Myanmar - ReliefWeb News
By Lee Griffin, Myanmar Country Team
June marks five years of conflict in Kachin state, northern Myanmar, where Trócaire supports humanitarian aid. Da Shi Hka Ing (31) explains how she has lost her home and the life she once knew to the war.
Military and opposition forces have been embroiled in a violent five-year war in Myanmar forcing 660,000 people from their homes and making many dependent on humanitarian aid.
Villages have been damaged and destroyed and mines have been planted around homes and farmlands making Kachin an extremely dangerous place to live. There are no signs that the fighting will stop.
A young mother's home burned down
Da Shi Hka Ing is a 31 year old mother whose village was burned down by the military because they thought that the villagers were connected to an armed group.
Her family spent a year living in the forest with other families growing rice to survive.
“The children could not attend school and a woman passed away because she had no access to medication,” she recalls.
Eventually they settled in a camp for displaced people near the Kachin capital, Myitkyina, where her whole village now lives.
While life in the camp is difficult, Da Shi Hka Ing says she is happy with its facilities and services.
She is too scared to return to her village, while there are armed groups present and with her village burnt down, homes, clinics and schools would need to be rebuilt. She may never be able to return to her old life.
Trócaire supports humanitarian aid in the camps
Trócaire works with a local Church organisation, Karuna Mission Social Solidarity (KMSS), to provide humanitarian aid including water, toilet facilities and training in safe hygiene. Hygiene promotion is very important when people have to live in crowded camps.
Life in the camps can be dangerous. In February 2015, every shelter in the camp was destroyed by a fire that spread throughout in 30 minutes. The fire began at about 4am, while most of the camp slept.
All hopes rest on peace
The newly-elected democratic government in Myanmar led by Aung San Suu Kyi brings hope that the conflict in Myanmar may finally be resolved. There are many obstacles on the path to peace, but in Kachin, people are depending on it.
World: Rapport du Secrétaire général sur les violences sexuelles liées aux conflits (S/2016/361/Rev.1)
Le présent rapport, qui couvre la période allant de janvier à décembre 2015, est soumis en application du paragraphe 22 de la résolution 2106 (2013), dans laquelle le Conseil de sécurité m’a prié de lui faire rapport chaque année sur la mise en oeuvre de ses résolutions 1820 (2008), 1888 (2009) et 1960 (2010) et de lui recommander des mesures stratégiques. Les faits nouveaux survenus pendant la période considérée renforcent les craintes au sujet de l’utilisation de la violence sexuelle par les groupes terroristes et extrémistes violents, notamment dans le cadre du système de punition et de récompense instauré pour consolider leur pouvoir. Dans sa résolution 2242 (2015), le Conseil a constaté l’évolution du contexte mondial en matière de paix et de sécurité, en particulier les dimensions sexuelles de l’extrémisme violent et du déplacement massif de population. En qualifiant la violence sexuelle à la fois de tactique de guerre et de tactique de terrorisme [résolution 2242 (2015)], il a reconnu que les stratégies de règlement des conflits et de lutte contre le terrorisme ne pouvaient plus être dissociées des efforts entrepris pour protéger et autonomiser les femmes et les filles et lutter contre les violences sexuelles liées aux conflits.
L’expression « violences sexuelles liées aux conflits » recouvre des actes tels que le viol, l’esclavage sexuel, la prostitution, la grossesse, l’avortement, la stérilisation et le mariage forcés et toute autre forme de violence sexuelle de gravité comparable, perpétrés contre des femmes, des hommes, des filles ou des garçons, et ayant un lien direct ou indirect (temporel, géographique ou causal) avec un conflit. Ce lien peut se manifester dans le profil de l’auteur (qui est souvent rattaché à un groupe armé, étatique ou non), le profil de la victime (qui appartient souvent à une minorité politique, ethnique ou religieuse persécutée), le climat d’impunité (qui est généralement associé à l’effondrement de l’État), les répercussions transfrontières (comme les déplacements de population et la traite des personnes) ou les violations d’accords de cessez-le-feu.
Même si de nombreuses régions sont exposées à la menace de violences sexuelles liées aux conflits, en sont le théâtre ou en subissent les retombées, le présent rapport se limite toutefois aux 19 pays pour lesquels on dispose d’informations fiables. Pour la première fois, les entités des Nations Unies sur le terrain ont été priées de présenter des rapports sur l’utilisation de la violence sexuelle comme tactique de terrorisme (voir sect. III). Il convient de lire le présent rapport en tenant compte de mes sept rapports précédents sur les violences sexuelles liées aux conflits, l’ensemble des informations qu’ils contiennent indiquant les raisons qui ont présidé à l’inscription de 48 parties sur la liste (voir annexe). Comme en 2014, la majorité de ces parties sont des acteurs non étatiques. Intervenir auprès de ces acteurs pour les amener à respecter les résolutions du Conseil de sécurité soulève des difficultés politiques et opérationnelles sans précédent. Tous les États qui ont été inscrits à maintes reprises sur la liste en raison de graves violations contre des enfants et de violences sexuelles liées aux conflits ne seront plus autorisés à participer aux opérations de paix des Nations Unies. Les fournisseurs de contingents et de personnel de police qui sont actuellement visés dans cette liste pour de telles raisons sont priés de prendre contact avec mes représentants spéciaux pour s’en faire retirer et pour mettre en oeuvre des engagements assortis d’échéances précises ainsi que des plans d’action concrets afin de faire cesser les violations qui ont motivé leur inscription [voir résolution 2242 (2015) et S/2015/682].
Le présent rapport a été établi sur la base d’informations réunies par les Nations Unies. Grâce à la présence accrue sur le terrain de conseillers pour la protection des femmes, qui sont chargés de convoquer les réunions dans le cadre des arrangements de suivi, d’analyse et de communication de l’information relatifs aux violences sexuelles liées aux conflits et de faciliter le dialogue entre les parties au conflit en vue d’obtenir des engagements en matière de protection, la qualité des données et des analyses guidant les interventions s’est améliorée. À ce jour, 34 conseillers sont déployés dans sept missions. Les six missions de maintien de la paix investies d’un mandat de protection des civils ont toutes mis en place les arrangements de suivi, d’analyse et de communication de l’information et intégré dans leurs dispositifs de protection au sens large le tableau d’indicateurs d’alerte rapide relatifs aux violences sexuelles liées aux conflits. L’action concertée menée pour renforcer les mesures de prévention, d’alerte et d’intervention rapides face aux violences sexuelles liées aux conflits continuera de nécessiter des ressources humaines et financières adaptées à l’ampleur de la tâche.
Renforcer les capacités des institutions nationales est nécessaire pour assurer la répression des violences sexuelles liées aux conflits. Conformément au mandat que le Conseil de sécurité lui a confié dans sa résolution 1888 (2009), l’Équipe d’experts de l’état de droit et des questions touchant les violences sexuelles commises en période de conflit apporte une assistance aux gouvernements dans plusieurs domaines : enquêtes et poursuites pénales, justice militaire, réforme législative, protection des victimes et des témoins, réparations envers les victimes. L’Équipe, qui relève directement de ma Représentante spéciale chargée de la question des violences sexuelles commises en période de conflit, est composée d’experts du Département des opérations de maintien de la paix, du Haut-Commissariat des Nations Unies aux droits de l’homme (HCDH) et du Programme des Nations Unies pour le développement (PNUD) ainsi que d’un spécialiste détaché par l’initiative Preventing Sexual Violence in Conflict du Royaume-Uni de Grande-Bretagne et d’Irlande du Nord. Elle tient à jour une liste d’experts spécialisés dans divers domaines. Depuis sa création, elle joue un rôle moteur dans la mise en place des cadres de coopération convenus entre ma Représentante spéciale et les autorités nationales et les acteurs régionaux, contribuant ainsi aux travaux menés par les entités des Nations Unies sur le terrain. Grâce à la fourniture d’une assistance spécialisée, les gouvernements peuvent juger efficacement les affaires de violences sexuelles liées aux conflits, comme en Guinée, où l’appui technique apporté par l’Équipe a permis l’inculpation de 16 dirigeants militaires et politiques pour des actes de violence sexuelle et d’autres crimes commis en septembre 2009. De par sa structure et sa composition, l’Équipe contribue également à améliorer la cohérence entre les entités qui la composent dans le domaine des violences sexuelles liées aux conflits. À ce jour, elle est intervenue en Colombie, en Côte d’Ivoire, en Guinée, au Libéria, au Mali, en République centrafricaine, en République démocratique du Congo, en Somalie et au Soudan du Sud.
La Campagne des Nations Unies contre la violence sexuelle en temps de conflit, à laquelle 13 entités des Nations Unies participent sous la présidence de ma Représentante spéciale, appuie l’élaboration de formations, d’orientations et de ressources de sensibilisation destinées à renforcer les moyens techniques dont disposent les entités des Nations Unies sur le terrain pour faire face aux violences sexuelles liées aux conflits de manière globale et coordonnée. En 2015, la Campagne a alloué des financements incitatifs au déploiement de conseilleurs pour la protection de la femme en Côte d’Ivoire et en République démocratique du Congo, aidé à cartographier les interventions en vue de l’application de la stratégie nationale de lutte contre les violences sexuelles liées aux conflits en Côte d’Ivoire et financé un projet conjoint en matière de justice transitionnelle en Bosnie-Herzégovine. Pour améliorer les pratiques sur le terrain, plusieurs outils et produits axés sur le savoir ont été mis au point, notamment : des orientations pour le renforcement de l’intervention médico-légale en cas de violences sexuelles en temps de conflit, élaborées par l’Office des Nations Unies contre la drogue et le crime (ONUDC) et l’Organisation mondiale de la Santé (OMS); une note d’orientation sur les points de rencontre entre le Système de gestion de l’information sur la violence sexiste et les arrangements de suivi, d’analyse et de communication de l’information, établie par le Fonds des Nations Unies pour l’enfance (UNICEF), le Fonds des Nations Unies pour la population (FNUAP) et le Haut-Commissariat des Nations Unies pour les réfugiés (HCR); une série de modalités d’appui au niveau des pays. Des missions conjointes d’appui technique ont été effectuées au Mali en janvier et au Soudan du Sud en avril. En 2015, quelque 30 experts ont été sélectionnés à partir du fichier d’enquêteurs internationaux spécialisés dans les crimes sexuels et sexistes, établi conjointement par l’Entité des Nations Unies pour l’égalité des sexes et l’autonomisation des femmes et l’Initiative d’intervention rapide au service de la justice, et affectés à divers mécanismes de détermination des responsabilités, notamment la Commission d’enquête internationale indépendante sur la République arabe syrienne, la Commission d’enquête sur les droits de l’homme en Érythrée, les missions d’établissement des faits en Iraq et en Libye et les instances nationales chargées de juger les crimes de guerre. En collaboration avec plusieurs partenaires, le Département des opérations de maintien de la paix et le Département de l’appui aux missions ont mis au point un nouveau module de formation sur les violences sexuelles liées aux conflits destiné à être intégré à la formation préalable au déploiement (fondamentale et approfondie), en plus d’un programme de formation avancée sur les missions intégrées à l’intention du personnel militaire, civil et de police.
World: Report of the Secretary-General on conflict-related sexual violence (S/2016/361/Rev.1) [EN/AR]
The present report, which covers the period from January to December 2015, is submitted pursuant to paragraph 22 of Security Council resolution 2106 (2013), in which the Council requested me to report annually on the implementation of resolutions 1820 (2008), 1888 (2009) and 1960 (2010), and to recommend strategic actions. Developments during the reporting period have deepened concerns about the use of sexual violence by terrorist and violent extremist groups, including as part of the systems of punishment and reward through which they consolidate their power. In resolution 2242 (2015), the Council recognized the changing global context of peace and security, in particular the gender dimensions of violent extremism and mass displacement. The Council’s recognition of sexual violence as both a tactic of war and a tactic of terrorism (resolution 2242 (2015)) affirms that conflict-resolution and counter-terrorism strategies can no longer be decoupled from efforts to protect and empower women and girls and to combat conflict-related sexual violence.
The term “conflict-related sexual violence” refers to rape, sexual slavery, forced prostitution, forced pregnancy, forced abortion, enforced sterilization, forced marriage and any other form of sexual violence of comparable gravity perpetrated against women, men, girls or boys that is directly or indirectly linked (temporally, geographically or causally) to a conflict. This link with conflict may be evident in the profile of the perpetrator (often affiliated with a State or non-State armed group), the profile of the victim (who is frequently a member of a persecuted political, ethnic or religious minority), the climate of impunity (which is generally associated with State collapse), cross-border consequences (such as displacement or trafficking in persons) and/or violations of the terms of a ceasefire agreement.
While many settings are affected by the threat, occurrence or legacy of conflict-related sexual violence, the present report is focused on 19 country situations for which credible information is available. For the first time, United Nations country presences were requested to report on the use of sexual violence as a tactic of terrorism (see sect. III). The report should be read in conjunction with my seven previous reports on conflict-related sexual violence, which provide a cumulative basis for the listing of 48 parties (see annex). As in 2014, the majority of listed parties are non-State actors. Engaging with such groups to foster compliance with Security Council resolutions raises unprecedented political and operational challenges. All States repeatedly listed for grave violations against children and/or conflict-related sexual violence will be prohibited from participating in United Nations peace operations. Troop and police contributors that are currently listed for such violations are required to engage with my special representatives in order to be delisted and to implement specific time-bound commitments and action plans to address violations for which they are listed (see resolution 2242 (2015) and S/2015/682.
The report is based on cases documented by the United Nations. The increased presence in the field of women’s protection advisers, who are responsible for convening the monitoring, analysis and reporting arrangements on conflict-related sexual violence and facilitating dialogue in order to obtain protection commitments from parties to conflict, has deepened the quality of the data and analysis aimed at informing interventions. To date, 34 women’s protection advisers have been deployed to seven mission settings. All six peacekeeping missions with a mandate that includes the protection of civilians have established the monitoring, analysis and reporting arrangements and incorporated the matrix of early-warning indicators of conflict-related sexual violence into their broader protection arrangements. A concerted effort to enhance prevention, early warning and timely responses to conflict-related sexual violence will continue to require dedicated human and financial resources commensurate with the scale of this challenge.
Strengthening the capacity of national institutions is critical to ensuring accountability for conflict-related sexual violence. The Team of Experts on the Rule of Law and Sexual Violence in Conflict, in accordance with its mandate under Security Council resolution 1888 (2009), has provided assistance to Governments, including in the areas of criminal investigation and prosecution, military justice, legislative reform, protection of victims and witnesses and reparations for survivors. Reporting directly to my Special Representative on Sexual Violence in Conflict, the Team of Experts is composed of experts from the Department of Peacekeeping Operations, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and a specialist seconded by the Preventing Sexual Violence in Conflict Initiative of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. The Team also maintains a roster of experts with a range of specializations. Since its establishment, the Team has played a catalytic role in implementing the frameworks of cooperation agreed upon between my Special Representative and national authorities and regional actors, complementing the work of the United Nations country presence. With dedicated assistance, Governments can effectively adjudicate such crimes, as in the case of Guinea, where the technical assistance of the Team has resulted in 16 indictments of military and political leaders for sexual violence and other crimes committed in September 2009. The Team, by virtue of its structure and composition, has contributed to enhanced coherence on the issue of conflict-related sexual violence among the entities constituting it. To date, the Team has been engaged in the Central African Republic, Colombia, Côte d’Ivoire, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Guinea, Liberia, Mali, Somalia and South Sudan.
The United Nations Action against Sexual Violence in Conflict initiative, which consists of 13 United Nations entities and is chaired by my Special Representative, supports the development of training, guidance and advocacy resources aimed at building the technical capacity of United Nations country presences to deliver a coordinated and holistic response to conflict-related sexual violence. In 2015, it provided catalytic funding for the deployment of women’s protection advisers to Côte d’Ivoire and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, supported a mapping of interventions to implement the national strategy to combat gender-based violence in Côte d’Ivoire and funded a joint project in Bosnia and Herzegovina supporting transitional justice. A number of tools and knowledge products were produced to improve practice in the field, including guidance on strengthening the medico-legal response to sexual violence in conflict, developed by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) and the World Health Organization (WHO); a guidance note on the intersections between the Gender-based Violence Information Management System and the monitoring, analysis and reporting arrangements, prepared by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR); and a menu of country-level support options. Joint technical support missions were conducted to Mali in January and South Sudan in April. In 2015, through the joint roster of the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women and Justice Rapid Response of international investigators of crimes involving sexual and gender-based violence, some 30 experts were deployed to accountability mechanisms, including the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic, the commission of inquiry on human rights in Eritrea, the fact-finding missions to Iraq and Libya, and the national war crimes processes. The Department of Peacekeeping Operations and the Department of Field Support, in collaboration with a range of partners, developed a new conflict-related sexual violence training module for core and advanced-level predeployment training, in addition to advanced-level integrated mission training for military, police and civilian components.
The UN-coordinated appeals for 2016 require an unprecedented US$21.6 billion to meet the needs of over 95.4 million people across 40 countries. Since I launched the Global Humanitarian Overview in December, Cyclone Winston swept through Fiji and an earthquake brought widespread devastation in Ecuador. The harsh effects of El Niño this year led us to revise the joint Ethiopia Humanitarian Requirements Document and develop a response plan for Zimbabwe. Funding requirements for new appeals issued since December (Burundi, Fiji, Haiti, Ecuador and Zimbabwe) and for appeals which have been revised are outlined in the pull-out poster inside this Status Report. Requirements of the plan for Sudan, now under development, are also included.
Our global appeal is currently 25 per cent funded. The World Humanitarian Summit echoed the fact that humanitarian action is woefully under-resourced and requires an immediate, effective and collective response. Underfunding jeopardizes the lives of people affected by conflict and disaster. To take just a few examples: underfunding means that the UN and its partners cannot adequately meet the needs of 13.5 million people whose lives have been overturned by the Syria crisis. It means humanitarian assistance cannot be assured in the critical post-electoral phase in Central African Republic where some humanitarian partners are withdrawing their operations from the country. It means further deterioration in the lives of half the population of the Lake Chad Basin, the scene of one of the world’s most neglected crises. And it means that humanitarian partners in Myanmar will be unable to provide for the food security, health, protection and livelihood needs of 1 million people in 2016. As I write, I hear that medical facilities in Iraq are today closing down due to depletion of international funding, and renewals simply not coming through.
We are grateful to our donors for their commitment and support so far this year, and for recognizing that the UN-coordinated appeals ensure a coherent, strategic and well-planned response to crises. We stand ready and resolute to continue providing vital humanitarian assistance across the world wherever and whenever needs arise and to whoever is in need. Donor support in the first half of 2016 has enabled us to deliver critical, life-saving relief. It is now incumbent on us to do substantially more to invest in the lives of millions of people bearing the brunt of crises around the globe. Their needs cannot wait. With more funding, millions of displaced women, girls, boys, and men will eat nutritious food, drink clean water and reap the benefits of good health, shelter, an education and protection. Investing in the survival and dignity of millions in need is investing in our shared, common humanity.
United Nations Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator
DRILLING at two monasteries in Taunggyi, Shan State, struck water on Friday benefiting Buddhist monks, students and people facing scarcity of drinking water.
The well at Theintaung Pariratti Monastery was drilled with funds from KBZ’s Brighter Future Myanmar foundation BFM struck water at the depth of 565 ft with a rate of 1,500 gallons of water per hour.
A well at Maha Si Sasana Yeiktha meditation centre, at the depth of 90 ft, produces 3,000 gallons of water per hour. “It is very surprising to see success at the drilling of two places on the same day,” said U Kyaw Kyaw Soe from BFM.
With the use of seven drilling machines, BFM has successfully drilled 146 wells so far across the country, currently drilling five wells.
As part of its efforts to combat water scarcity problems, BFM has asked communities currently facing drought and/or a scarcity of fresh water to contact the foundation and arrange for fresh potable water to be delivered.
Nay Pyi Taw (Myanmar) 27 June 2016 – In an effort to raise awareness and strengthen Myanmar’s response to the production, trafficking and use of illicit drugs, UNODC and the Government of Myanmar held a number of high-level policy discussions today.
Speaking at an event to present the UNODC 2016 World Drug Report, Mr. Jeremy Douglas, UNODC Regional Representative for Southeast Asia and the Pacific and H.E. Lt. Gen. Kyaw Swe, Minister of Home Affairs, highlighted the need for a balanced approach addressing both demand and supply to address the challenges faced by Myanmar and other members of the international community. “I would like to commend the Government of Myanmar for its efforts to address significant drug challenges, especially in Shan State and remote border areas,” said Mr. Douglas. “We are also very pleased with the direction taken by Myanmar towards reforming national drug policy. UNODC will continue to support the Government in this process which will serve as a good example for other countries in the region.”
“With UNODC support, we are currently planning a nationwide survey on drug use in Myanmar which will be the first ever survey of its kind in the country” Lt. Gen. Kyaw Swe said. “The resulting knowledge will pave the way to formulating an effective national response taking into account use patterns within different parts of the country.” Similar to other countries in Southeast Asia, Myanmar faces challenges from increasing levels drug supply. The 2016 World Drug Report identifies the region as a large and growing market for methamphetamine. Quantities seized in East and Southeast Asia almost quadrupled between 2009 and 2014 and preliminary data for 2015 suggest seizures have reached yet another peak. Furthermore, the area under opium poppy cultivation in the Golden Triangle tripled over the past ten years, withseizures of heroin rising in 2015. The number of persons admitted for drug treatment in the region has also increased rapidly.
“Unfortunately, Myanmar is part of a burgeoning regional illicit drug market and the country continues to be a major source of methamphetamine, opium and heroin for Southeast Asia”, Mr. Troels Vester, UNODC Country Manager said at the event. “Like other countries in the region, it continues to struggle to cope with the immense challenges posed to public health and development”.
At a subsequent briefing to Members of the Pyidaungsu Hluttaw – the national legislative assembly – UNODC presented the situation and discussed a number of drug policy options addressing law enforcement, justice, international and regional cooperation, supply, market demand, and treatment and care. “We have today had the opportunity to talk to policy makers about a new national drug policy that would rest on a balanced and comprehensive approach, and promote a healthy and safe environment for the people of Myanmar,” Mr. Douglas said at the briefing. “We also discussed the increasing connectivity between Myanmar and its neighbours and helping to facilitate international cooperation, especially along border areas.”
Under its Country Programme for Myanmar and the Regional Programme for Southeast Asia, UNODC cooperates closely with the Government of Myanmar to strengthen capacities for cross-border cooperation against illicit drug trafficking and to review drug-related legislative frameworks and policies. UNODC also supports a major initiative to provide alternative means of income to opium-growing farmers in Shan state.
For further information, please contact:
Ms. Jacqueline Pee Gyaw
Tel: (+95-1) 9666903, 9660556, 9660538, 9660398 ext: 215
Mr. Chandu Bhandari
UNODC Regional Office for Southeast Asia and the Pacific, Bangkok
Tel: +66 (0)96 602 8361
Yangon, Myanmar | AFP | Saturday 6/25/2016 - 08:54 GMT
Scores of police have been deployed to guard a village in central Myanmar where religious tensions are running high after a Buddhist mob destroyed a mosque, authorities said Saturday.
It is the latest flare-up of anti-Muslim violence in Myanmar, which has seen sporadic bouts of religious bloodshed since 2012, with a surge of Buddhist nationalism presenting a key challenge for Aung San Suu Kyi's new government.
The most recent violence erupted this week when an angry mob of around 200 Buddhists rampaged through a Muslim area of a village in Bago province following an argument between neighbours over the building of a Muslim school.
Own Lwin, the local police chief, said the atmosphere remained tense Saturday with around 100 police officers deployed to keep the peace.
"Last night, 50 police guarded the village to prepare for rumours that there might be more unrest. Now we have arranged a police force of up to 100 officers," he told AFP, adding that no arrests have been made over the destruction of the mosque.
Win Shwe, the mosque's secretary, told AFP that Muslim residents fear for their safety and are planning to move to a nearby town until the tension cools.
"Our situation is not safe and now we are planning to leave the village...We still feel afraid," he told AFP.
Strident anti-Muslim sentiment has fomented across Myanmar in recent years, with outbreaks of violence threatening to unravel democratic gains since the former junta stepped down in 2011.
The worst religious violence struck central Myanmar and western Rakhine State, which is home to the stateless Rohingya Muslim minority, tens of thousands of whom still languish in displacement camps after rioting.
Hardline monks and Buddhist nationalists fiercely oppose moves to recognise the Rohingya as an official minority and insist on calling them "Bengalis" -- shorthand for illegal migrants from the border with Bangladesh.
Suu Kyi, a vocal champion for human rights, has been criticised for not taking a stronger stance on the Rohingya or the abuse they face.
This month the UN warned that violations against the group could amount to "crimes against humanity".
The Nobel Peace Prize laureate, now leading Myanmar's first civilian government in decades, has asked for "space" while her administration seeks to build trust between religious communities.
© 1994-2016 Agence France-Presse
World: Understanding the climate-conflict nexus from a humanitarian perspective: a new quantitative approach
This occasional policy paper aims to improve the humanitarian sector’s understanding of the nexus between climate change and violent conflict. This is crucial, given that about 80 per cent of the humanitarian crises with an inter-agency humanitarian appeal are conflict related, and climate change is expected to exacerbate this. The chair’s summary of the World Humanitarian Summit made it clear that in order to prevent conflict, a complementary approach which includes addressing climate change, is needed. The High-Level Panel on Humanitarian Financing also highlighted “the growing inter-linkages between humanitarian, development, peacekeeping and climate change-related interventions” and their relevance for humanitarian action.
This paper suggests a series of indicators and new metrics for assessing the risk of climate change-induced conflict for 157 countries covering more than 99 per cent of the world’s population. The aim is to identify indicators that can help to identify countries that are exposed to what is described here as the climate-conflict nexus, i.e, the intersection between two key factors: weak institutions and pre-existing social fragility, as well as climate change vulnerability. Measuring and quantifying these interlinks, particularly their humanitarian impact, is essential for delivering on the High-Level Panel’s call to reflect their implications in humanitarian finance allocations.
This paper identifies 20 countries in the climate-conflict nexus. They encompass some 780 million people living mostly in South Asia, South-East Asia and sub-Saharan Africa. All of the countries in the climate-conflict nexus are low- or lower-middle-income nations, where the international humanitarian system is already actively providing life-saving assistance to millions of people affected by recurrent humanitarian crises.
In the wake of last year’s COP21 agreement in Paris and the World Humanitarian Summit, it is important to provide further research and analysis on the interlinks between climate change and conflict, and to better understand how newly agreed climate finance can help support the countries that are most vulnerable to climate change-induced conflict.
This paper presents a new composite measure called the Resource and Climate Vulnerability Index (RCVI), which provides a framework for observing and ranking the countries most at risk from resource stress and changes in weather patterns. Due to a lack of data, the analysis does not include microstates. Their exclusion does not imply they are free from climate change vulnerability. By comparing the RCVI to a measure developed by the Institute of Economics and Peace called the Positive Peace Index, which captures the key institutions, attitudes and structures that maintain peace, it is possible to quantify the climate-conflict nexus and contribute to a better understanding of possible future humanitarian needs.
Independently, climate change does not lead to violence. As is made clear in conflict and climate change literature, it is the intersection between vulnerability to climate change and broader institutional and socioeconomic fragility that drives the potential for conflict and violence. Countries that are most vulnerable to climate change are often the least developed or most fragile. This is a significant factor in determining the climate-conflict nexus. Social unrest, intergroup grievances and gender-based violence can increase if a country or Government is unable to provide the resources needed to cope with a changing environment or destruction from extreme weather conditions, or if international climate change adaptation support is insufficient. This, in turn, may contribute to violent conflict.
Fundamentally, many high-income countries that will experience changing weather patterns or shocks to their resource supply due to climate change will have a greater capacity to manage social and economic stresses that may eventuate from climate change. Conflict and social upheaval are much less likely in contexts whereby competition for scarce natural resources is less intense due to lower concentrations of vulnerable populations and fewer people exposed to shocks in livelihood patterns. The quantitative analysis in this paper is based on the existing literature on the link between climate change and conflict.
This conceptualizes climate change predominately as a stressor negatively driving at least two critical factors: forced displacement and resource scarcity leading to increased risk of violence and conflict. Countries with weak institutions, high levels of poverty and agricultural-based economies are particularly vulnerable to these negative stressors or threat multipliers.
Gender inequality further exacerbates risk and vulnerabilities related to climate change and disasters, as well as in conflict. This paper refers to the gender inequality of risk in a changing climate (the fact that women are disproportionally affected by disasters and conflict) as a root cause of fragility at all levels.
This research aims to spur discussion and deeper analysis on the links between conflict and climate change to inform the critical decisions that policymakers, practitioners and Governments will make to mitigate and adapt to the worst impacts of climate change in the coming years to prevent human suffering and save more lives.
Key Messages - More than 30 years on, the situation of refugees from Myanmar/Burma in Thailand has become one of the world's most protracted refugee crises, and there is a need to find durable solutions. - Since 1995, the European Commission's Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection department (ECHO) has provided funding for humanitarian assistance in the refugee camps. Most recently, efforts have focused on primary health care for the most vulnerable, as well as protection activities. - ECHO has helped Rohingya and Bangladeshi nationals interned in Immigration Detention Centres and shelters in Thailand since 2013. After the boatpeople crisis of May 2015, the EU humanitarian assistance was extended to Indonesia.
Bago, Myanmar | AFP | Friday 6/24/2016 - 06:31 GMT | 455 words
Scores of Buddhists ransacked a mosque in central Myanmar forcing Muslims to seek refuge overnight in a police station after a dispute between neighbours spilled into religious violence, officials and residents said Friday.
Bouts of anti-Muslim violence have left scores dead across the country since 2012 and the febrile atmosphere poses serious challenges for Aung San Suu Kyi's new government.
The violence erupted on Thursday afternoon as a mob of around 200 Buddhists rampaged through a Muslim area of Thuye Tha Mein village in Bago province following an argument between neighbours over the building of a Muslim school.
"It started when a Muslim man and a Buddhist women started to argue and then people came to fight him," Hla Tint, the village administrator, told AFP.
"Parts of the mosque were destroyed... they also destroyed the fence of the Muslim cemetery," he added.
Around 70 Muslims, including children, sought shelter in a police station overnight on Thursday, he said, adding there were no serious injuries and peace had been restored.
Police and the secretary of the mosque confirmed the damage, while a Muslim resident told AFP his community of around 150 people is now living in fear.
"We had to hide as some people were threatening to kill Muslims. The situation has never been like this before," Tin Shwe OO, 29, told AFP, adding his family stayed at the small police station overnight.
"I do not dare to stay at my house. For the safety of my family, I want to stay somewhere else for about a week or so."
Outbreaks of deadly violence have roiled the country threatening to unpick democratic gains since the army began loosening its stranglehold on the country in 2011.
The worst violence struck central Myanmar and western Rakhine State which is home to the stateless Rohingya Muslim minority, tens of thousands of whom still languish in displacement camps after rioting.
Buddhist nationalists vigorously oppose moves to recognise the Rohingya as an official minority group, instead labelling them "Bengali" -- shorthand for illegal migrants from the border with Bangladesh.
Democracy champion Suu Kyi, who is currently visiting Thailand, has come under fire for failing to speak up for the Rohingya -- although she recently caused surprise by using the incendiary term during a visit to Myanmar by America's top diplomat.
Religious tensions pose a unique challenge to the new government and to Suu Kyi, a Nobel laureate once garlanded for her fight for rights for all.
Her party is dominated by ethnic Bamar Buddhists and did not field any Muslim MPs in the election last year that drove it to power.
Hardline monks -- known as the Ma Ba Tha -- are accused of stoking violence and tensions with hate speech.
© 1994-2016 Agence France-Presse
By Lawi Weng
If we see each other as humans and show mutual respect, then it is easy to solve problems. But when one side looks at the other as if they are sub-human, it is almost impossible to come up with a solution. This is what is happening in Arakan State, where the UN has accused Burma of human rights violations.
The Rohingya are Muslims and are also perceived as having darker skin than the local ethnic Arakanese Buddhists, who believe that the Rohingya are illegal immigrants from Bangladesh. They call them “Bengali,” despite their own wish to be identified as “Rohingya.” This has left the government and the UN powerless to bring the two communities together.
Their ancestors may have come from Bangladesh a long time ago, but most of the Rohingya were born in the region, and some—although by no means a majority—even have ID cards. They want to return to their homes after staying more than four years in internally displaced persons (IDP) camps, but that is still impossible.
If we see them as human beings, we should give them citizenship, and let them return to their homes with dignity. Then, not only would this problem be addressed, it would improve the image of our country and that of the government.
Zaw Htay, deputy spokesman for the President’s Office, admitted that the previous government violated the human rights of the Rohingya who are living in IDP camps, but because the new government is undergoing reforms, he asked that the UN and the international community be less rigid when addressing this issue.
Suu Kyi revealed her new stance when she said her government would only use the term “Muslim community in Arakan State,” and avoid both “Rohingya” or “Bengali” when referring to the group. This was intended to improve the image of the government, and could be seen as an attempt to address the conflict within the community. But both Arakanese and Rohingya have voiced their anger over this new term, showing how difficult it is to deal with the issue.
Over the last few years, nearly every time conflict broke out on the ground, I went to Arakan State. My last trip was in 2014. While I was in Ohn Daw Gyi IDP camp, a middle-aged man brought me inside a small hut because he wanted me to help his father, who was in such poor health that he could not walk and had to lie on the ground. The old man thought I was a doctor, and he wanted me to give him an examination to see what was wrong. I told him I was a journalist, not a doctor.
This experience showed me how bad the healthcare situation is in the camps.
I could not sleep well whenever I returned home from the camps in the region, and I sometimes felt that I did not want to go back there. They are all human beings. Why do they have to live in such poverty as if they are sub-human? If everyone could see them as humans, we could solve this problem.
Suu Kyi may understand this; she may provide some human rights protection for the Rohingya. But her new stance did not get support from the Arakanese people. And many on the Rohingya side do not like the new term her government has introduced either.
In the meantime, the UN Special Rapporteur for human rights Yanghee Lee visited Sittwe, the capital of Arakan State, on Wednesday. The Rohingya have high expectations whenever she visits because they view her as a person who will stand up for their human rights; in this regard, the Rohingya trust her more than Suu Kyi.
Burma has experienced political reform, and we finally have a civilian-led government. But the military still has influence and power, so the situation is not yet ideal. The Rohingya should have a little more faith in Suu Kyi and see that she, like Yanghee Lee, is someone who could help them.
Lawi Weng is a senior reporter for The Irrawaddy.
In May, WFP assisted more than 256,000 Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) in Kachin, northern Shan and Rakhine States.
Temporary displacements have been generated by security threats, elevated tension and sporadic armed clashes in Kachin and Shan States. Although initial observation suggests immediate public donations have been sufficient, displaced families may face crop loss if they miss the harvest season.
In May, WFP obtained permission from the Shan State Chief Minister’s office for the delivery of food to Wa Region. Delivery had been hampered due to changed administrative procedures since March 2016.
WFP also reached over 8,400 IDPs with two/three month rations of food in five IDP locations in areas beyond government control in Kachin State, as planned. However, delivery to camps in Laiza area has been halted by the northern commander, due to the volatile security situation.
WFP intends to shift from food assistance to cash combined with rice in 29 IDPs camps in government controlled areas of Kachin State from July onwards. To this end, WFP conducted market assessment to determine the feasibility of cash transfers and access to food. WFP also plans to continue the provision of cash assistance for resettled families in MoeMauk Township of Kachin State for an initial three months.
Deportation of an estimated 4,000 refugees in bordering China to their place of origin – Kokang Region in Myanmar - has been initiated by Chinese authorities since late May. WFP continues to assist the returnees and resettled families. Together with its partners, WFP also aims to expand the assistance to the northern part of the Region where military offensive still continues, subject to improved stability.
WFP has been collaborating with the Ministry of Livestock, Fisheries and Rural Development in undertaking food security and poverty estimation surveys and establishing resource centres, which will serve as a platform for relevant staff to acquire skills and to coordinate efforts at sub-national levels, across the country. Building on this, WFP will host a training of mobile data collection, data analysis and GIS, in the nation’s capital Nay Pyi Taw in the second week of June, engaging public services staff from relevant ministries in monitoring and analysing the food security situation.
In May, WFP received a contribution of EUR 1 million (approximately USD 1.1 million) from Germany in support of cash for relief assistance to IDPs in Kachin and Shan States.
Stateless Rohingya in Burma/Myanmar face systematic persecution that poses an existential threat to their community.
BACKGROUND: Discriminatory state policies and systematic persecution in Burma/Myanmar threaten the existence of the more than 1 million stateless Rohingya, a distinct Muslim ethnic minority group. Despite the historic 8 November democratic elections, Rohingyas were largely disenfranchised in advance of the vote and continue to be denied citizenship and other fundamental human rights. While the opposition National League for Democracy (NLD) won the elections, it did so while excluding all Muslims as candidates. A spokesman for the party said during November that the Rohingya's plight was not an NLD priority.
More than 140,000 people, mostly Rohingyas, remain segregated in IDP camps as a result of previous inter-communal violence. After visiting during February 2016, the Director of Operations for OCHA, John Ging, described the "appalling sanitation conditions" in Rohingya displacement camps and appealed for an end to the "discriminatory and repugnant policies" of segregation and disenfranchisement.
On 29 March the former government lifted the state of emergency in Arakan/Rakhine state – imposed during 2012 inter-communal violence – but the new government has done little to ensure the IDPs' freedom of movement or access to food, water, healthcare and other vital humanitarian assistance. Many Rohingyas in Arakan/Rakhine state also face the ongoing threat of sporadic violence at the hands of Buddhist extremists who reject their right to exist in Burma/Myanmar.
On 31 March 2015 the former government invalidated the identification cards held by many Rohingyas, forcing them to apply for citizenship as "Bengalis," suggesting their illegal migration from Bangladesh. This follows the government denying Rohingyas the ability to self-identify on the national census of March 2014, the first since 1983. On 31 August Burma/Myanmar's former President, Thein Sein, signed into law the last of four so-called "Protection of Race and Religion" bills. These discriminatory laws place harsh restrictions on women and non-Buddhists, including on fundamental religious freedoms, as well as reproductive and marital rights.
The former UN Special Rapporteur on the human rights situation in Myanmar, Tomás Ojea Quintana, has said that a failure to address the ongoing human rights situation in Arakan/Rakhine state "will ultimately mean the extermination of the Rohingyas."
The cumulative impact of deteriorating living conditions, combined with ongoing persecution by the government and some Buddhist chauvinist groups, has led tens of thousands of Rohingyas to flee to neighboring countries, where they are often subject to further abuse, human trafficking and refoulement. The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) reported that at least 32,600 people, mostly Rohingyas, fled Burma/Myanmar during 2015.
The country's military forces (Tatmadaw), which have previously perpetrated atrocities against several ethnic minority groups, also pose an ongoing threat. While the previous government signed a ceasefire agreement on 15 October with eight armed ethnic groups, conflict between the Tatmadaw and several other groups continues. Fighting between the Tatmadaw and Kachin Independence Army over the past five years has displaced nearly 100,000 civilians to camps.
On 28 January Burma/Myanmar's former parliament passed the "Former Presidents' Security Law," which could grant amnesty to former presidents for crimes under international law, including serious human rights violations. Burma/Myanmar's new parliament convened for the first time on 1 February. U Htin Kyaw, a confidant of NLD leader Aung San Suu Kyi, was elected President by parliament and began his term on 1 April. On 6 April parliament created the position of State Counselor for Aung San Suu Kyi.
ANALYSIS: The government's refusal to grant the Rohingya access to citizenship or end discriminatory state policies, encourages ongoing violations of their fundamental human rights and reinforces the dangerous perception of the Rohingya as ethnic outsiders. Government initiatives, including the Protection of Race and Religion bills, appear to be intended to eradicate the Rohingya's legal right to exist as a distinct ethnic group.
The 8 November elections have legitimized a state that denies the Rohingya their most fundamental human rights. As a result of the government curtailing their voting rights and barring many Muslim candidates, Rohingyas have also lost political representation. Disenfranchisement, combined with years of persecution, exclusion and poverty, is causing Rohingyas to flee from Burma/Myanmar, despite the refusal of several countries in the region to offer asylum.
There is an urgent need for the NLD government to protect the human rights of all populations in Burma/Myanmar. The NLD government has a historic opportunity to reverse discriminatory policies and drastically improve the plight of the Rohingya, but currently appears unwilling to do so.
The country's constitution still exempts the Tatmadaw from prosecution for any act carried out "in the execution of their respective duties." On 25 June the military-dominated parliament defeated a bill that would have abolished the Tatmadaw's veto power over constitutional amendments. With a pervasive culture of impunity, the military has not been held accountable for previous mass atrocity crimes.
The government of Burma/Myanmar is still failing to uphold its primary Responsibility to Protect with regard to the Rohingya.
INTERNATIONAL RESPONSE: Following decades of military dictatorship, democratic reforms have contributed to rapprochement between Burma/Myanmar and the international community, including the lifting of sanctions by a number of countries. [For responses prior to October 2015, see GCR2P's Timeline of International Response to the Situation of the Rohingya and Anti-Muslim Violence in Burma/Myanmar.]
On 4 November the UN Special Advisers on the Prevention of Genocide and the Responsibility to Protect released a statement expressing concern that the electoral process has resulted in "further marginalization of religious minorities," highlighting "decades of institutionalized discrimination in law, policies and practice" against Rohingyas.
On 23 December the UN General Assembly adopted a resolution regarding the Rohingya and "other minorities subject to marginalization and instances of human rights violations and abuses." The resolution called upon Burma/Myanmar to protect the human rights and fundamental freedoms of all individuals, including Rohingyas, facilitate the safe and voluntary return of IDPs to their communities and ensure unhindered access to humanitarian assistance.
In her 18 March 2016 report, the UN Special Rapporteur on the human rights situation in Myanmar, Yanghee Lee, called upon the NLD "to take immediate steps to put an end to the highly discriminatory policies and practices against the Rohingya and other Muslim communities."
On 23 March the UN Human Rights Council adopted a resolution expressing serious concern over human rights violations, particularly against the Rohingya, and urged the government to repeal discriminatory legislation and lift restrictions on movement.
NECESSARY ACTION: The newly-elected government of Burma/Myanmar must uphold its Responsibility to Protect all populations, regardless of their ethnicity or religion. The NLD government should immediately abolish the Rakhine Action Plan and end institutionalized discrimination against the Rohingya, including the denial of citizenship. It must hold accountable all those who commit human rights abuses, including inciting ethnic and religious intolerance and violence.
In Arakan/Rakhine state the government must facilitate the safe, voluntary return of IDPs to their communities. Neighboring countries should offer protection and assistance to Rohingya asylum seekers.
The international community must urge the new NLD government to develop a comprehensive reconciliation plan, including establishing a commission of inquiry into crimes committed against the Rohingya in Arakan/Rakhine state. The new government must demonstrably improve the welfare of ethnic and religious minorities and repeal laws and discriminatory practices that pose an existential threat to the Rohingya community.
A central component of the new government's reform process must include constitutional reform that addresses the needs of ethnic minorities, as well as the development of an independent judiciary as a means of safeguarding human rights and tackling the culture of impunity regarding past mass atrocity crimes.
WRITER: WASSANA NANUAM
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Myanmar should be given more time to prepare to take back refugees, Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha says.
Speaking ahead of Myanmar State Councillor Aung San Suu Kyi's three-day visit, starting today, Gen Prayut said talks between Thailand and Myanmar over refugee matters began during the previous administration and the government believes that when Myanmar is ready, it will then take the refugees back.
"Myanmar is willing to take back the refugees [from Thailand] but we have to give them more time to prepare for such considerations as securing land to accommodate those who return. We understand each other," the prime minister said.
There are currently about 100,000 Myanmar refugees in nine camps and shelters in Thailand, he said.
In the meantime, Gen Prayut said Thailand will continue to take care of the refugees on humanitarian grounds although this will inevitably result in an increased burden on the country.
To handle these refugees, Thailand is considering adopting the same approach as it did with the return of Hmong refugees from Tham Krabok to Laos several years ago, said the prime minister.
"At this time, as a representative of the Myanmar government, Ms Suu Kyi will be received on a government-to-government basis," he said.
Ms Suu Kyi previously visited Thailand as a pro-democracy activist in 2012, he said.
Myanmar's de facto leader will meet Gen Prayut at Government House tomorrow.
Foreign Ministry spokesman Sek Wannamethee said Ms Suu Kyi, also the foreign minister, has cancelled a visit to a Myanmar refugee camp at Ban at Tham Hin in Ratchaburi on Saturday due to potential bad weather which has raised safety concerns.
Pol Maj Gen Piyaphan Pingmuang, deputy spokesman of the National Police Office, said yesterday the police are ready to ensure the safety of Ms Suu Kyi throughout her visit.
Ahead of the meeting between Gen Prayut and Ms Suu Kyi, the Migrant Worker Rights Network (MWRN) issued a statement to express concerns regarding the government's "poorly" planned and short-term migration policy.
It said the government has been too focused on the seafood industry and fishing boats despite the fact that systematic migrant exploitation exists across the country and in most industrial sectors. The European Union has threatened the government with a potential seafood ban to Europe if it does not mend its ways in the fishing industry.
The migrant group recommended a national development plan with a long-term migration policy to be developed in line with economic and human security principles. In addition, a migration authority should be established under the Prime Minister's Office to develop Thailand's migration policy and issues relating to migrant workers.
Thailand should ensure migration matters are enforced by the authorities to prevent corruption and ensure compliance with human rights, labour rights and social protection laws, it said.
Republished with permission. © Post Publishing Plc. www.bangkokpost.com
A United Nations human rights envoy to Myanmar met on Wednesday with Muslim and Buddhist residents of the country’s troubled Rakhine state at the airport in the state capital Sittwe, though the state’s dominant local political party turned down her invitation for a discussion.
“I come here as I did on my very first trip as a true friend of Rakhine,” said Yanghee Lee, the U.N.’s special rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar.
Lee is on a 12-day visit to the country through July 1 to address a range of human rights issues with authorities and various stakeholders and compile information for a report she will submit to the U.N. in September.
“I come here with sincerity, and I am here to facilitate the process here so that everybody benefits from the new changes here,” she said.
This is Lee’s fourth mission to Myanmar since she was appointed as the U.N. envoy to the country in 2014.
Since her last trip in August 2015, Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD) party has come to power and created a committee to work on peace and development in Rakhine.
The government also plans to spend more than 70 billion kyat (U.S. $5.9 million) to finance goods and services that promote human resources there.
During her visit, Lee will observe the situation of Myanmar’s 1.1 million stateless and persecuted Rohingya Muslims, tens of thousands of whom have lived in squalid conditions in internment camps after they were displaced by communal violence with majority Buddhists in 2012.
The government does not consider the Rohingya to be full citizens of Myanmar and denies them basic rights, freedom of movement, and access to social services and education.
Buddhists call the Rohingya “Bengalis” because they consider them illegal migrants from neighboring Bangladesh, though many have lived in Myanmar for generations.
Rakhine has also suffered from fighting between armed ethnic groups and the Myanmar military, forcing thousands of residents from their homes.
Lee told Rakhine State Chief Minister Nyi Pu that she will help people there obtain development aid.
In response, Nyi Pyu said all stakeholders must offer support to ensure peace and development in Rakhine.
Yang Hee Lee also met with Muslims living in Ponnagyun and Kyauktaw townships, who have refused to accept new government-issued national verification cards, or “green cards,” as part of a citizenship verification pilot program in three predominantly Muslim townships in the state.
They object to the omission of their race and religion on the cards, and fear they will lose the right to become citizens.
Lee wanted to meet with leaders from the Arakan National Party (ANP), which represents the interests of the Rakhine people in the state, but they turned down her invitation in a statement issued Wednesday.
“Yanghee Lee has been constantly favoring the Muslims since 2012,” said ANP chairwoman Aye Nu Sein.
“We don’t believe she will submit a fair report in Geneva even if we were to meet her this time,” she said.
“We have met with many representatives from the U.N., and they have ignored our feelings and opinions,” she said. If they had considered what we told them and made fair decisions, then we wouldn’t have this kind of situation where we refuse to meet her.”
On Tuesday, the ANP rejected a government order mandating use of the phrase “Muslim community in Rakhine” to refer to the Rohingya—a divisive term—during Lee’s visit. Instead, the ANP said it would continue using “Bengalis,” even though the government’s order also forbade the use of this word.
Aung San Suu Kyi, Myanmar’s de facto national leader, told Lee during a face-to-face meeting on Monday in Naypyidaw that the government would avoid using the word and refer to the Rohingya as the “Muslim community in Rakhine state.”
“[Lee] submitted the phrase ‘Muslim community in Rakhine state’ to the U.N. [Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights] in Geneva, [Switzerland], and Myanmar’s information minister has asked the media to use this phrase," Aye Nu Sein said. “We feel like it causes the ethnic Rakhine people to lose their name.”
On Thursday, Lee will meet with Rakhine and Muslim leaders in Sittwe and visit displaced persons camps in the township.
Reported by Min Thein Aung and Khet Mar for RFA’s Myanmar Service. Translated by Khet Mar. Written in English by Roseanne Gerin.
This contingency plan targets population in four townships in Rakhine possibly affected by a cyclone based on historical data. In addition to these four townships, Maungdaw and Thandwe townships are identified as high risk areas.
AREAS AFFECTED: Sittwe, Kyaukphyu, Pauktaw and Myebone
POPULATION AFFECTED: 475,000
71.9 M required for 2016
11.7 M contributions received, representing 16% of requirements
60.1 M funding gap for the Myanmar Situation
All figures are displayed in USD
139.7 M required for 2016
29.3 M contributions received, representing 21% of requirements
110.4 M funding gap for South East Asia
All figures are displayed in USD
4.2 M required for 2016
795,300 contributions received, representing 19% of requirements
3.4 M funding gap for the Bay Of Bengal Situation
All figures are displayed in USD
While the first move of Aung San Suu Kyi has been to form a national reconciliation government, followed by restructuring, streamlining and planning so that her administration can function, the handling of the country’s faltering peace process has now risen to become one of the most urgent and essential challenges on the NLD's must-do list.
As the National League for Democracy finally took over the reins of administration from the quasi-civilian government of President Thein Sein, the question of fulfilling its campaign promise to usher in a “time for change” has become the most pressing core issue that it has to tackle for the party and its principle leader, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi.
While the first move of Aung San Suu Kyi has been to form a national reconciliation government, followed by restructuring, streamlining and planning so that her administration can function, the handling of the country’s faltering peace process has now risen to become one of the most urgent and essential challenges on the NLD's must-do list.
Before going further, it is necessary to briefly touch on Burma's historical backdrop and the conceptual differences among the key stakeholders, so that the problematic ethnic conflicts, which have plagued the country for so many decades, can be better understood.
The country we know today as Burma or Myanmar, as it was termed in 1989 by the then military regime, is a relatively new political entity in history that is made up of at least three countries or territories with legacies of self-governance or independence: namely, Burma Proper (which became Ministerial Burma under British rule), the Karenni States and the Shan States. Reflecting this history, leaders of the Shan and Karenni States joined with political actors in Burma Proper in their struggle for self-determination from colonial rule and jointly attained independence with territories inhabited by other nationalities in the new union on 4 January 1948. As a guarantee of autonomy, both the Shan and Karenni (today Kayah) States were granted the right of secession under the 1947 Union of Burma constitution.
Prior to independence from the British, representatives from the Federated Shan States, Chin Hills and Kachin Hills under the British Frontier Areas Administration signed an agreement with an interim Burmese government, represented by U Aung San (the late father of Aung San Suu Kyi), in Panglong on 12 February 1947 to build a union vested with administrative and financial autonomy, equality and democracy for the non-Bamar (Burman) nationality groups.
It should be noted that what is known as the “Shan State” today was then known as the “Federated Shan States”, including the Karenni States, under British rule. Meanwhile what have become the present-day ethnic states of Karen, Mon and Rakhine (Arakan) were generally treated or designated as part of Burma Proper by the colonial authorities, and they were not represented at Panglong. This means that, while the Panglong agreement has historic resonance as a legal accord of inter-ethnic equality and unity, not all nationalities felt included by its scope.
From the period of 1948 to 1962, the country was governed by a parliamentary multi-party system that was federal in form but unitary in practice. As conflict spread to many regions, this proved a far from satisfactory solution. Thus, in order to correct this constitutional flaw, a proposal to amend the 1947 constitution was developed by different nationality leaders so that the political system could be made more explicitly federal. Spearheaded by the Shan State government and ratified by the All States Unity Organisation at Taunggyi in 1961, the federal proposal argued that the constitution should be amended so that Burma Proper would itself be transformed into a constituent national state like the other ethnic states. In this way, it was hoped to end the usurping by ethnic Bamar leaders of the powers of union government, which had led to the economic, political and administrative marginalisation of nationality peoples in other parts of the country.
However, before the parliamentary debate to amend the constitution could properly begin, the national armed forces, known as the Tatmadaw, staged a military coup in March 1962. The stated aim of Gen. Ne Win and the coup leaders was to prevent the disintegration of the country but the results were very much the opposite. Not only did the military government abruptly end the nascent federalism and democracy in the post-colonial state but it also pushed the simmering dissatisfaction of the non-Bamar ethnic groups into a full-blown war of resistance across the country. Opposition also continued among the Bamar majority to military rule, but it was in the borderlands that conflict and political demands for ethnic reform remained most acute.
Thus Gen. Ne Win and the Tatmadaw ended the last legal effort to ward off the growing conflicts between Bamar and non-Bamar peoples by preventing amendments to the 1947 union constitution, which was now unilaterally abrogated. It was to be another half century before the term “federalism” was allowed again by Tatmadaw leaders in national political debate. Much conflict, suffering and political breakdown occurred in the meantime.
Differing concepts on political entity, sovereignty and national identity
The conceptual differences between the Bamar political class, including Tatmadaw leaders, and the different ethnic nationalities, start with how “Burma” or “Myanmar” is historically seen and defined.
Since 1962, successive military-dominated governments have regarded the modern state as an existing unified nation since the reign of Anawrahta at Pagan nearly a thousand years ago. As such, non-Bamar peoples are treated as minority groups whose aspirations for equal rights need to be limited or controlled lest they break up the country. In contrast, non-Bamar nationalities maintain that the Union of Burma is a newly-developed territory and political entity, based upon the principles of a treaty, the Panglong Agreement, whereby independent territories that had been annexed into British India merged together on an equal basis at the departure of colonial power in 1948.
In theory, there is a degree of ethnic symmetry on the present political map where seven states are demarcated for the largest nationalities (Chin, Kachin, Karen, Kayah, Mon, Rakhine and Shan), while there are seven regions (formerly divisions) where the Bamar majority mostly live. But, under military domination and the country’s highly centralised politics, there has yet to be any genuine autonomy or equal balance in national politics.
Today these different perceptions continue to be highlighted at Panglong where the monument to this historic treaty proclaims “the reunion of mainlands and hills”. However neither should the “mainlands” be considered the Bamar-majority core of the country nor the “hills” peripheral or secondary territories that are inhabited by non-Bamar groups who had been under the pre-colonial rule of Bamar kings. Rather, the modern state of Burma was agreed upon at independence as a new union of equals where political rights would be respected for all nationality peoples. That is what Panglong was supposed to signify. Without such an agreement, the new Union would not have been born.
When discussing inter-ethnic relations, it should also be stressed that non-Bamar peoples never consider themselves as being “minorities” as many Bamar and international scholars often address them. In fact, they are neither minorities nor majorities but nationalities who should be treated equally. It is true that the Bamar population is numerically larger than other ethnic nationalities. But this does not, in itself, make the inhabitants of the ethnic states “minorities”. In one of the most ethnically diverse countries in Asia, the term “minority” could also be used to describe Bamars resident in the seven ethnic states or other nationalities living in these territories, but the result would be a profusion of unhelpful “minority-majority” arguments that undermine the political importance of union and marginalise smaller nationality populations.
In essence, the term “minority” has become a discriminatory misnomer, and there is a big difference between being treated as a “minority” and enjoying equal status as a member of a nationality group. Peoples such as the Bamar, Kachin, Shan, Karenni and Chin should be considered neither minorities nor majorities but equal partners who agreed to work together within the new union back in 1948.
Regrettably, such a fundamental challenge in shaping a common vision of equality and shared national identity has never been truly addressed since independence. While non-Bamar peoples continue to believe in a shared-sovereignty and co-independence forged during the struggle from colonial rule, Tatmadaw leaders and much of the ethnic Bamar political class regard themselves as the guardians or sole owners of the country's political sovereignty. In consequence, projections of a common national identity by Tatmadaw officers during the Burma Socialist Programme Party era of Gen. Ne Win and the subsequent “Myanmar” era of the State Law and Order Restoration Council (from 1997, State Peace and Development Council) have never really taken root or been accepted by non-Bamar peoples. Rather, non-Bamar nationalities believe that they have never been asked for their consent on national political change but forced to accept – often to the backdrop of conflict – what successive military-dominated governments have decreed.
In consequence, the struggle for ethnic rights and equality continues in many parts of the country today. Looking back to Panglong, ethnic leaders believe that the achievement of peace, stability and a common national identity has to be accompanied, and guaranteed, by the rights of self-determination, democracy, equitable resources and political power-sharing. Then and only then can a national identity and political system be forged that will become acceptable to all non-Bamar peoples.
For the moment, however, many ethnic nationalities perceive themselves as trapped within the mould of a colonial-like possession by a Bamar ruling elite. Indeed, echoing the British division between Burma Proper and the former Frontier Areas, a new diarchic system of national governance appears to be emerging under political changes introduced after President Thein Sein took office in 2011. While a system of parliamentary administration is being developed in the “mainlands” centre of the country from the national capital at Nay Pyi Taw, the ethnic states remain “hills” conflict zones under arbitrary Tatmadaw rule and authority.
The result is that, during a time of hoped-for political change, many nationality peoples feel marginalised from national political life. The outcome is likely to be continued political instability because military coercion will never answer the demands for equal ethnic rights. Rather, lasting peace and justice can only be achieved by returning to the aspirations and principles for a common identity of union equality for all nationality peoples that were agreed back at Panglong in 1947.
Different outlooks on federalism
Generally, it would seem that, since most of the leading parties and stakeholders have agreed during the past few years on the need to build a federal union to resolve the country’s political failures, there should not be serious problems. But, in reality, the road ahead is likely to be complex and, for the moment, it is difficult to pin down who really wants what kind of federal system.
For example, while Aung San Suu Kyi has personally said on several occasions that genuine federalism is her aim, we still need to know the details of the nuts and bolts on how her party actually stands on this crucial issue. Similarly, the position of the Tatmadaw on a federal union set-up is also unclear in the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement (NCA) of 15 October 2015 and the preceding Deed of Commitment on Peace and Reconciliation on 12 February 2015. The only promise is to “establish a union based on the principles of democracy and federalism in accordance with the outcomes of political dialogue”. But, as nationality parties question, this could mean anything from the present unitary presidential system and a minimum devolution of power to a fully-fledged federal union with strong state administrations and a weak federal central government.
For this reason, political sentiment remains strong that Tatmadaw leaders only want a unitary centralised system of national politics with limited, but just enough, devolution of power to the ethnic states for there to be a semblance of federalism. As evidence of the Tatmadaw’s thinking, the present Commander-in-Chief Snr-Gen. Min Aung Hlaing has time and again stressed that the military will defend its self-drafted constitution of 2008 with its life and refused, to date, for any meaningful amendments that might diminish its dominant role.
As for the ethnic nationalities, a consensus has emerged in recent years of preferring a system along the lines of “building a federal union based on national states, with equality, rights of self-determination and democracy” which, in political terms, would mean a political system that is in a “fully-fledged federalism” category. They have faced, however, an uphill struggle in advancing their views, and critics – both ethnic Bamar and international – have been of the opinion that the different nationality movements do not really know what kind of political system they want except to parrot the cause of “genuine federalism”. But this is to disregard history and negate the justice of the ethnic nationality cause, which subsequent generations of political leaders have pursued in good faith.
The reality is that nationality parties have always had a federal vision, and it is none other than the model of national state-based federalism drawn from the three historical documents, which many actively participated in during the course of the independence struggle and subsequent initiatives at post-colonial nation-building. These are the 1947 Panglong Agreement, 1947 Union of Burma constitution, and 1961 Federal Proposal of all ethnic nationalities. True, innovation is needed that is in tune with the changing times. But it is totally untrue that the ethnic nationalities have no idea what kind of federalism they want to be established. Rather, it was the ending of federal reform and democracy that underpinned state failure and spread of ethnic conflict in the 1960s, and it is vital that the same errors and marginalisation of ethnic rights do not happen again.
This does not mean, of course, that achieving national consensus during the life of the next parliament will be easy. Even before political bargaining begins, there are likely to be a number of sticking points, including smaller nationalities, such as the Ta-ang and Wa who also have “state” aspirations, or arguments over the question of whether there should be eight states (the present seven ethnic states and a new Bamar state) or a continuation of the present seven ethnic states and seven regions. In particular, ethnic nationality parties continue to be concerned that, in a genuine federal system, usurpation of the powers of the union by leaders and vested interests in the centre of the country, as has happened since the 1950s, must be prevented.
This latter issue is likely to be especially difficult. Since independence, the territories of Burma Proper or Ministerial Burma of the colonial era have grown significantly in national dominance, firstly by their transformation into seven “divisions” under the 1974 constitution of Gen. Ne Win’s Burma Socialist Programme Party constitution and, secondly, by their promotion as individual “regions”, with rights equivalent to the ethnic states, under the military-drafted 2008 constitution. Thus as the imbalance of power distribution grows between a “Bamar-majority” centre of seven regions and “non-Bamar” periphery of seven states, many nationalities are continuing to press for the creation of a Bamar State so that an equal state-based federal union, as envisioned by our founding forefathers, can finally be materialized.
This is not simply a question of political idealism but a reflection of how the Union of Burma came into being and a vision of how it can successfully progress, with equality and security for all peoples, into the future. No part of the country can be considered truly mono-ethnic, and territorial divisions will not provide the answers to questions that are political and attitudinal at their root. As the bitter experience of conflict warns, it remains vital today that the ethno-political landscape is reframed in a way that restores the foundations of equality that were agreed upon at independence.
Failed nationwide ceasefire
Many opinions can be heard as to why the nationwide ceasefire process of President Thein Sein did not reach to final agreement. But for many nationality parties, the failure is due to a sadly familiar cause: a lack of inclusiveness and sincerity on the part of the Tatmadaw leaders who are buttressed in power by their military activities in the conflict-zones and look upon the ethnic armed organisations as “outlaws” or “insurgents” rather than nationality resistance groups that are fighting for a political cause.
On this basis, it is not surprising that many obstacles have occurred along the way. The Commander-in-Chief Snr-Gen. Min Aung Hlaing, for example, has repeatedly stated the need to adhere to the military-drafted 2008 constitution and for ethnic armed organisations to accept a process of “disarmament, demobilization and reintegration” (DDR), which implies that they must disband or become part of the Tatmadaw’s Border Guard Forces or militia units which have proliferated in many conflict-zones in recent years. Such an outlook disregards the fact that ethnic nationality leaders want political solutions, not surrender or a deepening of militarisation among their peoples.
Another unsuccessful point has been a twisted logic of “putting the cart before the horse”: i.e. insisting on getting different ethnic forces to individually sign a “nationwide ceasefire agreement” first, before agreeing on the demarcation of troops, a military code of conduct and a real basis for national political dialogue, and without joint-ceasefire monitoring and enforcement mechanisms in place. Equally concerning to nationality leaders, the Tatmadaw has continued military offensives against a number of ethnic armed organisations throughout the peace talk period, including the Kachin Independence Organisation, Shan State Progress Party/ Shan State Army, Ta'ang National Liberation Army, Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army (Kokang) and Arakan Army.
To justify its “security first” stance, Tatmadaw officers have advanced different reasons for why some ethnic forces have been rejected as negotiating partners during Thein Sein’s NCA process. But this does not go down well among conflict-torn communities where there has been significant loss of life and the number of internally-displaced persons has continued to grow. As all sides know, the present conflict-zones in the northeast of the country were promoted as model ceasefire areas of peace under the former SLORC-SPDC government, and there must be other reasons – economic as much as political – as to why armed conflict has intensified during a supposed time of national peace talks.
Against this backdrop, less than half the active ethnic armed organisations in the country signed President Thein Sein’s NCA last October, and virtually all the major groups stayed away, hoping that the November general election and emergence of a more democratic and representative government will provide the next steps on the road to achieving nationwide peace.
The present national landscape is uncertain. So far the NCA, which is, in effect, just a partial ceasefire, has been signed by just eight forces from a total of twenty-one that have been promoted for nationwide signing. But even this partial NCA has not been able to achieve real peace and normalcy during one of the most important times of transition in the country’s history. The ongoing conflicts in the Kachin and Shan States and the Tatmadaw’s massive deployment of military resources, including attack aircraft, show that we are still a long way from a political settlement and durable peace.
Many solutions have been proposed that are often complex in both theory and detail. But, as a starting point, I would suggest that it is time to consider whether the underlying conceptual differences – or should we say the “accepted values” – of the warring parties might be the main cause of such enduring animosity and conflict. As we examine something so fundamental in our national politics and societies, we should ponder on how we can find reconciliation and understanding among ourselves. For if we cannot agree upon even the ownership of national sovereignty or a shared historical understanding of the political entity that has become modern-day Burma/Myanmar, it will be hard to find real solutions.
From the ethnic nationalities' point of view, the self-proclaimed right of the Bamar-majority Tatmadaw to claim ownership of national sovereignty is incorrect, because they consider that they own an equal share and sovereignty in such a multi-ethnic country must be jointly shared. Likewise, the Tatmadaw's version of the modern-day Myanmar as a continuation of an existing unified nation since the reign of Anawrahta – as evidenced by the towering statues at Nay Pyi Taw of the three kings Anawrahta, Bayinnaung and Alaungpaya – do not augur well for hopes among the different ethnic nationalities of enlightened and pro-federal reform.
In contrast, nationality parties see Burma as a modern and relatively new political entity that they have voluntarily helped to build and in which they must have an equal say. Certainly, they do not see themselves as the underlings of a Tatmadaw that projects militant traditions back into a distant past. In the same vein, when the present-day Tatmadaw, which is Bamar-dominated, enters ethnic nationality areas and starts military offensives under the pretext of protecting sovereignty and upholding national unity, this seems illogical and rings hollow in the ears of local peoples because they consider such operations an occupation and militarization of their homelands that must be resisted.
The situation, however, is not without hope. A new mood for change is evident in many parts of the country, not least among the younger generation. Aung San Suu Kyi’s calls for a “second Panglong” and a 21st century Panglong Agreement to overcome ethnic conflict is an encouraging first step if we are to build a society that can co-exist and co-habit in harmony together. And now that Aung San Suu Kyi has been entrusted by the national mandate of the people to take forward the task of realizing their desire for peace and democracy, many citizens hope that a new momentum is growing for much deeper political change.
For the moment, the Tatmadaw’s response is not certain, but leaders of the ethnic armed organisations are already preparing for more substantial peace talks in the future. In the meantime, the newly-created Ministry of Ethnic Affairs could be energized and vested with more rights than the law of safeguarding the ethnic nationalities, which was promulgated during Thein Sein's presidency. In particular, it could be granted the rights and task to help push, cooperate and coordinate with all the relevant ministries in the country – including the Tatmadaw-controlled Home, Defence and Border Affairs ministries – to achieve peace, stability and reconciliation sooner rather than later during the life of the next parliament.
In summary, after so many decades of disappointments and suffering, our country could indeed be on the brink of better change, if leaders and parties on all sides commit themselves to the cause of achieving ethnic peace and reform. But it goes without saying that altruism, political will and the genuine wish to compromise are essential ingredients that are needed to overcome all the obstacles on the difficult road ahead. Without these, we will continue to muddle through, as in previous political eras, without ever coming nearer to fulfilling our long-held aspirations for national peace, harmony and justice. In this endeavour, it is vital that all parties reflect on ways to bridge the conceptual differences in history that have come to underpin and sustain conflict, and this should be accompanied by constructive political dialogue that is based on recognition of the necessity and mutual benefit of national power and resource-sharing. It can be done and is very much what the leaders of the peoples at independence agreed and aspired to.
Sai Wansai is a Shan political analyst and the ex-General Secretary of the former Shan Democratic Union.
This commentary is part of a TNI project funded by Sweden.