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Updated: 5 hours 15 min ago

Malaysia: Continuity of humanitarian aid to the Rohingya and Bangladeshi at the Belantik Detention Centre

6 hours 32 min ago
Source: MERCY Malaysia Country: Bangladesh, Malaysia, Myanmar

Kuala Lumpur, 29th May 2015 – MERCY Malaysia has continued with operations at the Belantik Dentention Centre in Kedah for the second week. The medical team has continued providing medical aid, distribution of specific non-food items and psychosocial support.

MERCY Malaysia has also been working with the Royal Malaysian Navy and has a team on standby to assist Rohingya asylum seekers and Bangladeshi irregular migrants on boats at sea. However, at the present time there have been no boats detected within Malaysian territorial waters.

MERCY Malaysia also expresses sadness and disappointment at the discovery of camps and mass graves most probably of Rohingya asylum seekers and Bangladeshi irregular migrants in Wang Kelian in Perlis. “We hope the authorities will do all they can to ensure that illegal human trafficking activities across our borders is stopped and those responsible apprehended and brought to justice” said MERCY Malaysia President, Dato’ Dr Ahmad Faizal Perdaus.

MERCY Malaysia is hopeful for a positive and constructive outcome from the May 29th Meeting in Bangkok between ASEAN leaders, providing a solution to both the current humanitarian crisis at hand, as well as a durable long term solution for the underlying problems.

Myanmar: Myanmar says don't 'single us out' at migrant crisis talks

6 hours 46 min ago
Source: Agence France-Presse Country: Bangladesh, Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar, Thailand, World

Bangkok, Thailand | AFP | Friday 5/29/2015 - 06:01 GMT

by Marion THIBAUT

Myanmar rebuked the UN Friday after being called on to address the cause of the exodus of Rohingya Muslims from its shores, saying it is being "singled out" for criticism at international talks.

Tensions over Southeast Asia's migrant crisis were exposed as delegates from 17 nations gathered to address the flight of thousands of desperate people on boats across the Bay of Bengal, aiming for Malaysia and Indonesia.

The crisis unfurled at the start of this month after a Thai crackdown on people smuggling threw the multi-million dollar industry into disarray.

It led gangmasters to abandon their victims on land and at sea, and images of stick-thin, dazed migrants trapped on boats or stumbling onto shores and out of forests shocked the world, heaping pressure on Southeast Asian nations to act.

But observers say it is unclear what the one-day meeting, which is not being attended at a ministerial level, can achieve on an issue that has dogged the region for years but gone largely ignored by authorities.

In his opening remarks, Volker Turk, UNHCR assistant high commissioner for protection, urged Myanmar to tackle the flow of Rohingya Muslims, who for years have been fleeing persecution in western Myanmar.

To address the root causes "will require full assumption of responsibility by Myanmar to all its people," Turk said.

"Granting of citizenship is the ultimate goal."

Myanmar denies citizenship to the majority of its 1.3 million Rohingya and does not accept them as an official ethnic minority, instead calling them "Bengalis" -- shorthand for foreigners from neighbouring Bangladesh.

His comments prompted a rebuke from Myanmar's delegate, Foreign Ministry Director-General Htin Lynn, who said "this issue of illegal migration of boat people, you cannot single out my country."

Myanmar routinely rejects any internationalisation of the question of the status of the Muslim minority, since communal violence in 2012 between Rohingya and the Buddhist majority in western Rakhine State brought their plight to the fore.

Htin Lynn called Volker's comments a "politicisation" of the migrant subject, and added that "some issues" are internal matters.

-- 'Blind eye to persecution' --

Bangkok began its belated crackdown on the smuggling trade in the country's deep south on May 1, after dozens of bodies were pulled from mass graves in a remote border area studded by migrant camps.

On the Malaysian side of the same frontier, authorities have found 139 suspected migrants' graves, raising fears that both officials and residents had turned a blind eye to the lucrative business.

More than 3,500 starving migrants have since arrived on Thai, Malaysian and Indonesian soil while the UN estimates there are 2,500 more still feared trapped at sea as the monsoon season approaches.

The vast majority of migrants are Rohingya Muslims fleeing persecution in Buddhist-majority Myanmar, or Bangladeshis trying to escape poverty.

Observers have cast doubt over the capacity of Southeast Asian neighbours to act on a cross-border issue which has exposed gaping holes in the rule of law across several countries.

"ASEAN countries have hidden behind the notion of 'non-interference' to turn a blind eye to the persecution of Rohingya in Myanmar, to the growth of criminal smuggling and human trafficking networks, and the increasing demand for undocumented labourers," Sam Zarifi, Asia director for the International Commission of Jurists said in a statement.

Countries attending the talks include those directly affected by the current crisis such as Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia -- all of whom vacillated for days before bowing to international pressure to offer humanitarian aid to migrants trapped at sea.

All three nations say they now are actively searching for any remaining boats adrift in their waters, while the US has sent reconnaissance flights over the seas.

Diplomatic pressure is mounting on Myanmar and Bangladesh as to why so many of their citizens flee their shores.

Myanmar's Rohingya are one of the world's most persecuted minorities.

They face restrictions on movement, jobs and family size, while their pariah status means they are unrepresented -- even Myanmar's democracy champion Aung San Suu Kyi chooses not to extert her moral authority on their behalf.

The former junta-led quasi-civilian government has balked at any criticism of its treatment of the community and has previously threatened to pull out of the talks altogether if the word Rohingya is used.

Other countries attending have a less obvious direct link to the Southeast Asian migrant crisis, such as Afghanistan, India, Iran and Papua New Guinea.

All those attending are below minister level, apart from Thailand's junta-appointed Foreign Minister Tanasak Patimapragorn.

The United States, which is attending as an observer, is set later Friday to pledge financial assistance to tackle the crisis.

tib-apj/sls

© 1994-2015 Agence France-Presse

Myanmar: Land Acquisition Law and Practice in Myanmar: Overview, Gap Analysis with IFC PS1 & PS5 and Scope of Due Diligence Recommendations (May 2015)

7 hours 16 min ago
Source: Displacement Solutions Country: Myanmar

DS has just completed a 70-page legal study examining Land Acquisition and Practice in Myanmar. This in-depth survey is based on DS’s many years working on land issues in the country, and it minutely analyses areas of Myanmar land acquisition laws against the comparatively strong provisions found in the International Finance Corporation’s (IFC) Performance Standards 1 and 5, the latter of which outlines rules on Land Acquisition and Involuntary Resettlement when the IFC engages with client companies investing in locations potentially involving land acquisition measures. Given Myanmar’s lengthy and controversial practices of land acquisition – both historical and present – the Study aims to assist companies to comply in full with the far more stringent IFC standards and, in turn, ensure that investments do not lead either to arbitrary land confiscation nor to any additional violations of the rights possessed by those living on affected land. The table of contents of the report, project objectives and methodology can be found here.

Land issues remain front and centre in the political reform process in Myanmar, and DS continues to be deeply involved on these issues through the work of its Myanmar HLP Initiative. If you would like to learn more about this and other projects we are engaged with in Myanmar, please contact DS at info@displacementsolutions.org.

Myanmar: Census Results Highlight Myanmar’s Development Needs

8 hours 26 min ago
Source: UN Population Fund Country: Myanmar

Despite challenges, census marks milestone in country's transition

NAY PYI TAW—A comprehensive profile of Myanmar’s 51.5 million people and how they live is available for the first time in three decades, after today’s release of the 2014 Population and Housing Census main results.

They include detailed data on population size and growth, age and sex, marital status, migration, births and deaths, education, employment, disability, housing conditions and amenities in each state and region, district and township. Planners at all levels can use these to identify gaps and pinpoint needs for infrastructure and social services.

President U Thein Sein opened the launch event in the capital city. Over 1,000 guests attended, including chief ministers from all of the country’s 15 states and regions, ethnic and religious leaders, international donors, and representatives of UN agencies, international NGOs, civil society organizations and the private sector.

Vijay Nambiar, the UN Special Adviser for Myanmar, hailed the census as a “monumental achievement” that will benefit both the country’s development and its democratic process, despite challenges that need to be addressed.

A statement delivered on behalf of Dr. Babatunde Osotimehin, Executive Director of UNFPA, the United Nations Population Fund, said the results could help the Government and civil society “address disparities and inequalities across and within Myanmar society”.

Both speeches cited the unprecedented scale of the census exercise, organized by the Ministry of Immigration and Population with technical guidance from UNFPA and financial support from international donors. In just two weeks, over 100,000 enumerators visited nearly 6.5 million households, reaching nearly 98 per cent of the population.

They also noted that in Rakhine state, over 1 million people were not included, amid ongoing communal tensions and the demand of many to self-identify as Rohingya, which the authorities did not allow, against UNFPA’s advice. Other national surveys under way or planned will help to fill some of the resulting data gaps.

The reported total population of 51.5 million includes estimates for areas not enumerated in Rakhine, Kachin and Kayin states, a total of 1.2 million people.

The census results reported in today’s launch show both progress since the last census in 1983 and ongoing challenges, including regional disparities and social indicators that lag behind Myanmar’s neighbours. Highlights include:

  • Population growth, 0.89 per cent per year, is less than half the 1970s rate and slowing.

  • There are only 93 males for every 100 females, reflecting significantly lower male life expectancy and higher migration by men.

  • Half the population is under age 27, but the proportion of children has started to fall.

  • The average number of children per woman has declined to 2.3 from 4.7 in 1983.

  • Life expectancy at birth, 66.8 years, has improved but is still one of the lowest in South-East Asia.

  • Life expectancy is six years longer for females than males.

  • Infant and under-5 mortality rates are high nationwide (62 and 72 per 100,000 live births, respectively), and nearly twice as high in some states as in others.

  • Almost 90 per cent of adults are literate, but in Shan state only 63 per cent are. 85 per cent of adult males and 50 per cent of females are in the workforce; unemployment is 4 per cent, and nearly twice as high for those 15-29.

  • Only a third of households have electric lights and a third have mobile phones, but half have televisions.

  • Over 70 per cent of homes have improved water and sanitation, but far fewer do in some states.

Additional results that require more time for analysis and consultation—on ethnicity, religion, occupation and maternal mortality—are scheduled for release next year.

The census main results are available online.

For more information, contact:

Yangon:

Malene Arboe-Rasmussen, arboe-rasmussen@unfpa.org Tel: +95 (0) 9 250 026 96 +95 (0) 9 250 026 961 Esther Bayliss, bayliss@unfpa.org Tel: +95 (9) 260 991 218 +95 (9) 260 991 218

Bangkok:

Roy Wadia, wadia@unfpa.org Tel: +66 2 687 0111, +66 2 687 0111 or +66 848 752 634

Myanmar: Myanmar: All Sectors - Change in 3W Coverage from Oct 2014 - April 2015 (as of 20 May 2015)

28 May 2015 - 4:25pm
Source: Myanmar Information Management Unit Country: Myanmar

Note: This map represents information as reported by organisations contributing to the MIMU 3W. Inclusion of an organisation on this map does not imply endorsement by the United Nations or its projects. Note that this map shows presence of an organisation and does not indicate the volume of assistance, the number of beneficiaries, or the extent to which needs are met or unmet.

Myanmar: Thailand hosts talks on Southeast Asia migrant crisis

28 May 2015 - 2:32pm
Source: Agence France-Presse Country: Bangladesh, Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar, Thailand, World

Bangkok, Thailand | AFP | Friday 5/29/2015 - 03:40 GMT

by Marion THIBAUT

Delegates from 17 nations gathered in Thailand Friday for talks on Southeast Asia's migrant crisis which has seen thousands of desperate people flee on boats across the Bay of Bengal aiming for Malaysia and Indonesia.

But observers say it is unclear what the one-day meeting, held at a Bangkok hotel, which is not being attended at a ministerial level, can achieve on an issue that has dogged the region for years but gone largely ignored by authorities.

Earlier this month Bangkok began a belated crackdown on the smuggling trade in the country's deep south, after dozens of bodies were pulled from mass graves in a remote border area studded by migrant camps.

On the Malaysian side of the same frontier, authorities have found 139 suspected migrants' graves.

The Thai crackdown threw the multi-million dollar people smuggling industry into disarray as gangmasters abandoned their victims on land and at sea and images of stick-thin, dazed migrants stumbling onto shores or out off forests shocked the world.

More than 3,500 starving migrants have since arrived on Thai, Malaysian and Indonesian soil while the UN estimates there are 2,500 more still feared trapped at sea as the monsoon season approaches.

The vast majority of migrants are Rohingya Muslims fleeing persecution in Buddhist-majority Myanmar or Bangladeshis trying to escape poverty.

In a transcript of his opening remarks, Thailand's foreign minister Tanasak Patimapragorn said "the influx of irregular migrants... has reached alarming levels" creating an "urgent" regional problem needing a united response.

He added that "the root causes that motivated these people to leave must also be addressed" in comments apparently directed at Myanmar and Bangladesh, in a region where countries shy away from direct diplomatic confrontation.

  • 'Problems won't be solved in one meeting' -

But some observers have cast doubt over the capacity of Southeast Asian neighbours to act on a cross-border issue which has exposed gaping holes in the rule of law in several countries.

"ASEAN countries have hidden behind the notion of 'non-interference' to turn a blind eye to the persecution of Rohingya in Myanmar, to the growth of criminal smuggling and human trafficking networks, and the increasing demand for undocumented labourers," Sam Zarifi, Asia director for the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) said in a statement.

Countries attending the talks include those directly affected by the current crisis such as Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia -- all of whom vacillated for days before bowing to international pressure to offer humanitarian aid to migrants trapped at sea.

Myanmar and Bangladesh are also sending delegates after both nations came under increasing pressure to address the root causes of why so many of their citizens flee their shores.

Myanmar's 1.3 million Rohingyas are one of the world's most persecuted minorities.

They face restrictions on movement, jobs and family size while the government refuses to recognise them as citizens, instead calling them illegal "Bengalis" from Bangladesh.

But the former junta-led quasi-civilian government has balked at any criticism of its treatment of the community and has previously threatened to pull out of the talks altogether if the word Rohingya is used.

Other countries attending have a less obvious direct link to the Southeast Asian migrant crisis such as Afghanistan, India, Iran and Papua New Guinea.

All those attending are below minister level, apart from Thailand's junta-appointed Foreign Minister Tanasak Patimapragorn.

The United States, which is attending as an observer, is set later Friday to pledge financial assistance to tackle the crisis.

Switzerland, the United Nations and the International Organization for Migration are also sending observers.

Jeff Labovitz, head of the IOM's Thailand office, told AFP he hoped those nations attending would come up with "practical suggestions on how to work together and how to stop trafficking or smuggling issues."

But he added: "Problems won't be solved in one meeting."

tib-apj/iw

© 1994-2015 Agence France-Presse

Myanmar: Asia's migrant crisis meeting unlikely to yield solutions

28 May 2015 - 2:32pm
Source: Reuters - AlertNet Country: Bangladesh, Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar, Thailand, World

Source: Reuters - Thu, 28 May 2015 11:35 GMT

Author: Reuters

By Amy Sawitta Lefevre and Simon Webb

BANGKOK, May 28 (Reuters) - A meeting in Bangkok aimed at addressing Southeast Asia's migrant crisis is unlikely to produce a binding agreement or plan of action to save thousands of people believed stranded on boats in the Bay of Bengal and Andaman Sea, participants said.

Read the story on the Thompson Reuters Foundation

Myanmar: Shan Villagers Flee Alleged Forced Recruitment by Ethnic Army

28 May 2015 - 1:01pm
Source: Irrawaddy Country: Myanmar

RANGOON — Villagers in eastern Burma’s Shan State have been fleeing en masse amid an alleged forced recruitment drive by a non-state armed group, according to local aid workers.

As many as 700 people may have fled from Theinse village tract in Nansang Township, local volunteer Sai Tun Sein told The Irrawaddy. He said people from eight villages have sought shelter in Taunggyi and Nansang since the recruitment began in mid-May.

“[Armed men] recruited 50 to 70 people per village, and the villagers fled because they were scared. At present, more than 120 people have been taken [by the soldiers],” said Sai Tun Sein, who is now in Nansang assisting those who relocated.

Villagers told Sai Tun Sein and other volunteers that the soldiers, who appeared to be members of the Restoration Council of Shan State/Shan State Army (RCSS/SSA), visited homes, removed young men by force and physically assaulted those who tried to flee.

The RCSS/SSA is an ethnic armed group based in southern Shan State, which is currently engaged in union-level peace negotiations with the government. The group’s spokesman, Sai Hla, told The Irrawaddy on Wednesday that he was unaware of any such forced recruitment by RCSS forces.

Ting Maung Toe, chairman of the Taunggyi chapter of the National League for Democracy (NLD), confirmed that hundreds of villagers had arrived in the state capital in recent weeks. He said that more than 500 people were sheltering at Htan San Cave Pagoda, while about 100 were at a monastery in Nansang. At least 50 more were in Hopang Township, he said.

Speaking to The Irrawaddy by phone from a shelter in Taunggyion Tuesday, U Maung from Hlaing Hkar village described the scene before he fled.

“We left because soldiers bearing the insignia of the white tigers [a familiar name for the RCSS/SSA] came to recruit our villagers. People had also been recruited in nearby Naungbu village, and some girls fled. The soldiers told us they would take the women if there were no men in the village,” U Maung said.

The area is also occupied by a number of local militias including the Shan Nationalities People’s Liberation Organization and the Pa-O Liberation Army. The RCSS/SSA, southern Shan State’s dominant ethnic armed group, has an estimated force of about 6,000 troops.

The group was among the first of Burma’s ethnic armies to reach a new bilateral ceasefire with the government in 2011, and is a participant in ongoing peace talks geared toward a nationwide accord. The RCSS is not, however, a member of the Nationwide Ceasefire Coordination Team (NCCT), the country’s ethnic negotiating bloc in peace talks with the government.

Indonesia: Qatar pledges $50 mn to Indonesia for hosting migrants

28 May 2015 - 11:57am
Source: Agence France-Presse Country: Indonesia, Myanmar, Qatar

Doha, Qatar | AFP | Thursday 5/28/2015 - 14:25 GMT

Gas-rich Qatar pledged $50 million on Thursday to help Indonesia shelter Muslim Rohingya migrants from Myanmar, the official QNA news agency reported.

Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand have all prevented vessels overloaded with starving migrants from Bangladesh and from Myanmar's ethnic Rohingya minority from landing on their shores.

Indonesia and Malaysia later responded to world pressure, saying they would no longer turn away migrant boats, offering to take in boat people provided they could be resettled or repatriated within a year.

But Thailand began a crackdown on smuggling following the discovery of mass graves there, which appears to have thrown regional human-trafficking routes into chaos.

The aid pledge was announced by Qatar's Emir Sheikh Tamim as he met visiting Indonesian Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi in Doha, who briefed him on "efforts by Indonesia and Malaysia in confronting the problem of refugees" from Myanmar and Bangladesh, QNA said.

He ordered a "donation worth $50 million (46 million euros) from Qatar to the Indonesian government to help it cover costs of hosting the Rohingya" migrants.

The International Organization for Migration has appealed for $26 million to help migrants in Southeast Asia.

Indonesian President Joko Widodo on Sunday indicated that Jakarta would need international help to foot the bill for housing thousands of destitute people.

More than 3,500 migrants have swum ashore or been rescued off the coasts of Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand and Bangladesh since the crisis erupted earlier this month.

Thousands of Rohingya fleeing persecution in mostly Buddhist Myanmar, along with Bangladeshis seeking to escape grinding poverty, are still believed to be at sea.

Myanmar's government sees its 1.3 million Rohingya as illegal immigrants from neighbouring Bangladesh, and denies most of them citizenship.

bur/lyn/srm

Myanmar: South East Asia: ‘Boat people’ crisis summit an opportunity that must not be missed

28 May 2015 - 9:05am
Source: Amnesty International Country: Bangladesh, Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar, Thailand, World

Regional governments must take immediate action to save lives and address the root causes of the South East Asian migrant crisis, Amnesty International said ahead of a key summit in Thailand on Friday.

“The Bangkok summit is an opportunity to develop a genuine regional effort to address all the many dimensions of the crisis in line with international human rights law that must not be missed,” said Richard Bennett, Amnesty International’s Asia Pacific Director.

“We have seen thousands of people crammed onto boats with little or no food or water, while governments have been slow to provide shelter or other basic humanitarian assistance. There clearly needs to be immediate action.”

Indonesia, Thailand and Malaysia have taken crucial first steps by offering temporary humanitarian assistance and reversing appalling policies of turning back boats. However, efforts must be stepped up to address all forms of migration while respecting human rights. Governments have a responsibility to ensure legal and safe routes of migration.

“Countries must develop a common set of policies to ensure that refugees and migrants – including people fleeing persecution - are protected, and not criminalized or simply left to fend for themselves,” said Richard Bennett.

Representatives of 17 countries will gather in Bangkok on 29 May to discuss the current asylum seeker and migrant crisis in South East Asia. Approximately 3,500 people have over the past weeks landed in Malaysia and Indonesia or returned to Myanmar.

In an open letter this week, Amnesty International has urged governments to take immediate steps to address not only the current crisis, but also the underlying conditions that have caused it.

“The thousands who have landed in Malaysia and Indonesia must be ensured safety and dignity, including the shelter, food, water, clothing, health care and protection they need. Claims for asylum should be fairly processed and under no circumstances should people be returned to or sent to countries where their lives are at risk,” said Richard Bennett.

“People should not be detained solely on the basis of their method of arrival in a country. Prolonged periods of detention and uncertainty have a damaging impact on asylum seekers’ mental health, as we have seen through Australia’s cruel refugee policies. South East Asian countries must not repeat these mistakes.”

Amnesty International is urging all governments to take immediate steps to address the root causes of the crisis, which are driving people to flee in the first place.

A large proportion of those fleeing by boat appear to be Muslim Rohingya, a minority that has faced decades of institutionalised discrimination in Myanmar. Waves of violence between Muslims and Buddhists dating back to 2012 has left tens of thousands of people – mainly Rohingya – displaced in Rakhine state, where they live in camps in squalid conditions. Tens of thousands of others are believed to have fled across the Bay of Bengal by boat since the 2012 violence.

“Many thousands of Rohingya in Myanmar are desperate enough to risk their lives on dangerous boat journeys to escape the conditions they face at home. Myanmar’s response so far has been one of denial - even that the Rohingya even exist. This cannot be the basis on which to proceed,” said Richard Bennett.

“The international community must urge Myanmar to end systemic discrimination against the Rohingya, starting with granting them citizenship and repealing all other discriminatory laws.”

Background / recommendations

Amnesty International urges countries attending the summit on 29 May 2015 to: - Co-ordinate search and rescue operations to locate and assist boats in distress; - Allow all boats carrying asylum seekers and migrants to land safely in the nearest country and not push them back, threaten or otherwise intimidate them; - Provide or ensure the provision of the immediate humanitarian needs of refugees and migrants including food, water, shelter and health care; - Ensure that people claiming asylum are able to access fair refugee status determination procedures; - Respect the rule of non-refoulement, by ensuring that people are not transferred to any place, including their country of origin, where their lives, and freedom from persecution and torture are at risk; - Ensure that individuals are not criminalised, detained or punished solely for their method of arrival in the country; - For those countries which have not yet done so - ratify the UN Convention relating to the Status of Refugees, its 1967 Protocol and the UN Convention relating to the Status of Stateless Persons and implement these instruments in law, policy and practice; and - Work closely with UNHCR, the agency with the mandate to protect refugees and stateless people and the technical expertise on refugee status determination. - Investigate all allegations of human trafficking and bring those responsible through law enforcement measures, governed by human rights law and standards, and ensure that victims have access to an effective remedy.

Additionally, Myanmar must end all discrimination in law, policy and practice against the Rohingya, and in particular, ensure they have equal access to citizenship rights. Myanmar must also ensure free and unimpeded access to Rakhine state to humanitarian actors, the United Nations, international human rights organizations and journalists.

A copy of the open letter can be found here:
https://www.amnesty.org/en/documents/asa03/1717/2015/en/

Public Document

For more information please call Amnesty International's press office in London, UK, on
+44 20 7413 5566 or +44 (0)777 847 2126
email: press@amnesty.org twitter: @amnestypress
International Secretariat,Amnesty International, 1 Easton St., London WC1X 0DW, UK

Thailand: The Border Consortium E-Letter: Issue 23, May 2015

28 May 2015 - 7:48am
Source: The Border Consortium Country: Myanmar, Thailand

Situation update

  • Peace process: The President, Speakers of Parliament, Commander in Chief and leaders from NLD and an ethnic opposition party held inconclusive talks about the upcoming elections. Potential entry points for registered political parties to join the peace process if it evolves to the political dialogue phase were also on the agenda. However, the proposed ethnic summit to review the draft Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement has been postponed. After a separate meeting in the Wa Special Region, representatives from 12 ethnic armed groups reiterated calls for the Tatmadaw to stop military assaults in Kachin and Northern Shan State.

  • Militarisation and local responses: In violation of the bilateral ceasefire agreement, Tatmadaw fighter jets launched air-to-ground missiles into populated upland forests administered by KNU near Bawgali Gyi in Thandaunggyi Township during the last week of April. The following week, approximately 350 farmers protested in Loikaw Township against the Tatmadaw’s confiscation of customary lands and the subsequent conviction of 6 farmers for trespassing on their own land.

  • Refugee Verification Exercise: The UNHCR and MOI Verification Exercise was completed in the final camp of Tham Hin on May 1. After difficulties in the first camp of Ban Mai Nai Soi were sorted, the process proceeded without too many complications. However, the process was not necessarily homogenous across all camps. While no official information regarding the results have been released yet, indications are that the verified populations in each camp are broadly similar to the TBC database figures for Verified Caseload. Importantly, to date no refugee in the camp has been denied access to services or deported/informed that they have to leave the camp. TBC Field staff will continue to monitor this once official results are released.

Malaysia: Situation Report: Emergency Response – Rohinga and Bangaldesh Migrants

28 May 2015 - 7:13am
Source: MERCY Malaysia Country: Bangladesh, Malaysia, Myanmar

MISSION

  • Since May 20th 2015 1,111 Rohingya asylum seekers and Bangladesh irregular migrants have been sheltered in Belantik Immigration Detention Camp

  • MERCY Malaysia has been providing medical assistance, deworming exercises, vaccination clinics for Rohingya refugees and Bangladesh irregular migrants since Wednesday 20th May 2015

  • MERCY Malaysia is providing its services twice a week to the camp

SITUATION OVERVIEW & MERCY MALAYSIA HUMANITARIAN RESPONSE

Since bloodshed erupted between Buddhists and Muslims in Rhakine State, Myanmar in 2012, more than 1.5 million Rohingyas are internally displaced and seeking asylum in neighboring countries. Rohingya Muslims are subject to constant human rights abuses. About 244,000 reside in IDP camps in Rahkine state and about 200,000 in unofficial camps in Bangladesh (OCHA May 2015 Global Emergency Overview). Government restrictions have made it difficult for foreign aid agencies to provide assistance to Rohingya’s in Myanmar.

Thousands of Rohingya’s seeking asylum and Bangladeshi escaping poverty have resorted to paying human traffickers to take them to Malaysia by boat across the Andaman Sea. Since November 2014, 40,000 Rohingya’s have been registered with UNHCR in Malaysia, however it is estimated that there is an equal number residing in Malaysia unregistered. Crackdown on the human trafficking trade by Thai authorities in April upon discovery of mass migrant graves has thrown the trade into chaos. Human traffickers have disassembled boat engines and abandoned boats in fear of landing on Thai shores, leaving the migrants stranded at sea vulnerable to the elements without sufficient food and water.

Since mid-May around 3,600 Rohingya’s and Bangladeshi’s have arrived on the shores of Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand. According to OCHA May 2015 Global Emergency Overview it is estimated that 6,000 to 8,000 Rohingya and Bangladeshi remain at sea on boats, unable to reach shore. The governments of Thailand, Indonesia and Malaysia have what has been described by several news agencies as a game of “maritime ping-pong” with the boats, pushing them back into international waters. However, on the 21st of May 2015 the governments of Indonesia and Malaysia announced that they will stop turning away migrant boats and provide humanitarian assistance to those in need on condition that they are rehoused within a year.

The camp has been providing food, health screening and medical assistance to the migrants and refugees. In collaboration with the camp and the government, MERCY Malaysia has been granted access to provide medical assistance, psychosocial support and distribution of hygiene kits to those residing in the camp. Furthermore, the Prime Ministry of Malaysia has offered support through the Malaysia Navy and MMEA to MERCY Malaysia effort in providing humanitarian aid to the migrants still stranded on boats.

Myanmar: Norway to provide an additional NOK 10 million in humanitarian aid to Rakhine state in Myanmar

28 May 2015 - 5:36am
Source: Government of Norway Country: Myanmar, Norway

'I am deeply concerned about the plight of the refugees in the Indian Ocean. There is an urgent need to support measures in Rakhine state to prevent more people becoming victims of human trafficking. Norway is therefore providing an additional NOK 10 million in humanitarian aid to Rakhine state in Myanmar,' Minister of Foreign Affairs Børge Brende said.

In addition to supporting preventive measures in Rakhine state, these funds will be used to help internally displaced people return to their homes, and to provide better access to health care in Rakhine. This will benefit Buddhists and Muslims alike.

'In Norway's dialogue with the authorities in Myanmar, we discuss the dire situation of the affected people in Rakhine. We emphasise the need to uphold fundamental human rights for all and to address the underlying causes of the conflict,' said Foreign Minister Brende.

Norway has raised the issue of the unacceptable situation for the Rohingya, the Muslim minority in Rakhine, with the authorities in Myanmar on several occasions. Norway has also co-sponsored a resolution in the UN General Assembly that calls on Myanmar to address the situation in Rakhine state. What is most urgent now is that basic human rights are respected and humanitarian aid is provided to everyone who needs it. Norway is already providing humanitarian aid, and supports local initiatives to facilitate dialogue between the parties to the conflict.

Malaysia: Rohingya Refugee Crisis: Testing Malaysia’s ASEAN Chairmanship

28 May 2015 - 4:07am
Source: Nanyang Technological Univ. Country: Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar, Thailand

By David Han Guo Xiong

Synopsis

The Rohingya refugee crisis is a test of Malaysia’s chairmanship of ASEAN. Kuala Lumpur’s response is an attempt to balance its foreign policy commitment to ASEAN and allay domestic concerns over the Rohingya humanitarian problem.

Commentary

THE ROHINGYA refugee crisis presents a test of Malaysia’s chairmanship of ASEAN. The most recent agreement by Malaysia and Indonesia to provide temporary shelter for the refugees, following an emergency meeting on 20 May 2015 in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, was a diplomatic breakthrough. It reflected Malaysia’s delicate efforts to maintain its regional commitment to ASEAN while allaying domestic concerns about illegal immigrants in Malaysia.

Over the past three weeks, Malaysia, Indonesia and Thailand were turning away ships carrying mostly Muslim Rohingya refugees who were fleeing from Myanmar due to religious and ethnic persecutions in the Rakhine state of Myanmar. Estimates show that there could be over 6,000 people who are still stranded in the open seas. Indeed, the plight of the Rohingya people stranded in Malaysian seas has drawn an international outcry. The United Nations’ human rights chief, Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein, criticised Malaysia, Indonesia and Thailand for turning away the vessels while the European Union has urged Myanmar to end the persecution of its Rohingya minority.

Why Malaysia rejected the refugees

Initially, Malaysia had rejected the additional influx of the Rohingya boat people because an unrestricted acceptance of these refugees is not a viable, long-term solution to the crisis that was largely caused by a domestic problem within Myanmar.

Malaysia is not a signatory to the 1951 Refugee Convention and does not possess a legislative and administrative framework to address refugee matters. Therefore, the inclusion of more Rohingya refugees would have further strained Malaysia’s domestic capacity to cope with illegal immigrants in the country.

Nevertheless, these issues do not deny Malaysia’s long-standing concern for the plight of the Rohingya people. In 1992, the government of then Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad had urged Myanmar to take immediate steps to resolve the Rohingya problem. This was consistent with Mahathir’s foreign policy to project Malaysia as an Islamic nation concerned for the welfare of Muslim minorities. However, Malaysia could not interfere directly in the domestic affairs of Myanmar, given the ASEAN principle of non-interference in the internal affairs of other member-states.

Refugee policy under Najib

Although Prime Minister Najib Razak has largely avoided the strong Islamic zeal of Mahathir’s foreign policy, Malaysia continues to be sympathetic to the Rohingya refugees. Notwithstanding the initial resistance to accept more Rohingya refugees, Malaysia has on the whole exhibited credible leadership as ASEAN Chair by being subsequently assertive in its response to the Rohingya crisis. At the 26th ASEAN Summit recently, Malaysian foreign minister Anifah Aman expressed the need for the Myanmar government to resolve the Rohingya problem domestically as a long-term solution.

Malaysia and Indonesia have agreed to provide temporary shelter for the refugees in their respective countries for up to a year, after which the international community should assist to repatriate and resettle the refugee to a third country.

Indeed, if the humanitarian crisis had not been temporarily mitigated, the consequences could have been worrisome not only for Malaysia, but also for the Rohingya refugees and ASEAN. An obvious outcome would be the continued suffering of the Rohingya people. Malaysia could be perceived as lacking leadership as chair of ASEAN. In addition, the failure to tackle the refugee crisis could have cast scepticism on the credibility of the ASEAN Community if it could not provide a viable solution to alleviate the suffering of the Rohingya people.

Malaysia’s domestic concerns

The Rohingya refugee crisis also poses domestic challenges for Malaysia. On one hand, the growing presence of Rohingya refugees could worsen the social, economic and political problems associated with illegal immigrants in Malaysia. The home affairs ministry has indicated that health and security problems could arise as a result.

In June 2013, ethnic violence between Buddhist and Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar spilled over into Malaysia, resulting in clashes between Buddhist and Muslim Myanmar nationals working in Malaysia in Selayang and the Klang Valley. These incidents threatened the safety of Malaysian citizens. Thus, a wholesale acceptance of the Rohingya refugees without addressing potential domestic problems is a risky political move which could easily trigger a backlash from the general public.

On the other hand, several Members of Parliament from both the ruling coalition and the opposition as well as local NGOs have criticised the government for not doing enough to alleviate the suffering of the Rohingya people.

Hence, the temporary acceptance of the refugees by providing shelter for one year – subject to an international solution to the Rohingya refugee crisis - is stop-gap measure that enables Malaysia to preserve its credibility as ASEAN Chair. This also placates domestic pressure to help the Rohingya refugees and at the same time reduce the negative impact of the presence of Rohingya migrants.

Rohingya as ASEAN citizens

In the end, opening borders indefinitely to the Rohingya people would not improve the domestic situation in Myanmar. In fact, it may the send the wrong signal to Myanmar that diverting its internal problem to other countries is an acceptable solution. Instead, Malaysia, Indonesia and Thailand, are sending a strong message to Myanmar that pushing responsibility to others is contrary to the ideals of the ASEAN Community.

Indeed, a long-lasting solution has to come from an internal change within Myanmar, supported by a more inclusive ASEAN Community which develops conducive measures to tackle the Rohingya problem. The Rohingya people are part of Southeast Asia, and a people-centric ASEAN Community should live up to its promise of a regional body that cares for the welfare of its citizens.

Malaysia: Malaysia removes bodies from jungle on eve of people-smuggling talks

28 May 2015 - 2:13am
Source: Agence France-Presse Country: Bangladesh, Malaysia, Myanmar, Thailand

Wang Kelian, Malaysia | AFP | Thursday 5/28/2015 - 15:00 GMT

by Satish Cheney

Malaysian police Thursday removed the remains of nine people from jungle camps near the Thai border where an estimated 139 bodies are believed to have been buried in a still unfolding people-smuggling crisis in Southeast Asia.

The skeletal remains were carried in white cloth bags tied to wooden poles to the border town Wang Kelian on the eve of an international meeting in Thailand on the desperate situation of refugees and migrants fleeing Myanmar and Bangladesh.

Some of the bags clearly showed human contours. A Malaysian police statement said Thursday's recovery brought the total number of remains removed from the camps to 13 persons which would undergo post-mortem examination by pathologists.

The abandoned sites in Malaysian territory were discovered on the weekend after the massive scale of human smuggling was exposed by a Thai crackdown on trafficking networks, which has left thousands of desperate people stranded at sea on rickety boats.

"Based on the size of the graves, and after the area was cleared... we have a clearer indication -- single grave, single person," Malaysian Deputy Home Minister Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar said in Wang Kelian.

Malaysia previously said it had discovered 139 grave sites. When asked by AFP if he now believed there were 139 bodies in total, Wan Junaidi said: "Yes."

Thailand is hosting a regional meeting on Friday to address the crisis, which has seen more than 3,500 Bangladeshi economic migrants and stateless Rohingya Muslims from Myanmar arrive on Thai, Malaysian and Indonesian soil.

Thai authorities acted after discovering some 33 bodies in mass graves in camps in the country's south.

"This is not only Malaysia's problem, (it is) an international problem as people come from Bangladesh and Myanmar," Wan Junaidi said.

"It is ASEAN's problem," he added, referring to the Southeast Asian grouping that includes Malaysia, Myanmar and Thailand.

Officials said a Malaysian rescue force of six ships and a helicopter carrying humanitarian supplies on Thursday spotted two boats suspected to be carrying more than 40 Rohingya off the resort island of Langkawi. But the boats were in Thai waters and avoided contact with the Malaysian flotilla.

  • White shrouds and camphor -

The camps on Malaysia's side of the border, which could have been capable of housing hundreds of people, drew allegations that authorities and residents had turned a blind eye to the lucrative business.

Wan Junaidi said initial investigations showed the bodies were wrapped in shrouds and their resting places marked with wooden sticks. Camphor was also found at the graves.

"It seems like proper burial, the bodies were wrapped in white cloth. It is like the Muslim burial some are shallow graves, not all," he told reporters.

Wan Junaidi said Malaysian security forces had not been patrolling the area because it was thought to be inaccessible but began surveying it after the discovery of the graves in Thailand.

Relatively prosperous Malaysia, which has a Muslim majority, has long been a favoured destination for Rohingya, who often travelled to Thailand by boat, then overland to northern Malaysia.

  • Pressure on Suu Kyi -

In an interview published Thursday, the Dalai Lama urged fellow Nobel peace laureate Aung San Suu Kyi to help the Rohingya.

"It's very sad... I hope Aung San Suu Kyi, as a Nobel laureate, can do something," the Tibetan Buddhist spiritual leader told The Australian newspaper.

The Dalai Lama said she must speak up, and that he had already appealed twice to her in person since 2012, when deadly sectarian violence in Myanmar's Rakhine state pitted the Rohingya against local Buddhists.

Observers say the Myanmar opposition leader may be reticent about the Rohingya issue in order to avoid alienating voters among Myanmar's Buddhist majority ahead of elections slated for November.

Predominantly Muslim Bangladesh meanwhile said it was moving to set up seven special courts across the country to try suspects charged with trafficking.

Bangladesh shares a border with Myanmar along the Bay of Bengal.

Wan Junaidi on Thursday confirmed that Malaysian police are investigating 12 of their own officers over suspicion of involvement, with two "suspected of transporting the people (migrants)".

"We are investigating Rohingya in Malaysia too," he said.

The United States on Wednesday backed the investigation, calling for a "transparent, credible and expeditious effort" that will lead to prosecutions.

Campaign group Human Rights Watch said Friday's meeting in Thailand involving 17 countries should "reach bindings agreements to save people at sea" and permit them to "disembark without conditions."

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Myanmar: Southeast Asia: Put Rights at Center of Boat People Summit

27 May 2015 - 6:29pm
Source: Human Rights Watch Country: Afghanistan, Australia, Bangladesh, Cambodia, India, Indonesia, Iran (Islamic Republic of), Lao People's Democratic Republic (the), Malaysia, Myanmar, New Zealand, Pakistan, Papua New Guinea, Philippines, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Viet Nam

Demand End of Abuses in Burma, Access for Refugee Protection

(Bangkok, May 28, 2015) – Governments gathering in Bangkok on May 29, 2015, to discuss the Southeast Asia boat people crisis should reach binding agreements to save people at sea, permit them to disembark without conditions, and ensure unimpeded access for United Nations agencies to protect the rights of asylum seekers, Human Rights Watch said today.

The governments should also demand that Burma and Bangladesh take specific steps to end human rights abuses against the Rohingya that are causing them to flee on dangerous boats to escape persecution.

The Special Meeting on Irregular Migration in the Indian Ocean will include representatives from 17 countries, including Afghanistan, Australia, Bangladesh, Burma, Cambodia, India, Indonesia, Iran, Lao PDR, Malaysia, New Zealand, Pakistan, Papua New Guinea, the Philippines, Sri Lanka, Vietnam, and Thailand, with observers from the United States and Switzerland, and senior officials from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the International Organization for Migration (IOM).

“Regional governments should work with the United Nations and others to agree on binding solutions to this human tragedy – not sweep it under the rug as they have done for years,” said Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “The ending of human rights abuses in the source countries of Burma and Bangladesh needs to be matched by Thailand, Malaysia, and Indonesia, with support from other countries, taking humanitarian action to receive and protect refugees fleeing persecution.”

Over the past 15 months, international agencies estimate that as many as 88,000 men, women, and children have traveled from Bangladesh and Burma in boats to Thailand, Malaysia, and Indonesia. Many of these are Rohingya Muslims fleeing persecution in Burma, although a significant number are also Bangladeshi nationals. Most have traveled in boats to Thailand, where they are then transported overland into jungle camps in Thailand and Malaysia. The camps are used as holding facilities in which victims are detained, extorted, and abused, with mass graves found in recent weeks on both sides of the border of Thailand and Malaysia.

Human Rights Watch urges participating governments in the special meeting to prioritize the following issues:

Emphasize urgent need for search and rescue – now and in the future. The participating governments should accept international offers to provide search and rescue support and seek ways to better coordinate search and rescue efforts, share intelligence, and pool resources. Thailand, Malaysia, and Indonesia should agree to take proactive efforts to mobilize their marine search and rescue operations to seek out the remaining boats possibly still at sea;

Ensure unimpeded and unconditional access by UNHCR and IOM to rescued boat people – now and in the future. Transparent, impartial, and professional assessments of individuals who arrive on land or are rescued at sea are needed to determine who is entitled to refugee protection, who should receive services as a trafficking victim, and how appropriate services should be delivered. UNHCR should be permitted to exercise its mandate in Thailand, Malaysia, and Indonesia – none of which are parties to the 1951 Refugee Convention – to screen boat arrivals for refugee status and other protection needs. These governments should abide by UNHCR refugee status determinations and scrupulously ensure that refugees and asylum seekers are not forcibly returned to persecution or other serious harm and that no one is prevented from fleeing threats to their life or freedom. This is especially important in the case of Burma, where Rohingya have been targets of persecution for decades, and whose denial of citizenship rights makes any return impossible as long as Burma denies their national identity;

Demand that Thailand permit disembarkation of boat people, and ensure that Malaysia, Indonesia, and other countries make long-term commitments to allow disembarkation. While Malaysia and Indonesia recently agreed to allow boat people to land on their soil, the Thai government has thus far refused to allow boat people to land on Thai soil. The Thai government should commit to allow boat people to disembark in safety and dignity and grant access to UNHCR to assess their protection needs. The special meeting should reject any variation of so-called help along policies that result in stranding boat people in deadly conditions or shifting responsibilities to other countries;

Exert pressure on Burma as the main source of the problem. Call on Burmese officials to immediately end the repressive measures and denial of basic rights that have driven Rohingya to flee their native Arakan (Rakhine) state over many years. The meeting should exert pressure on Burma to admit that Rohingya should be considered citizens of Burma whose rights should be respected, and end all discriminatory policies against them. The national government’s denial of the status of the Rohingya only makes solutions harder to formulate. For instance, Zaw Htay, the spokesperson of President Thein Sein’s office, stated last week that “we will not accept the allegations made by some [governments] that Myanmar (Burma) is the source of the problem.” Burma should amend the 1982 Citizenship Act and do away with discriminatory restrictions on the right to movement, livelihoods, right to own property, right to marriage and have children, and other basic rights that all persons of Burma should enjoy; and

Exert pressure on Bangladesh to stop its pushback policy and end its persecution of Rohingya. The Bangladesh government should cease its own publicly acknowledged policy of engaging in pushbacks of Rohingya to Arakan state and recognize them as refugees deserving protection and support services. Dhaka should also agree to accept international offers of assistance, previously rejected, to provide basic health, education, and other services for Rohingya and its own citizens residing in the same border region with Burma so no one will feel compelled to get on boats. “This regional meeting will only be a success if every government commits to effective search and rescue operations, meeting the protection needs of refugees, prosecuting traffickers, and resolving the root causes that drive these desperate people onto boats,” Adams said. “International burden sharing, including resettling refugees, is also important, but will only be a lasting solution if all governments agree that human rights must be at the center of all current and future policies.”

Myanmar: Myanmar: UN rights experts express alarm at adoption of first of four ‘protection of race and religion’ bills

27 May 2015 - 2:14pm
Source: UN Human Rights Council Country: Myanmar

GENEVA (27 May 2015) – A group of United Nations human rights experts today expressed alarm at the enactment of the Population Control Healthcare Bill in Myanmar, the first of four in a package of bills that seek to ‘protect race and religion’. The bills are highly discriminatory against ethnic and religious minorities as well as against women.

“These bills risk deepening discrimination against minorities and setting back women’s rights in Myanmar,” said the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar, Yanghee Lee. “At a time when thousands of Rohingya are already fleeing the country by boat, this sends precisely the wrong signal to these communities.”

On Saturday, State media reported that the President of Myanmar had signed the Population Control Healthcare Bill. While the stated objectives of the Bill are to improve living standards, alleviate poverty, ensure quality healthcare and develop maternal and child health, its provisions are extremely vague and lack any protection against discrimination, the independent experts noted. Under the newly adopted law, certain areas can be designated for special health care measures, including birth spacing.

“Any coercive requirement for birth spacing with the aim to ‘organise’ family planning would constitute a disproportionate interference in the sexual and reproductive health and rights of women and could amount to a violation of women’s human rights,” said the UN Special Rapporteur on the right to health, Dainius Pûras, noting that the Bill allows township groups to ‘organise’ married couples to practice 36-month birth spacing between pregnancies. “Women should be able to choose freely and responsibly the number and spacing of their children.”

The experts underlined that inclusive policies and approaches that focus on a voluntary regulation of population can act as effective safeguards to ensure respect for women’s human rights, and sustainable economic and social development. Such policies should provide women with access to health services, including family planning and free contraception; nutrition; education, including sex education; and employment.

“Evidence shows that attempts to impose strategies aimed at ‘controlling population growth’ often disproportionately target marginalized and minority groups and can have discriminatory, coercive and punitive effects that go against basic rights and freedoms, particularly those of women,” the experts added.

The rights experts also expressed serious concern about the other three bills currently being considered by Parliament: the Religious Conversion Bill, the Myanmar Buddhist Women’s Special Marriage Bill and the Monogamy Bill.

The Special Rapporteur on minority issues, Rita Izsák, cautioned that “these bills particularly discriminate against ethnic and religious minorities and have the potential to fuel existing tensions in the country.”

The Religious Conversion Bill establishes a State-regulated system for religious conversion, involving justification, registration, interview, study and approval. “The right to conversion has the status of unconditional protection under international human rights law,” the Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief, Heiner Bielefeldt, said. “States must respect everyone’s right to conversion as an essential component within freedom of religion or belief by removing administrative obstacles.”

The Myanmar Buddhist Women’s Special Marriage Bill seeks to protect Buddhist women marrying non-Buddhist men. “The Bill discriminates against women by restricting the right to marry for Buddhist women and placing restrictions only on Buddhist women who wish to marry outside their faith,” said Emna Aouij, who currently heads the Working Group on discrimination against women.

In practice, the Bill discourages interfaith marriages between Buddhist women and men of other faiths by imposing disproportionate penalties on non-Buddhist men. Moreover, under the Bill, a cohabiting couple where the female partner is Buddhist and the male is not, is de facto deemed ‘married’. If one or both parties do not wish to marry, they may be forced into marriage by a Court, which interferes greatly with the right to enter into marriage only with free and full consent.

The Monogamy Bill criminalizes polygamy and prohibits extramarital affairs. The Bill is redundant since the Penal Code already prohibits polygamy. While the ban on polygamy is in accordance with international human rights requirements, the Bill adopts a restrictive and discriminatory approach to regulate marriage. It makes specific references to ‘non-Buddhist persons’ and omits other forms of marriage discriminatory to women, including early and forced marriages.

“Enforcement of laws criminalizing adultery often leads to discrimination and violence against women. Experience shows that, in practice, adultery legislation imposes disproportional criminal liability on women,” Ms. Aouij added.

The independent experts called on the Government of Myanmar to discard all four laws, which will violate Myanmar’s obligations under international human rights standards. The experts reiterated their availability to provide assistance and technical advice on legislation and other measures affecting basic rights and freedoms in Myanmar.

“In this election year, Myanmar must ensure that its laws comply with fundamental human rights provisions and help rather than hinder progress towards a more tolerant, pluralistic and inclusive society,” the Special Rapporteur on Myanmar concluded.

The UN human rights experts are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights, is the general name of the independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms of the Human Rights Council that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. Special Procedures’ experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent from any government or organization and serve in their individual capacity. For more information, log on to: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/HRBodies/SP/Pages/Welcomepage.aspx

Learn more about the mandates:
Myanmar: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/HRBodies/SP/CountriesMandates/MM/Pages/SRMyanmar.aspx
Heath: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/Health/Pages/SRRightHealthIndex.aspx
Minority issues: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/Minorities/IExpert/Pages/IEminorityissuesIndex.aspx
Religion and belief: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/FreedomReligion/Pages/FreedomReligionIndex.aspx
Discrimination against women: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/Women/WGWomen/Pages/WGWomenIndex.aspx

UN Human Rights, country page – Myanmar: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/countries/AsiaRegion/Pages/MMIndex.aspx

For more information and media requests, please contact Caroline Avanzo (+41 22 928 9208 / cavanzo@ohchr.org)

For media inquiries related to other UN independent experts:
Xabier Celaya, UN Human Rights – Media Unit (+ 41 22 917 9383 / xcelaya@ohchr.org)

Burundi: Le chef des droits de l'homme de l'ONU inquiet de la situation au Burundi et de la crise des migrants

27 May 2015 - 1:32pm
Source: UN News Service Country: Burundi, Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar, World

26 mai 2015 – Le Haut-Commissaire des Nations Unies aux droits de l'homme, Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein, a fait le point mardi sur quelques-unes des principales crises des droits de l'homme actuelles, notamment les violences au Burundi et le trafic de migrants en Europe et en Asie du Sud-Est.

Dans un discours prononcé devant le Conseil des droits de l'homme de l'Organisation à Genève, en Suisse, le Haut-Commissaire a commencé par tirer les constats de sa récente visite au Burundi.

« Lors de ma mission au Burundi le mois dernier, j'ai été alarmé par la violence de la milice Imbonerakure, l'un des principaux soutiens au gouvernement du Président Nkurunziza, et par les harcèlements politiques, les menaces et les discours de haine », a déploré M. Zeid.

Le Burundi est en proie à une vague d'agitation depuis le 26 avril, date à laquelle le parti au pouvoir, le Conseil national pour la défense de la démocratie–forces pour la défense de la démocratie (CNDD-FDD), a décidé d'investir le Président Pierre Nkurunziza comme candidat à l'élection présidentielle qui aura lieu dans le pays le 26 juin prochain.

L'opposition burundaise, estimant qu'une troisième candidature du Président sortant est anticonstitutionnelle, a appelé à manifester contre cette nomination, provoquant une vague de violence et de répression de la part des autorités contre les manifestants.

Dans ce contexte de crise politique, un général de l'armée burundaise a annoncé mercredi 13 mai la destitution du Président Nkurunziza, ce que la Présidence a immédiatement démenti. Quelques jours après cette tentative de coup d'Etat avortée, samedi 23 mai, le chef de file d'un parti burundais de l'opposition, Zedi Feruzi, et son garde du corps ont été assassinés dans la capitale Bujumbura.

« La tentative de coup d'Etat du 13 mai et l'assassinat du leader de l'opposition Zedi Feruzi samedi ont contribué à la montée des tensions », a déploré M. Zeid, précisant que de nombreux responsables politiques de l'opposition, journalistes, défenseurs des droits humains et bien d'autres encore craignent désormais pour leur vie.

« Quand j'ai quitté le Burundi, le 15 avril, 6.000 Burundais avaient fui le pays en raison de la peur suscitée par la violence politique et les intimidations. Cinq semaines plus tard, ce nombre a atteint 110.000 personnes effrayées », a-t-il ajouté, exhortant le Conseil et la communauté internationale à mettre fin à cette vague de violence.

Le Haut-Commissaire s'est par ailleurs dit catastrophé par les récentes tragédies survenues en mer Méditerranée.

« À ce jour, plus de 1.800 personnes sont mortes en mer cette année, et 7.000 autres personnes ont été secourues durant les trois premiers jours du mois », a déploré M. Zeid, ajoutant qu'il s'agissait pour la plupart de ressortissants syriens, érythréens et libyens fuyant les conflits, la répression et les violations des droits de l'homme dans leurs pays d'origine.

Face à cet afflux, le Haut-Commissaire a condamné l'attitude de l'Union européenne (UE) pour sa gestion de la crise centrée de manière « disproportionnée » sur la répression à l'encontre des trafiquants, au détriment du respect des droits des migrants.

« L'agenda européen propose également des quotas pour la réinstallation de 20.000 réfugiés dans l'UE. Ce faible nombre de places est totalement inadapté à l'ampleur de cette crise », a-t-il ajouté, exhortant le continent à élargir ces quotas et à agir sur les causes profondes forçant les migrants à accomplir ces traversées au péril de leur vie.

M. Zeid a exprimé des préoccupations similaires face à la crise actuelle des migrants en Asie du Sud-Est.

« Durant le premier trimestre de cette année, 25.000 personnes ont pris la mer en provenance du Myanmar et du Bangladesh – certaines fuyant les persécutions au Myanmar, d'autres fuyant la pauvreté dont elles sont victimes dans les deux pays », a déclaré le Haut-Commissaire, ajoutant qu'au moins 1.050 d'entre elles ont péri en mer et que les survivants ont subi des mauvais traitements et des vols de la part des trafiquants.

« Environ 2.000 personnes ont réussi à débarquer à terre ; mais des milliers seraient encore en mer à l'heure où nous parlons », a-t-il dit.

Si M. Zeid a salué les ressources allouées par la Malaisie et l'Indonésie dans le cadre d'opérations de sauvetage, il a cependant demandé aux pays de la région de s'efforcer de régler collectivement cette question, dans le respect des droits humains des migrants.

Le Haut-Commissaire a également appelé le Myanmar à mettre fin à la répression à l'encontre de la minorité musulmane des Rohingyas, l'une des principales causes de ces migrations en mer dans la région.

Indonesia: Migrants Rescued From the Sea Face Uncertainty in Indonesian Camps

27 May 2015 - 12:47pm
Source: The New York Times Country: Bangladesh, Indonesia, Myanmar

By JOE COCHRANE

BAYEUN, Indonesia — Mohammed Salim sat on a straw mat in an open-air tent, trying to avoid the stifling midday heat.

The 23-year-old Rohingya from Myanmar still appeared to be recovering from dehydration and mild malnutrition. He was among the 433 migrants from Myanmar and Bangladesh who had been aboard a distressed vessel found by journalists on May 14, adrift in the Andaman Sea near Thailand and Malaysia. They had been on the boat for three months, abandoned by their captain and crew, and were desperate for food and water.

Read the story on the New York Times

Thailand: Thai police seek local help in people smuggling crackdown

27 May 2015 - 12:45pm
Source: Agence France-Presse Country: Bangladesh, Malaysia, Myanmar, Thailand

Bangkok, Thailand | AFP | Wednesday 5/27/2015 - 13:10 GMT

by Jerome TAYLOR

Thai police are seeking help from villagers living near a recently uncovered network of jungle camps to aid their investigation into people-smuggling and human trafficking-gangs, a senior officer said Wednesday.

Suspicion has fallen on remote communities in the deep south whom rights groups say must either have been aware of the trade, or have been actively involved in it.

Seven camps have been uncovered in Songkhla province close to the Malaysian border, highlighting the country's crucial role in the regional smuggling trade.

Some of the camps contained dozens of graves and bodies in various states of decomposition. On Monday, Malaysian officials uncovered a further series of camps on their side of the border complete with 139 grave sites.

The victims are believed to be Rohingya Muslims from Myanmar, a heavily persecuted minority, and Bangladeshis fleeing poverty.

Deputy national police chief Aek Angsananont, who is heading Thailand's investigation, told AFP more than 100 police officers were being sent to local villages to try to encourage them to testify.

"They (villagers) see how police have arrested people involved in trafficking and that the courts are not giving these people bail, no matter how big they are," he said.

"When they are confident they cooperate, and they are providing us with information as well as becoming witnesses for trials," he added.

Thai police have arrested nearly 50 people since a crackdown began in early May, including some local officials.

Aek said their investigation was centred on three influential "masterminds" -- Ko Tong, Ko Jow and Ko Nui -- who allegedly ran a network running across vast tracts of Thailand's south.

All three have been arrested. Little is known about them other than Ko (Big Brother) Tong, who was an influential local politician in Satun province.

  • 'Kindness, not greed' -

Rights groups have long complained that Thailand turned a blind eye to people-smuggling -- with some officials even complicit in the thriving and lucrative trade. They say local villagers were either forced or volunteered to cooperate.

But Aek said locals, many of whom in the region are Thai Muslims, were more likely acting out kindness than fear or the pursuit of riches.

"They felt sympathy for them, for migrants. They didn't think they were engaged in a crime as they helped those people," he said.

Camp survivors have previously testified to rights groups and journalists that villagers sometimes helped track down anyone who tried to escape the camps.

Police Major General Puthichart Ekachant, a regional commander in southern Thailand, told AFP police had reached out to nearly 7,000 locals to try to dissuade them from helping gangs.

"We are persuading them to be on our side, to give us tip-offs," he said.

More than 80 million baht ($2.3 million) in assets had been confiscated from trafficking suspects, Aek said, including cars, speedboats and fishing vessels adapted to carry human cargo.

He also said Thai and Malaysian officials were negotiating to allow for the bodies in the Malaysian camps to be brought down via the Thai side of the border.

The belated Thai crackdown disrupted the flow of migrants from Bangladesh and Myanmar down through Thailand and across the land border into Malaysia.

That left boats loaded with hundreds of starving migrants stuck at sea. Malaysia and Indonesia recently agreed to let vessels land safely following an international outcry.

Thailand will hold a regional summit on the crisis in Bangkok on Friday.

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