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Myanmar: Ceasefire talks to resume on March 30

23 March 2015 - 2:56am
Source: Mizzima News Country: Myanmar

By Kay Zue

The 7th round of ceasefire talks will take a pause and will resume on March 30 because some points remain to be discussed.

The leaders of the ethnic armed groups and the government held a press conference on March 22 at the Myanmar Peace Centre in Yangon, after their talks, to say four points have still to be worked on.

U Hla Maung Shwe, a senior official with the Myanmar Peace Centre, said, “Only the point that mentions how the [ethnic armed groups] should live [behave] in the ‘interim’ needs to be fully discussed. The other points are just small clauses.”

Chapter six of the ceasefire agreement, entitled “Interim period” needs to be discussed and some text of some points of chapters three and four will be amended, he said.

The “Interim period” outlines how ethnic armed groups must behave after reaching the ceasefire agreement and during the period that political dialogue will be held.

Speaking on the subject of the “interim period,” Col Khun Okkar, a spokesman of the Nationwide Ceasefire Coordination Team, said: “We want to preserve our status quo. We want our troops to be all in place. We will improve security in our states and carry out development for our states.”

He said that the ethnic armed groups would hold discussions and negotiations among themselves in preparation for March 30, the day the ceasefire talks will resume.

The 7th round of the nationwide ceasefire talks between the Union Peacemaking Working Committee and the Nationwide Ceasefire Coordination Team began on March 17.

World: Global Food Security Cluster: Global Dashboard (March 2015)

22 March 2015 - 11:39pm
Source: Food Security Cluster Country: Afghanistan, Central African Republic, Chad, Colombia, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Iraq, Liberia, Mali, Myanmar, Niger, occupied Palestinian territory, Pakistan, Somalia, South Sudan, Syrian Arab Republic, Ukraine, World, Yemen

As of March 2015, country-level Food Security Clusters/Sectors are on average only 20% funded 20% while coordination remains critical.

Myanmar: Statement by the Coordination Committee of Special Procedures on the repeated hate speech and incitement to violence directed against the Special Rapporteur on Myanmar

22 March 2015 - 10:39pm
Source: UN Human Rights Council Country: Myanmar

GENEVA (20 March 2015) – “The Coordination Committee of Special Procedures – the 53 independent experts and bodies appointed by the Human Rights Council with specific mandates on a range of issues and country situations – deplores the repeated hate speech and incitement to violence directed against the Special Rapporteur on Myanmar, Ms. Yanghee Lee.

Ms. Lee has been personally insulted and subjected to clear public threats against her person on at least two occasions in recent weeks.

Substantive disagreement with a Special Rapporteurs’ assessment can always be expressed. It is however unacceptable for mandate holders to be subjected to violent threats and public abuse when discharging their mandates which are established by the United Nations Human Rights Council, the key UN body comprising 47 Member States.

While acknowledging that the Government of Myanmar is not directly responsible for such statements, we strongly urge the authorities to disassociate themselves from these statements, to take all necessary measures to address, and prosecute as necessary, all acts of incitement to hatred and violence, as required under international law, and to fulfil their responsibility to ensure the safety and integrity of Ms. Lee as she carries out her mandate, and in particular during her visits to the country.”

ENDS

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

List of country mandates: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/HRBodies/SP/Pages/Countries.aspx
List of thematic mandates: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/HRBodies/SP/Pages/Themes.aspx

For more information and media requests, please contact Ms. Nathalie Rondeux (+41 22 917 9251 / nrondeux@ohchr.org)

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World: Finland grants over EUR 46 million in aid to the world’s humanitarian crises

21 March 2015 - 11:45pm
Source: Government of Finland Country: Afghanistan, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, Finland, Gambia, Guinea, Iraq, Kenya, Liberia, Mali, Mauritania, Myanmar, Niger, Nigeria, occupied Palestinian territory, Pakistan, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan, Syrian Arab Republic, Uganda, Ukraine, World, Yemen

Press Release 83/2015 16 March 2015

Finland will donate EUR 46.4 million in humanitarian aid to the world’s worst crisis areas. The aid, granted by a decision of Minister for International Development Sirpa Paatero on 13 March, will be directed to acute emergency situations in Syria and neighbouring areas, South Sudan, the Central African Republic and Ukraine. Efforts will also be made to alleviate human suffering in countries where protracted crisis situations exist, such as the Democratic Republic of Congo, Afghanistan and Yemen. Finland’s aid will be given via UN agencies and Finnish organisations.

“Humanitarian needs are at a record high, and humanitarian aid workers have to work under pressure in the most demanding conditions. Finland considers it important to respond to acute and protracted needs in terms of human protection, health, education and food. Humanitarian aid organisations provide assistance efficiently during conflicts even in the most difficult circumstances, such as in Syria, South Sudan, Iraq and the Central African Republic,” says Minister Paatero.

Most aid, EUR 10 million via various organisations, will be given to Syria and its neighbouring countries affected by the refugee crisis. In Syria, more than 12 million people are in need of emergency assistance, and more than 3.7 million Syrians have fled to neighbouring countries.

The serious humanitarian crisis caused by conflict in South Sudan continues. Eruptions of violence and lack of food have forced nearly two million people to move within the country or leave as refugees to neighbouring countries Sudan, Ethiopia, Kenya and Uganda. Finland’s aid, amounting to EUR 6.4 million, will be used to supply food, health services and protection for those in extreme need.

In Yemen, the unstable security situation and political disorder have increased the need for humanitarian aid. More than half of the population, i.e. nearly 16 million people, are in need of humanitarian aid. More than 10 million of them are suffering food shortages. Finland’s aid, amounting to EUR 3 million, will be used to provide health services and supply food to those in need.

The aid provided by Finland is largely based on the UN’s Central Emergency Response Fund, which this year amounts to EUR 14.6 billion. The Central Emergency Response Fund applies to 12 countries, but including the regional impacts of crises it covers up to 22 countries. The crisis in Syrian accounts for almost half of the sum. The response fund for the Sahel region is EUR 1.8 billion, covering nine countries. Throughout the world, nearly 80 million people are currently in need of humanitarian aid. Aid will be granted from Finland’s development cooperation humanitarian aid appropriations.

In terms of Finnish organisations, aid will be provided via the Finnish Red Cross, Finn Church Aid, Fida International, World Vision Finland and Save the Children. In addition to bilateral activity, the Finnish Red Cross channels aid to the International Committee of the Red Cross ICRC and the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies IFRC.

Inquiries: Juha Peltonen, Press Attaché to Minister Paatero, tel. +358 50 554 6426, and Anna Gebremedhin, Head of Unit for Humanitarian Assistance, tel. +358 40 583 0149, firstname.lastname@formin.fi

Humanitarian aid grant, spring 2015

For country- and region-specific operations, a total of EUR 46.4 million, of which EUR 26.3 million to Africa, EUR 15.8 million to the Middle East, EUR 3.3 million to Asia and EUR 1 million to Europe. Middle East, total EUR 15.8 million Syria crisis EUR 10 million: UNHCR EUR 3 million, regional

WFP EUR 1 million

UNICEF EUR 1 million

WHO EUR 1 million

SPR/ICRC EUR 2 million

SPR EUR 1 million, Jordan

Finn Church Aid EUR 500,000, Jordan

Save the Children EUR 500,000, Iraq

Yemen EUR 3 million

WFP EUR 2 million

WHO EUR 1 million

Iraq EUR 1.8 million

UNICEF EUR 1 million

SPR/ICRC EUR 800,000

Palestinian Territories EUR 1 million, UNRWA

West Africa, total EUR 3.75 million Sahel EUR 2 million (Mali, Niger, Burkina Faso, Mauritania, Nigeria, Chad, Cameroon, Senegal, Gambia)

FAO EUR 1 million

WFP EUR 1 million

Chad EUR 400,000 SPR/IFRC

Ebola EUR 1.35 million

SPR/IFRC EUR 1 million (aid granted 26 January 2015), Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea

Finn Church Aid EUR 350,000, Sierra Leone and Liberia

Horn of Africa, total of EUR 7.15 million Somalia EUR 4.65 million

WFP EUR 2 million

SPR/ICRC EUR 1.5 million

Finn Church Aid EUR 650,000

Save the Children EUR 500,000

Kenya EUR 1.5 million

UNHCR EUR 1 million

World Vision Finland EUR 500,000

Ethiopia EUR 1 million, UNHCR

Sudan and South Sudan, total EUR 8.4 million Sudan EUR 2 million, UNICEF

South Sudan EUR 6.4 million

UNHCR EUR 2 million regional

WFP EUR 2 million

SPR/ICRC EUR 2 million

Finn Church Aid EUR 400,000

Central Africa and Great Lakes, DRC, total EUR 7 million Uganda EUR 1.2 million

World Vision Finland EUR 500,000

KUA EUR 400,000

FIDA EUR 300,000

Central African Republic EUR 3.1 million

UNHCR EUR 1 million (regional)

WFP EUR 1 million

Finn Church Aid EUR 700,000

SPR/ICRC EUR 400,000

Democratic Republic of Congo EUR 2.7 million

SPR/ICRC EUR 1.5 million

FIDA EUR 700,000

Finn Church Aid EUR 500,000

Asia, total EUR 3.3 million South Asia (Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iran) EUR 1.5 million, UNHCR

Afghanistan EUR 800,000, SPR/ICRC

Myanmar EUR 1 million

Finn Church Aid EUR 500,000

SPR/ICRC EUR 500,000

Europe, total EUR 1 million Ukraine EUR 1 million

UNHCR EUR 500,000

WHO EUR 500,000

WFP World Food Programme

UNHCR United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees

WHO World Health Organisation

UNRWA United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East

UNICEF United Nations’ Children's Rights & Emergency Relief Organisation

FAO United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organisation

ICRC International Committee of the Red Cross

IFRC International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies

SPR Finnish Red Cross

Myanmar: Agreement reached on structure of Burmese ceasefire agreement

21 March 2015 - 10:56pm
Source: Democratic Voice of Burma Country: Myanmar

By NANG MYA NADI

Agreement has been reached between government and ethnic negotiators on the structure of a future nationwide ceasefire agreement, or NCA, according to two delegates from the Nationwide Ceasefire Coordination Team (NCCT), which represents 17 ethnic armed groups at the talks.

Speaking after the fourth day of negotiations in Rangoon on Friday, Col. Hkun Okkar confirmed that both the NCCT and the government’s Union Peace-making Work Committee (UPWC) had agreed to a specific timeframe and agenda for implementing a ceasefire which will include a framework for political dialogue.

“We discussed Section 3, issues concerning troops; Section 4, joint monitoring; and Section 5, measures to strengthen the ceasefire agreement,” he told DVB. “The negotiations were good. We reached common agreements. There are still some points left to discuss, but we have no major differences. We can say that we are moving the process forward.”

Saw Mra Raza Linn, an Arakanese representative with the NCCT, told DVB that both sides agreed to hold regular joint-meetings to implement all agreements.

“We have agreed on a structure for proceeding,” she said. “After we have signed the NCA, both sides will appoint teams to assure implementation of all decisions at these regular meetings, which will include members of the Joint Monitoring Committee and Political Dialogue Framework Drafting Committee.”

On Saturday, the NCCT and UPWC are due to discuss the so-called Road Map – the framework by which political dialogue will be exercised – which, if agreed, will be put to the union parliament for approval.

Myanmar: Fresh Cross-Border Bombs Reported in China-Myanmar Border War

21 March 2015 - 10:42pm
Source: Radio Free Asia Country: China, Myanmar

Authorities in the southwestern Chinese province of Yunnan are investigating a group of unexploded bombs that fell on the mountainous and rugged border with Myanmar, where fighting between government troops and Kokang rebels has intensified in the past week.

As the conflict in Shan State passed the 40-day mark On Myanmar's side of the border relief volunteers said unidentified attackers had thrown five grenades in an attack on the refugee camp, where unarmed civilians are sheltering from the conflict. There were no injuries.

Photos from the Chinese side of the border showed white, unexploded bombs--or parts of bombs--with fins, some with parachutes still attached.

Local residents said they were dropped by a Myanmar government plane at around 4.00 p.m. local time outside Mengdui township near Yunnan's Lincang city.

"We are still confirming what happened, and we have no conclusion at this stage," an official who answered the phone at the Mengdui township government offices said on Saturday.

"We are acting on the basis of tip-offs from the local people."

Bombs located

He said the position of the bombs had already been established, however.

"We determined the exact position [on Friday] but the details aren't clear yet," the official said.

"They will inform the command center and the county government leaders, who will be able to answer your questions," he said.

He said local officials are "still confirming" whether or not there were casualties. "We still don't know," he said.

However, one local resident told RFA that the bombs hadn't exploded.

Myanmar’s military resumed air strikes against ethnic Kokang rebels in the country’s remote Shan state on Friday, a week after a bomb killed five Chinese nationals across the border, further straining ties between the two Asian neighbors.

After a few days' pause after the bombing incident, the army on Thursday resumed its offensive against the MNDAA, which is trying to retake the Kokang self-administered zone it had controlled until 2009, supported by its aircraft.

Further incursions, this time involving artillery bombardment, were reported by a volunteer at the Maidihe refugee camp, which straddles the border.

"The Myanmar army fired two shells over here [on Friday]," a volunteer surnamed Li at the nearby Maidihe refugee camp told RFA on Saturday.

"They came down two kilometers inside the Chinese side of the border, in the jungle," he said. "[Chinese officials] went to inspect the site today."

He said that no deaths or injuries had so far been reported in connection with the shelling.

Five grenades

On the Myanmar side, a volunteer at a refugee camp near the No. 125 border marker described the attack on a camp sheltering thousands of refugees.

"They lobbed five grenades in the attack, and one exploded [in the camp]," a missionary surnamed Ke told RFA. "Nobody was hurt, and we didn't catch them, so we don't know who did this."

One grenade fell at the door of the camp offices, but didn't explode, although the pin had been pulled, aid workers said. The second exploded near some makeshift tents set up by civilians as temporary homes in the camp, sending shrapnel into their homes.

"If the grenade thrown at the offices had detonated, it would have been terrible," Ke said.The attackers ran away before they could be identified.

Twenty meters away in the jungle, aid workers found two more unexploded grenades, while the location of a fifth grenade explosion had yet to be pinpointed in the jungle.

Evacuation considered

Ke said camp authorities are considering dispersing the refugees in the wake of the attack.

"There are 4,000 people here, so we will have to think about how to evacuate them all," Ke said.

"We don't want the responsibility of deaths on our hands if there is a second attack."

He said nobody understood what could have motivated the attack.

"Nobody thought they would start attacking refugees," Ke said. "It's bewildering."

A second volunteer at the same camp said he was "extremely angry" and strongly condemned the attack.

The No. 125 Border Marker camp is run by charitable organizations based in Kokang for humanitarian purposes, with the aim of helping civilians in the war-torn region meet their daily needs, the aid worker said.

For many who haven't enough money or papers to get across the border into China, it is the last option they have to find shelter and protection, he said.

"It is extremely chilling to think that people could be so shameless as to launch a grenade attack on refugees and the aid workers who are helping them," the volunteer said.

Fighting began on Feb. 9 in Laukkai between Myanmar government troops and the MNDAA, which is allied with other armed groups in the region.

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

Reported by Qiao Long for RFA's Mandarin Service. Translated and written in English by Luisetta Mudie.

Myanmar: From Novelty to Normalcy: Polling in Myanmar’s Democratic Transition

20 March 2015 - 4:58pm
Source: Open Society Foundations Country: Myanmar

Since the government of Myanmar* announced a transition from military rule to democracy in 2010, both domestic and international stakeholders have turned to polling to discover public opinion on a range of issues. This report examines the state of opinion research in Myanmar, identifies challenges, and makes recommendations for improvements.

Although Myanmar has a decades-long history of market surveys, political polling is a relatively new phenomenon. Organizations operating in this field face four major challenges. The first is selecting a sample in a country that lacks reliable census or voter registration data, and lacks comprehensive access to telephones or the internet. The second is how to provide survey questionnaires in several languages to accommodate Myanmar’s numerous ethnic groups. The third challenge relates to interviewers, both to their training and to accounting for possible response bias based on the interaction between the interviewer’s sociodemographic background and the respondent’s. Finally, polling groups and interviewers must ensure respondents’ confidentiality.

These problems are not unique to Myanmar. Pollsters around the world regularly grapple with similar dilemmas. What makes their task more challenging in Myanmar is the novelty of polling. Few people (even in civil society and political parties) understand its nature, and many are quick to dismiss the whole exercise when they do not like some of a poll’s results. The report examines and refutes several of their criticisms.

*Note: “Myanmar” is used in this report instead of “Burma” according to the authors’ preference.

Myanmar: Rangoon Peace Talks End on ‘Positive’ Note

20 March 2015 - 12:42pm
Source: Irrawaddy Country: Myanmar

By LAWI WENG

RANGOON —On the tail end of four days of peace talks between the Burmese government and ethnic armed groups, stakeholders on both sides of the table came out with a positive outlook.

Negotiators said that this week’s discussions brought them closer than ever to reaching a long-awaited single text nationwide ceasefire agreement, reaching the fifth chapter up for discussion.

Head of the ethnic negotiating bloc Nationwide Ceasefire Coordination Team (NCCT), Nai Hongsar told The Irrawaddy as talks drew to a close that “there were some positive [outcomes]” from the discussions.

“We reached some agreement, and we will continue to talk about how to achieve the NCA,” he said.

Another ethnic representative said that “of course” the talks produced some positive things, but that some of the most contentious issues—such as the formation of a federal army and the creation of a code of conduct—will not enter into discussions until political dialogue begins, after a pact is reached.

Ethnic leaders focused their discussions on achieving a nationwide pact, according to Khun Okkar, another chief member of the NCCT.

The current conflict in northern Shan State, which was expected to be high on the agenda, was among those issues ethnic leaders believed could be solved after an accord was reached, he said.

“We will bring all of the armed groups [together] and have peace talks, but at the moment we are discussing how to sign NCA,” said Khun Okkar.

The NCCT tabled the issue of fighting in Kokang Special Region, where the Burma Army has been in conflict with the Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army since Feb. 9, but the Burma Army said that the conflict could only be resolved by dialogue between itself and Kokng leadership.

“They said Kokang leaders need to come and talk to them if they want to have peace… This is why, from our perspective, we will take a little more time before bringing the Kokang into our peace talks,” said NCCT member Twan Zaw.

Another northern rebel group, the Kachin Independence Army (KIA), said it will continue to allow the NCCT to negotiate on its behalf, reiterating that its policy is in line with that of the bloc. A KIA official, Col. Zau Dang, said that a recent meeting between the Kachin leaders and President Thein Sein was a “trust-building” exercise, and was not, as some believed, geared toward brokering an independent deal.

“Our leaders told the president about our organization policy, which is to let the NCCT lead the peace talks, and we ourselves do not plan to reach a separate peace agreement,” he said.

Myanmar: Myanmar border conflict riles heavyweight neighbour China

20 March 2015 - 10:25am
Source: Agence France-Presse Country: China, Myanmar

Yangon, Myanmar | | Wednesday 3/18/2015 - 04:50 GM

by Kelly MACNAMARA

Bloody conflict in a remote corner of northern Myanmar has spilled violently across the border with China, risking a rift with the mighty neighbour and threatening peace efforts with an array of rebels.

Myanmar's army is battling ethnic-Chinese rebels in the Kokang region of Shan state, with aerial bombardments and close-quarter combat, just as the quasi-civilian government is grappling to end decades of border insurgencies in fresh ceasefire talks that began Tuesday.

China mobilised fighter jets after a bomb apparently from a Myanmar warplane landed in a sugar plantation in Chinese territory on Friday, killing five Chinese farm workers.

The incident marked an "astounding" breach in relations between the two long-term allies, said Yun Sun from the Stimson Center's East Asia Program.

He said it was the "worst security incident" since Beijing's embassy in Myanmar was attacked in 1967 during an anti-Chinese riot, although he believes the border unrest will remain contained for now.

Tens of thousands of refugees have fled into China's Yunnan province since fighting in Kokang first flared up in early February.

Mountainous Kokang is known for its strong bonds with China -- local people speak a Chinese dialect and China's yuan is the common currency and the conflict has tapped into long-standing nervousness in Myanmar about its giant northern neighbour.

Kokang's rebel Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army is led by shadowy octogenarian commander Phone Kya Shin, and the group is accused by the government of being enmeshed in drug trafficking.

Officials have also accused Yunnan provincial authorities of helping the rebels, who were previously driven out of Kokang in a bloody push by the army in 2009.

"Anti-Chinese sentiment has re-emerged strongly" in Myanmar, said Elliot Brennan, from the Institute for Security and Development Policy.

He said this was of "grave concern" to Beijing, which has to contend with public anger of its own over the deaths of the five Chinese.

China acted as an economic and political shield for Myanmar for decades, when the country was under military rule and the junta isolated by the West.

Its reward was a wealth of sometimes controversial investments -- particularly in dams, mines and energy infrastructure.

But as Myanmar has begun to reform and open up it has sought to reduce that dependence, sometimes to Beijing's irritation -- it called for the rights of Chinese companies to be protected after a huge dam project was suspended.

China has vowed not to allow rebels to use its territory and scolded Myanmar over the escalation of border tensions.

  • Risk of contagion -

Myanmar state media are portraying the Kokang conflict as a "just war" against "renegades", burnishing the army's image after it was tarnished by a litany of rights abuses from its decades in power.

But experts say hardening pro-military sentiment as well as the participation of other ethnic groups in the clashes -- particularly those involved in faltering peace talks -- raises the possibility that the unrest could spread.

"The risk of contagion of this conflict to others is quite high," said independent analyst Richard Horsey, adding current public support for the military was "unprecedented".

Minor celebrities and even some democracy activists have joined the chorus of support for the military, while many social media users have changed their profile pictures to the logo of the regional army command fighting in the area.

This swell of support for the army is seen as an ominous signal that the general public could lose patience with the country's lengthy peace process.

Myanmar's many ethnic minorities have fought for greater political autonomy over decades of civil wars, fuelled in part by tussles over the kind of natural resources that China is eager to exploit through its investments.

The government that replaced outright military rule in 2011 prioritised a nationwide ceasefire in its reforms, but talks have been slow-going amid lingering distrust of the army and continued clashes, particularly in northern Kachin.

The insurgent Kachin Independence Army is now taking part in the peace process for the first time in months, and has denied it is covertly helping the Kokang.

For its part, China has urged both the Myanmar government and Kokang rebels "to exercise restraint, cool down the situation and realise peace and stability as soon as possible".

But Horsey noted: "The government has ruled out negotiation with what it sees as an illegitimate aggressor force, and this position is unlikely to change any time soon."

nan-klm/jta/jit/jah

© 1994-2015 Agence France-Presse

Myanmar: Japan Contributes JPY 2.362 Billion To United Nations Agencies In Myanmar

19 March 2015 - 9:15am
Source: World Food Programme Country: Japan, Myanmar

NAY PYI TAW – Four United Nations organisations today welcomed a generous and timely contribution of 2.362 billion Japanese Yen (approximately US$ 19.5 million) from the Government of Japan to support humanitarian and development activities in Myanmar

Representatives of the United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-Habitat), the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), and the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) attended a ceremony at the Ministry of Border Affairs in Nay Pyi Taw to mark the occasion in the presence of Japan’s Ambassador to Myanmar H.E. Tateshi Higuchi; Myanmar’s Deputy Minister for Border Affairs H.E Major General Tin Aung Chit, and Deputy Minister for Livestock, Fisheries and Rural Development H.E Dr Aung Myat Oo.

UN-Habitat received a contribution of JPY 631 million (US$ 5.2 million) which will contribute to helping Myanmar’s poor and vulnerable communities affected by conflicts and natural disasters to address the emergency needs to restore their normal life and to sustainably improve quality of life. The project has specific objective of assisting vulnerable communities, mostly women and children, to respond to unexpected disaster conditions through all project activities, promoting active participation of women, immediate recovery of vulnerable communities’ economic and social actions and providing safer and healthy environment for children. The project will support most vulnerable urban poor families to re-construct low-cost housing in Yangon and will assist conflict affected communities restoration community infrastructure in Mansi and Momauk Townships (Kachin State) and Pekkon Township (Shan State) through people’s process.

UNHCR received a contribution of JPY 279 million (US$ 2.3 million) which will support the agency’s activities in assisting the Myanmar Government in its response to the needs of internally displaced people (IDPs) as part of the United Nations inter-agency efforts in Kachin State, northern Shan State and Rakhine State. “Japan’s support will greatly assist IDPs and other people of concern to UNHCR as we work to support Myanmar in its efforts to find durable solutions to displacement and enhance the protection of people” said Giuseppe De Vincentiis, UNHCR’s Representative. In the inter-agency humanitarian response, UNHCR is the agency responsible for shelter, relief items, camp coordination and camp management, as well as leading the protection sector in its efforts in Myanmar.

Japan's contribution of JPY 452 million (US$ 3.75 million) to UNICEF will help to improve maternal and child health and equitable access to Infant and Young Child Feeding counselling, micronutrient supplementation and the management of acute malnutrition in Kachin State, northern Shan State and Rakhine State. This partnership will also help to increase access to primary and pre-primary education and Non Formal Education (NFE) opportunities, and to strengthen the protection of children from violence, abuse and exploitation through increased case management services. “Children do not start conflicts, yet they are most vulnerable to their effects. Violence and conflict harm children, disrupt their education, deny them access to essential health services, and increase poverty, malnutrition and disease”, said Bertrand Bainvel, Representative at UNICEF Myanmar. “This contribution will make a difference by transforming the lives of thousands of children from Myanmar.”

Japan’s generous JPY 1 billion (US$8.2 million) contribution to WFP will support life-saving food assistance to internally displaced people in Rakhine, Kachin and northern Shan States, whose livelihoods have been disrupted by conflict and violence. The contribution will be used to buy rice, pulses, oil and salt - the food commodities that WFP distributes each month to the displaced populations - as well as blended food, which is provided to children under 5 and pregnant woemn and nursing mothers in view of preventing malnutrition. Ninety percent of the food will be purchased locally, thereby also supporting Myanmar farmers and contributing to the national economy.

#

For more information please contact: Oddy Angelo Barrios - Project Manager, United Nations Human Settlements Programme, UN-Habitat, oddyangel@gmail.com, 95-1-542910-19 Ext. 160 Medea Savary - Associate Public Information Officer, UNHCR Myanmar / savary@unhcr.org / +95 944 802 7892 Mariana Palavra - Communication Specialist, UNICEF Myanmar / mpalavra@unicef.org / Tel: +95 9795452618 Ayuka Ibe - Head of Partnerships, Reports & Communications, WFP Myanmar / ayuka.ibe@wfp.org / +95 9450061236

Myanmar: UN rights expert calls on Myanmar to address worrying signs of backtracking in pivotal year

19 March 2015 - 1:28am
Source: UN Human Rights Council Country: Myanmar

GENEVA (18 March 2015) – The United Nations Special Rapporteur on the human rights situation in Myanmar, Yanghee Lee, called on the country’s authorities to rapidly address ongoing challenges to the democratic reform process “before they undermine the success achieved so far.”

“I was very disturbed by reports on 10 March that excessive and disproportionate force had been used against students and other civilians and that 127 people were subsequently arrested,” Ms. Lee said during the presentation of her first report* to the UN Human Rights Council. While welcoming the release of some detainees, she called for “the immediate release of all the others.”

Focusing on key issues surrounding democratic space, the expert drew special attention to the pressure on human rights defenders and journalists, including reports of regular surveillance, as well as prosecutions under outdated defamation, trespassing and national security laws, which have a severe “chilling effect on civil society activities.”

“A free and independent media has a vital role to play in any democratic society,” she said welcoming the Government’s efforts to reform media governance. “However, I am concerned that journalists are still being interrogated and arrested, and that 10 journalists were imprisoned in 2014. This needs to stop if Myanmar wants to create a meaningful democratic space.”

While noting that economic development had benefited some in the country, the independent expert urged the Government to ensure that “others are not left out” and called for “a human rights-based approach to development programmes.”

The Special Rapporteur expressed concern about the alarming escalation of fighting in the Kokang region, where over 100 civilians are reported to have died and tens of thousands have been displaced. “Even during a state of emergency, the Government has an obligation to strictly uphold fundamental human rights,” she highlighted.

“Far too often the people of Myanmar have suffered from the resurgence of violence and human rights violations in ethnic border areas,” the expert said, noting that there has been limited success in addressing the underlying issues at the heart of the conflicts, including control over and benefit from natural resources and accountability for human rights violations.

Ms. Lee warned that discrimination against ethnic and religious minorities was another factor fuelling conflict and expressed alarm on the package of four bills currently before Parliament that risks increasing tension.

“During my last visit in January 2015, I witnessed how dire the situation has remained in Rakhine State. The conditions in Muslim IDP camps are abysmal and I received heart-breaking testimonies from Rohingya people telling me they had only two options: stay and die or leave by boat,” she said.

The expert also cautioned against any provision in the Rakhine Action Plan that would classify Rohingyas as ‘illegal aliens’ and subject them to possible prolonged internment in camps or removal from the territory. “The expiry at the end of March 2015 of the temporary white cards held by many Rohingyas as identity documentation raises more uncertainties and further increases their vulnerability,” she stressed.

The Special Rapporteur made a call for collective efforts to find “meaningful ways to improve the human rights of all in Rakhine State.”

Myanmar: Peace talks on nationwide ceasefire agreement resume

18 March 2015 - 2:13pm
Source: New Light of Myanmar Country: Myanmar

Yangon 17 March— The meeting on a nation- wide ceasefire agreement resumed between the Union Peacemaking Working Committee and the Nation- wide Ceasefire Coordination Team at the Myanmar Peace Centre here on Tuesday, according to officials.

The seventh meeting is expected to mainly focus on military-related affairs.

Union Minister U Aung Min, also the UP- WC’s Vice Chairman, described the meeting as a historic move in the peace process, pledging their utmost efforts to accomplish peace.

U Naing Han Tha, Leader of the NCCT, a coalition of 16 armed ethnic groups, said his team had prepared a draft ceasefire deal through repeated negotiations among its members. He stressed that following a nation- wide ceasefire, a political dialogue that allows the participation of all ethnic armed groups will promise a lasting peace in the country. The use of force will be disastrous to all nationalities and leave the country behind in terms of devel- opment, while also sowing seeds of hatred among ethnic groups, he warned, urging all stakeholders to reach an agreement as quickly as possible. The meeting will continue at the same venue tomorrow.

Myanmar: Supplies in Myanmar Refugee Camp Dangerously Low as Rainy Season Approaches

18 March 2015 - 4:47am
Source: Radio Free Asia Country: Myanmar

A camp in Myanmar providing assistance to hundreds of refugees displaced by fighting between rebels and government troops in the country’s Shan state is running low on supplies and may be shuttered due to the approaching rainy season, a Chinese aid worker said Tuesday.

A volunteer surnamed Li, who is assisting people fleeing clashes in Shan’s Kokang self-administered zone, said wet weather had already hampered vehicle movement in the area, cutting off access to the Maidihe refugee camp that straddles the border with China's Yunnan province.

“Our supplies can only last for 20 days—if the fighting is continuing at that point it will be very difficult to deal with the refugee problem,” he told RFA’s Mandarin Service.

“The rainy season is coming and if it gets bad we will have to move from our current location. At that point, we will have to abandon all of the stoves we built.”

Li said refugee shelters set up by Chinese aid workers are able to accommodate “several thousand” displaced, but that the refugees were not accustomed to life in the camp and “hundreds of people are crossing the border everyday” on either side.

He said elderly and young refugees living in China frequently cross into Myanmar to get food at Maidihe and then return across the border, making it difficult to manage the camp.

“The refugee camps [on both sides] have enough food, but it is hard to manage and to decide how much to cook because of the daily difference in the number of people,” he added.

Li said a large camp in China, called Dayingpan, currently houses more than 3,000 refugees, while around 1,800 are located at Maidihe.

Ongoing fighting

Meanwhile, he said, combat in Kokang continued Tuesday between the Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA) rebel forces and government troops, and that “nothing is getting better.”

“We can see Chinese helicopter gunships patrolling all day,” he added, referring to a buildup of Chinese military forces along the border in response to a Myanmar airstrikes in recent weeks that have strayed into Yunnan province.

Another resident of Kokang, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told RFA Tuesday that he had “heard the sound of gun battles over the past two days, but I don’t know the number of casualties.”

“No refugees have been killed” to his knowledge, he added.

The resident said exploded shells recently discovered in China had been identified as being fired by the Myanmar Air Force, and that Beijing had bolstered its forces in the area to protect its side of the border.

“The shells have been identified as the Myanmar air force shells—Myanmar aircraft dropped bombs and they strayed into China's territories,” he said.

“Now, China has dispatched fighters to conduct ‘exercises’ meant to deter Myanmar aircraft from crossing the border.”

Recent bombings

On March 14, Myanmar warplanes dropped bombs on a sugarcane field in Yunnan’s border city of Lincang, killing four farmers, in the second case last week of spillover from the Kokang conflict.

The bombing also injured nine people and prompted China's Air Force to launch fighter jet sorties along the China-Myanmar border areas to “track, monitor, warn and chase away” Myanmar warplanes, according to Chinese state media, which said Beijing had lodged a diplomatic protest with Naypyidaw.

Earlier last week, Beijing had called on the Myanmar government to investigate an incident in which four bombs exploded in villages on China's side of the border on March 8, causing damage to some houses.

Fighting began on Feb. 9 in Laukkai between Myanmar government troops and Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA) rebel forces.

The MNDAA under ethnic Chinese commander Peng Jiasheng is trying to retake the Kokang self-administered zone, which it had controlled until 2009, forcing an estimated 100,000 refugees away from the conflict zone and across the border into China.

Reported by Qiao Long for RFA’s Mandarin Service. Translated by Ping Chen. Written in English by Joshua Lipes.

Myanmar: Kingdom demands end to government discrimination against Rohingya

17 March 2015 - 9:38pm
Source: Government of Saudi Arabia Country: Myanmar, Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia today expressed regret for the continuing wide-spread systematic violence in Myanmar, particularly against the Rohingya Muslim minority according to the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar, Ms. Yanghee Lee.

Abdulaziz bin Ali Al-Aqla, member of the Saudi Human Rights Commission and member of Saudi Arabia's delegation to the UN Human Rights Council, said in a speech before the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva that, after having careful review of the UN report on the situation of human rights in Myanmar, citing that the internationally-authorized writer of the report has not noticed any improvement in the situation of the displaced Rohingya minority in Myanmar compared with her previous visit to the country last July following allegations that they were mistreated by the Buddhist majority in the Myanmar State of Rakhine, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia suggests that this tension would lead to escalation of violence, killings and horror and that the Muslim minority would be the biggest loser because of the decision issued by Myanmar authority depriving all holders of temporary cards from their rights as most of the Rohingya are non-nationality holders.

The Kingdom's representative to the UN Human Rights Commission, Abdulaziz bin Ali Al-Aqla, said that institutionalized discrimination against the Rohingya Muslim minority could lead to mistrust and undermine efforts to enhance dialogue and understanding among peoples on the other.

The Kingdom demanded the government of Myanmar to do more to promote greater understanding and amicability among the country’s different communities in the country through activating the memorandum of understanding (MoU) signed with the Jeddah-based Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) as well as plans to provide infrastructure development assistance to Myanmar and specifically to the Rohingya region. The Kingdom has already donated $50 million to this effect.

World: Global Emergency Overview Snapshot 11–17 March 2015

17 March 2015 - 12:19pm
Source: Assessment Capacities Project Country: Afghanistan, Bolivia (Plurinational State of), Burundi, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Colombia, Democratic People's Republic of Korea, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Gambia, Guatemala, Guinea, Haiti, Honduras, India, Iraq, Jordan, Kenya, Lebanon, Liberia, Libya, Malawi, Mali, Mauritania, Myanmar, Nicaragua, Niger, Nigeria, occupied Palestinian territory, Pakistan, Philippines, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Somalia, South Sudan, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Syrian Arab Republic, Uganda, Ukraine, Vanuatu, World, Yemen

Snapshot 11–17 March 2015

Vanuatu: 24 people are confirmed dead so far after Tropical Cyclone Pam hit on 13 March. Shefa, Tafea, Malampa, and Penama are among the worst affected provinces. Access challenges are significant.

Cameroon: The number of people internally displaced in the north has almost doubled since 10 February, to 117,000. This brings the number of displaced in Cameroon to an estimated 412,700, including 66,000 fleeing Boko Haram violence in Nigeria and the rest from the Central African Republic.

Updated: 17/03/2015. Next update: 24/03/2015

Myanmar: Statement by Ms Yanghee, Lee Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar - 28th session of the Human Rights Council Item 4 (16 March 2015, Geneva)

17 March 2015 - 6:05am
Source: UN Human Rights Council Country: Myanmar

Mr. President,

I thank you for this opportunity to address the Human Rights Council for the first time, at a pivotal time in the reform process in Myanmar.

Before I start, I would like to express my deepest sadness at the recent sinking of the ferry last Friday near Sittwe. My prayers are with all the families of those affected by this tragic event.

Since taking up this mandate, I conducted two missions to Myanmar in July 2014 and January 2015. On both occasions, I have seen enormous potential in the country, which has come a long way since its transition began. As in any major process of change, there remain significant challenges, which must be addressed to ensure that everyone can enjoy the benefits of democratisation and development.

I would like to acknowledge the very good cooperation I received from the Myanmar Government during my missions, including efforts to ensure my safety and that of my team. The visits took place in a collegial and constructive atmosphere, enabling open and engaging discussions.

I was disappointed therefore by references by the Government that my visit could leave the people of Myanmar with discord, distrust and incitement. This has never been my intent, nor the intent of this Council in establishing my mandate. As a friend of Myanmar, my only priority is to be able to work with the Government and other stakeholders to contribute to a climate of unity and enjoyment of human rights for all.

While highlighting some positive developments, my report to this Council describes continuing challenges indicating worrying signs of backtracking on key human rights issues.

I would like to begin by updating the Council on the recent events in Latpadan involving students protesting for changes to the National Education Law. I was very disturbed by reports on 10 March that excessive and disproportionate force had been used against students and other civilians and that 127 people were subsequently arrested. This seems to be the largest crackdown by police on protesters since the clashes at Letpadaung copper mine in 2012. I hope these events will be thoroughly and impartially investigated. According to international standards, the use of force must be strictly necessary and proportional. I am further disturbed by reports that plain-clothed individuals were operating alongside the police and emphasize the dangers of using irregular personnel in law enforcement functions if they are not adequately trained and fully accountable. I welcome the release of some protesters and call for the immediate release of all the others.

A free and independent media has a vital role to play in any democratic society. I welcome the Government’s efforts to reform media governance. However, I am concerned that journalists are still being interrogated and arrested, and that 10 journalists were imprisoned in 2014. This needs to stop if Myanmar wants to create a meaningful democratic space.

During my visit, I was informed that human rights defenders faced regular surveillance and monitoring and that some are imprisoned along with journalists under outdated defamation, trespassing and national security laws. This worrying trend has a chilling effect on civil society activities.

I welcome the release of political prisoners Dr. Tun Aung and U Kyaw Hla Aung, but am concerned by the numbers of political prisoners who continue to be detained under the Law on the Right to Peaceful Assembly and Peaceful Procession and article 505 (b) of the Penal Code. For instance, last month 14 protestors from the Michaungkan community, demanding the return of land allegedly confiscated by the military, were sentenced to six months imprisonment. I have also received reports of 78 farmers serving sentences for trespassing on confiscated land with a further 200 activists on bail and awaiting trial.

Government and ethnic minority groups have made efforts to restore peace and ensure national reconciliation. However, I am concerned at the alarming escalation of fighting last month in the Kokang region, north-eastern Shan State, which has resulted in the declaration of a state of emergency. Reportedly, over 100 people have died and tens of thousands have been displaced. I remind the Government that even during a state of emergency, the Government has an obligation to strictly uphold fundamental human rights.

Far too often the people of Myanmar have suffered from the resurgence of violence and human rights violations in ethnic border areas. I continue to receive reports of sexual violence, which go unreported through fear of reprisals. Humanitarian access is still limited in some areas with large displaced populations, including in non-government controlled areas in Kachin State. I remind all parties to the conflict of the need to protect civilians and facilitate lifesaving humanitarian assistance. There has also been limited success in addressing the underlying issues at the heart of the conflict, including control over and benefit from natural resources and accountability for human rights violations.

I commend the Government for the significant steps it has taken to eliminate the use of child soldiers, including the identification and release of 553 children. However, I understand that recruitment of child soldiers continues both within the military and non-state armed groups, and I urge the strengthening of age verification and independent monitoring and oversight mechanisms.

Mr. President,

Discrimination against ethnic and religious minorities is another factor, which fuels conflict. I am concerned by the progress of a package of four bills currently before Parliament, which risks fuelling further tensions between ethnic and religious minorities.

The situation in Rakhine State remains dire. The atmosphere between communities is hostile. There have still been no credible investigations into the serious human rights violations that took place in 2012 and 2014.

The justification given by the Government to the confinement of Muslims in camps for their own protection is troubling. During my visit to the region, I met with local authorities and community leaders and visited camps for Buddhists as well as Rohingya Muslims. I witnessed the ongoing discriminatory restrictions on the freedom of movement of Muslim IDPs, which also impacts the enjoyment of other basic fundamental rights.

Conditions in Muslim IDP camps I visited were abysmal. People said they had only two options: “stay and die” or “leave by boat”. Distinguished delegates, no one should ever feel faced with such a choice.
The use of the term “Rohingya” continues to be met with strong resistance. I believe that the focus on terminology has paralysed progress and we should now collectively find meaningful ways to improve the human rights of all in Rakhine State.

I have not yet received a copy of the latest version of the Rakhine Action Plan. I would be concerned, however, about any provision that would classify Rohingyas as “illegal aliens” and subject them to possible prolonged internment in camps or removal from the territory. The expiry at the end of March 2015 of the temporary white cards held by many Rohingyas as identity documentation raises more uncertainties and further increases their vulnerability.

While the development of the economy has benefitted some in the country, it is important that others are not left out. A human rights-based approach should guide all development programmes. I welcome the creation of a legal framework requiring environmental impact assessments before development projects are implemented but I am concerned by reports of illegal land confiscation and forced evictions and the difficulty to hold powerful interests to account.

I commend the Government on the work being undertaken to improve education, health, livelihoods and the collaboration with the international community in this area. However, I was deeply disturbed to hear that around 300 students were unable to graduate from Yangon University in December 2014 as they did not hold Citizenship Scrutiny Cards. Education is a right for all and I hope this situation can be remedied soon as per the assurance I received from the Deputy Minister for Education.

Mr. President,

2015 is a tipping point for the reform process, with the prospect of democratic reforms to the 2008 Constitution and the holding of a free and fair General Election.

During my visit, I was encouraged to see that international electoral advisors were providing technical assistance to national election bodies. I am however concerned by amendments to the Political Parties Registration Law in September 2014, according to which only full citizens are able to form political parties. The recent decision of the Constitutional Tribunal on the ineligibility of temporary white card-holders to vote in the upcoming referendum on the Constitution reform is also concerning.

I am troubled by information that criminal proceedings for defamation and provision of “false information” are being brought against those making allegations against the military. This includes the conviction last month of Brang Shawng, who called for an investigation into the fatal shooting in 2012 of his 14 year old daughter, Ja Seng Ing.

Ladies and gentlemen, it is important to welcome the positive developments in Myanmar, but also to honestly highlight the areas of risk and the numerous challenges that must be addressed rapidly before they undermine the successes achieved so far.

In closing, let me inform you of the latest attack against me by the same U Wirathu in response to my report to this Council: “The beastly woman has done it again. It looks like she hasn’t learnt a lesson. This time I will not say it verbally. I will say it with my slipper. (…) Oh dear patriots, let us find ways and means to teach the beastly woman a lesson.”

Thank you for your attention.

Myanmar: Human Rights Council holds separate interactive dialogues on the situation of human rights in Iran and in Myanmar

17 March 2015 - 2:25am
Source: UN Human Rights Council Country: Myanmar, occupied Palestinian territory

Human Rights Council
MIDDAY/AFTERNOON

The Human Rights Council this afternoon held separate interactive dialogues with Ahmed Shaheed, the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Islamic Republic of Iran, and Yanghee Lee, the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar.

Ahmed Shaheed, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Islamic Republic of Iran, said his report reiterated some concerns and presented emerging problems that may have further impacted the Government’s capacity to improve conditions. Of particular alarm was the surge in executions documented during the past year. The Government of Iran continued to harass, arrest, prosecute, and imprison members of civil society, who expressed criticism of the Government, on the grounds of “national security crimes.” These concerns were further compounded by reports of malfunctions in the administration of justice.

Iran, speaking as the concerned country, recalled that the Human Rights Council was established to rectify the prevailing malaise of double standards and politicisation, to avoid dividing the international community and to revive the duty of States to cooperate in the field of human rights. However, it was lamentable to witness the old habits of politicisation of human rights by a few erode such hope and optimism. The Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Iran was appointed unjustifiably, bringing no fruitful results and instead furthering division and fragmentation at the very expense of human rights. The report devoted little space to the responses given by the Government.

In the interactive dialogue on Iran, some speakers highlighted the critical human rights situation in Iran, particularly the alarming level of executions, including juvenile offenders, attacks on human rights defenders, harassment of journalists, as well as intimidation, threats and violence against ethnic and religious minorities. Other speakers warned that reports of the mandate holders should be based on primary sources and with active engagement of the country concerned, along with all stakeholders. Iran had participated fully in the second cycle of the Universal Periodic Review and had accepted many recommendations.

Speaking in the interactive dialogue were European Union, France, Denmark, Kazakhstan, Switzerland, Italy, Venezuela, United States, Ireland, Belarus, Israel, Cuba, Germany, Eritrea, Russian Federation, Netherlands, Iraq, China, Tajikistan, The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, United Kingdom, Sudan, Norway, Lebanon, Australia, Portugal, Syria, Myanmar, Canada, Belgium, New Zealand, Viet Nam, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, and Zimbabwe.

Representatives of the following non-governmental organizations also took the floor: Baha'i International Community, Verein Sudwind Entwicklungspolitik, Imam Ali’s Popular Students Relief Society, Association for Prevention of Social Harm, Women’s Human Rights International Association, International Educational Development Inc., and International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission.

The Council also held an interactive dialogue with Yanghee Lee, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar. Ms. Lee said that 2015 was a tipping point for the reform process in Myanmar, with the prospect of democratic reforms to the 2008 constitution and the holding of free and fair general elections. Despite some positive developments, the report described continuing challenges indicating worrying signs of backtracking on key human rights issues. Examples included discrimination against ethnic and religious minorities, abysmal conditions in camps for displaced Muslims, alarming escalation of fighting last month in the Kokang region which had resulted in the declaration of a state of emergency, as well as recent reports of the use of excessive and disproportionate force against students and other civilians in Latpadan.

Myanmar, speaking as the concerned country, said it was not possible to have a balanced report if its preparation process was not transparent and impartial enough. The selectivity of the Special Rapporteur during her visit, meeting with some media and civil society organizations but leaving out others, had been surprising. In light of the Rapporteur’s view on freedom of expression and freedom of assembly, it appeared clear that the human rights situation in Myanmar did not deserve the Council’s attention. Comments by the Special Rapporteur on the State Constitution and on legislative norms, including some currently being debated, were intrusive and beyond her mandate.

In the interactive dialogue on Myanmar, speakers shared the assessment of the Special Rapporteur that Myanmar had undergone significant changes and that extensive legislative reform efforts had been initiated. However, a number of significant human rights challenges remained to be addressed. Concerns remained about the situation of religious minorities, such as the Muslim minority Rohingya and the Government’s refusal to grant them citizenship rights. Other States recommended that a balanced and constructive approach be taken with respect to Myanmar, noting that the far-reaching reforms in that country would only be successful if the social and political situation remained stable. They also stressed that the intention of international stakeholders to engage with Myanmar in its electoral process had to be carried out in accordance with the principles of international relations, especially those of self-determination and non-interference.

Speaking in the interactive dialogue were European Union, Viet Nam on behalf of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, Pakistan on behalf of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, Norway, India, New Zealand, Iran, Netherlands, Poland, Switzerland, Czech Republic, Japan, Russian Federation, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Viet Nam, Australia, France, United Kingdom, Ghana, Republic of Korea, Ireland, United States, Venezuela, Albania, Latvia, Cuba, Spain, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Belarus, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Estonia, Saudi Arabia, China, Denmark, Cambodia, and Belgium.

Representatives of the following non-governmental organizations also took the floor: Charitable Institute for Protecting Social Victims, Human Rights Now, Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development, International Education Development, Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, International Federation for Human Rights Leagues, and Article 19 – International Centre against Censorship.

Joachim Rücker, President of the Human Rights Council, said that he had received a letter from the Independent Commission of Inquiry on the 2014 Gaza Conflict, requesting the postponement of the presentation of the report to June 2015, and recommended that the Council request the Commissioners to present a short procedural update on 23 March 2015, and that the consideration of the comprehensive report as mandated in the operative paragraph 13 of the resolution S/21/1 be postponed to the twenty-ninth session in June 2015. It was so decided. Palestine briefly took the floor as well.

When the Council next meets at 9 a.m. on Tuesday, 17 March, it will hold an interactive dialogue with the Commission of Inquiry on Syria.

Myanmar: KIO holds talks with President, takes new step to achieving peace

16 March 2015 - 11:54pm
Source: Government of Myanmar Country: Myanmar

Nay Pyi Taw, 16 March

A nationwide ceasefire moved a step closer to reality Monday in Nay Pyi Taw as the Kachin Independence Organization held its first-ever meeting with President U Thein Sein and reaffirmed its commitment to the ongoing peace process.

In his opening remarks, President U Thein Sein stressed the important role of key players in the peacemaking process and called for ending the decades-long armed conflict through negotiation.

The eight-member KIO delegation met with the president one day before the 7th peace talks between the Nationwide Ceasefire Coordination Team comprising 16 ethnic armed groups and the Union Peacemaking Work Committee of the government in Yangon.

The 7th talks between the NCCT and UPWC will hear the viewpoints of all NCCT members, and both sides will negotiate the timeframe of the ongoing nationwide ceasefire process, said Maj-Gen Guan Maw of the Kachin Independence Army.

He also urged the population to be optimistic about the ongoing peacemaking process, pledging to work until it is successful.

During the meeting, on behalf of NCCT members, the KIO pledged that ethnic races would never splinter off from the country and they were also committed to gaining a nationwide ceasefire in order to bring an end to decades of armed conflicts, said U Aung Min, Vice Chairman of the UPWC, who also participated in the talks between KIO and President U Thein Sein.

The KIO also held talks with Vice President Dr Sai Mauk Kham, chairman of the Union Peacemaking Work Committee, the day before meeting with the president.

At the meeting, the vice president said peace is within arm’s length, urging the KIO to continue to its efforts with patience and far-sighted vision.

The current mission of the KIO delegation, comprising political and military representatives, is significant as it held face to-face talks with the vice president Sunday and with the president Monday for the first time.

Dr La Ja, General Secretary of KIO, said in his opening remarks at the talks that the delegation will seek rapid progress in the peace process.

The UPWC and the NCCT are scheduled to hold talks in Yangon on Tuesday.

Syrian Arab Republic: R2P Monitor - 15 March 2015, Issue 20

16 March 2015 - 4:00pm
Source: Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect Country: Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Iraq, Libya, Myanmar, Nigeria, South Sudan, Sudan, Syrian Arab Republic

R2P Monitor:

  • Provides background on populations at risk of mass atrocity crimes, with particular emphasis on key events and actors and their connection to the threat, or commission, of genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity.

  • Offers analysis of the country’s past history in relation to mass atrocity crimes; the factors that have enabled their possible commission, or that prevent their resolution; and the receptivity of the situation to positive influences that would assist in preventing further crimes.

  • Tracks the international response to the situation with a particular emphasis upon the actions of the United Nations (UN), key regional actors and the International Criminal Court (ICC).

  • Suggests necessary action to prevent or halt the commission of mass atrocity crimes.

Syria {p. 2}
Iraq {p. 4}
CAR {p. 5}
Nigeria {p. 7}
Sudan {p. 9}
South Sudan {p. 11}
DR Congo {p. 12}
Libya {p. 14}
Burma/Myanmar {p. 15}

Vanuatu: Asia and the Pacific: Weekly Regional Humanitarian Snapshot (10 - 16 Mar 2015)

16 March 2015 - 5:56am
Source: UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs Country: Australia, Bangladesh, Myanmar, Northern Mariana Islands (The United States of America), Papua New Guinea, Philippines, Vanuatu

VANUATU

On 13 Mar, Tropical Cyclone Pam made landfall as an extremely powerful category 5 cyclone.
Preliminary reports indicate that 90 percent of the structures on Efate, the most populous island, are damaged or destroyed. All commercial flights in and out of Port Villa, the capital, are currently grounded, with only military flights landing.
The IFRC Emergency Plan of Action states that emerging information points to massive humanitarian needs covering all sectors including shelter, emergency health, WASH and livelihoods. The Government issued a formal appeal for international assistance.1

250 kmphsustained wind speed

90% estimated structural damage on Efate island

PAPUA NEW GUINEA

Tropical Cyclones Nathan and Pam have brought heavy rain and strong winds to coastal and highland provinces across the country. The Government estimates nearly 100,000 people are affected by flooding and strong winds. The Government has released over US$3 million for immediate relief assistance to those communities where food gardens, cash crops, and infrastructure were damaged.2

100,000 people affected

PHILIPPINES

As of 13 Mar, nearly 65,000 people remain displaced because of continued insecurity, primarily in Maguindanao Province of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao. Of these, over 56,000 people are staying in 44 evacuation centers. This marks a 20 percent decrease in displacement from the figure of 82,000 reported in 5 Mar. To date, the Government has provided over US$500,000 worth of relief assistance. 3

65,000 people displaced

44 evacuation centers

MYANMAR

The Ag Da Kung, a public ferry travelling from Kyaukpyu to Sittwe, sank on the night of 13 Mar near Myebon, Rakhine State. Media reports indicate that167 passengers were rescued, while 32 people have been confirmed dead with dozens more still listed as missing.
The Myanmar Navy is conducting rescue operations, with the Myanmar Red Cross and other organizations assisting local authorities in the response.4

32 people killed

BANGLADESH

On 12 Mar, a cement factory that was under construction collapsed, killing eight people and injuring 41. The factory was located in Mongla Port, a city in Bagerhat district. Both the District Administration and the responsible construction company have provided compensation to the victims.5

NORTHERN MARIANA ISLANDS

Tropical Storm Bavi has just passed over the island of Guam. There were no reports of damages. The storm is expected to further weaken to a tropical depression as it makes its way towards the northern Philippines.6

AUSTRALIA

Tropical Storm Nathan is a Category 1 cyclone located off the northeast coast of Australia. It is projected to weaken to a tropical depression and turn back towards the city of Cairns. There are fears that this storm will bring further heavy rain to areas recently battered by Tropical Cyclone Pam.7

Other ongoing emergencies:

Philippines: Zamboanga crisis

Myanmar: Rakhine crisis

Myanmar: Kachin crisis