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Myanmar: Myanmar: Refugee and IDP Camp Populations: June 2014

3 hours 51 sec ago
Source: The Border Consortium Country: Myanmar, Thailand preview

Myanmar: Myanmar and Thailand: Limiting Landmine Danger

6 hours 11 min ago
Source: United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) Country: Myanmar, Thailand

By David Tereshchuk*

July 29, 2014—The southeastern regions of Myanmar (also known as Burma) bordering on Thailand have long been characterized by violent upheaval and refugee movements.

Most heavily affected have been the country’s ethnic minority populations in small village communities. Their lives have been deeply impacted by armed conflict and frequent forcible military recruitment, owing to ethnic tensions and an autocratic government that ruled the country for nearly 50 years, from 1962 to 2011.

Today, even as the country just begins to turn a corner on the past, the everyday existence of these communities continues to be afflicted by the huge—in fact, incalculable—number of landmines laid in the ground around them—a constant threat to adults and children.

Myanmar is without doubt among the world’s most heavily landmine-contaminated countries. But assistance for its civilians who fall victim to landmine explosions lags seriously behind the need. International studies show, for instance, that in Myanmar, aid to amputees requiring prosthetic devices reaches only one-quarter of the injured.

The remaining three-quarters of this disabled population have to make do with homemade crutches, or with “limbs” made from whatever materials are at hand, like bamboo, wood, or plastic water-pipe, and that are held in place with strips of cloth, leather, or slices of bicycle tires.

Critical shortage Myanmar is lamentably short of trained technicians to produce and dispense sustainably produced, long-lasting prosthetics, orthotics, and mobility aids, and to maintain them and offer support to their owners. The few existing providers tend to be located in the country’s cities, whereas it is, almost by definition, the people in the countryside who generally are harmed by landmines.

UMCOR, the United Methodist Committee on Relief, is helping to change this challenging situation. Working with global partner Clear Path International (CPI), UMCOR is providing funding to programs that operate on either side of the Myanmar/Thailand border.

“So far, the landmine issue is the problem that simply won’t go away,” says Francesco Paganini, UMCOR’s manager for international disaster response. “With our grants, we are making inroads into the situation in a multi-dimensional way.”

Perhaps ironically, it is often after some degree of normalcy returns to a conflict area that landmines can present an even greater threat than they did during all-out war. Myanmar’s recent move toward democracy, greater openness to the outside world, and more appreciation for inter-ethnic sensitivities has got people on the move again. A new agreement struck earlier this month between Myanmar and Thailand aims to ensure the return home of 100,000 Burmese refugees currently living in camps in Thailand; many of them have lived there through three decades. People on the move, and taking up new lives in new settings, are at greatest risk of encountering unexploded ordnance in Myanmar’s dangerous terrains.

Wounded helping wounded

In Loi Kaw, Myanmar, near the Thai border, technician Kyaw Win, who himself lost a leg to a landmine, prepares a plaster cast of an amputee’s leg while fitting a new artificial limb. Photo courtesy of CPI.

The UMCOR-supported CPI program seeks, on the Myanmar side of the border, to provide those in need with well-crafted prosthetics and to pass on the skills to practice the specialized craft. Survivors of landmine injuries themselves will become makers of prosthetics. As Paganini says “It’s all too common for a landmine survivor to face great challenges in finding employment.” And in the case of both makers and users of the prosthetics, entire families may benefit, since it is frequently the breadwinner who has been injured and deprived of a livelihood.

On both sides of the border, education programs aim at risk-reduction. On the Thailand side, where work centers on the many refugee-camp residents, 300 community health workers will be trained in MRE (Mine Risk Education), emphasizing all the essential measures needed to minimize the risk of injury from landmines. These workers will in turn educate members of the community at large, reaching a targeted total of 1,500 individuals. The overall aim is to bring this essential life- and limb-saving knowledge to an estimated 112,000 mainly Karen people.

It is hard to overestimate the seriousness of the need. Eastern Myanmar experiences about 1,500 casualties from landmines annually. A survey in Karen State by the global peace-promoting NGO, Nonviolence International, reveals that 80 percent of respondents feel threatened every day by landmines, and half of them reported having unknowingly entered areas that had been mined.

Besides preventive, risk-reduction work, UMCOR and CPI will provide closely targeted support for refugees who already have suffered injuries from landmine explosions. Many have crossed the border seeking medical assistance not available to them at home. UMCOR’s funding will help provide physical and psychosocial support at a residence known as Care Villa, situated in Mae La Refugee Camp close to the Thai town of Mae Sot, a main border-crossing with Myanmar.

Myanmar: Laiza ceasefire talks enter final stages [Video]

29 July 2014 - 11:26am
Source: Democratic Voice of Burma Country: Myanmar

Ceasefire discussions among ethnic armed groups entered their final stages on Monday in Laiza, the rebel stronghold of Kachin State in northern Burma.

Representatives from each of the 16 armed groups that make up the National Ceasefire Coordination Team (NCCT) shifted focus to the potential of a post-truce political dialogue with the Union government.

The commitment to hold political negotiations is written into the second draft of a nationwide ceasefire agreement, drawn up by a joint team of government and NCCT representatives in Rangoon in May.

After three days discussing the draft in detail, the Kachin Independence Army’s deputy chief of staff, Gen. Gun Maw, says the ethnic parties now have a clear idea of how the agreement will be formed.

“We will send our questions back to the government over definitions and points we are not clear about, he said. “Afterwards, we will look to adopt procedures for the future.”

“Only when all three of these objectives are accomplished will we be able to tell whether we can sign the ceasefire agreement.”

Non-ceasefire armed groups, such as the All Burma Students Democratic Front, observed the deliberations.

As a gesture of goodwill by the NCCT, the UN’s special envoy, Vijay Nambiar, was also invited to attend the discussions as an observer.

Also present was Tang Ying, the assistant to China’s newly appointed Asian affairs representative.

“We are here mainly because we wanted to find out the NCCT members’ view and stance on the nationwide ceasefire deal,” said Tang Ying. “We are ready to provide assistance if necessary.”

Salai Lian Sakhong, of the Chin National Front, believes the China’s involvement adds weight to the event.

“We see this as a sign of improvement, that China is getting involved. Having in-depth knowledge about these talks is beneficial for both their country and ours,” he said.

The conference in Laiza was the third summit held by NCCT members as the nation works towards achieving an inclusive, state-level peace accord aimed at ending the country’s decades of civil war.

While the Burmese military initially created an August deadline for signing the pact, disagreements between Union-level stakeholders and the NCCT have caused delays. Sources close to the process have estimated that the two sides will reach an agreement in September.

Myanmar: Laiza ceasefire talks enter final stages

29 July 2014 - 11:26am
Source: Democratic Voice of Burma Country: Myanmar

Ceasefire discussions among ethnic armed groups entered their final stages on Monday in Laiza, the rebel stronghold of Kachin State in northern Burma.

Representatives from each of the 16 armed groups that make up the National Ceasefire Coordination Team (NCCT) shifted focus to the potential of a post-truce political dialogue with the Union government.

The commitment to hold political negotiations is written into the second draft of a nationwide ceasefire agreement, drawn up by a joint team of government and NCCT representatives in Rangoon in May.

After three days discussing the draft in detail, the Kachin Independence Army’s deputy chief of staff, Gen. Gun Maw, says the ethnic parties now have a clear idea of how the agreement will be formed.

“We will send our questions back to the government over definitions and points we are not clear about, he said. “Afterwards, we will look to adopt procedures for the future.”

“Only when all three of these objectives are accomplished will we be able to tell whether we can sign the ceasefire agreement.”

Non-ceasefire armed groups, such as the All Burma Students Democratic Front, observed the deliberations.

As a gesture of goodwill by the NCCT, the UN’s special envoy, Vijay Nambiar, was also invited to attend the discussions as an observer.

Also present was Tang Ying, the assistant to China’s newly appointed Asian affairs representative.

“We are here mainly because we wanted to find out the NCCT members’ view and stance on the nationwide ceasefire deal,” said Tang Ying. “We are ready to provide assistance if necessary.”

Salai Lian Sakhong, of the Chin National Front, believes the China’s involvement adds weight to the event.

“We see this as a sign of improvement, that China is getting involved. Having in-depth knowledge about these talks is beneficial for both their country and ours,” he said.

The conference in Laiza was the third summit held by NCCT members as the nation works towards achieving an inclusive, state-level peace accord aimed at ending the country’s decades of civil war.

While the Burmese military initially created an August deadline for signing the pact, disagreements between Union-level stakeholders and the NCCT have caused delays. Sources close to the process have estimated that the two sides will reach an agreement in September.

Thailand: Refugees worried amid lack of govt transparency

29 July 2014 - 11:10am
Source: Democratic Voice of Burma Country: Myanmar, Thailand

Refugees from Burma residing in Thai border camps are concerned about the lack of transparency and proper procedures by Thai authorities regarding repatriation, in light of a recent census poll being conducted in the camps.

According to Saw Honest, chairperson of the Mae La – the largest refugee camp along the Thai-Burmese border – Thai officials began conducting a population census on 18 July, and have been issuing three different types of identification cards to the refugees.

“We asked the officials to give us a precise answer about the poll’s outcome but they won’t tell us anything except that they are re-verifying the refugee population,” Saw Honest said. “They are issuing green-coloured cards for refugees with UNHCR [UN Refugee Agency] serial numbers that start with 020, 021 and 026; and light-green coloured cards for numbers 70 and 71.”

“Those without UNHCR registration are issued red-coloured cards,” he said, adding that the officials also took photographs of householder lists of refugee families and all their UNHCR documentation but did not explain these actions.

Refugees in Umpiem camp, another border camp, have also reported receiving light-green coloured cards, which were then changed to white-coloured cards. This inconsistent procedure and the lack of clarity behind the Thai officials’ actions are fuelling worries among the refugees that they will be deported back to Burma against their will.

“We are worried we might get deported in about a year’s time as the officials are not providing any explanation about the census,” Naw Baw Nya, a refugee residing in Umpiem camp, said.

Another refugee, Naw Khoo Htwe, said that he does not wish to return to Burma anytime soon as there is no guarantee for his security.

There are more than 130,000 refugees from Burma living in nine camps along the Thai-Burmese border. Displaced from their home states due to conflict between ethnic armed groups and the Burmese Army, some of the refugees have lived in the camps for almost 30 years.

World: Global emergency overview snapshot 22 - 29 July

29 July 2014 - 9:08am
Source: Assessment Capacities Project Country: Afghanistan, Angola, Bangladesh, Bolivia (Plurinational State of), Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Côte d'Ivoire, Democratic People's Republic of Korea, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Dominican Republic, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Gambia, Guatemala, Guinea, Iraq, Jordan, Kenya, Lebanon, Lesotho, Liberia, Malawi, Mali, Mauritania, Myanmar, Namibia, Niger, Nigeria, occupied Palestinian territory, Pakistan, Paraguay, Philippines, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Somalia, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Syrian Arab Republic, Uganda, World, Yemen, South Sudan preview

Snapshot 22-29 July 2014

oPt: 1,067 are reported killed in Gaza since the beginning of Operation Protective Edge. 215,000 people have been displaced, and shelter conditions are a major concern. Damage to critical infrastructure, including the only power station in Gaza and health facilities, is heavily restricting access to basic services. Insecurity is also impeding humanitarian access.

Syria: Islamic State launched multiple attacks on government positions across northern and northeastern Syria in its first large-scale coordinated assault. An increasing number of injuries – averaging 25,000 injuries each month - combined with the severe shortages in surgical supplies are rendering functioning hospitals unable to cope with the demand for surgical treatment.

Nigeria: The frequency and fatality of attacks are currently at their highest levels since the state of emergency (SoE) was imposed. Four attacks took place in Kano city, and two in Kaduna. Ebola was confirmed as the cause of death of a Liberian man in Lagos, the largest city in sub-Saharan Africa.

More on www.geo.acaps.org

Updated: 29/07/2014 Next Update: 05/08/2014

Global Emergency Overview Web Interface

Myanmar: UN expert warns against possible backtracking, calls for more public freedoms

28 July 2014 - 9:15pm
Source: UN Human Rights Council Country: Myanmar

GENEVA (28 July 2014) - Following a ten-day visit* to the country, the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar, Ms. Yanghee Lee, urged the authorities to avoid any backtracking that could threaten the achievements of the past few years and called for more public freedoms.

“In three years, Myanmar has come a long way since the establishment of the new Government. This must be recognized and applauded,” said the independent expert. “Yet, there are worrying signs of possible backtracking which if unchecked could undermine Myanmar’s efforts to become a responsible member of the international community that respects and protects human rights.”

The Special Rapporteur highlighted the intimidation, harassment, attacks, arrests and prosecution of journalists for reporting on issues deemed too sensitive or critical of those in power, as well as of civil society for exercising their rights to peaceful assembly and association. She also pointed to the use of the judicial system and the application of legislation to criminalize and impede the activities of civil society and the media.

“These patterns not only undermine the work of civil society and the media, but also impose a climate of fear and intimidation to the society at large,” the Special Rapporteur noted.

“The enjoyment of the rights to freedom of expression and freedom of association and peaceful assembly are essential ingredients for Myanmar’s democracy, particularly in the run-up to the 2015 elections,” she stated. “There should be strict and clear safeguards to prevent undue interference in public freedoms.”

While commending the previous amnesties, the Special Rapporteur also called for the review and release of remaining prisoners of conscience as a priority.

Ms. Lee also urged the authorities to urgently address complex land rights issues, particularly land grabbing and confiscations, as well as forced evictions, in accordance with human rights principles and standards.

The human rights expert also called for the strengthening the rule of law. “This is the foundation for any functioning democracy and underpins the entire process of reform,” she stressed.

Continuing legislative review and reform, particularly of outdated laws that do not reflect current realities and those deemed inconsistent with international human rights standards is central, noted the expert, who also called for the withdrawal of the legislative package on the protection of race and religion.

In Rakhine State, the Special Rapporteur visited several camps for internally displaced people (IDPs) where she saw first-hand the difficult conditions in which people of both communities live. “The situation is deplorable,” she said, while noting that the living conditions were even worse in the Muslim camp of Baw Du Par.

Of particular concern is the health situation in Muslim IDP camps with reports of deaths due to the lack of access to emergency medical assistance and to preventable, chronic or pregnancy-related conditions.

“I understand the sense of grievance and perceived discrimination by the Rakhine Buddhist community. And I do believe that their concerns should be taken into account when trying to address the underlying causes of the intercommunal violence. We need to call a spade a spade,” said Ms. Lee. She pointed out the systematic discrimination against the Rohingya Muslim community, including restrictions in the freedom of movement, access to land, food, water, education and health care, marriages and birth registration.

“I am also concerned about the prevalence of inaccurate rumours and false information about the conditions of camps, the quality of assistance provided and the perceived intentions and behaviours of members of different communities,” she said. “More must be done to stop misinformation which only serves to heighten tensions and hostility and to increase the sense of discriminatory treatment.”

“Greater efforts must be made, to inform, involve and consult local communities and displaced populations,” added the Special Rapporteur, who also stressed that any initiative to return IDPs should be done with the free, prior and informed consent of those concerned and in consultation with international humanitarian actors.

The recurring outbreak of inter-communal violence reveals a growing polarization between Muslim and Buddhist communities despite Myanmar’s rich history of religious pluralism and tolerance, insisted Ms. Lee. “I am concerned by the spread of hate speech and incitement to violence, discrimination and hostility in the media and on the Internet, which have fuelled and triggered further violence,” she added.

A comprehensive series of measures is needed, including legislation against hate speech that is compliant with international human rights standards so as not to excessively limit the freedom of expression. “Those in positions of influence should also clearly speak out against hate speech,” she noted.

The human rights expert also noted the difficult operational environment in which international NGOs and the United Nations continue to operate in Rakhine State, with continuing reports of threats, intimidation and attacks against staff.

She also called for allegations of human rights violations committed by all parties to the conflict in Kachin State including torture and ill-treatment during interrogation, sexual violence, the recruitment of child soldiers, as well as forced labour, to be addressed as a matter of priority. All parties to the conflict must do more to ensure respect for international human rights and humanitarian law, she said.

“It is my wish to be able to contribute to the efforts Myanmar has undertaken in its path towards democratization, national reconciliation and development. As Special Rapporteur, I look forward to working closely with the Government and the people of Myanmar, in a spirit of cooperation and dialogue, towards the promotion and protection of human rights in the country,” said Ms. Lee.

During her mission (17-26 July 2014), the Special Rapporteur met with representatives of Government, political, religious and community groups, civil society, victims of human rights violations and the international community. In addition to Yangon and Nay Pyi Taw, she visited Rakhine State, Kachin State and Mandalay Division.

The Special Rapporteur’s first report will be presented to the 69th session of the UN General Assembly in October.

ENDS

(*) Check the full end-of-mission statement: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=14909&L...

Ms. Yanghee Lee (Republic of Korea) was appointed by the United Nations Human Rights Council in June 2014, succeeding Mr. Tomás Ojea Quintana, who completed his six-year term on the mandate in May 2014. As Special Rapporteur, Ms. Lee is independent from any government or organization and serves in her individual capacity. Learn more, go to: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/HRBodies/SP/CountriesMandates/MM/Pages/SRMyanmar...

UN Human Rights, country page – Myanmar: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/countries/AsiaRegion/Pages/MMIndex.aspx
For more information and media requests, please contact:
In Geneva: Ms. Azwa Petra, Human Rights Officer (+41 22 928 9103 / apetra@ohchr.org)
In Bangkok (27-28 July): Ms. Ann Syauta, Human Rights Officer (+66 98 969 7672 / syauta@un.org)

UN Human Rights, follow us on social media:
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/unitednationshumanrights
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Check the Universal Human Rights Index: http://uhri.ohchr.org/en

Myanmar: Over 120 homes in Kachin IDP camp relocated due to landslide

28 July 2014 - 11:41am
Source: Democratic Voice of Burma Country: Myanmar

More than 120 homes in Je Yang camp for internally displaced persons (IDPs) in Burma’s Kachin State were relocated this weekend after a landslide killed five residents last Tuesday.

Doi Pyi Sa, head of the Refugee Relief Committee for the Kachin Independence Organisation (KIO), said that 123 houses were previously at the foot of a hill, but were relocated after a heavy downpour caused the deadly landslide.

“After five residents were killed by the landslide on 22 July, we relocated houses that were close to the bottom of the hill – there are 123 houses in total,” Doi Pyi Sa said.

Opened in June 2011, the camp is now home to more than 8,000 displaced people from 81 villages – including Namlon, Namsanyang, Lwemauk and Dawhpumyang villages – after fighting broke out between the KIA and the Burmese Army.

After three years of fighting, an estimated 120,000 people from Kachin State have been forced out of their homes and into IDP camps.

Myanmar: Humanitarian Bulletin Myanmar, Issue 6 | 1 – 30 June

28 July 2014 - 7:26am
Source: UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs Country: Myanmar preview

HIGHLIGHTS

Two years after inter-communal violence in Rakhine and the outbreak of conflict in Kachin, serious humanitarian needs remain.

Growing nutrition concerns for vulnerable children in Rakhine.

Major gaps in health coverage in Rakhine and risk of water borne diseases as rainy season starts.

Livelihood support programmes for vulnerable communities in Rakhine.

NGOs start innovative water and sanitation project in Sittwe IDP camps.

Key FIGURES

People targeted for humanitarian assistance in Rakhine State

IDPs* 137,000

Food insecure people 70,000

People in host communities and isolated villages 100,000

People targeted for humanitarian assistance in Kachin/northern Shan

IDPs* 99,000

People in host communities 20,000

FUNDING

192 million requested (US$) 44% funded Source: UNHCR, OCHA, CCCM * UNHCR (CCCM) figures on 31 May.

Myanmar: Statement of the Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights in Myanmar, Yangon International Airport, Myanmar, 26 July 2014

26 July 2014 - 12:33pm
Source: UN Information Centres Country: Myanmar

Introduction:

Good evening and thank you all for coming today. I have just concluded my first official ten- day mission as Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar. The objective of my visit was to assess the human rights situation in Myanmar through a better understanding of the realities on the ground. Accordingly, I sought to engage constructively with a broad spectrum of stakeholders, including Government officials, political, religious and community leaders, civil society representatives, as well as victims of human rights violations and members of the international community. I was pleased to have had a frank and open exchange of views on a range of matters related to my mandate. And I am grateful that many were so forthcoming in their views on sensitive issues.

Today, I would wish to highlight some preliminary observations from my mission and from additional background research. These issues, along with others, will be elaborated in more detail in the report I will present to the 69th session of the General Assembly later this year.

I would like to warmly thank the Government of Myanmar for its excellent cooperation and flexibility throughout my visit. I would particularly like to note with appreciation the efforts made to ensure my safety and that of my team, including in challenging circumstances. I would also like to thank the United Nations Country Team for giving their full support to this mission and for their invaluable assistance and advice in organizing my programme of meetings.

In Nay Pyi Taw, I met with the Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs and the Director –General of the ASEAN Affairs Department in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Attorney General, the Chief Justice and members of the Supreme Court, the Chair and members of the Constitutional Tribunal, the Minister of Defence, the Minister of Border Affairs, the Minister of Information, the Minister of Social Welfare, Relief and Resettlement, the Minister of Labour, Employment and Social Security, the Minister of Immigration and Population, the Deputy Minister of Education, the Minister of Health and the Minister of Home Affairs. I also met with Ministers U Soe Thein and U Aung Min in the President’s Office, and the Legal, Political and Economic Advisers to the President. Additionally, I met with the Union Election Commission. I was grateful that many provided detailed information highlighting the sequence of events and the context in which certain policy decisions were made or actions were undertaken.

Also in Nay Pyi Taw, I met with the members of various parliamentary committees of the Amyotha and Pyithu Hluttaws and with the Parliamentary Constitutional Amendment Implementation Committee.

I also had a meeting with Daw Aung San Suu Kyi.

In Yangon, I met with members of the Interfaith Friendship Group of Myanmar and the Interfaith Dialogue Group, the Myanmar National Human Rights Commission, as well as with civil society actors working on a wide range of human rights issues, media professionals, lawyers and lawyers groups, members of the 88 Generation Student Group and released prisoners of conscience. I visited Insein Prison and met with six prisoners of conscience: Dr. Tun Aung, U Saw Gay They Mu, U Chit Ko, U Saw War Lay, U Htin Kyaw and U Nay Linn Dwe. I also held meetings with the United Nations Country Team, the Humanitarian Country Team and the diplomatic community.

During my mission, I also visited Rakhine State, Kachin State and Mandalay Division. I will elaborate on those visits shortly.

Myanmar: Ceasefire but no demining in Myanmar's Kayah State

25 July 2014 - 2:44pm
Source: IRIN Country: Myanmar

YANGON, 25 July 2014 (IRIN) - Landmine clearance in southern Myanmar's Kayah State has still not begun despite a 2012 ceasefire between the main armed groups and the government. While negotiations between the ceasefire parties are ongoing, deep distrust remains, and there is little immediate prospect for the launch of clearance operations, experts and activists say.[http://www.mmpeacemonitor.org/peace-process/ceasefires ]

Kayah (also known as Karenni) State, Myanmar's smallest, with a population of around 250,000, is one of several heavily landmine-contaminated areas of country.

Non-Technical Surveys (NTS), or "collecting and analyzing new and existing information about a hazardous area. to confirm whether there is evidence of a hazard or not", are the first step in landmine mapping. However, despite a 2012 Memorandum of Understanding to begin such survey work in Kayah State, the process has not been launched. [ http://www.magamerica.org/blog/non-technical-survey-what-the-world#sthas... ] [ http://www.irinnews.org/report/96611/myanmar-demining-moves-a-step-closer ]

"Currently, no group offering mine risk education in Kayah State has done the necessary technical survey, or even a non-technical survey to determine if the community in which they are offering this is mine-affected," said Yeshua Moser-Puangsuwan, research coordinator with the Geneva-based International Campaign to Ban Land Mines (ICBL).

Residents face daily danger

The lack of progress in Kayah State leaves residents in daily danger as they navigate an unknown number of mine fields.

"Pilot Non-Technical Surveys or mapping have been conducted by actors in Mon State and may at some point be able to be replicated in Kayah when conditions are favourable and it will not disrupt the peace process," Janet Ousley, community liaison manager at the Mine Advisory Group (MAG) Myanmar, told IRIN.

"As a result of civil war, unknown numbers of landmines are lying under the earth, threatening the life of our people," said Dee De, a member of the Union of Karenni State Youth.

The areas of Kayah State near Lawpita power dam, which generates a quarter of Myanmar's hydroelectric power, and along the route of its power lines, are known to be heavily contaminated.

Though no comprehensive data are available, Stephen Tino, field coordinator with Maggin Development Consultancy Group (MDCG), a Burmese humanitarian organization, estimated that 15-20 people are injured annually by landmines in Kayah. The number of fatalities is unknown. According to Tinto, demining will require further political cooperation. [ http://mdcg-myanmar.blogspot.com/search/label/About%20Us ]

"It'll take time to establish trust between the government and armed groups of Kayah State. For the moment, no side shows willingness to remove the landmines," said Tino.

"We've been waiting to get a `green signal' from them. At the moment, what we can only do is just raise mine awareness and render risk education," he said. "We don't know when mine-mapping or surveying will be allowed in our area."

According to Lawrence Soe, head of the health department of the Karenni National Progressive Liberation Front (KNPLF), one of the armed groups in Kayah State, the numbers of landmine-related injuries and fatalities have been decreasing since the ceasefire.

Others point out that the more than 34,000 internally displaced people in Kayah are at greatest risk owing to their movement in unfamiliar areas.

"Landmines are also a major threat for those who want to return to their [Kayah] villages from the border areas," said U Plureh, regional coordinator with the Shalom Foundation, a peace promotion organization. [ http://www.shalommyanmar.org/ ]

Local leaders told IRIN that in some areas, armed groups give people information about the location of landmines so that they can avoid them, but mine mapping and removal required a higher level of agreement between the armed groups and the government.

Dee De said: "Though we can do mine risk education without interference of both the government and armed-groups, it'll take time to get their approval to start mine-mapping and surveying."

False sense of security?

In an effort to reduce risks while demining is negotiated, local groups in Kayah have been providing mine risk education - either by teaching village leaders how to identify threats or holding seminars for the entire village.

However, some warn, such moves might do more harm than good.

"[Mine risk education] is not a solution," said Yeshua Moser-Puangsuwan, research coordinator with ICBL, arguing that the only real solution to mine contamination is mine clearance.

"Problems can occur when mine risk education is actualized outside of survey and clearance - it may lead to a false sense of security or it may be useless," he said, explaining that mine risk education is crucial between periods of surveying risks and establishing the boundaries of risky areas, and demining.

"Between technical survey and the scheduled removal there is usually a gap in time. During that time, as an interim measure, it may be determined that marking and fencing should occur, or that mine risk education may be beneficial," Moser-Puangsuwan said.

An estimated five million of the country's 60 million people live in mine-contaminated areas, according to a 2011 report by Geneva Call, a Swiss rights organization. [ http://www.genevacall.org/wp-content/uploads/dlm_uploads/2013/12/Humanit... ]

Landmines are believed to be concentrated on Myanmar's borders with Bangladesh and Thailand, but are a particular threat in southeastern parts of the country, including Kayah State, according to the Landmine Monitor. [http://www.themonitor.org/index.php/cp/display/region_profiles/find_prof... ]

Activists say both government forces and non-state armed groups have laid mines throughout the country which have resulted in at least 2,800 dead or injured people over the past 10 years, according to ICBL. De-mining activities have begun in some areas. [ http://www.icbl.org/en-gb/home.aspx ] [ http://www.irinnews.org/report/96611/myanmar-demining-moves-a-step-closer ]

nl/kk/cb

[END]

Myanmar: 800 Civilians Newly Displaced by Fighting in Shan States: Group

25 July 2014 - 1:37pm
Source: Irrawaddy Country: Myanmar

By NYEIN NYEIN / THE IRRAWADDY

More than 800 ethnic Palaung villagers in northern Shan State’s Namkham Township have fled their homes in recent days to avoid the growing number of clashes between the Burma Army and Palaung rebels, according to a local NGO.

De De Poe Jeing, secretary of the Ta’ang Women’s Organization, said more than 800 people had fled Mong Poe village and arrived at nearby Namkham town, located on the Burma-China border, on Monday.

She said some 800 displaced were registered and given temporary shelter at a factory hall used for tea leaf processing and supported by local residents, adding that another 200 people who fled were believed to be staying with relatives or friends in the town.

“They fear for their safety, while the whereabouts of three detained villagers from Mong Poe are not known yet,” she said.

The villagers fled after fighting between government troops and the Ta’ang (Palaung) National Liberation Army (TNLA) broke out near their village from July 19 to 21.

De De Poe Jeing confirmed reports by the TNLA from earlier this week stating that two civilians were killed and 10 injured during the fighting. She added that the injured were getting treatment at hospitals in Muse, Namkham and Mandalay.

She said her organization’s relief team is on their way to Namkham from Lashio, but heavy rains along the road from Khutkhai, Muse and Namkham has hindered their travels.

Sai Htun La, secretary of the Shan Nationalities Development Party and a Namkham resident, said, “The displaced Palaung are in desperate need as their villages are in the conflict areas.” He said local residents had donated bags of rice and some money to the displaced.

He added that the area around Mon Poe village appeared quiet in recent days, but villagers were still too fearful to consider returning to their homes.

The recent incident has pushed the total number of internally displaced persons (IDPs) from Palaung villages up to 4,600s, said De De Peo Jeing.

Since October 2012, the 3,800 Palaung villagers have been taking shelters in six camps in Namkham, Mang Tong and Khutkhai townships in northern Shan State to avoid fighting between the Burma Army and the TNLA and the Kachin Independence Army (KIA.)

The two rebel groups are allies and unlike many armed groups they do do not have a bilateral ceasefire with the government. In recent months, fighting has spilled over from Kachin State into northern Shan State, where clashes between government troops and KIA, TNLA and several other groups have become more frequent.

Casualties on the government side from the clashes are unknown, but the TNLA claimed last week that it had killed 178 Burma Army troops in more than 100 clashes since January.

Myanmar: Rohingya, impoverished and persecuted, in northern Rakhine state

25 July 2014 - 1:28pm
Source: AlertNet Country: Myanmar

Source: Thomson Reuters Foundation - Fri, 25 Jul 2014 03:00 AM

Author: Thin Lei Win

International news coverage of the plight of the stateless Rohingya Muslims has focused on those displaced by sectarian violence and living in sprawling, squalid camps outside the Rakhine state capital Sittwe. However, a majority of the country’s 1.3 million Rohingya live in northern Rakhine state in apartheid-like conditions.

Read the story on Alertnet

Myanmar: MSF welcomes offer to resume operations in Rakhine, Myanmar but remains cautious

25 July 2014 - 6:35am
Source: Médecins Sans Frontières Country: Myanmar

London, 25 July 2014 - Médecins Sans Frontières/Doctors Without Borders (MSF) welcomes the announcement by the Union Government of Myanmar and the Rakhine State Government that MSF will be allowed to resume operations in Rakhine State, after it was forced to halt medical activities in February.

“MSF is cautiously optimistic about this development,” said Marcel Langenbach, Director of Operations, MSF. “Given that for many people in Rakhine access to medical services remains a major challenge, we hope that MSF can restart treating patients as soon as possible.”

“We believe it is critical that the Government allows humanitarian aid agencies to have unfettered access to ensure people can receive medical care,” added Langenbach. “We understand that this is a sensitive environment, particularly with regard to inter-communal tensions. This makes it all the more important that independent international organizations can play their role in treating those most vulnerable.”

MSF has been working in Rakhine since 1994, and until the suspension was the largest non-governmental medical provider in the state. Since the suspension in February, MSF has been in ongoing dialogue with the Union and State authorities.

“We remain eager to resume activities throughout Rakhine State and have a team of national and international staff ready to provide medical care immediately,” Langenbach said.

Prior to February this year, MSF provided medical services in 24 camps for displaced people and in isolated villages across Rakhine. In 2013 alone, our doctors and community health workers performed more than 400,000 consultations in Rakhine addressing HIV, tuberculosis, malnutrition, malaria, antenatal and postnatal care and mental health.

MSF has been in Myanmar since 1992 and is currently providing health care in Shan, Kachin and Yangon to thousands of people from many ethnic origins. MSF provides 31,700 people living with HIV/AIDS with life-saving anti-retroviral treatment as well and treats over 2,500 tuberculosis patients. It was among the first responders to cyclones Nargis and Giri, providing medical assistance, survival items and clean water resources for hundreds of thousands of people.

There is some possibility of interviews. If you are interested, please contact Sophie-Jane Madden on +44 (0)7770 235 740 or via email: sophie-jane.madden@london.msf.org

Myanmar: Rakhine State Government Announcement (1/2014), 23 July 2014

24 July 2014 - 4:58pm
Source: Government of Myanmar, New Light of Myanmar Country: Myanmar
  1. The members of the Emergency Coordination Centre (ECC) met with representatives of the diplomatic corps, the United Nations agencies, international non-governmental organizations,
    Rakhine state government, civil society organizations based in Rakhine state, and experts and scholars from Myanmar Peace Center (MPC) on June 26-27 at MPC in Yangon to discuss the Action Plan for Peace, Stability and Development in Rakhine state. In addition to the discussion on how to improve humanitarian aid delivery and relief efforts, the parties also agree to put an emphasis on the development issues impacting Rakhine state.

  2. At this time, twenty four international institutions and non-government organizations such as UNOCHA, UNHCHR, WFP, ACE, UNFPA, UNICEF, MSF (Switzerland), ICRC, FIT, SCI, Solidarities, Malteser, IRC, CSSEP, DRC, UNDP, RELIEF, RI, BAJ, CDN, CAE, LWF, OXFAM and MRCS are working in Rakhine state with a total staff of one hundred eighty five (185) individuals, comprising an international staff of seventy two (72) individuals and a local staff of one hundred twelve (112) individuals. These organizations are working in collaboration with the Rakhine state government on issues and programs such as healthcare, water sanitation, nutrition, fisheries, prevention of natural disasters, humanitarian assistance management, sanitation, livelihood support, agriculture and livestock, education and gender discrimination.

  3. In order to implement the Rakhine Action Plan effectively at union and state levels, the Rakhine state government would like to invite all organizations listed in paragraph 2 as well as other United Nations agencies and international non-governmental organizations, including MSF, to participate in development, humanitarian, education, and healthcare programs in accordance with the wishes of the Rakhine people.

Rakhine State Government

Myanmar: Arakan govt invites MSF and others to resume aid

24 July 2014 - 4:58pm
Source: Democratic Voice of Burma Country: Myanmar

The Arakan State government has invited international aid organisations — including Médecins Sans Frontières, which was dramatically expelled from the state nearly five months ago — to continue operations in the troubled region.

In an announcement published by state media on Thursday, Arakan leadership said that 24 specified organisations and other agencies are invited “to participate in development, humanitarian, education, and healthcare programs in accordance with the wishes of the Rakhine [Arakanese] people.”

The announcement said that state politicians met in late June with members of the Myanmar Peace Centre, the Emergency Coordination Centre, civil society and the United Nations to discuss implementation of an “Action Plan for Peace, Stability and Development”.

Arakan State, home to an estimated 3.8 million people, is one of the poorest parts of Burma. Several bouts of deadly violence have erupted over the past two years between the state’s Buddhist and Muslim communities, worsening already dire conditions in the geographically isolated region.

What began in mid-2012 as a conflict between Arakanese Buddhists and the stateless Rohingya Muslim minority soon evolved into a broader dispute between the two faiths. Since June 2012, an estimated 140,000 people have been displaced and more than 200 have died as a result of the conflict. Most of the damages fell upon Muslim communities; many are still living in isolated and severely under-resourced displacement camps suffering shortages of food, medicine and clean water.

International observers, including representatives of the United Nations, have stated the belief that crimes against humanity may have been committed against the Rohingya community in Arakan State, and rights groups have accused the government of official complicity in anti-Muslim pogroms.

In February of this year, the government declined to renew an agreement with frontline health respondents Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), effectively barring them from the state. The decision followed shortly after MSF staff reported that they had treated 22 Muslim patients just after an alleged massacre in the state’s northern Maungdaw Township, an event that the government denies.

The decision is believed to have been based on a perception that the organisation was biased in favour of Muslims. The move sparked international outrage as fears of a humanitarian crisis grew.

In March, perceptions of pro-Muslim bias among foreign aid workers swelled again; mobs of angry Buddhists ravaged the homes and offices of aid workers in the state capital, Sittwe, leading to a sudden exodus of humanitarian assistance from which the state has yet to recover.

The move to restore aid and development work follows a recent and abrupt political shuffle in the troubled region. The state’s Chief Minister, Hla Maung Tin, resigned in mid-June and was replaced by the government a week later with Major General Maung Maung Ohn, former border affairs deputy minister.

Thursday’s announcement did not specify the extent of allowable operations or a time-frame for restarting stalled or stunted programmes.

Myanmar: Systematic rape is used as a weapon of war

24 July 2014 - 4:53pm
Source: Democratic Voice of Burma Country: Myanmar

In conflict, it is often the most vulnerable that become the victims. Burma has been engaged in civil war for more than 60 years, and throughout that time there have been consistent reports of abuses against women and children committed by the military.

In part two of a special DVB Debate show, panellists discussed the widespread use of sexual violence in conflict.

In 2014, the Women’s League of Burma released a report that documented more than 100 victims of sexual violence at the hands of the Burmese Army since Thein Sein’s government took power. Panellists discussed whether sexual violence is used as a strategy by the military.

“People are questioning whether there is a hidden policy behind this,” said Dr Sui Khar, joint general secretary of the Chin National Front. “I would say there is.”

Arr Khon, from the Kachin Women’s Peace Network believes rape is use systematically by the Burmese military as a weapon of war.

“This is systematic rape. It is a systematic strategy to create a war mentality amongst the ethnic people and instigate war,” she said.

“Whether it is systematic rape or a non-systematic rape, it is a violation of human rights. There is no reason to accept it,” said Mi Mi Thin Aung, Gender Based Violence National Coordinator at the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA).

Rape is prohibited under domestic law, yet seemingly systematic rape in conflict areas continues across the country, and perpetrators are rarely punished.

Under Burma’s 2008 constitution, any crimes committed by military personnel are to be tried by a military court, granting almost complete impunity to the armed forces.

Panellists discussed whether rape in conflict violates international law, and debated whether something should be done on an international level.

“Can we only end the abuse of women if we have signed these conventions or treaties?” asked May Sabae Phyu from the Gender Equality Network.

Law professor Myat Min Zan argued that signing an international convention is not the most effective way to end sexual violence in conflict.

“I don’t mean that these cases can only be solved if the treaties are signed. What I mean is that it is almost impossible to report systematic rape as a war crime in the International Criminal Court. I am saying we need to face reality,” he said.

Mi Mi Thin Aung said that no one knows the extent of sexual violence in Burma, but argued that now is the time to act.

“The cases [from the Women’s League of Burma report] are just the tip of the iceberg, underneath this goes many miles deeper and we still can’t reach the deepest point, so we don’t need to wait until thousands of cases have been reported,” she said.

In June 2014, Burma signed the Declaration of Commitment to End Sexual Violence in Conflict. The international agreement is a commitment to end the use of rape and sexual violence as a weapon of war.

The studio argued about how to make that happen, and what needs to change to stop these atrocities.

“In the conflict areas, there is only the rule of soldiers. There is no rule of law at all.

Those who have the weapons can do whatever they want. Human rights are being violated and the government needs to acknowledge that this is happening and be willing to solve these problems,” said Thin Thin Aung.

The studio also discussed increasing awareness about rape in conflict areas so that victims can be better protected, and generally agreed that there should be more pressure on the perpetrators.

“We need to educate our society. If there is a rape, the society doesn’t blame the rapist, it blames the woman who is raped,” said Nyein Chan May, Vice-President at Rangoon University of Foreign Language Students’ Union.

Thin Thin Aung said current campaigns to raise awareness are not effective. She said the onus is placed on women not to get raped, rather than telling men and boys not to rape.

“Some billboards posted by the police force say, ‘to prevent women from being raped, please be careful what you wear, don’t go out at night, don’t let your daughter go out with strangers’. These campaigns are putting responsibility on the women. The campaign should be targeted at the criminals and the emphasis should be on not committing this crime,” she said.

May Sabae Phyu noted that because soldiers are among the main perpetrators of sexual violence, the campaigns should be aimed at them.

“The awareness training is only given to ordinary citizens. Shouldn’t we educate the soldiers that this is a war crime and they will be seriously punished if they commit these crimes?”

Guests in the studio agreed that perpetrators of sexual violence need to be punished, and that military impunity must be addressed to stop sexual crimes in Burma’s conflict zones.

Myanmar: MSF treats first CMV retinitis patients with oral drug

24 July 2014 - 4:16pm
Source: Médecins Sans Frontières Country: Myanmar

Reduction in pricing still needed to ensure wider access to treatment

23 July 2014

Aye Pyae Sone/MSF

ART drugs at MSF's clinic in Myitkyina, Kachin state, Myanmar. MSF treats more than 30,000 HIV/AIDS patients across the country.

Melbourne 23 July 2014 – During the 20th International AIDS Conference in Melbourne, Australia, Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) announced that for the first time in Myanmar, patients have begun receiving oral treatment for Cytomegalovirus (CMV) retinitis, a neglected opportunistic disease linked to HIV/AIDS which can cause permanent blindness. Although this drug has been available since 2001 in the developed world, the only treatment option available in Myanmar until now was once-weekly injections directly into the eye, an extremely uncomfortable procedure for the patient that requires carefully trained doctors.

Years-long negotiations

Following years-long price negotiations with the drug company, Roche, MSF is now providing its patients in Dawei, southern Myanmar, with valganciclovir, a simple pill to be taken daily for up to six months. This is the first time MSF has been able to use this pill in any of its HIV/AIDS projects around the world. All of MSF’s patients diagnosed with CMV retinitis in Myanmar will be receiving valganciclovir by 2015.

Price should be reduced further

While MSF welcomes this breakthrough, the organisation is urging that the price of valganciclovir is reduced further, particularly through generic competition from other drug manufacturers.

“Although this is a very positive step – bringing relief to patients and making treatment of the disease easier for medical care providers – much more still needs to be done to bring prices down and expand access to this crucial medicine,” says Dr Jennifer Cohn, medical director of MSF’s Access Campaign. “The current negotiated price with Roche is approximately US$280 for a bottle of 60 tablets, and up to US$1,960 per patient for a 27-week course of treatment. This is clearly still far out of reach for many patients in CMV-endemic countries.”

Rates of disease still high

Before the advent of antiretroviral treatment for HIV/AIDS in developed countries, CMV retinitis affected roughly one-third of those living with AIDS. Now, the condition is rarely seen in HIV/AIDS patients in Europe or the US. For those who do fall victim to CMV retinitis in wealthier countries, valganciclovir has long been the standard treatment and is proven to be more effective than the injection method.

However, rates of the disease are still high in several developing regions of the world due to poorer screening for HIV and later access to antiretroviral treatment. In Myanmar, rates of the disease among severely ill HIV/AIDS patients are as high as 25 percent.

Ma Khin Khin is a mother of four diagnosed with HIV and CMV retinitis in February this year. She is one of Myanmar’s first patients to receive the oral drug. “I didn’t feel any side effects and I am feeling better now,” says Ma Khin Khin. “Before it was not like that, and I had to lie down all the time. But now I can go everywhere by myself. I have even got my vision back and can read the text messages on my mobile phone.”

'We should act now'

“We have the medicine to dramatically reduce the suffering and blindness caused by this disease in resource-poor high-HIV burden countries all over the world,” says Marcelo Fernandez, MSF medical coordinator. “The current inhumane and difficult-to-access treatment is not acceptable in rich countries; we should act now to make it a thing of the past in resource-poor countries as well.”

CMV retinitis treatment is still absent from current and pending World Health Organization (WHO) guidelines for the management of HIV in resource-limited settings. MSF is urging WHO to amend these guidelines and encourage their adoption into national treatment protocols.

MSF has so far treated four patients with valganciclovir in Dawei with excellent results. By 2015, all MSF patients throughout Myanmar diagnosed with CMV retinitis will be receiving the drug. MSF began treating the disease in Myanmar in 2006, and since then has treated around 1,130 patients using intraocular injections. MSF has also trained more than 40 clinicians in Myanmar in the diagnosis and treatment of the disease.

MSF has been working in Dawei, in Myanmar’s Thaninthariyi region, since 2000, in collaboration with the Myanmar Ministry of Health and is currently providing care for patients with HIV and tuberculosis (TB). Countrywide, MSF teams are also working in Shan and Kachin states as well as in Yangon region, providing treatment and care to more than 30,000 HIV/AIDS patients and 3,000 patients with TB, including drug-resistant forms of TB.

Myanmar: Pyithu Hluttaw approves proposal to establish Ministry of Ethnic Affairs

24 July 2014 - 4:10pm
Source: Mizzima News Country: Myanmar

Written by Soe Than Linn

The Pyithu Hluttaw has approved a draft bill submitted by its National Races Affairs and Peace Making Committee that provides for the creation of a Ministry of Ethnic Affairs.

The draft Protection for Minority Rights bill, aimed at protecting the rights of indigenous minorities, was approved on July 22.

"This draft emphasises the social rights of the ethnic minority people and the creation of a ministry will mean we will be able to progress the affairs of ethnic people at Union level," U Sai Bo Aung (Shan Nationalities Democratic Party, Muse Township, Shan State), told the Pyithu Hluttaw.

An MP from Kachin State said that once the law was enacted it would enable the list of ethnic minority groups to be corrected.

Daw Dwe Bu (Unity and Democracy Party of Kachin State, Injangyang Township) also said it would help minority groups such as the Kachin to achieve equality with the majority Bamar.

"This will help us to establish peace," she said.

A proposal tabled in the Amyotha Hluttaw in March 2013 to establish a Ministry for Ethnic Affairs was defeated by 88 votes to 76.

Myanmar: Wa Again Absent as Ethnic Groups Meet for Ceasefire Talks

24 July 2014 - 4:01pm
Source: Irrawaddy Country: Myanmar

By MAY KHA/ THE IRRAWADDY

RANGOON — Representatives from Burma’s Wa and Mengla minority groups were invited but are not attending the third conference of ethnic armed groups being held in Laiza, Kachin State, at the headquarters of the Kachin Independence Organization (KIO) this week.

The conference began on Thursday and will run through July 29, bringing together members of 12 ethnic armed groups in Burma that are members of the National Ceasefire Coordination Team (NCCT) to discuss a long-sought nationwide peace agreement with the Burmese government.

Aung Myint, an information officer for the United Wa State Army (UWSA), told The Irrawaddy that his group had decided not to attend the conference because it has yet to properly study the draft nationwide ceasefire accord under consideration.

“We have studied the second draft only for a day,” said Aung Myint. “We asked for the draft from ethnic armed groups, but we didn’t get it. We got it from our friends just a few days ago.”

The Burmese government and ethnic minority groups have reached agreement on most of the provisions of such an accord and agreed to a second draft in May, but outstanding points of contention remain.

“We are still reading it [the draft]. We haven’t attended the previous meetings and have not yet studied the draft. So, we have nothing to discuss at the coming conference,” Aung Myint added.

He said his group supports the conference of ethnic armed groups, despite its absence from the six-day meeting. However, he evaded a question from The Irrawaddy about the role of the UWSA in Burma’s ongoing ceasefire negotiations.

“We need to study the content of the draft and should also be informed on what is embodied therein. We can’t just sign it without knowing what is in it,” Aung Myint said.

“We have yet to study the draft thoroughly and will accept it if we agree,” he added.

NCCT member Lian Sakhong said the team is prepared to ink the final ceasefire pact after the conference, having formed a leading committee to negotiate with the government on the final draft.

“There may be some points we need to debate seriously. In this case, it is important that a leading committee is in place to make decisions,” Lian Sakhong said.

“The meeting [on Thursday] will be fairly important as it will discuss how the entire conference will be held and how decisions will be made through voting,” he added.

The leading committee was formed ahead of the conference and is made up of two representatives from each of the respective ethnic armed groups.

The United Nations’ special envoy to Burma Vijay Nambiar and China’s envoy on Asia Affairs Wang Yinfang will attend the conference on July 28, according to deputy chief of staff Gen. Gun Maw from the Kachin Independence Army, the armed wing of the KIO, which is a member of the NCCT.

“The NCCT has also invited non-NCCT member groups such as the Naga, Wa, Mengla, Restoration Council of Shan State [RCSS], All Burma Students Democratic Front and United Nationalities Federal Council,” said Nai Hong Sar, who chairs the NCCT.

“NCCT reps will discuss with them on 28-29 July. The RCSS replied that it would attend the conference, but the rest have not replied yet. However, I hope they will come,” he said.

Attendance at the conference was expected by the 12 NCCT member groups and 22 non-NCCT member groups, though the number of non-member attendees could be fewer than 20 with the Wa and Mengla groups having pulled out and Naga representation uncertain.