Myanmar - ReliefWeb News
- Countries and territories reporting mosquito-borne Zika virus infections for the first time in the past week:
- Countries and territories reporting microcephaly and other central nervous system (CNS) malformations potentially associated with Zika virus infection for the first time in the past week:
- Countries and territories reporting Guillain-Barré syndrome (GBS) cases associated with Zika virus infection for the first time in the past week:
- The Plurinational State of Bolivia
- Overall, the global risk assessment has not changed. Zika virus continues to spread geographically to areas where competent vectors are present. Although a decline in cases of Zika infection has been reported in some countries, or in some parts of countries, vigilance needs to remain high.
- Seventy-five countries and territories (Fig. 1, Table 1) have reported evidence of mosquito-borne Zika virus transmission since 2007 (69 with reports from 2015 onwards), of which:
- Fifty-eight with a reported outbreak from 2015 onwards (Fig. 2, Table 1).
- Seven with having possible endemic transmission or evidence of local mosquito-borne Zika infections in 2016.
- Fifty-eight with a reported outbreak from 2015 onwards (Fig. 2, Table 1).
- Ten with evidence of local mosquito-borne Zika infections in or before 2015, but without documentation of cases in 2016, or with the outbreak terminated.
- Twelve countries have reported evidence of person-to-person transmission of Zika virus (Table 2).
- Twenty-eight countries or territories have reported microcephaly and other CNS malformations potentially associated with Zika virus infection, or suggestive of congenital infection (Table 3).
- Twenty countries or territories have reported an increased incidence of GBS and/or laboratory confirmation of a Zika virus infection among GBS cases (Table 4).
- The first Zika case in Myanmar reported on 4 November was confirmed by the Ministry of Health and Sport (MoHS). According to the final case report, there have been no additional cases of Zika detected in the last month despite a community-wide search for Zika cases. The MoHS concluded that this case was not due to local mosquito-borne transmission but possibly through person-to-person transmission. The husband of the case had recent travel history to multiple countries that have reported evidence of local mosquito-borne Zika infections in 2016.
Myanmar - In the southeast of Myanmar, just outside of Mawlamyine in Mon State, the Shwe Nga Lay “Goldfish” Group operates out of an unassuming building, which they constructed with their own funds, write Patrick Duigan and Liam Best.
The group started projects in Thanbyuzayat Township in 2013 with the assistance and support of IOM and is a support group for those in the community living with HIV. When the group was established there was a lot of stigma associated with being HIV positive, and many were seen as social deviants or, at worst, pariahs within their local community.
“HIV is a serious and scary disease and since I have a good moral attitude, I thought I would never suffer such a kind of disease. I disliked the people who had HIV and thought that they are suffering this disease because they don’t have a good moral attitude. I could only understand those people when I suffered HIV and it totally changed my mindset. I started to realize that anyone can suffer HIV,” says group member Wai Wai Lwin.
Myanmar is one of 35 countries that account for 90 percent of new HIV infections worldwide. In the southeast of the country, where migration within Myanmar and back and forth to Thailand is a part of life, access to services for HIV including testing, treatment and care and support is limited, particularly for those in rural areas or on the move.
IOM has been working with the communities and the National AIDS Program to increase access to services for both migrants and host communities. Part of this support includes helping to establish self-help groups like Shwe Nga Lay to empower patients and their families to work together with communities to reduce stigma and provide social supports.
The group is made up nearly entirely by those living with HIV and its members are passionate about making a difference in their communities and their own lives. They are involved in a range of community-focused activities that increase health education for people about HIV, such as in some local schools and additionally, support their members through monitoring medication adherence for the Anti-Retroviral Therapy medication provided by IOM and by paying for funeral costs.
“I felt like I wouldn’t live long, when the doctor told me that I have HIV. I didn’t know that there was an ART medicine for HIV patients. But as a Buddhist, I keep in my mind that I have to do good things before I die. An IOM outreach worker helped to refer me for testing and then for ART treatment and now I am able to live a happier life,” says Wai Wai Lwin.
While IOM provides HIV programmes in Mon State and in Kayin State, there is currently no comprehensive information available on HIV prevalence for migrants and mobile populations in Myanmar. Increased research and testing is crucial to understanding the most effective ways to reach these groups.
Shwe Ngar Lay group has come a long way since its inception. The group now operates a not-for-profit store nearby at Set Se Beach selling clothing on a plot of land donated by the Township Authority. The shop was funded by one of the group members and its profits go back into running the group’s activities. There are now plans to open a second not-for-profit store. An adjacent building will act as a ‘safe space’ for its members.
The group continues to live normal lives and is making an impact on changing attitudes and reducing stigmatization of people living with HIV. The group strives to be a positive force in their community.
IOM currently provides ART for almost 2,000 people living with HIV in South East Myanmar and is working with the National AIDS Programme to increase services and reach to migrants, host communities and ethnic areas of Myanmar.
“I know that by taking ART medicine regularly and by staying healthy, I could live long like someone without HIV. I don’t feel depressed about being HIV positive or thinking of having a short life. After I became aware about HIV, I am sure that I can lead a life like a normal person,” says Wai Wai Lwin.
Switzerland - "Poorly managed migration could contribute to the global impact of AIDS, but migration itself is not a cause for the disease," said IOM Director General William Lacy Swing on World AIDS Day, December 1.
“It is very important to highlight that the act of migration alone does not in itself cause disease - any disease. However, socioeconomic, political, cultural and environmental conditions are deeply connected with population movement, and they can impact health and vulnerability to disease. We are already doing a lot to mitigate that, but more needs to be done,” he noted.
When migrants leave their homes, be it fleeing war, disaster or economic hardship, they lose connection with everything that is familiar, and have to cope with unfamiliar customs, legislation and culture. In their new host communities, migrants can also often face social exclusion and discriminatory practices, and may have to endure poor living conditions, financial insecurity and fear of arrest or deportation.
If and when migrants need health care, existing stigmatization and insensitivity can discourage them from approaching health facilities. Migrants can also be excluded from existing health systems due to discrimination, language barriers, legal status and financial barriers. This can lead to ill-health, and emphasize the negative narrative on migrants as carriers of diseases.
As the United Nations migration agency, IOM works with governments and international partners to conduct disease mapping and risk assessments; runs education, sensitivity and awareness campaigns; and facilitates migrants’ access to voluntary HIV testing and counselling, prevention, treatment and psychosocial support.
The following are some examples of IOM programmes currently being implemented around the world.
In Georgia today, IOM missions from across the southern Caucasus are launching a regional project to counter HIV and tuberculosis (TB) in the region. Working alongside the governments of Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan, the project includes health awareness, voluntary testing and counselling, treatment, training for health professionals, and a regional survey of migrant health to ensure better care for migrants and mobile populations.
IOM has been providing health services in under-served and remote parts of Myanmar for almost a decade. Part of IOM’s support comes in the form of comprehensive HIV awareness, detection and prevention services to migrants and high-risk populations in Mon and Kayin states. Working with Myanmar’s National AIDS Programme, IOM provides HIV testing and counselling, condom distribution, and anti-retroviral therapy for adults and child migrants and host communities, including cases of HIV-TB co-infection.
Meanwhile, in East Africa, IOM, the Kenyan Ministry of Health and local partners offer free, non-discriminatory and comprehensive health care to urban migrants – the majority of whom are from Somalia – and the host community through the Eastleigh Community Wellness Centre (ECWC) in Nairobi.
The health facility was established in 2002 and serves both Kenyans and migrants, offering friendly services in several languages, including Somali, Oromo and Amharic to over 2,000 patients per month, 56 percent of whom are migrants. It currently offers free comprehensive TB and HIV services; sexual and reproductive health services; maternal, new-born and child health; nutrition services; and community health services, including mobilization teams composed of a migrant workforce.
This year alone, 2,411 HIV tests have been carried out so far at the ECWC and an average of 157 patients have been enrolled each month to receive counselling and treatment at the HIV clinic. From January to September 2016, 13,230 household visits were also conducted to provide health information and Information, Education and Communications (IEC) materials.
“I discovered that I was HIV positive when I was attending the pre- natal clinic at the Eastleigh,” says Halimo, a client at the centre. “I was devastated and thought that was the end of my life, I cried and cried. There was no consolation for me. The nurse calmed me down and told me that if I take care of myself I will live, I could not understand how, all I knew was if you get HIV you die.”
Through continuous counselling and antiretroviral (ARV) treatment offered for free at the ECWC, Halimo has been able to live a normal life. The clinic has established a support group where people living with HIV/AIDS meet once a month to interact and encourage each other to live a healthy life.
“While migrants may indeed be at greater risk due to societal factors, the lack of access to health care facilities and prevention measures pose risks to us all,” said Director General Swing. “Health inequities, inadequate social protection, human rights violations, stigmatization and discrimination increase the vulnerability to HIV infection for everyone, irrespective of colour, creed, income – or journey.”
Myanmar: Humanitarian and Development NGOs and INGOs call for the protection and access of services to people affected by conflict in Kachin and Northern Shan States, Myanmar
The undersigned international NGOs operating in Kachin and Northern Shan States in Myanmar are gravely concerned about the ongoing armed conflict and its recent intensification. We are also concerned about threats to the safety of civilians and increasing restrictions on access to those in need.
We are particularly concerned to see that armed conflict is taking place in close proximity to civilian locations, including Internally Displaced People (IDP) camps. We fear that this increasingly volatile security and humanitarian situation will result in new, secondary and even tertiary displacement across Kachin and Northern Shan States as we have already begun to see in the past few weeks with devastating humanitarian impact.
In the absence of a near political solution to the humanitarian crisis, the situation of those displaced communities is particularly alarming given the lack of safe locations for them to return to and increasing restrictions on their ability to access humanitarian aid.
IDPs have resorted to developing negative coping mechanisms, such as severely reducing food intake and taking on dangerous and high risk jobs, leading to migration and employment in unregulated and illegal activities. There have been increased reports of rights abuses outside of IDP camps, including arbitrary arrests and forced recruitment, affecting IDPs attempting to access livelihood opportunities outside camps.
Insufficient emergency response funding and uncertainty about the funding situation for 2017 poses serious threats to the future response capacity of local and international humanitarian agencies in Kachin and Northern Shan States, which are already facing resource limitations in delivery of lifesaving humanitarian relief. Should funding for 2017 decrease, it is questionable whether agencies could meet even current needs.
We, as local and international agencies committed to the principles of humanity, independence and impartiality, urge all actors to support, promote, respect and facilitate the protection of civilians and the guarantee of human rights and humanitarian assistance to all those in need. We request the following:
1) The immediate cessation of armed conflict in Kachin and Northern Shan.
2) All authorities must uphold the rights of conflict-affected populations to safety and the ability to meet basic needs. All parties to the conflict must fulfill their obligations under International Humanitarian Law to protect civilians, civilian locations and civilian assets, and bring an immediate end to all violations of human rights.
3) Removal of all impediments and restrictions, formal or informal, to the movement of humanitarian aid including personnel, goods and services to ensure timely response to humanitarian needs.
4) Provision of adequate humanitarian funding to support people throughout all stages of displacement, including support for livelihood opportunities to allow people to sustain themselves in dignity.
Signatories: Bridging Rural Integrated Development & Grassroots Empowerment (BRIDGE), Danish Refugee Council (DRC), Kachin Baptist Convention (KBC), Kachin Development Group (KDG), Karuna Myanmar Social Solidarity (KMSS), Metta Development Foundation, Nyein Foundation, Oxfam, Plan International, Solidarités International and Trócaire
The army and BGP jointly raided the villages - Maung Nama south, Nari Bill, Nanda Khali, Wabeik, and Abojja Para of Mingalar village tract and arrested many villagers including elderly people and even boys aged 12 to 13 years, Omor from Abojja village said.
After arrest, they were tortured and brought to Aung Mingala BGP camp, where they were interrogated. The army arrested 12 villagers from Maung Nama south village, 6 villagers from Abojja village of Mingala village tract, but it is not clear how many villagers were arrested from--- Kular Bill, Nari Bill, Nandakhali (Thekay Pyin) and Wabeik villages of Maungdaw north, Omar more added.
Besides, the army also arrested 15 villagers from fleeing villagers who are staying in the paddy field nearby Thu Oo Hla (Kular Bill) village by making tents. They are from other villages fleeing from their original villages because of their villages had been burned down earlier. The army also plundered cash and gold ornaments from fleeing women villagers and took away cows from other villages, Lalu Mea from this displaced group said.
In addition, army also attacked the Hati Para (Sin Thae Pyin) village of Maungdaw north today, at about 11:00am, and arrested 30 villagers, and shooting to 6 villagers while fleeing from the village. Of them, two villagers were dead on the spot after acute bleeding, and the four other wounded are in critical condition because of lack of medical treatment, Boshor, a businessman said from the village.
However, 4 houses were burned down at Nurullah Para (village) of Maungdaw south, at around 10:00am, today, Soe Hla from the village said.
Maungdaw, Arakan State: Burmese army massacred over 500 Rohingya villagers in Hati Para (Sin Thae Pyin) village tract on November 25, including men, women and children, Boshor from Hati Para (village) said.
On that day, at around 3:30 am, about 200 Burmese army surrounded the Hati Para village tract including - Hati Para west, Hati Para east, Hatipara middle and Dil Para---and raided at 10:00 AM, plundering properties, shooting villagers indiscriminately, arbitrary arrest and torturing the people, he more added.
The army killed, estimated 500 villagers of Hati Para east including men, women and children. They killed these villagers by hitting on the head with an iron rod and then threw into water of an old lake. After that the army picked up the body (whether dead or alive) from the lake by villagers and dumping on the bank of the lake. This report is given by many villagers who were fleeing from the village. But it is not confirmed information because villagers are not daring to enter inside the village as the army is present there, another villager Rashid said from the locality.
Besides, another report said that 70 villagers were arrested by army on that day from Hati Para east and Dil Para villages and later they were released after being severely tortured. Of them Abdul Hafez (65), son of Sayed Ahmed died yesterday night because of pain of torture, Abdullah from Dil Para said.
In addition, in the morning, villagers found some dead bodies in the villages (Hati Para middle and Dil Para) after withdrawing army from the villages. They are identified as---Jahin Gir(25), son of Moulvi Jaffar; Nurul Amin(30), son of Abdu Shukur; Mostak (18), son of Salim; Ms fotoni (8), daughter of Hurul Amin; Esuf (28), son of Nur Boshor; and wounded Moulvi Mostafa Kamal (50), son of Osi Rahaman. There are many villagers missing from the villagers and will be found more dead bodies in the village if the army is withdrawn from the village, he more added.
Moreover, all the women and girls of Hati Para middle village have been gather in a paddy field out of the village and the army plundering cash and gold ornaments from them and also assaulted the women and girls after taking them into homes to those who were their choice on November 26, at about 3:00 pm, a woman from the group said on condition of anonymity.
On the other hand, Natala villagers with the help of army were plundering Rohingya properties including kitchen things, rice, knives, motorcycles and cycles and etc., according to villagers.
Teknaf, Bangladesh: The Border Guard Bangladesh (BGB) arrested and pushed back more than 400 Rohingyas to Burma from November 1 to 29, according to BGB officials.
60 peoples with six boats on the Naf River were stopped and sent back while trying to enter Bangladeshi waters on Nov 27, according to Maj Abu Rasel Siddiqui, BGB 2 Battalion, Teknaf.
Five Rohingyas including two minors were arrested and sent back on November 27, while crossing the border at Balukhali under Ukhiya Upazila and Ghumdhum under Bandarban, said Lt. Col. Imran Ullah Sarkar, BGB 34 Battalion Chief, Cox’s Bazar.
Hundreds of Rohingyas are trying to cross the border into Bangladesh amid increasing violence and brutal crackdown against the Rohingya people by the Burmese military and Border Guard Police.
According to local people, some Rohingyas entered the Bangladesh from Burma without knowledge of concerned authorities of Bangladesh and took shelters in localities and refugee camps. They are not getting any help from any quarter and struggling with their lives in border.
More women and children arrived in Bangladesh. Of them, most of their husbands were killed or arrested, houses were burnt down, or missing in crackdown by the Burmese military and border security forces. But also, some women and teenaged girls were found among the new arrival refugees that they were raped by the military and Border Guard Police, the locals more said.
However, some children died for lack of hunger, cold and lack of treatment in the camps, Kolim Ullah, a refugee said.
Burma border guard police (BGP) shot dead a Rohingya youth in Ngakura village on November 28 at 6:30pm while going back home from local mosque without any reason, an elderly people Habib from the locality said.
The victim was identified as---Mohamed Anas (22), son of Maulana Noor Alam of Ngakura village of Maungdaw north, he more added.
The boy was shot by two BGP personnel with a motorbike without any reason, Habib said.
Besides, a group of army went to Kyan Baung market (nearby Shill Khali village) of Maungdaw north, and plundered away much money from the market on November 28, Jamir from the market said.
Additionally, on November 28, some BGP personnel from Taung Bro BGP out post went to Taung Bro villages and grabbed many fowls from the villages for their ration and left without giving any cash to the villagers, Kala Mea said from the village.
Moreover, on November 28, a BGP Commander ordered to the villagers to close Kyauk Hla Gaar village market of Maungdaw north for seven days. But, reason is unknown to the public. Villagers believe that it will be established permanent.
Furthermore, a section of army went to Shill Khali village tract of Maungdaw north on November 28, and burned down about 700 paddy bundles or rolls of Abul Shama (50), son of Abdu Shukur, hailed from Lapuza Para (village). He recently harvested it from his paddy field, a trader Fazal said from the village.
The army also destroyed all tents, which had been built at the fishing projects by villagers to watch their projects. Army destroyed it because they want to block the fleeing villagers to stay in those tents, a project owner said on condition of anonymity.
A Rohingya woman was raped by Burmese army at gun-point at Zee Pin Chaung (Zee Yaung Khali) village at around 2:00 pm, on November 28, a close relative of the victim said without mentioning his name.
By Mahfuzur Rahman
DHAKA, Nov 30 2016 (IPS) - Amid growing persecution by Myanmar’s military, thousands of minority Rohingya Muslims in its western state of Rakhine have fled their frontier villages and are languishing along the Myanmar-Bangladesh border for lack of shelter and emergency supplies.
In response to alleged coordinated attacks on three border posts on Oct. 9 that killed nine guards, Myanmar troops swarmed into areas along the country’s frontier with Bangladesh, forcing the Rohingyas to leave their homes.
London-based Arakan Rohingya National Organisation (ARNO), a political group based in Rakhine state (Arakan), Myanmar, said on Nov. 28 that Myanmar security forces have killed over 500 people, raped hundreds of women, burned down over 2,500 houses, destroyed mosques and religious schools, and perpetrated other abuses in the latest round of violence.
The international community and rights groups, including the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch (HRW), have expressed grave concern over the brutalities in Myanmar. They termed the operation the most serious since hundreds were killed in communal clashes in Rakhine in 2012.
Up to 250,000 people are said to have been displaced so far and thousands more affected by the recent operation. Both Myanmar’s military and government deny the allegations by the rights groups and the displaced minority.
Amid the evolving situation, Bangladesh, a next-door neighbour of Myanmar, is unwilling to allow the entry of more Rohingyas, as it has already been hosting some 300,000 undocumented Rohingyas since 1977. The Bangladesh government says it is not its lone responsibility to give them refuge.
In an Nov. 20 interview with United News of Bangladesh (UNB), an independent news agency, director general of Border Guard Bangladesh (BGB) Abul Hossain said Bangladesh would not allow anybody to enter its territory illegally.
Terming the Rohingya crisis an international issue, Maj. Gen. Hossain said Bangladesh has already been hosting a large number of Rohingya refugees and managing them has become a problem. “We’re trying to manage our border efficiently so that any illegal intrusion, including the entry of militants and terrorists, is prevented.”
The Myanmar government has denied them citizenship even though they have been living there for generations, as the Buddhist majority of Rakhine state considers them illegal migrants from Bangladesh.
On Nov. 24, Amnesty International said the Rohingya refugees and asylum-seekers have been forced into hiding across the Na’f River that divides Bangladesh and Myanmar, and they are now suffering for lack of food and medical care.
Bangladesh’s Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan said Rohingyas were also entering Bangladesh through remote hilly areas and it was difficult to stem the flow.
“We hope that the Myanmar government will come to a solution soon,” Khan said.
Meanwhile, UNHCR has appealed to the government of Bangladesh to keep its border with Myanmar open and allow safe passage to any civilians fleeing the violence.
According to the Bangladesh Human Rights Commission, some 9,000 Rohingya people have already entered Bangladesh with the help of smugglers who know how to dodge the Bangladesh border guards (BGB). Bangladesh has reinforced both its border and coast guards since the escalation of operation by the Myanmar military and sent back many people. Some 3,000 Rohingyas are also said to have fled to China.
Prothom Alo, a leading Bengali national daily, reported that some 1,100 Rohingyas entered Bangladesh on Nov. 28 alone, with Myanmar’s military burning down their houses and firing shots indiscriminately.
Amid international pressure to accept the newly displaced Rohingya people, the Foreign Ministry of Bangladesh summoned the Myanmar Ambassador in Dhaka on Nov. 23 and conveyed its deep concern at the military operation forcing Rohingya Muslims to flee their frontier homes.
Later, in a statement, Bangladesh’s Foreign Ministry said it had asked Myanmar to “ensure the integrity of its border and to stop the influx of people from Rakhine state. Despite our border guards’ sincere efforts to prevent the influx, thousands of distressed Myanmar citizens, including women, children and elderly people, continue to cross the border into Bangladesh.”
Though the Bangladesh government is unwilling to accept the Rohingyas, the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), one of Bangladesh’s two major parties, has been urging the government to give shelter to the displaced Rohingya people on humanitarian grounds.
In a statement, BNP chairperson Khaleda Zia, who is also a former Prime Minister, said, “Many Rohingya refugees have long been staying in our country which is densely populated and witnessing a shrinking of livable land. We’re also facing various social problems for it. Despite that, I call upon the authorities concerned to give the Rohingya refugees shelter as much as possible on humanitarian ground to save their lives.”
Meanwhile, the Amnesty International has denounced the persecution of Rohingya Muslims by Myanmar and also asked Bangladesh not to push the fleeing Rohingyas back across the border.
“The Rohingyas are being squeezed by the callous actions of both the Myanmar and Bangladesh authorities. Fleeing collective punishment in Myanmar, they are being pushed back by the Bangladeshi authorities. Trapped between these cruel fates, their desperate need for food, water and medical care is not being addressed,” said Champa Patel, Amnesty International’s South Asia director.
In Bangladesh’s capital Dhaka, thousands of people took to the streets on Nov. 25 in protest against the persecution of Rohingya Muslims. The protesters also burned an effigy of Myanmar’s leader Aung San Suu Kyi and a flag of Myanmar, carrying banners that read ‘Open the border to save the Rohingyas’.
A vigorous social media campaign is also underway to put pressure on Bangladesh’s authorities to allow the displaced Rohingyas to enter the country.
UNICEF has said thousands of malnourished children are suffering from lack of medical care and in danger of starving.
Amid the horrific situation, the UNHCR head in Bangladesh, John McKissick, on Nov. 24 told BBC Bangla that “Rohingya Muslims in Burma are being ethnically cleansed. Myanmar security forces have been killing men, shooting them, slaughtering children, raping women, burning and looting houses, forcing these people to cross the river into Bangladesh.”
Myanmar’s presidential spokesman Zaw Htay responded that McKissick “should maintain his professionalism and his ethics as a United Nations officer because his comments are just allegations.”
Last week, Human Rights Watch released satellite images showing that over 1,000 Rohingya homes have been destroyed in five villages of Rakhine state.
The New York-based group in a statement that satellite images taken on Nov. 10, 17 and 18 showed 820 destroyed buildings, bringing the total number it says it has documented to 1,250.
As the situation continues to deteriorate, the United States reiterated its call for a full, formal and transparent investigation into violence in Rakhine state and laid emphasis on international community’s participation for finding a solution there.
A human rights icon whose activism earned her the Nobel Peace Prize, Suu Kyi is now being criticised globally for her silence over the dire situation in her own country.
The first democratic election in 25 years was held in Myanmar in November last year, with Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD) winning it with a thumping majority. Though she could not assume the presidency due to a constitutional bar, Suu Kyi is considered a de-facto leader as she serves as State Counsellor.
When people who inject drugs are supported it can help reduce the transmission of HIV and hepatitis, lower health costs and reduce crime. In Myanmar, thousands of drug-users can access Harm Reduction services — it has made a difference.
In the first half of 2016, over 5,000 people who injected drugs in the country accessed 3MDG-supported HIV services, including testing and treatment. Prevention programmes reached more than 24,000 individuals. Six million syringes and needles were distributed to facilitate safe injection.
This is all part of an overall Harm Reduction approach that aims to reduce the negative consequences of illicit drug use. In particular, the transmission of HIV and hepatitis B and C, injuries associated with improper disposal of needles and the criminalization of drug use.
Interventions typically focus on prevention, distribution and disposal of needles and syringes, testing for HIV and hepatitis, methadone maintenance treatment, counselling and peer support.
Drug dependence is a health condition. The Harm Reduction approach recognizes this and emphasises the importance of work with local communities, media and police. Efforts are aimed at increasing awareness and improving the surrounding environment for people who inject drugs.
The approach helps tackle a significant issue in Myanmar: More than 20 percent of people who inject drugs have HIV and make up 39 percent of all new infections.
In border regions like the Kachin State easy access to drugs due to opium production and conflict contribute to higher numbers of people who inject drugs. High-risk areas across seven townships in the Kachin State and 29 others have been prioritized to receive services.
The Harm Reduction approach includes needle patrol teams. Trained local community members collect and safely dispose of used needles. This minimizes the risk of needle-prick injuries for other members of the community. A number of drop-in-centres also offer counselling, testing and treatment for HIV, sexually transmitted infections and hepatitis.
Unfortunately, stigma, community rejection and discrimination make it difficult for people who use drugs to access health services. This in turn reduces their chance for recovery. It prevents them from accessing the necessary tests for blood-borne diseases.
Reducing this stigma is a priority for staff at the Washawng drop-in-Centre in Kachin State.
"We have a total of 40 clients. We have given 28 referrals for HIV, hepatitis B and C. Fifteen of our clients are receiving methadone treatment and one is in a detox centre. Now we need to encourage more to come, by reducing the stigma," said one health professional from the centre, who works for Metta – one of 3MDG's Harm Reduction partners.
Social stigma made it hard for Tu Mai, a former drug-user, to visit the centre. With support and encouragement from staff he soon attended treatment and information sessions. Methadone helped him to manage his addiction and now Tu Mai is a peer educator at the same centre.
"My job now is to pass out clean needles, provide health education and collect used syringes. Both the community and my family now see the positive effects of what I do and think this is a good job to have," he says.
Harm Reduction is based on respect for the rights of people who use drugs. The programme prioritizes a non-judgmental and inclusive delivery of services with the view that drug-use is a part of society.
In support of the National AIDS Programme, Three Millennium Development Goal Fund (3MDG) partners are implementing the Harm Reduction approach. Based on global evidence, this approach reduces harm to both people who inject drugs as well as entire communities.
3MDG implementing partners have launched a needle and syringe programme that includes the distribution of low dead space syringes, which retain less blood, reducing the transmission of HIV and hepatitis.
Along with partners, 3MDG is committed to minimizing the harmful effects of illicit drug use. This includes an innovative community-based project, implemented by Metta and Médecins du Monde.
The project aims to increase acceptance of Harm Reduction services and reduce stigma and discrimination through education and advocacy. Read more about the project.
The UNOPS-managed 3MDG Fund is the largest development fund for health in Myanmar. 3MDG has a significant, timely and nationwide impact, improving maternal, newborn and child health, combating HIV and AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria.
In partnership with the Government of Myanmar and others, the Fund strengthens the national health system at all levels. 3MDG specifically aims to extend access for poor and vulnerable populations to quality health services.
By pooling the contributions of seven bilateral donors — Australia, Denmark, the European Union, Sweden, Switzerland, the United Kingdom and the United States of America — 3MDG promotes the efficient and effective use of development funds. 3MDG supports Myanmar's health sector with over $279 million in the period of 2012 to 2017.
Malaysia: What progress has been made following the Andaman Sea “Crisis” in 2015? A review by the Asia Pacific Refugee Rights Network
The Asia Pacific Refugee Rights Network (APRRN) is submitting this briefing paper in advance of the 11th Senior Officials' Meeting of the Bali Process Ad Hoc Group. As a civil society network of nearly 300 members dedicated to protecting refugees, we are offering our analysis on the progress made since the Andaman Sea “crisis” in 2015.
The Andaman Sea “crisis” in May 2015 revealed a lack of preparedness of and coordination among countries of origin, transit, and destination. Since then, states have come together at various opportunities to discuss responses to the challenges of irregular migration in and throughout the region. We very much welcome these developments and commend states on the commitments that have been made in the last 18 months. APRRN also welcomes the Bali Process Ministerial Declaration as a positive development, which outlines further commitments on how to address the challenges in the region.
The purpose of this briefing paper is to review progress that has been made in recent months following the unfolding of an humanitarian crisis of Rohingya refugees and Bangladeshi migrants in the Andaman Sea in May and June of 2015. APRRN’s members spread across the Asia Pacific region are very keen to work with the Bali Process mechanisms to advance preparedness, emergency response and coordination as well as solutions for people in need of protection.
The Asia Pacific Refugee Rights Network (APRRN), a civil society network of over 250 members, expresses grave concern over the fate of thousands of stateless Rohingya who are attempting to flee grievous persecution in Rakhine state at the hands of the Myanmar military. Following reports last week that several boats carrying mostly women and children were pushed back from Bangladesh by border guards, APRRN echoes the appeal of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) for Bangladesh to keep its border open to allow for refugees’ safe passage.
Residents of Maungdaw Township and parts of Rathedaung in northern Rakhine State have endured weeks of violence as the Myanmar military engages in counter-insurgency operations. Credible reports have surfaced of innocent civilians being subjected to extrajudicial killings, torture, mass rape, detention, forced eviction, and at least 1,250 homes being razed to the ground. Some villagers were burnt alive in their homes. The wellbeing of hundreds of thousands of people hangs in the balance.
Many people in North Maungdaw are trapped in a ‘locked down’ area without access to urgently needed humanitarian aid, and the freedom to move and seek protection from persecution. Crops have been destroyed and farmers are unable to reap their harvest, rendering thousands at risk of starvation.
The escalation of violence in Northern Rakhine over recent days and weeks has, as predicted, resulted in a new outflow of people seeking refuge.
According to the Arakan Project and other sources, after a clash between a Rohingya armed group and Myanmar’s security forces, two helicopter gunships shot at villagers attempting to flee for their lives through paddy fields. Ground troops also attacked civilians, including women, children and the elderly, not only shooting at them but also using bayonets. The Government of Myanmar has claimed that 69 ‘insurgents’ were killed during these attacks, but it can be assumed that the actual death toll is much higher, in the absence of any other official sources of information.
APRRN calls upon the Government of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh to maintain an open border in accordance with Article 14(1) of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which states that “Everyone has the right to seek and to enjoy in other countries asylum from persecution”. The Bangladeshi Government’s ‘pushback’ policy is also counter to the principle of non-refoulement, the absolute foundation of asylum and international refugee law, and which forms an integral component of customary international law, prohibiting the expulsion, deportation, return or extradition of a person to her/his state of origin or another state where there is a risk that his life or freedom would be threatened for discriminatory reasons. Further, the deportation of Rohingya back to Myanmar is a blatant violation of the 1984 UN Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, which Bangladesh ratified in 1998.
By forcibly returning these highly vulnerable asylum seekers without providing immediate humanitarian assistance, temporary shelter and protection, or allowing for adequate assessment of their claims, Bangladesh is undermining efforts in the Asia Pacific region to advance regional mechanisms that have the protection of those fleeing from persecution at their core. We implore Bangladesh to work collaboratively with other states in the region and play a more constructive role in advancing refugee protection and addressing the root causes of persecution. APRRN reiterates that all people have the right to request and receive humanitarian assistance and international protection.
APRRN wishes to remind the Government of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh, and all governments in the region, to uphold their commitments made in signing the Bali Declaration on People Smuggling,
Trafficking in Persons and Related Transnational Crime on 23 March 2016. In the Ministerial Declaration, members recognised “the need to grant protection for those entitled to it, consistent with relevant international legal instrument and in all cases, the principle of non-refoulement should be strictly respected”, and acknowledged that “irregular migration poses social, economic, and security concerns for affected countries, with implications for regional and global stability”, and the requirement of “a comprehensive regional approach based on the principles of […] collective responsibility”.
Members of the Bali Process also committed to provide safety and protection to migrants, victims of human trafficking, smuggled persons, asylum seekers and refugees, whilst addressing the needs of vulnerable groups including women and children. In addition, members recognised the need to “address the root causes of irregular movement of persons and forced displacement, and the frequent linkage between the breakdown of good governance and the ease of people smuggling and irregular migrant ventures”.
An humanitarian crisis is unfolding in front of our eyes which will undoubtedly have a serious destabilising impact on the entire region unless immediate action is taken. As such, APRRN makes the following call for action:
To the Government of Bangladesh:
- Keep borders open, provide safe passage and immediate access to territory
- Provide protection to people fleeing persecution and relentless violence
- Allow unfettered and unconditional access to humanitarian agencies and international organisations with protection mandates such as UNHCR, to displaced populations to both assess their needs and deliver relief assistance
- Those in need of international protection should be given full and timely access to asylum procedures
To the Government of Myanmar:
- Immediately cease targeting civilians caught up in the military’s ‘clearance operations’
- Allow unfettered and unconditional access to humanitarian agencies and international organisations with protection mandates such as UNHCR, to all displaced populations in all areas to both assess their needs and deliver relief assistance.
To ASEAN Member States and Members of the Bali Process:
Urgently develop regional solutions that address the root causes of refugee outflows, in particular the ongoing systematic persecution of the Rohingya in Myanmar.
Engage in direct advocacy with the Government of Myanmar to resolve the root causes of the persecution of the Rohingya, and promote peace and harmony throughout Myanmar and the entire region.
Be prepared for outflows of refugees from Myanmar and Bangladesh, and in the event of such outflows, immediately allow access to territory, for asylum claims to be processed, and provide humanitarian and protection assistance as needed.
While APRRN statements are prepared in consultations with APRRN members, they do not necessarily reflect the views of all members.
For media enquiries, please contact:
Julia Mayerhofer, Deputy Secretary General, Asia Pacific Refugee Rights Network
Tel: +66(0)2 2526654
This Interview with Saw A--- describes events occurring in Kawkareik Township, Dooplaya District, including clashes between armed groups, restrictions on freedom of movement and landmines.
On February 6th 2016, fighting broke out between Border Guard Force (BGF) and Democratic Karen Buddhist Army (DKBA). The fighting broke out in B--- village at around 1:00 PM.
During the fighting, BGF prohibited B--- villagers from fleeing from their village. They incorrectly assumed that the villagers had been in contact with DKBA and so they restricted their freedom of movement.
An unknown villager in B--- village stepped on a landmine which villagers believe had been planted by BGF before the fighting took place.
After the fighting there were unexploded mortars left in the village. The BGF asked village children to find them and told them that they would pay 2,000 kyat (US $1.54) for each unexploded mortar found.
Posted by Global New Light of Myanmar Date: November 29, 2016
Germany is the first partner of Myanmar to support projects of rural roads construction. In addition to the previously committed EUR 28.2 million grant funds under the programme “Road Development Programme”, the German Government provides an additional EUR 10 million after the flooding in 2015. In 2015, from July until September, Cyclone Komen caused heavy rainfall and flooding and destroyed many roads, bridges, and culverts in almost all states in Myanmar. Thus, Germany saw the urgent need for further road development grants and committed an additional EUR 10 million for the rehabilitation of 50 km of roads, including bridges and culverts, in one of the four most affected regions in Myanmar – in Kalay district in Sagaing region.
Accessible roads and bridges are essential in order to access schools, health care facilities, markets, places of employment, and public administrations. Hence, through RRRP the living standard of the rural population living in the project region will improve by gaining all year access to these facilities. Moreover, for the people living in and traveling through that region transport cost will decrease and journey times will shorten.
The Department of Rural Development (DRD) within the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Irrigation is responsible for implementation of the project. Additionally, the DRD is trained in road maintenance, planning, procurement and supervision to deepen essential capacities for the successful handling of road construction projects.
KfW Development Bank
KfW Bankengruppe (KfW), one of the world’s leading and most experienced promotional bank, provides a range of products to support its customers in realizing their projects in the domestic fields of small and medium-sized enterprises, business start-ups, environmental protection, housing, infrastructure, education as well as project and export finance and development cooperation. As the bank is wholly owned by the German Government it is rated AAA and with a balance sheet total of more than EUR 500 billion (approx. USD 570 billion) it is one of Germany’s largest banks. B Alongside KfW Development Bank, the two subsidiaries KfW IPEX-Bank and DEG also have commitments abroad: while KfW IPEX-Bank is active in international project and export finance, DEG provides financing and consulting to companies investing in developing and emerging countries. KfW Development Bank cooperates closely with the German Technical Cooperation agency GIZ, as well as other bilateral and multilateral organizations.
Summary – Third Issue
Serge Breysse Jean-Baptiste Richardier: Forced migrations: a necessary humaneness
Antonio Donini: World Humanitarian summit: a lost opportunity?
Marc Poncin: Engaging with National authorities: Médecins sans Frontières’s experience in Guinea during the Ebola epidemic
Focus : Forced migration : A global challenge
Angelique Muller Michael Neuman:MSF in Grande-Synthe: lessons from an unlikely coalition of actors
Idil Atak Yvan Conoir: "The priority for states must be to save lives”
Marie Alice Torré Thierry Benlahsen: Refugees and displaced persons in Nigeria and Myanmar: rethinking the synergy
Achille Valéry Mengo :Refugees and displaced persons in Cameroon: the silent Hydra
Paul Chiron: Environmental migrations: future prospects
Michel Maietta: The European refugee crisis: forecasting for 2018
Virginie Troit: Humanitarian ethics and international relations: contradictions or (re)conciliations?
Verena Richardier: A look at NGOs in China
Malika Aït-Mohamed Parent: Corruption: a challenge that doesn’t escape the humanitarian sector
Laurence Geai: Neither safe nor sound: unaccompanied children in the North of France
Barbara Hendricks: Tribune: Greece is an example of solidarity for Europe!
Read the full document on Alternatives Humanitaires
Myanmar: Gender based violence among displaced communities in Sittwe township, Rakhine state: A knowledge, attitudes and practices study (September 2016)
Since late 2012, around 100,000 people in Rakhine state’s Sittwe Township have been living in temporary camps for internally displaced persons (IDPs), forced out of their homes following a wave of inter-communal violence between the state’s Buddhist and Muslim communities. Evidence from existing studies and field teams’ experience on the ground all indicate that the psychological, social, economic and environmental impacts of displacement and conflict on affected communities and individuals have resulted in women and girls’ increased vulnerability to gender-based violence (GBV), including intimate partner violence, child marriage, sexual assault and exploitation, and human trafficking. In particular, constrained livelihood opportunities, breakdown of community structures, disrupted gender roles, unsafe shelter and camp design have all been reported as key contributing factors. In Muslim camps especially, these issues have been further exacerbated as movement restrictions continue and a return to normal life appears further away than ever. However, the upheaval of displacement may also present entry points for efforts to improve gender equity, as communities are exposed to alternative models of gender relationships through behaviour change, messaging campaigns, or livelihoods activities provided by humanitarian actors.
Since 2014, the International Rescue Committee (IRC) has been implementing GBV programming in both Muslim and Rakhine communities in Sittwe. Supported by the UK Department for International Development (DFID) and the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC), and building on previous support from the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), its activities focus on treating the consequences, and reducing the risk of GBV perpetuated against women and girls. After 18 months of programming, and with the crisis entering its entering its fifth year, IRC decided to conduct a knowledge, attitudes and practices (KAP) study to explore key dynamics of GBV in its core programming locations in the township. This was done in order to help its existing programming gain a better understanding of the current context, and to inform the design of new women’s protection and empowerment programing aimed at achieving long-term change, and better suited to meet the complex challenges of an increasingly protracted crisis.
Data collection took place between July and August 2016 in five Muslim camps and one Rakhine camp. The study adopted a mixed methods approach consisting of 1) a survey of a representative sample of 634 individuals—one per household—stratified by ethnic group, gender, and camp, to provide quantitative data; and 2) six gender-segregated focus group discussions and eight key informant interviews conducted in two Muslim and one Rakhine camp to provide in-depth qualitative data for more detailed contextual analysis of the trends observed in the survey. It is important to note that due to the small size of the Rakhine camp under study, a larger sample size was achieved for Muslims than for Rakhine. This means that survey data is reliable for making comparisons between Muslim men and women, but only provides an indicative view of broad trends for Rakhine men and women. Key findings of the assessment are presented thematically below.
The assessment began by discussing issues around service provision for women and girls, and exploring key barriers to access.
Overall, Muslim survey respondents reported that services meeting basic needs such as health, reproductive health, and non-food items were most important for women and girls. By contrast, Rakhine survey respondents focused on livelihoods support such as skills development and cash as most important. This gap in priorities may stem from different camp contexts, where Muslims are more heavily dependent on humanitarian providers for access to basic needs owing to movement restrictions, while Rakhine are able to access services but still face significant barriers to building secure livelihoods.
Muslims rated health as the most difficult service to access for women, while Rakhine identified education. Especially in Muslim sites, male respondents were significantly more likely to describe women’s access to key services as “difficult” compared to female respondents, with the main access barriers seen to be cost and distance. This may indicate exaggerated perceptions of barriers on the part of men, compared to more realistic assessments by women—who are actually the ones accessing the services. In cases where men have the final say over household spending or can restrict women’s freedom of movement, this gap in perceptions between men and women could result in unnecessary restrictions on women’s ability to access services.
The assessment’s human trafficking component attempted to understand both the scale of migration in its target communities, and people’s possible exposure to unsafe migration or trafficking. It then addressed people’s awareness of trafficking, along with their perceptions of the risks involved and who was most vulnerable.
Migration out of Rakhine state appears to be a common phenomenon among both Muslims and Rakhine: around one-one quarter of all households in both communities reported that at least one close family member had left the state in the past 12 months. In both groups, approximately two thirds of those reported as leaving were men and one third were women.
Dynamics of migration differ significantly between communities, and appear to pose much greater risks for Muslims. Just under three-quarters of all Muslims who reported a family member migrating away reported that they were now worried about their safety—around 17% of all Muslim respondents, compared to only one-tenth of Rakhine or 2% of all Rakhine respondents. In general, Muslims reported that people were leaving to seek work or asylum in Malaysia and other Southeast Asian countries, and were entirely dependent on illegal people smugglers due to a total lack of licit migration options. Rakhine reported people leaving as domestic labour migrants, or to look for work abroad. Again, illegal migration methods were reportedly preferred for Rakhine travelling abroad, but were chosen over available legal avenues due to perceived lower costs.
Women were found to have much better knowledge of trafficking than men. For both Muslims and Rakhine, women were more than twice as likely to correctly identify a human trafficking scenario from a list of possible options. Muslim women in particular were also more likely to view trafficking as a threat in their community compared to all other groups. And when asked about the possible risks of trafficking, men of both groups were less likely to mention threats that would specifically be faced by women, such as forced marriage, forced domestic work and forced sex work. In this respect, pluralities of all groups except Muslim men identified girls as the group in their community most vulnerable to human trafficking.
By Ann Wang
Khin San Yee rummaged through the bags she had brought back to Myanmar from a refugee camp in Thailand. She smiled as she pulled out a photo of herself standing next to Aung San Suu Kyi, the Nobel Peace Prize winner who is now de facto head of state after decades of leading a pro-democracy movement against military rule.
Myanmar is encountering the consequences of climate change, deterioration of the ecosystem, deforestation, endangered species, pollution of the air, oceans, rivers, lakes and land and infectious diseases like other countries in the world, President U Htin Kyaw said in his speech at the Green Economy and Green Development Forum held at Myanmar International Convention Centre (2) in Nay Pyi Taw yesterday.
The president pointed out the importance of international cooperation in the response to the impact of the deterioration of the world’s environment and ecosystems.
The president went on to say that United Nation Assemblies have already approved conventions that contribute to the implementation of policies and strategies to respond to challenges posed by interrelations among sustainable development, resilience, equality, inclusive development for the future, environment, energy and climate change.
To counter climate change, Myanmar is participating in international conventions such as the Paris Agreement 2015, sustainable development goals of the UN and the reduction of emissions of hydroflurocarbons and cooperating with the international community to respond to the global challenges that will have an impact on people at present and future generations, the president added.
It is important to reduce poverty, prevent starvation, eliminate malnutrition, prevent the retardation of growth among children, create job opportunities, provide quality education and healthcare and respond to natural disasters, he said.
To respond to these challenges, it is necessary to enhance the national capacity of the nation to identify development trends and to grasp opportunities available. It is important to avoid costly but unsustainable and incomplete policies and projects, according to the president.
In addition, the president urged participants to take lessons from the international community and said that Myanmar, which is abundant with natural and human resources, has potential for sustainable, resilient, systematic and equitable development.
Myanmar is cooperating with the international community to draft a national environmental policy and adopt its main tasks in order to contribute to sustainable development, policies, strategies and work programmes relating to climate change, a framework for a green economy and strategies and work programmes for waste management, the president added.
Myanmar has placed emphasis on renewable energy development, setting goals for using renewable energy, conservation and effective utilisation of biodiversity, adoption of better consumption and production methods, the utilisation of waste as resources, creation of economic incentives and financial mechanisms that will encourage innovation and enhancement of human resources and education to create opportunities, the president said.
The president said that the forum will focus on policies, strategies, financial measures, technologies, management, education, capacity building and international cooperation for green economy and green development, expressing his hope that these topics will contribute to comprehensive discussions.
In conclusion, the president said that the forum would result in recommendations for a green economy and development that will contribute to the interests of the people.
The union minister for Natural Resources and Environment Conservation andGreen Economy and Green Development Association member U Tin Win Aung, Ambassador of India to Myanmar Mr Vikram Misri, Ambassador of Norway to Myanmar Mr Tone Tinnes and Director General Madam Wakako Hironaka of Global Environment Action made speeches on the occasion and Professor Nay Tun, founder of the Green Economy and Green Development Association expressed his thanks to all.
Statement on Safeguarding Women and Girls in Myanmar’s Rakhine State
UNFPA, Yangon, 29 November 2016 — UNFPA, the United Nations Population Fund, is calling for urgent safeguarding of the health and protection of women and girls in Myanmar’s Rakhine State. All women in Rakhine, including all ethnic and religious minorities, must be given access to healthcare and other essential services without discrimination, and they must be protected from all forms of violence, including sexual assault. It is imperative that the violence stops. There are currently an estimated 40,000 pregnant women in the areas affected by conflict since 2012. Some 7,600 of these women in the Maungdaw and Buthidaung areas have had no access to basic and primary health services for almost two months.
During pregnancy and childbirth, obstetric and midwifery care make the difference between life and death, between health and life-long disability. Without access to skilled care and life-saving medicines, thousands of women are left helpless when there are complications such as bleeding and infection.
The health, protection and hygiene needs of women and girls in northern parts of Rakhine State are acute. To overlook them has grave consequences. If women cannot access contraceptives, they face unwanted pregnancy and childbirth in destitute and dangerous conditions. When people are isolated or on the run, protective mechanisms within families and communities break down, and women become more vulnerable to violence and exploitation. And whether there is conflict or peace, women and girls continue to have female hygiene needs, not least during pregnancy, childbirth and menstruation.
As the United Nations works to obtain access to the conflict-affected areas, UNFPA stands ready to distribute life-saving medicines and supplies for safe pregnancy and childbirth, as well as contraceptives, female hygiene and dignity kits, HIV post-exposure drugs, post-rape treatments and psychosocial support. UNFPA is working with local authorities and partners towards the resumption of maternal health services, as well as assistance to prevent and respond to violence against women.
UNFPA is committed to safeguarding the rights and dignity of women and girls in Myanmar’s Rakhine State, regardless of their ethnic or religious identity.
Myanmar: Statement by Adama Dieng, United Nations Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide on the situation in northern Rakhine State, Myanmar
(New York, 29 November 2016) The United Nations Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide, Adama Dieng, expressed alarm at reports of the deteriorating security, human rights and humanitarian situation in northern Rakhine State, Myanmar. Following attacks by armed assailants against border security posts in October 2016, the response of the military has reportedly been characterized by excessive use of force and other serious human rights violations against civilian population, particularly the Rohingya Muslim population, including allegations of extrajudicial executions, torture, rape and the destruction of religious property. “These allegations must be verified as a matter of urgency”, stated Adama Dieng. “If they are true, the lives of thousands of people are at risk. The reputation of Myanmar, its new Government and its military forces is also at stake in this matter.”
The Special Adviser stressed that “the current restrictions on access to northern Rakhine State, which prevent verification of the allegations, are contributing to suspicion and alarm. Denying the allegations without allowing for their verification is counterproductive.” Mr. Dieng urged the Myanmar Government and the military to heed requests by the United Nations - and many others around the world - to authorise access and an immediate and thorough independent investigation into incidents reported in northern Rakhine state since October 2016. “If the allegations are found to be true, the Government must take immediate steps to stop them, prevent further violations and remedy the situation. Those found responsible for human rights violations must be punished. Failure to do so will only increase the risk of very serious international crimes that Myanmar has an obligation to prevent and punish under international law.”
Adama Dieng reminded the new Government of Myanmar of the trust placed in the Government by the international community as Myanmar transitions to democracy, noting that there have been significant steps forward in that regard. However, the Special Adviser underlined that “Myanmar needs to demonstrate its commitment to the rule of law and to the human rights of all its populations. It cannot expect that such serious allegations are ignored or go unscrutinised. Wherever and whenever these types of allegations are reported in the world, it is the duty of the international community to remind States of their responsibilities to their populations and their obligations under international law. Myanmar is no exception.”
Adama Dieng also took the opportunity to urge the Government of Bangladesh not to close its borders to refugees fleeing Myanmar. “Closing the border, deporting refugees or failing to provide assistance, exposes these populations to further violence that could, in the worst case, constitute international crimes”, the Special Adviser warned.
Adama Dieng concluded by saying that “the current violence did not come out of thin air. It is taking place against a background of very deeply rooted discrimination against specific sectors of the population and a failure to put in place conditions that would support peaceful coexistence among the different communities in Rakhine State. The Government needs, for once and for all, to find a sustainable solution to the situation of the Rohingya Muslims and other religious and ethnic minorities in Myanmar, a solution that is in full compliance with the international human rights standards that the Government has pledged to respect”.
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