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Myanmar: Reducing poverty and building resilience to climate change in Myanmar’s Dry Zone

41 min 8 sec ago
Source: UN Development Programme Country: Myanmar

03 Mar 2015 by Yusuke Taishi, Regional Specialist, Climate Change Adaptation

In the undulating plains of the Dry Zone of central Myanmar, the Kingdom of Pagan flourished between the 11th and 13th century, largely thanks to productive agriculture supported by skilled water management techniques. Today, if it were not for the hundreds of pagodas that still remain standing, it would be hard to believe that a Kingdom once prospered here. There is little trace of the rich and fertile agricultural land, extensive canals, and abundant water that once existed in the heart of this now Dry Zone.

When I arrived in the village of Taung Shae in the Dry Zone, the popping noise of a diesel pump was reverberating in the air. A water-less community pond, in disrepair with a cracked bottom, illustrates the importance of water infrastructure for this community. But a villager proudly tells me that their tube well is 250 metres deep and now water is available throughout the year. He says he collects 300 Myanmar Kyat (about US$0.30) per 200 litres from villagers to maintain the pump.

In the village of Sin Loo Ey, villagers were busy with shelling peanuts. They tell me that the harvest is not as good as they hoped this year, but not bad enough for them to have to rely on the sales of palm sugar and their livestock.

Hundreds of thousands of Dry Zone residents are not as fortunate as those of Taung Shae and Sin Loo Ey. Many do not have a diesel water pump. Nor do they have alternative income sources to fall back on when the rain is not enough. Climate change is projected to cause more frequent and/or severe droughts, disrupt access to freshwater during the dry season, and make the livelihood in the Dry Zone an even more challenging undertaking.

The Government of Myanmar recently launched one of its first climate change adaptation projects. The project is financed by the Adaptation Fund and UNDP and will run for four years in five townships in the Dry Zone. The Government has an ambitious target of supporting nearly 250,000 people in the area with water management infrastructure, improved watershed management, and resilient livelihood options.

Some of the key initiatives are to:

  • Enhance water capture and storage in 280 villages while protecting and rehabilitating 4,200 hectares of micro-watersheds

  • Promote drought-resilient crop varieties and conservation agriculture practices on 5,600 hectares of drought-prone land and support a resilient post-harvest processing system

  • Support 6,300 landless households in developing a climate-resilient livestock production system

Supporting the Government and its citizens in building a livelihood system resilient to the impacts of climate change in the most vulnerable parts of the country, also directly contributes to UNDP’s mandate of poverty reduction.

About the author

Yusuke Taishi is the Regional Specialist, Climate Change Adaptation, for the Bureau of Policy and Programme Support in Bangkok.

Myanmar: Myanmar: Humanitarian Bulletin, Issue 1 | 1 – 31 January 2015

4 hours 23 min ago
Source: UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs Country: Myanmar

HIGHLIGHTS

  • Over 1,000 people displaced following renewed clashes in the Hpakan area of Kachin

  • IRC provides support for KMSS health clinics in IDP camps in northern Shan

  • MSF Holland resumes activities in parts of Rakhine

  • Government vaccination campaign aims to reach millions of children with support from UN and INGOs

  • Fire in Rakhine IDP camp leaves 450 people without shelter

KEY FIGURES

People displaced in Rakhine State 139,000

People displaced in Kachin and northern Shan states 100,000

People displaced in Meiktila, Mandalay region 3,300

Myanmar: Saving Burma’s Child Soldiers

4 March 2015 - 4:11pm
Source: Pulitzer Center Country: Myanmar

Living under armed guard, Arkar Min received one meal a day—a bowl of rice with some oil and salt. He had no bed and slept on the concrete, using his lungi as a pillow. There were six other conscripts, most of them 15; the eldest was 17. None of them had joined voluntarily—they'd been offered work, hoodwinked, kidnapped, and sold into service.

read the full article here

Myanmar: Myanmar: IDP Sites in Kachin and northern Shan States (Feb 2015)

4 March 2015 - 3:24am
Source: UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs Country: Myanmar

Myanmar: Myanmar: Internal Displacement in Kachin and northern Shan States (Feb 2015)

4 March 2015 - 3:06am
Source: UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs Country: Myanmar

Myanmar: Myanmar: IDP Sites in Rakhine State (Jan 2015)

4 March 2015 - 3:00am
Source: UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs Country: Myanmar

Myanmar: Myanmar: Internal Displacement in Rakhine State (Jan 2015)

4 March 2015 - 2:58am
Source: UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs Country: Myanmar

China: 'Crisis' in Yunnan's Refugee Camps as Chinese Police Block Supplies

4 March 2015 - 12:21am
Source: Radio Free Asia Country: China, Myanmar

Authorities in the southwestern Chinese province of Yunnan are preventing food supplies from reaching refugee camps packed with ethnic Kokang civilians fleeing the fighting across the border in Myanmar between government troops and rebel forces, local sources told RFA on Tuesday.

The blockade has sparked a crisis in some camps, where food is already running out, as well as the deaths of two people who were unable to seek emergency medical help, refugees and volunteers said.

A refugee who declined to be named said local security personnel have sealed off the roads leading to a camp in the border town of Maidihe.

"There is a huge crisis at the refugee camp at the moment, because the government and armed police have sealed off all the roads," the refugee said.

"They are stopping anyone from taking relief supplies and medicines to the camps," he said.

He said the roadblocks had already led to the deaths of an elderly person and a pregnant woman who were unable to seek emergency medical care when they needed it.

A volunteer at the No. 125 refugee camp surnamed Zhao confirmed the refugee's account, suggesting the ban affects other refugee camps on the Chinese side of the border.

"The Chinese side won't let us [take food and supplies any more]," Zhao said. "That has all stopped."

Pregnant woman dies

He said the pregnant woman had died at the refugee camp in Maidihe after giving birth amid complications.

"They won't allow the doctor at Maidihe to live on site," Zhao said, adding that some of the volunteer doctors in the camp had traveled from Yangon to help out.

A volunteer at Maidihe refugee camp who asked to remain anonymous said an infant had also needed emergency medical care on Tuesday.

"There was a two-month-old baby who lost consciousness, and needed to go to the Chinese side, but nobody would cooperate," the volunteer said.

He said the Maidihe camp is now unable to receive grain shipments by truck.

"The thing is that they're blocking the trucks that bring grain here for us. This is a very serious problem," he said.

"As of 9.00 a.m. [on Tuesday], we had handed out the last of our rice," he said. "Now we are just waiting for the hunger to hit us."

Ban on Myanmar cars

Meanwhile, police in Dehong have issued an order banning vehicles with Myanmar registration plates from driving on roads on the Chinese side of the border.

Police in Yunnan's Dehong autonomous prefecture issued the ban on Myanmar-licensed vehicles on Monday, saying vehicles that broke the ban would be impounded, local residents said.

The ban also applies to the vehicles of refugees at the No. 125 refugee camp within China's borders, which had been parked at the camp since being driven there to escape the fighting, they said.

More than 100,000 refugees are now encamped in tents and makeshift public buildings after taking refuge across the border from the fighting, according to estimates from Chinese aid workers.

Myanmar has declared a state of emergency in the region in response to the conflict, and called on Beijing to prevent rebels from using its territory to launch "terrorist activities."

A Kokang resident surnamed Zhang said shelling and gunfire had continued on Tuesday in the rugged and remote mountainous region of Shan State.

"It went on from yesterday evening to this morning, until about 6.00 a.m.," Zhang said. "We hear artillery fire and gunfire every half hour or so."

Camp hit by earthquake

A woman refugee also surnamed Zhang said some refugees had been further shaken by a 5.5 Richter scale earthquake near Yunnan's Lincang city on Sunday.

"We spent last night sleeping at the side of the road," she said. "We didn't dare to go back to sleep in those buildings in the refugee camp, because we were afraid they would collapse."

"Everything was swaying and shaking about, so the refugees were all very frightened," she added.

Some 20,000 people were made homeless in the earthquake, which destroyed 3,700 homes in Cangyuan and Gengma counties, the Lincang municipal government said on its official website.

She said conditions are worsening in the camps, especially for the more recent arrivals.

"The refugees that are coming over [to Yunnan] now are all staying in closely packed tents, and they are dependent on volunteer teams who also came over from Kokang," Zhang said.

Fighting began on Feb. 9 in Laukkai, capital of the special region of Kokang near Myanmar's border with China, between army troops and Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA) rebel forces.

The MNDAA under ethnic Chinese commander Peng Jiasheng are trying to retake the Kokang self-administered zone, which it had controlled until 2009, forcing a wave of refugees away from the conflict zone and across the border into China.

The MNDAA is allied with three other ethnic minority armies: the Ta'ang National Liberation Army (TNLA), the Kachin Independence Army (KIA), and part of the Shan State Army (SSA), although the KIA has remained in the region it controls, rather than following the MNDAA troops.

Reported by Qiao Long for RFA's Mandarin Service, and by Wen Yuqing for the Cantonese Service. Translated and written in English by Luisetta Mudie.

Myanmar: Govt, Ethnic Reps Agree to Talks in Mid-March

3 March 2015 - 11:28pm
Source: Irrawaddy Country: Myanmar

By NYEIN NYEIN / THE IRRAWDDY

The government’s Union Peacemaking Work Committee will meet with the ethnics’ Nationwide Ceasefire Coordination Team (NCCT) in mid-March for the seventh round of official talks on an elusive nationwide ceasefire agreement.

Both sides have agreed to meet in Rangoon from March 16, according to ethnic and government negotiators.

Hla Maung Shwe, an advisor with the government-affiliated Myanmar Peace Centre, and his technical team met with NCCT leaders from Feb. 27 to March 1 in Chiang Mai, Thailand.

He said that the informal discussions had focused on laying the groundwork for “successful negotiations” on a draft nationwide ceasefire agreement (NCA).

Dr Salai Lian H. Sakhong of the Chin National Front said that in addition to the NCA text, the NCCT would focus on “military affairs and the reduction of fighting in the north.”

The last formal discussions were held in September 2014. Subsequent informal meetings between the government and ethnic negotiators have yielded no concrete results.

On Union Day, Feb. 12, President Thein Sein presented ethnic leaders with a pledge reaffirming support for the nationwide ceasefire during a meeting in Naypyidaw. Leaders of the Karen National Union, the Democratic Karen Benevolent Army, the Shan State Army-South and a small Karen splinter group signed the statement. All other NCCT groups present at the meeting declined, saying that the document failed to address outstanding issues.

Recent fierce fighting between Kokang rebel group the Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA) and the Burma Army in Laukkai in the Kokang Special Region may also prove a barrier to ongoing negotiations.

Representatives from the MNDAA and the Ta’ang National Liberation Army (TNLA), which is fighting alongside the Kokang group, have been absent from recent informal talks with government representatives.

Five non-NCCT members have also been invited to join the meeting this month, which is scheduled to run for five days from March 16-20, Hla Maung Shwe said.

The NCCT also proposed to include international observers from five countries at the meeting, which the government has agreed upon, according to Dr Salai Lian H. Sakhong.

Myanmar: Burma Army, Shan Rebel Peace Pledge Signatory Clash

3 March 2015 - 11:24pm
Source: Irrawaddy Country: Myanmar

By LAWI WENG / THE IRRAWADDY|

RANGOON — Fighting has again flared between the Burma Army and the Shan State Army-South (SSA-South), with a member of the rebel group accusing government troops of staging an attack on its base in a village of Shan State’s Mauk Mae Township.

The clashes on Saturday come about three weeks after the ethnic armed group signed a pledge of commitment to Burma’s peace process with the government, which for its part agreed to work toward preventing further armed clashes and “building a Union based on democratic and federal principles.”

Col. Sai Oo of the SSA-South on Tuesday accused the government of “taking political advantage” of the ethnic armed group without practicing a genuine détente.

“They [the Burma Army] got some tip that there was a training at our base,” he said. “We were only having a capacity-building training for youth, however, not military training. So, they came to attack our base. The fighting lasted two hours. We have not yet heard of any casualties.”

SSA-South chairman Lt-Gen Yawd Serk signed the so-called Deed of Commitment with President Thein Sein’s government on Union Day, Feb. 12, despite many of Burma’s ethnic armed groups abstaining from the pledge. Three others—the Karen National Union, the Democratic Karen Benevolent Army and the KNLA-Peace Council—signed the deed.

“We are finding that they [the government] did not sign it for peace, they just took political advantage of our group by getting us to sign,” said Sai Oo.

Clashes between the Burma Army and the SSA-South have been frequent, despite the two sides having signed a bilateral ceasefire agreement in 2011 that was intended to put an end to decades of conflict.

“They [Burma Army troops on the ground] have to listen to orders,” Sai Oo said. “Of course they hate to fight, but they have to do it. Their orders came from above, as we know. But we do not know which senior army officer ordered them to attack us. We do not think that the ground troops would be disregarding orders from above in coming to attack us.”

In his monthly radio address on Sunday, Thein Sein described the Deed of Commitment as a measure to boost confidence in a peace process that many say has stalled.

“I signed the Deed not because the conditions were perfect, but because I want to take any and every opportunity I can to encourage the process, build trust and demonstrate clearly that my government [is] truly committed to a negotiated end to the armed violence that has plagued our country,” he said, according to a transcript of the speech printed in state media.

Meanwhile, a government counterinsurgency campaign in northeast Burma’s Kokang Special Region continued this week, with Burma Army troops engaged in fighting with ethnic Kokang rebels of the Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA). That conflict, which began on Feb. 9, has killed scores on both sides and displaced tens of thousands of civilians, prompting the government to declare a state of emergency and impose martial law in the region.

World: Global Emergency Overview Snapshot 25 February – 3 March 2015

3 March 2015 - 9:27am
Source: Assessment Capacities Project Country: Afghanistan, Bolivia (Plurinational State of), Burundi, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Colombia, Democratic People's Republic of Korea, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Gambia, Guatemala, Guinea, Haiti, Honduras, India, Iraq, Jordan, Kenya, Lebanon, Liberia, Libya, Malawi, Mali, Myanmar, Nicaragua, Niger, Nigeria, occupied Palestinian territory, Pakistan, Philippines, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Somalia, South Sudan, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Syrian Arab Republic, Uganda, Ukraine, World, Yemen

Afghanistan: Heavy snowfall has caused avalanches in northern, central and eastern Afghanistan; 280 people have died. Panshir province is most affected. Communication lines have been disrupted in places, power supplies to Kabul have been cut. Priority needs are for NFIs and emergency shelter; access to isolated areas is difficult.

Philippines: 10,000 more people have been displaced in the past week, as fighting between the Moro Islamic Liberation Front and Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters continues in Pikit, Maguindanao, and Pagalungan, Cotabato. At least 34,000 have been displaced in total. The latest assessment indicates high security concerns as well as protection, shelter, WASH and health assistance needs.

Global Emergency Overview Web Interface

Myanmar: Myanmar: Scrap ‘race and religion laws’ that could fuel discrimination and violence

3 March 2015 - 3:40am
Source: Amnesty Country: Myanmar

Myanmar’s parliament must reject or extensively revise a series of proposed laws that would entrench already widespread discrimination and risk fuelling further violence against religious minorities, Amnesty International and the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) said today.

A package of four laws described as aimed to “protect race and religion” – currently being debated in parliament – include provisions that are deeply discriminatory on religious and gender grounds. They would force people to seek government approval to convert to a different religion or adopt a new religion and impose a series of discriminatory obligations on non-Buddhist men who marry Buddhist women.

“Myanmar’s Parliament must reject these grossly discriminatory laws which should never have been tabled in the first place. They play into harmful stereotypes about women and minorities, in particular Muslims, which are often propagated by extremist nationalist groups,” said Richard Bennett, Amnesty International’s Asia-Pacific Director.

“If these drafts become law, they would not only give the state free rein to further discriminate against women and minorities, but could also ignite further ethnic violence.”

The draft laws have been tabled at a time of a disturbing rise in ethnic and religious tensions, as well as ongoing systematic discrimination against women, in Myanmar. In this context, where minority groups – and in particular the Rohingya – face severe discrimination in law, policy and practice, the draft laws could be interpreted to target women and specific communities identified on a discriminatory basis.

“The passage of these laws would not only jeopardize the ability of ethnic and religious minorities in Myanmar to exercise their rights, it could be interpreted as signalling government acquiescence, or even assent, to discriminatory actions,” said Sam Zarifi, ICJ’s Asia Director. “The introduction of these discriminatory bills is distracting from the many serious political and economic issues facing Myanmar today.”

Background

Of the four draft laws, two – the Religious Conversion Bill and the Buddhist Women’s Special Marriage Bill – are inherently flawed and should be rejected completely. The remaining two – the Monogamy Bill and the Population Control Healthcare Bill – need serious revision and the inclusion of adequate safeguards against all forms of discrimination before being considered, let alone adopted.

These bills do not accord with international human rights law and standards, including Myanmar’s legal obligations as a state party to the UN Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women and the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.

Amnesty International and the ICJ have conducted a legal analysis of the four laws and have found that:

  • The Religious Conversion Bill stipulates that anyone who wants to convert to a different faith will have to apply through a state-governed body, in clear violation of the right to choose one’s own religion. It would establish local “Registration Boards”, made up of government officials and community members who would “approve” applications for conversion. It is unclear whether and how the bill applies to non-citizens, in particular the Rohingya minority, who are denied citizenship in Myanmar. Given the alarming rise of religious tensions in Myanmar, authorities could abuse this law and further harass minorities

  • The Buddhist Women’s Special Marriage Bill explicitly and exclusively targets and regulates the marriage of Buddhist women with men from another religion. It blatantly discriminates on both religious and gender grounds, and feeds into widespread stereotypes that Buddhist women are “vulnerable” and that their non-Buddhist husbands will seek to forcibly convert them. The bill discriminates against Buddhist women as well as against non-Buddhist men who face significantly more burdens than Buddhist men should they marry a Buddhist woman.

  • The Population Control Healthcare Bill – ostensibly aimed at improving living standards among poor communities – lacks human rights safeguards. The bill establishes a 36-month “birth spacing” interval for women between child births, though it is unclear whether or how women who violate the law would be punished. The lack of essential safeguards to protect women who have children more frequently potentially creates an environment that could lead to forced reproductive control methods, such as coerced contraception, forced sterilization or abortion.

  • The Monogamy Bill introduces new provisions that could constitute arbitrary interference with one’s privacy and family – including by criminalizing extra-marital relations – instead of clarifying or consolidating existing marriage and family laws.

Note to editors

An extensive legal analysis of the laws by Amnesty International and the ICJ can be found here:

https://www.amnesty.org/en/documents/asa16/1107/2015/en/

For more information or to arrange an interview, please contact:

In Bangkok – Sam Zarifi, ICJ Regional Director for Asia and the Pacific, sam.zarifi@icj.org; Mobile: +66807819002

In London – Olof Blomqvist, Amnesty International Asia-Pacific Press Officer, olof.blomqvist@amnesty.org, Tel: + 44 (0) 20 7413 5871, Mobile: +44 (0) 790 4397 956

World: Communicating with Communities Newsletter, February 2015

3 March 2015 - 12:46am
Source: UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs Country: Bangladesh, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, World

This update seeks to support growth in innovative policy, practice and partnerships in humanitarian action to better communicate with disaster-affected communities. Readers are encouraged to forward this email through their own networks.

What's inside

  • Malaysia – Mobile assessments.
  • Bangladesh – Mothers with messages.
  • Myanmar – Community perceptions and technology.
  • Philippines - Targeting, social divisiveness, solidarity and more.
  • CDAC Network – Fanning flames, radio and does aid work?

“Look at my house–it’s like a pigsty! My neighbors are lucky. They get to live as human beings, while this—this is for pigs.”** Cando, community member from Tacloban, Philippines, sharing his frustration at having been deliberately excluded from shelter kit distribution due to his small family size. Read more >>>*

World: CrisisWatch N°139, 2 March 2015

2 March 2015 - 9:19pm
Source: International Crisis Group Country: Bangladesh, Libya, Myanmar, Nigeria, Syrian Arab Republic, Ukraine, Venezuela (Bolivarian Republic of), World, Yemen

In February, the political crisis worsened in Yemen, whose territorial disintegration is in danger of accelerating, while in Bangladesh political violence threatens to further destabilise the country; Venezuela’s downward spiral also continued amid deep political polarisation. Deadly violence rose in Libya, where the prospects of a diplomatic solution to the internal conflict receded further; in Syria, where the regime and its allies initiated a major campaign against rebels in the south; and in areas affected by the Boko Haram insurgency in Nigeria and Niger. Serious fighting in Myanmar’s Kokang region undermined the ongoing peace talks, while a new peace deal for Ukraine was followed by major military defeat for the government in the east.

Yemen’s political crisis deepened in early February when the Huthis created a “revolutionary council” and associated bodies in a move clearly outside the constitution. Issuing a statement from Aden after escaping his Sanaa house arrest, former President Hadi rescinded his January resignation and rejected Huthi actions as a coup, raising fears of an acceleration of the conflict and territorial disintegration. Despite the limited ability of external actors to influence events (see our latest Conflict Alert), the best way of preventing the start of serious hostilities may now be for the Gulf Cooperation Council and the UN to sponsor emergency talks outside of Yemen between core stakeholders.

In Bangladesh an anti-corruption court issued an arrest warrant for the leader of the opposition Bangladesh National Party (BNP), Khaleda Zia. If the warrant is executed, it could seriously escalate the political crisis that has seen over 100 killed in anti-government protests since early January. The crisis could gravely destabilise the country unless both the government and the BNP move urgently to reduce tensions (as explained in our new report). In Venezuela, Caracas mayor Antonio Ledezma was arrested after the government claimed to have foiled yet another U.S.-backed opposition plot to overthrow President Maduro. Six people including a fourteen-year-old boy were killed allegedly during or after anti-government protests, prompting criticism of security forces.

Libya’s crisis took another turn for the worse as the Tobruk-Based House of Representatives withdrew from UN-sponsored talks aimed at reaching a diplomatic solution. But Libya’s rival authorities are evenly matched: to halt the slide toward all-out civil war and state collapse they must work toward a political solution (as we explain in our new report). Deepening political divisions and the resultant military clashes have facilitated the growth of jihadi armed groups. On 15 February, an Islamic State-affiliated armed group issued a video in which militants beheaded 21 Egyptian Coptic Christians. In response, Egypt launched aerial attacks on Derna and Sirte, reportedly killing scores of people. President Assad’s regime initiated a major campaign against rebels in southern Syria, aided by Iranian and Hizbollah forces. Their participation was openly reported by pro-regime media, and represents a major escalation by non-Syrian, pro-regime forces in this part of the country. The regime and its allies also attacked rebel-held towns north of Aleppo, paired with smaller escalations inside the city where UN envoy Staffan de Mistura has been trying to broker a “freeze” of fighting.

The Boko Haram insurgency in northern Nigeria continued to spread. Following deadly Boko Haram attacks in Niger’s Diffa region, Niger’s government scaled up its response, and with military help from Chad launched several counter-attacks and airstrikes. On 10 February, Niger’s parliament authorised the army to fight Boko Haram on Nigerian territory. In Nigeria, armed forces working with troops from neighbouring Chad and Cameroon reclaimed several towns near Lake Chad. The insurgents meanwhile stepped up suicide bomb attacks on several northern cities. The Nigerian military’s claim that its operations against Boko Haram left no troops available for election security prompted the Electoral Commission to postpone national polls, aggravating tensions at a time when election-related violence is already high and on the rise (see our recent blog post).

In Myanmar fierce fighting broke out in Kokang region in Shan state in early February as the ethnic Kokang Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA), apparently assisted by other groups, attempted to seize control of Kokang capital Laukkai. The fighting, the most serious in the country since 2009, prompted at least 30,000 and possibly up to 100,000 people to flee across the border to China. It has created further difficulties for the peace process, now unlikely to progress further before the November elections. Ukraine suffered one of its heaviest defeats yet with the fall of a major military garrison at the strategic railway town of Debaltseve to rebels just days after the signing of a new peace deal in Minsk. The defeat further weakened President Poroshenko’s administration, as the country comes under increasing pressure from Russia and slips deeper into economic crisis.

February 2015 TRENDS

Deteriorated Situations

Libya, Myanmar, Niger, Nigeria, Syria, Ukraine, Venezuela, Yemen

Improved Situations

-

March 2015 OUTLOOK

Conflict Risk Alert

Bangladesh, Yemen

Conflict Resolution Opportunity

-

Myanmar: Fighting Intensifies in Myanmar’s Kokang Region Amid Allegations of Rights Violations

2 March 2015 - 8:11pm
Source: Radio Free Asia Country: Myanmar

Fighting intensified between government troops and ethnic Kokang rebels in northern Myanmar’s Shan state Monday amid allegations by the rebels that the military is committing human rights violations in the region, including using local civilians as human shields.

Tun Myat Lin, spokesman for the rebel Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA), which is fighting to reclaim the special region of Kokang in Shan state near Myanmar’s border with China, said clashes had occurred throughout the day near the regional capital Laukkai.

“We have been fighting [for 11 hours] today since 6:00 a.m. near Kyepa,” he told RFA’s Myanmar Service.

“About 20 soldiers from the MNDAA have been injured and 10 killed since the beginning [of the conflict on Feb. 9],” he added, without providing details about any casualties from Monday’s clashes.

Myanmar’s military made no announcements regarding the fighting, although an article in the official Global New Light of Myanmar said government troops had reopened a transportation route between Laukkai and Kongyan district Sunday after occupying six hills previously controlled by “Kokang insurgents.”

The report said that while conducting sweeps southwest of Laukkai on Saturday, military columns had killed three rebels, arrested 15, and seized a variety weapons, equipment and what they believed to be packages of heroin.

Four military officers and soldiers of other ranks were killed in the operations on Saturday, while seven were injured, it said.

Tun Myat Lin on Monday slammed the government for rejecting an MNDAA request for talks in a letter the group sent to President Thein Sein on Feb. 16, saying ongoing clashes had led to increased civilian casualties.

“The MNDAA offered to hold discussions with the government and also sent a letter to the president, but the government said it doesn’t need to talk with us,” he told RFA.

“Because of the fighting, innocent people have been killed and their homes destroyed. The military bears some responsibility for that.”

He called on the Myanmar National Human Rights Commission (MNHRC)—which last month urged people in Kokang to report any rights abuses they witnessed in the area—to investigate what he claimed were violations by the military.

“I want the MNHRC to investigate violations of human rights in this area—it will see how [the government troops] are perpetrating rights abuses,” he said.

“The military attacked us throughout the day yesterday and placed local civilians in front of their soldiers. They did it because they know we won’t do anything to harm the local people.”

Tun Myat Lin’s allegations could not be independently confirmed.

‘This is war’

Meanwhile, residents of Laukkai staying in Shan state’s Lashio town told RFA the Kokang capital had been largely vacated due to the clashes and that vagrants had been breaking into homes and shops to steal goods, despite efforts from both the military and the MNDAA to prevent them from doing so.

While state-owned media have claimed the situation in Laukkai was nearly “stable,” residents said they have been unable to return to the town because the roads remain closed.

Others, such as Laukkai resident Ei Ei, said the number of civilian casualties continues to mount in the regional capital amid the clashes.

“Although I didn’t see it, we have heard that about 100 innocent local residents were killed during the fighting,” she told RFA.

“We also heard that two people died as a result of torture at the hands of the Myanmar military. We left Laukkai early on, as we were afraid of staying there.”

Hor Shut Chan, a member of parliament representing Kulong district, said “seven or eight” of his relatives had been killed during the fighting.

“There is nothing we could do—this is war,” he said.

Tens of thousands of refugees have been displaced from the remote and rugged conflict zone since the clashes began last month and have fled across the border into China.

Cease-fire agreements

The MNDAA made up part of the China-backed Communist Party of Burma, before it collapsed in 1989 and splintered into various ethnic armies that signed cease-fire agreements with Myanmar’s former junta, which granted them a degree of autonomy.

The MNDAA cease-fire agreement faltered in 2009 when armed groups came under pressure to transform into a paramilitary Border Guard Force under the control of Myanmar’s military—a move the MNDAA resisted.

Thein Sein’s efforts at signing a nationwide cease-fire agreement between the government and an alliance of 16 ethnic groups faltered in September over key political issues, such creating a federal system, and fighting in northern Myanmar has escalated since then.

The government’s Union Peacemaking Work Committee (UPWC) and the Nationwide Ceasefire Coordination Team (NCCT), which represents more than a dozen rebel groups, will meet for a seventh round of official talks on the peace pact in Myanmar’s commercial capital Yangon from March 16, the Irrawaddy online journal reported Monday.

Reported by Zarni Htun and Tin Aung Khine for RFA’s Myanmar Service. Translated by Khet Mar. Written in English by Joshua Lipes.

Myanmar: WHO and UNICEF call for the prompt resumption of immunisation in Laukai, Kokaung Self-Administered Zone

2 March 2015 - 2:46pm
Source: World Health Organization, UN Children's Fund Country: Myanmar

Yangon, 02 March 2015 - UNICEF and WHO applaud current results of the national immunisation campaign, aimed at protecting some 17 million children across Myanmar against measles and rubella, under the leadership of the Ministry of Health with support from WHO, the global vaccine alliance GAVI and UNICEF. Country-wide, the exceptional mobilisation of nurses, teachers and countless community leaders has resulted in an excellent coverage that is currently estimated at approximately 95% nation-wide. Even in areas of conflict and intercommunal tensions such as Rakhine and Kachin States, unprecedented mobilisation of health and education workers and community leaders has helped reach levels comparable to the national average.

The motivation from nurses, educators and communities in Kokaung Self-Administered Zone, has been equally exceptional resulting in 123 villages out of 134, and 2 out of 3 urban wards covered before the conflict erupted. Eleven villages remain to be covered.

WHO and UNICEF call for a resumption of immunisation activities, to make sure the remaining 35% of children aged between nine months and 15 years in Kokaung Self-Administered Zone are protected from the risk of contracting measles or rubella, as soon as possible and once safe conditions are met.

The recent violence, which has forced thousands of people from their homes, forced schools and health centres to close down, and put children at additional risks of separation from their families, has also impeded the movement of supplies and health personnel essential to the immunisation campaign.

“The exceptional commitment by the Myanmar society over the last weeks to protect children from debilitating diseases such as measles and rubella is leading to exceptional results. Yet, we must reach to every child to declare victory and halt the transmission of the viruses,” said Dr Jorge Luna, WHO Representative to Myanmar.

In many parts of the world, temporary truces have been agreed between fighting parties at the time of immunisation campaigns.

“Viruses do not know borders and do not discriminate. Conditions must be re-established for immunisation teams in Laukkai to resume their work as soon as possible. It requires effort from all parties. Every child in Myanmar, regardless of his or her race, location or social status, can and should benefit from the life-long protection provided by immunisation from measles and rubella.” said Bertrand Bainvel, UNICEF’s Representative in Myanmar

For more information, please contact:

Ms Ohnmar Myint, WHO Myanmar, myinto@who.int
Mariana Palavra, Communication Specialist, Advocacy, Partnerships and Communication Section, UNICEF Myanmar, mpalavra@unicef.org
Ye Lwin Oo, Communication Officer, Advocacy, Partnerships and Communication Section UNICEF Myanmar, Tel: +95-1-230 5960-69, ylwinoo@unicef.org

Myanmar: Re-connecting families separated by conflict in Myanmar

2 March 2015 - 7:37am
Source: International Federation of Red Cross And Red Crescent Societies Country: Myanmar

By Mandy George, IFRC

The Myanmar Red Cross Society is working to reunite and reconnect families separated by the conflict in north-eastern Shan State, Myanmar. In the last two weeks, intense fighting has displaced tens of thousands of people in the Kokang region. As part of the humanitarian response the Myanmar Red Crescent Society deployed a team dedicated to restoring family links of those displaced in Lashio. Through a free service called 'Safe and Well Phone Calls' the society is providing phones and phone credit for families to make a three minute call to their loved ones.

Over 8,000 people have passed through Mansu Monastery in Lashio, which is acting as a temporary camp for families fleeing the fighting. Most families are migrant workers trying to return to their hometowns. Many families were broken up in the chaos of the conflict and remain separated. These families have arrived at the camp with few possessions and no means to contact their loved ones. In addition, those living near the Chinese border often have phones that can only operate on Chinese networks and are not able to call from the camp. This makes the calls expensive: a three minute phone call can cost up to $3 US dollars.

Over the last two days the Myanmar Red Crescent Society Restoring Family Links team have reconnected ten families taking refuge in Mansu monastery. They have also reunited the Daw Thin Thin – who is eight months pregnant – and her two young children with husband U Than Saung after they were separated in the fighting. Daw Thin Thin arrived in the monastery camp seeking refuge on 20 February. When she heard about the society's phone call service, she was able to get in touch with her husband in Laukai Township and tell him where she was. He eventually made his way to the camp and they were reunited five days later.

“Daw Thin Thin was so ecstatic to be with her husband again. Despite her heavy pregnancy when she saw him she ran to him and then literally pulled him along to see us and tell us that they were together again,” said Lei Yin Win, Restoring Family Links officer in Mansu monastery.

“Another case that touched me was a 15-year-old boy who is alone in the camp. He was lonely, sad, and didn’t ever play with the other young people. We managed to reach his parents on the phone and as soon as he heard their voices he was a different person: smiling and full of energy.”

For those who do not know the phone number of their families or cannot reach them on the phone, the Red Crescent registers them on a list stating that they are safe and well and then publishes this list in places where displaced people congregate such as monasteries or camps.

The restoring family links service is just one of the ways that Myanmar Red Crescent Society is helping those affected by the current crisis. Since 9 February it has reached over 7,000 people either fleeing the fighting or trying to make their way home after displacement. It provides temporary accommodation, food, clothing, healthcare, blankets and first aid, and also offers transportation of displaced people in need of medical support.

“Daw Thin Thin and her family can now continue their journey back to their hometown together,” said Lei Yin Win. “A phone call is a simple thing, but in many cases it can make all the difference to those affected by crisis.”