr Kalam said.
He played a recording of the voice of 28-year-old Tunusar, a survivor of a death camp for human trafficking victims in the jungle in Songkhla.
He interviewed Mr Tunusar, who was bed-ridden at Padang Besar hospital in Sadao district, on Saturday.
Mr Tunusar was held captive at the camp for nine months after being kidnapped from his hometown in Bangladesh and brought by boat to a jungle camp in Thailand.
"I saw at least 40 people die while I was staying at the camp. Ten were Bangladeshis and the others were from Myanmar or Rohingya. They died because of malnutrition, starvation or being beaten to death," Mr Tunusar said on the clip.
"I want to go home to Bangladesh," he said.
The brokers controlling the camp were men named Hayi, Amartali, Arnua, Saw Lim, Rana and Heidra, he said. He was beaten many times after the brokers called his mother in Bangladesh and learned she didn't have the money to pay his ransom.
Another Rohingya man who was previously jailed at the camp, who wishes not to be named, recounted the horrors he saw to police Sunday.
He said a Rohingya man named Kasim was killed by Mr Arnua, a well-known Rohingya trafficking broker, at the camp.
Mr Arnua used a heavy stick to beat Kasim, the nephew of a Rohingya man named Kuramia, to death.
Nakhon Si Thammarat police said Mr Arnua had abducted Kasim and demanded a 95,000-baht ransom, but the nephew was not freed after the money was sent.
Mr Arnua then demanded another 120,000 baht, prompting Mr Kuramia to go to the police, which prompted Mr Arnua to kill the nephew, they said.
Police arrested Mr Arnua in Muang district on Wednesday and charged him with fraud and kidnapping. They are gathering evidence to prosecute him for human trafficking.
Mr Kuramia had feared his nephew was killed and buried in tambon Padang Besar in Songkhla's Sadao district, which led to the police's discovery of the graves on Friday, police said.
The witness also told reporters that his mother in Myanmar paid ransom money of 6,000 Malaysian ringgit (55,250 baht) to free him from the camp prior to its discovery by authorities.
While in the camp, the witness heard news of more than 500 deaths in similar camps along the Thai-Malaysian border.
Photo below: Muslims in the South have arranged coffins and a mass funeral at Hat Yai district for 20 of the 26 remains recovered from the mass grave discovered last Friday in nearby Sa Dao district of Songkhla province in the South.
5/2/2015 - 08:37 GMT
by Jerome TAYLOR / Ju APILAPORN
The badly decayed remains of at least three more migrants thought to be from Myanmar or Bangladesh were exhumed Saturday from a mass grave in southern Thailand, as details emerged of the maltreatment endured at the remote people smugglers' camp.
Thai forensic teams dug out the latest skeletons from shallow graves covered by bamboo and few of feet of dirt on Saturday afternoon, according to an AFP reporter at the abandoned jungle camp in Sadao district, in Songkhla province.
Authorities have found the remains of least eight people since Friday's grim discovery of the site, a find which has again laid bare Thailand's central role in a regional human trafficking trade.
Police are investigating more than 20 other apparent graves in the area, which is a few hundred metres (yards) from the border with Malaysia.
Two survivors -- men aged 25 and 35 -- told doctors they had spent months at the camp despite falling sick and having little to eat.
"Both are malnourished, have scabies and lice," doctor Kwanwilai Chotpitchayanku told AFP at Padang Besar hospital.
"The older man could not walk, he had to be carried off the mountain. He hadn't eaten anything for two days before he was found. He told the translator he had a fever in the jungle for two months."
Doctors said the men had not been fully identified but were from either Bangladesh or Myanmar.
Both were rigged to IV drips and appeared frail as they lay in their ward beds.
The cause of the migrants' deaths is not yet clear, but Thailand's police chief has described the site as a "virtual prison camp" which was seemingly abandoned just days before its discovery, with the sick men left for dead.
A rescue worker said one unburied corpse belonged to the recently deceased, seeming to indicate the camp had been in existence for some time.
The border zone with Malaysia is criss-crossed by trafficking trails and is notorious for its network of secret camps where smuggled migrants are held, usually against their will, until relatives pay up hefty ransoms.
- Trafficking 'out of control' -
Rights groups say the camp, which is a steep, slippery 40-minute hike from the nearest road, is likely to be just one of dozens in the area as the rewards of trafficking continue to outweigh the risks of being caught.
Tens of thousands of migrants from Myanmar, mainly from the Rohingya Muslim minority but also increasingly from Bangladesh, make the dangerous sea crossing to southern Thailand, a well-worn trafficking route often on the way south to Malaysia and beyond.
The exodus of Rohingya -- described by the UN as one of the world's most persecuted minorities -- has followed deadly communal unrest in western Myanmar's Rakhine state since 2012.
Rohingya refugees living in Bangladesh have also been kidnapped and trafficked to Thailand, after being duped with fake job offers or even drugged.
Thailand says it is cracking down on the trafficking networks on its soil after revelations that government officers, police and navy officials have been involved in the lucrative trade in humans fleeing poverty and persecution.
"We will go after the people responsible (for the grave site) no matter how powerful they may be," General Aek Angsananont, national police deputy commissioner, told reporters in Padang Besar.
"We care about our image, when people say we're not doing anything about it, it's not true. It's a national agenda."
In June the United States dumped Thailand to the bottom, or "Tier 3", of its list of countries accused of failing to tackle modern-day slavery.
Activists say traffickers are changing their tactics as the crackdown bites and are also holding thousands of migrants at sea for endless weeks awaiting payment before releasing them.
Thailand's human trafficking problem is "out of control", according to Brad Adams, Asia director of Human Rights Watch.
"The finding of a mass grave at a trafficking camp sadly comes as little surprise," he said, urging the UN to join the probe to bring those responsible to justice.
© 1994-2015 Agence France-Presse
Independent Investigation Needed to Determine Facts, Prosecute Traffickers
(New York, May 2, 2015) – The discovery of more than 30 bodies in a human trafficking camp should prompt Thai authorities to authorize an independent, United Nations-assisted investigation, commit to publish its findings, and bring those responsible to justice, including any government officials involved, Human Rights Watch said today. The UN and others, including the United States, that have called for an end to trafficking in Thailand should urgently press the government to end official complicity and willful blindness in rampant trafficking in the country.
On May 1, 2015, a joint military-police taskforce discovered at least 30 bodies at an abandoned human trafficking camp in the Sadao district of Songkhla province close to the Thai-Malaysian border. Many were buried in shallow graves, while others were covered with blankets and clothes and left in the open. Police reports indicate the dead are ethnic Rohingya Muslims from Burma and Bangladesh who starved to death or died of disease while held by traffickers who were awaiting payment of ransoms before smuggling them into Malaysia. Traffickers controlling this camp apparently departed into the mountainous jungle, taking surviving Rohingya with them.
“Trafficking of persons in Thailand has long been out of control, something that senior officials have admitted to Human Rights Watch and others,” said Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “The finding of a mass grave at a trafficking camp sadly comes as little surprise. The long involvement of Thai officials in trafficking means that an independent investigation with UN involvement is necessary to uncover the truth and hold those responsible to account.”
For years, human rights organizations and investigative journalists have reported on the thriving human trafficking networks that operate with support and protection from corrupt officials in southern Thailand. Last year, the US State Department downgraded Thailand to the worst possible rating – tier 3 – on its 2014 Trafficking in Persons Report, for failing to combat human trafficking.
Rohingya fleeing abuses, persecution, and hardship in Burma’s Arakan State or Bangladesh are often trafficked and abused by networks working with official protection, while in other cases victims simply receive little protection from Thai authorities, Human Rights Watch said.
Rohingya who are apprehended in Thailand are treated as “illegal immigrants” subject to deportation without regard to the threats facing them in Burma. Rohingya men are sometimes detained in overcrowded immigration detention facilities across the country, while women and children have been sent to shelters operated by the Ministry of Social Development and Human Security. Many more are believed to be transferred through corrupt arrangements into the hands of human trafficking gangs where they face cruel treatment and no prospect of assistance from Thai authorities.
As with previous Thai governments, the military junta of Prime Minister Gen. Prayuth Chan-ocha does not permit the office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) to properly conduct refugee status determination screenings of Rohingya.
“Each year, tens of thousands of Rohingya flee the dire human rights situation in Burma only to be further abused and exploited at the hands of traffickers in Thailand,” Adams said. “The discovery of these mass graves should shock the Thai government into shutting down the trafficking networks that enrich officials but prey on extremely vulnerable people. Instead of sticking Rohingya in border camps or immigration lockups, the government should provide safety and protection.”
For more Human Rights Watch reporting on Thailand, please visit: http://www.hrw.org/asia/thailand
Burma: A Bearing Witness Trip
In March 2015, staff from the Museum’s Simon-Skjodt Center for the Prevention of Genocide traveled to Burma to investigate threats facing the Rohingya people, a Muslim minority that has been the target of rampant hate speech, the denial of citizenship, and restrictions on the freedom of movement. These and a host of other human rights violations have put this population at grave risk for additional mass atrocities and even genocide.
In Burma, we visited internment camps and spoke with Rohingya who have been violently displaced from their homes. We also met with Rohingya who are living in cordoned-off ghettos, separated from their Buddhist neighbors, most of whom belong to the Rakhine ethnic group.
We saw firsthand the Rohingya’s physical segregation, which has resulted in a modern form of apartheid, and the devastating impact that official policies of persecution are having on them. When asked what the Burmese government wants to do with them, one Rohingya advocate replied, “They want us all to go away.”
We left Burma deeply concerned that so many preconditions for genocide are already in place. But there is still an opportunity to prevent this devastating outcome. Our report (PDF) sounds the alarm about the need for urgent action to address these warning signs and to prevent future atrocities, including genocide, from occurring.
The Simon-Skjodt Center for the Prevention of Genocide is indebted to all those who shared their stories with us.
By AMY SAWITTA LEFEVRE / REUTERS
BANGKOK — Thai police on Friday found at least 30 graves believed to belong to migrants from Burma and Bangladesh at what authorities say is an abandoned trafficking camp in a remote jungle in Thailand’s south, police said.
Illegal migrants, many of them Rohingya Muslims from western Burma and Bangladesh, brave often perilous journeys by sea to escape religious and ethnic persecution and to seek jobs in Malaysia and Thailand, a regional human trafficking hub.
Four bodies had been exhumed so far, said Police Colonel Anuchon Chamat, deputy commander of Nakorn Si Thammarat Provincial Police. A total of at least 30 graves were found in a “well set up” smuggling camp.
“There are at least 30 graves that have been place marked. We exhumed four bodies today and will continue to exhume bodies,” Anuchon told Reuters in a telephone interview.
The graves were the first discovery of its kind in Thailand, said Anuchon.
Two other bodies that had not been buried and were left to rot in the open were also found, he said. One survivor was rescued from the abandoned camp and taken to hospital in nearby Pedang Besar.
Around 200 soldiers, police and rescue workers were at the site on Friday, said Sathit Kamsuwan, a volunteer rescue worker.
The discovery highlights the brutal nature of the trafficking trade in which hundreds are believed to have died in camps or at sea.
Every year, thousands of Rohingya and Bangladeshi boat people arrive in Thailand, brought by smugglers. Many are taken by road to camps in the jungle, where traffickers demand a ransom to smuggle them south across the border to Malaysia.
Last year, Thailand was downgraded to the lowest tier on the US State Department’s influential Trafficking in Persons (TIP) Report, which annually ranks countries by their anti-trafficking efforts.
Yangon, Myanmar | AFP | Friday 5/1/2015 - 10:08 GMT
A host of Myanmar ethnic rebels began talks in the isolated Wa region bordering China Friday as they mull whether to agree a full ceasefire with the government, an armed group official said.
The United Wa State Army (UWSA) holds sway over a secretive patch of borderland with a thousands-strong rebel fighting force, long accused of drug smuggling.
It called the meeting of around a dozen ethnic armed groups in April, despite not being part of the country's peace talks.
"We are hoping this meeting will be strongly supportive of local peace and a nationwide ceasefire," Major Tar Pan La, spokesman of the Ta'ang National Liberation Army (TNLA), told AFP.
He added that the talks began Friday and were expected to last until May 6.
President Thein Sein has secured a draft deal with 16 rebel groups to end decades of fighting, described by the United Nations as a "historic and significant achievement".
The government wants a full nationwide ceasefire before elections in November seen as a test of reforms after decades of military rule.
But skirmishes continue in Kachin state, where a ceasefire deal collapsed in 2011 soon after the end of junta rule.
Heavy fighting has also erupted in the Kokang regions of northern Shan state, causing tens of thousands to flee over the border into China and sparking alarm in Beijing.
The Kokang fighters, who poured back into Myanmar in February after being driven out by troops in 2009 and have fought with help from the TNLA, are not part of the nation's ceasefire talks, although they have been invited to the Wa meeting.
Bertil Lintner, author of several books on Myanmar and its ethnic minority regions, said the Wa talks were a way for Beijing to "put pressure on the government".
"They do not want to lose influence in Burma," he told AFP, using the country's former name, adding that Beijing's sway had diminished under the new regime, which has sought to open the country to the world after decades of isolation.
He said the Wa receive their weapons from China and are thought to be sharing them with fighters in Kokang. Both ethnic groups previously fought the government as part of the Communist Party of Burma.
Myanmar government forces have become locked in protracted conflict with Kokang ethnic Chinese rebels despite the use of air strikes and heavy artillery.
"It is a sign of weakness not a sign of strength. Casualties have been extremely high," he said of the conflict.
The UWSA signed a ceasefire with the country's military government back in 1989 and reiterated the deal in 2011.
© 1994-2015 Agence France-Presse