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Myanmar: Myanmar: Rakhine State Townships, Wards / Village Tracts (as of 15 Dec 2014)

27 February 2015 - 2:26am
Source: UN Development Programme, Myanmar Information Management Unit Country: Myanmar

The State of Local Governance: Trends in Rakhine

Myanmar: The Long Road to Recovery: Ethnic and Community-Based Health Organizations Leading the Way to Better Health in Eastern Burma

27 February 2015 - 12:58am
Source: Health Information System Working Group Country: Myanmar

Eastern Burma Health Recovery, Decades Away

A new report on the health status of communities in conflict-affected areas of eastern Burma presents data from the first large-scale health survey since the recent ceasefires. The report highlights the critical role of ethnic health structures in providing services and addressing basic health needs, but indicates that key long-term health goals will remain unattainable until there is sustainable peace and structural reform.

Myanmar: Civilians in Danger From Shelling, Land Mines in Northern Myanmar

26 February 2015 - 5:11pm
Source: Radio Free Asia Country: Myanmar

Hundreds of ethnic Kokang refugees fled mountain villages close to the Chinese border in northern Myanmar on Thursday after a night of heavy shelling between government forces and rebel troops, local residents said.

"The people are continuing to leave the mountain areas," a local resident on the Kokang side of the border opposite the Chinese town of Nansan told RFA. "Some 500 or 600 people have already come down from the mountains."

"They are heading for Nansan."

He said some refugees had turned up at the No. 125 Boundary Marker refugee camp on the Kokang side, but that few now regarded the camp as safe enough to remain in.

"It's dangerous here," the man said. "There was fighting throughout the day [on Wednesday]; we could hear the shelling."

"The shelling continued all day and all night," he said.

Young boy killed

A 10-year-old boy who fled across the border with a group of Kokang refugees on Wednesday died in a Yunnan hospital after triggering a land mine, local sources told RFA.

His journey to hospital was repeatedly delayed by military checks and roadblocks, and he arrived too late for emergency treatment to save him, they said.

"I saw a little kid yesterday who had stepped on a land mine, and his leg had been blown off," an ethnic Kokang woman on the Chinese side of the border surnamed Zhang told RFA on Thursday.

"We took him to the [Zhenkang] county hospital, but they couldn't save him. He had already died," she said.

She said another young boy had been stranded on the Kokang side after a trip back across the border, where many refugees have returned briefly in recent days to collect personal belongings and supplies.

"He had left his papers at home and he was going back to Laukkai to get them, but the Myanmar army wouldn't let him continue because of the fighting," Zhang said.

An ethnic Kokang aid worker surnamed Yuan said he had also seen the boy who was killed.

"The child was blown up while they were coming down out of the mountains," Yuan said. "They took him to the hospital in Nansan, but they couldn't save him."

"His father brought him over from the 125 [Boundary Marker] refugee camp," he said.

He said government landmines in the region used tripwires.

"The kid probably pulled one of the tripwires while he was playing," Yuan said. "The government has laid a lot of mines this time."

Many thousands flee

An estimated 100,000 people have already fled the remote and rugged conflict zone in northeastern Shan state across the border into China's Yunnan province, Chinese aid workers have told RFA.

Myanmar's army is trying to hold the region against the Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA) rebel forces under ethnic Chinese commander Peng Jiasheng, who is trying to retake the Kokang self-administered zone which it had controlled until 2009.

Peng returned from exile at an unknown border location after his defeat in 2009, launching an attack with troops who had previously infiltrated Laukkai town on Feb. 9, local media reported.

Experts say the legal status of many residents of Kokang is undetermined, and that many identify as Chinese despite being referred to as ethnic Kokang by Myanmar officials.

The MNDAA, which has its roots in the China-backed Communist Party of Burma, on Wednesday denied Myanmar government claims that Chinese mercenaries are fighting alongside rebel forces in Kokang.

Its statement was echoed by a commentary from China's official Xinhua news agency, which hit out at "misleading speculations" about Beijing's role in the Kokang conflict.

"Proximity and ethnicity have bred misleading speculations about Chinese involvement in the ongoing conflict in northern Myanmar close to the bilateral border," the agency said in an article published on Wednesday.

'Nothing but trouble'

Beijing "strongly opposes" the participation of any Chinese nationals in the Kokang conflict, saying it would hesitate to encourage violence on its own doorstep.

"Any escalation of the conflict in northern Myanmar could spell nothing but trouble for China," the article said.

It said humanitarian aid provided by Yunnan authorities to Kokang refugees "should not be misinterpreted" as support for either side in the conflict.

Yun Sun, East Asia Program fellow at the Washington-based Stimson Center, said the Kokang conflict is a major headache for Beijing, whose involvement dates back to the Cultural Revolution (1966-1976) under Chairman Mao Zedong.

"The attempt by the MNDAA to retake the area, the military clashes, and the flight of refugees to China are all putting huge pressure on China's border area," Sun told RFA in an interview earlier this month.

"Drugs from there make their way back into China, and their casinos are exclusively aimed at attracting tourists from China," she said.

The MNDAA was formerly part of a China-backed guerrilla force called the Communist Party of Burma (CPB), and became the first of about a dozen factions to sign a bilateral cease-fire agreement with the government after the group broke apart in 1989.

However, the agreement faltered in 2009 when armed groups came under pressure to transform into a paramilitary Border Guard Force under the control of Myanmar's military—a move the MNDAA resisted.

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

Myanmar: Letpadaung: Fields of Fire

26 February 2015 - 1:33am
Source: Irrawaddy Country: Myanmar

By KYAW PHYO THA / THE IRRAWADDY

When a bulldozer rolled onto her ancestral farmland stretching under the shadow of Letpadaung mountain on a December morning last year, Ma Win Mar was among dozens of farmers who tried to stop it.

But as rubber bullets, fired from cordons of police standing behind the roaring yellow machine, whistled past their ears, all the villagers could do was retreat.

As she helplessly watched the broad steel blade of the machine uproot a swath of sesame, sunflower and bean crops on her seven-acre land, the 30-year-old woman broke down in tears.

“Why did they do it to me? All we have is our land,” Ma Win Mar said of the day she lost her farmland to one of the biggest Chinese investment projects in the country—the Letpadaung copper mining project.

The project is a joint venture between China’s Wanbao mining company—a subsidiary of Norinco, a weapons manufacturer—and the Myanmar military-owned conglomerate Union of Myanmar Economic Holdings Ltd (UMEHL).

One day before Ma Win Mar lost her land, on Dec. 22, a woman in her 50s was shot dead by police during a clash with villagers at the project site while company employees tried to fence off farmland unlawfully claimed by the company.

It was the latest flashpoint between security forces and local villagers who refused to take compensation from the company for the expansion of the project, from which 100,000 tons of copper is slated to be extracted annually starting from 2015.

The death of Daw Khin Win, who was shot in the head, came just over two years since another violent government crackdown on Letpadaung protestors in November 2012. During the early morning raid, police used smoke bombs containing white phosphorus to disperse protestors, injuring more than 100 people, the majority of them Buddhist monks.

Conditional Approval

Situated on the western bank of the Chindwin River in Sagaing Region, the Letpadaung copper mine near Monywa in upper Myanmar has been a source of public outcry since 2012.

Myanmar Wanbao Mining Copper Ltd signed a joint venture with UMEHL in mid-2010 and a 60-year land grant for the project was acquired from the Ministry of Home Affairs in August 2012. Since then, just over 7,867 acres of land in the Letpadaung region have been confiscated to make way for the US$997 million expansion of the copper mine.

Following the November 2012 crackdown, the government formed an investigation commission led by Daw Aung San Suu Kyi to determine whether the project should go ahead.

In its report, issued in March 2013, the commission suggested the project should proceed, but only after outstanding concerns affecting “the interests of the country, local people and younger generations” were addressed.

It provided 42 recommendations that included urging stakeholders to devise a new contract that was more beneficial for the country, pay land compensation to local people at the market price and carry out a more comprehensive Environmental and Social Impact Assessment (ESIA).

Myanmar Wanbao Mining Ltd welcomed the decision of the report and pledged to heed its call to listen to the needs of the local community. The company, the government and the UMEHL signed a new contract in July 2013 that provided for the government to keep 51 percent of profits from the venture.

Immediately following the report’s release, President U Thein Sein formed a 15-member committee, supervised by a President’s Office minister and including directors from UMEHL and Wanbao as members, to implement the findings of the inquiry commission.

However, none of these official moves managed to quell local opposition to the project arising from loss of farmland, inadequate compensation, the project’s environmental impact and the destruction of sacred religious structures.

Over the past two years, confrontations between villagers and security forces have continued as the mine’s operators attempted to extend the project’s operating area. Four villages have been forced to relocate for the mine so far and land around 32 other farming villages, inhabited by more than 25,000 people, is also being acquired.

Many villagers are reluctant to take compensation after growing up in families that have tilled the surrounding farmlands for generations. For them, their land is their livelihood and the only inheritance they can hand down to the next generation in their family.

“We are just farmers,” said 38-year-old Hse Tae villager Daw Yee Win, whose 14 acres of land were confiscated last year. “All we know is how to farm. I just want my land back as I am not sure the compensation they pay will guarantee our livelihood. We firmly believe that as long as we can work on our land, we will not go hungry.”

The Blame Game

In the wake of the fatal shooting last December, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi said the committee formed by the government to implement her report’s recommendations had failed to act.

“The committee did carry out some recommendations, but it has not fully implemented [them]… It has not followed the recommendations to the letter,” she told the media in December.

In response, U Tin Myint, the secretary of the implementation committee, claimed that 29 out of 42 recommendations had been carried out and an amended ESIA draft was underway, the state-run paper The Mirror reported on Jan. 9.

U Tin Myint said that since 2011, farmland surrounding the mine project area was seized in accordance with land acquisition by laws and that the committee had paid more than 11 billion kyat in total for land compensation, at market prices, as suggested by the report.

He added that, although some locals refused to accept compensation for their land, the land could still be confiscated under section 16 of the Land Acquisition Law that, according to the secretary, “permits a district administrator to seize land for a state project without any interference.”

U Tin Myint blamed “outside organizations and networks” for conspiring to destroy the project, a sentiment that faintly echoed a statement issued by Wanbao on Dec. 30 in which the Chinese company referred to political organizations and activists that were seeking to “make political gains.”

The company defended its record in implementing the inquiry commission’s recommendations and claimed it had the “overwhelming support” of local communities. However, it also asserted that issues of land use and resettlement were the responsibility of the government and the UMEHL.

Daw Khin San Hlaing, a Lower House parliamentarian from Sagaing Region and a member of the investigation commission, said local people had lost faith in the implementation committee as it had failed to carry out most of the recommendations.

“The most evident failure is that the project still doesn’t have an Environmental and Social Impact Assessment. Without the assessment, the company is now trying to expand the project by fencing farmland without owners’ approval,” she said.

“As a committee endorsed by the president, they should be honest as to why they have failed to implement the recommendations [and indicate] what else is left to be done rather than scapegoating other people.”

The lawmaker said if the committee failed to implement the recommendations of the report, the government should abolish it and form a new one.

She also warned Wanbao that if it couldn’t follow the recommendations, it should shut down the project, as the mounting issues facing the copper mine could deter potential foreign investment in Myanmar.

Ma Thwe Thwe Win, a Hse Tae villager, said that local people accept the recommendations of the report but feel betrayed that the committee has failed to implement them.

She said that many locals had lost faith in the project given the problems they have faced over the last two years.

“Apart from the promise that [project developers] would strictly follow the recommendations [of the report], local people should have a voice in whether the project should go ahead,” she said.

For Ma Win Khaing, the daughter of Daw Khin Win, who was shot dead by police in the Dec. 22 clash, only the complete cancellation of the project would do.

“If the project still exists, we’re afraid there will be more cases like my mother’s,” she said.

Additional reporting contributed by Zarni Mann in Mandalay.

Myanmar: Dozens of Civilian Bodies Cremated in Kokang; Rebels Blame Government

25 February 2015 - 10:32pm
Source: Radio Free Asia Country: China, Myanmar

Aid workers in Myanmar's Kokang region near the northeastern border with China cremated large numbers of bodies of civilians in recent days, according to photographs shown to RFA from the scene.

The photos show voluntary workers in rubber gloves disposing of large numbers of dead bodies in civilian clothes, some with their hands bound, and others with missing limbs.

The photos, many too graphic to publish, emerged amid accusations by Kokang rebel forces that the government is "massacring" unarmed civilians.

"In Kokang, these people were killed by the government," the ethnic Kokang man who showed the photos to RFA said on Wednesday. "They were civilians."

"The Youth League and the Red Cross cremated the bodies," the man said.

"They were tied up and then shot," he said. "It was very cruel; they were unarmed civilians."

He said the majority of killings took place in the town, which he declined to name because he feared for his own security, but some people had also been shot by the Myanmar army in mountain villages nearby.

"I know there were about 70 or 80 people killed [in the town]," the man said. "Taken with those killed in the mountains, it's about 100 people altogether." As fighting wears on, civilians are continuing to flee the remote and rugged conflict zone in northeastern Shan state across the border into China's Yunnan province.

Myanmar's army is trying to hold the region against the Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA) rebel forces under ethnic Chinese commander Peng Jiasheng, who is trying to retake the Kokang self-administered zone which it had controlled until 2009.

Government authorities were not immediately available to comment on the allegations that civilians have been killed in large numbers.

Warning of massacres

The Kokang resident's account, however, was supported by a statement from the MNDAA on Wednesday warning local people of "massacres" of returning refugees being carried out by government troops in disguise.

"On Tuesday, refugees heading back to Laukkai [from the Chinese border] were massacred by government troops masquerading as plainclothes rebel fighters," the statement said.

"Two youths were also killed in secret who refused to dress up as [Kokang] police."

It said several other people who had traveled back to Laukkai were taken away by government troops and haven't been seen since.

It warned refugees in the border area not to follow anyone back towards Laukkai.

"In recent days, fake Kokang police have been using threats and coercion to force Kokang refugees back from the border area towards Laukkai," the statement said.

"These fake police know very well that the Myanmar army is carrying out large scale massacres of innocent civilians, yet they don't hesitate to sacrifice their compatriots in order to help the government whitewash over what happened," it said.

Competing death tolls

Precise death toll figures from fighting that erupted on Feb. 9 have been hard to obtain, with rebels asserting they’ve killed large numbers of government forces and the government dismissing the claims. The government, which has said that more than 60 troops or police have died, on Tuesday said 72 ethnic rebels had been killed since Feb. 9

According to the Myanmar government, the Peng and the MNDAA pass freely across the border into China, and Naypyidaw has called on Beijing to prevent "terrorist activities" from being launched from its territory.

But an MNDAA spokesman told RFA's Burmese Service on Wednesday that the border is closed to them.

"We can't even enter China," he said. "If we enter, they arrest us. We are not allowed to get in China."

He denied government claims that many of the rebel fighters are mercenary soldiers from China, demobilized from the People's Liberation Army (PLA).

"That's not true either," he said. "We are all ethnic Kokang."

100,000 refugees

He also denied that the MNDAA had carried out an on a Red Cross truck traveling to Kunlong township from the capital of the Kokang special region Laukkai on Saturday evening.

"We couldn't even get close to that area," the spokesman said. "We heard that there were about 40 trucks and two point trucks."

"[The government forces] were opening fire with machine-guns along the road. At the same time, our troops were attacked by two helicopters," he added.

According to Myanmar officials, the MNDAA has been joined by 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).

But the MNDAA spokesman said the KIA was only "helping" to the west of the Salween River, rather than following the MNDAA forces.

"We all are allies, but only the Arakan Army and Ta'ang National Liberation Army are together with us in the fighting," he said.

Some 100,000 refugees from Kokang are already in Yunnan, according to Chinese aid workers' estimates. Official border crossings are closed, but many people are using mountainous paths to walk across the border undetected, local sources have told RFA.

Reported by Qiao Long for RFA's Mandarin Service, and by Kyaw Kyaw Aung for the Myanmar Service. Translated by Khet Mar and Luisetta Mudie. Written in English by Luisetta Mudie.

Myanmar: More Questions than Answers in Kokang Dilemma

25 February 2015 - 9:39pm
Source: Irrawaddy Country: China, Myanmar

By THE IRRAWADDY| Wednesday, February 25, 2015 |

After more than two weeks of intense fighting between Kokang rebels and the Burma Army around Laukkai, a number of questions remain unanswered.

The first is what bearing the conflict will have on the country’s peace process, with the government ostensibly still hoping to conclude a nationwide ceasefire agreement before the 2015 general election.

Renewed doubts have been expressed about the likelihood of a peace accord being reached—this time, from within the senior echelons of the Burma Army itself. Last week, Defense Minister Lt. Gen. Wai Lwin told Radio Free Asia that recent fighting in the Kokang Special Zone could “damage Myanmar’s democratic reform and peacemaking process.”

“As the nation has grown increasingly unstable [due to the fighting], the general election could be thrown into chaos,” he said.

The second question is whether the conflict will alter the public’s view of the Burma Army. Last week President Thein Sein and Commander-in-Chief Snr-Gen Min Aung Hlaing visited wounded soldiers and vowed to continue to ensure Burma’s “territorial integrity”. Later the Burma Army held a ceremony in Lashio to honor and bury the soldiers killed in Laukkai earlier this month, generating an outpouring of public sympathy and support.

The fierce clashes near the Chinese border, according to some army commanders on the frontline, is going to be a long battle, and they have admitted that the Kokang troops are better equipped than during previous clashes in 2009.

The third question is how the Kokang fighters were able to catch the Burma Army off guard for long enough to press their claim in Laukkai. The National Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA) was well prepared for their Feb. 9 offensive, inconspicuously taking residence in town months before the conflict began, and according to on the ground reports, the recipients of ammunition and support from other rebel armies in the region.

Army officers on the frontline said that they were countering different kinds of guerrilla warfare in urban areas, with MNDAA troops attempting to draw the opposing side into rural areas, where the rebel forces have bases and a superior knowledge of the terrain. They also said that initial intelligence suggested the rebel forces had been planning to take over Lashio, before coming to the conclusion that they did not have the capacity to overrun a town of that size.

Throughout the conflict, there has been speculation that other ethnic armed groups have been supporting the MNDAA, raising the possibility that the recent attack is, in part, a retaliatory move against the Burma Army’s shelling of a Kachin Independence Army training camp last November.

A total of 23 cadets were killed during the artillery attack, drawn from groups as diverse as the All Burma Students’ Democratic Front, Arakan Army, Chin National Front and Ta’ang National Liberation Army (TNLA), and four Kachin commanders were injured. Many of these groups are active around northern Shan State, and the Burma Army believes many are party to the recent offensive.

As infantry divisions were called in to contain the spread of the insurgency along the roads between Laukkai and Lashio, some editorials in Rangoon-based journals asked whether the Burma Army had underestimated the rebels, questioning whether it had the skills to successfully prosecute an urban counterinsurgency.

In 2009, the Burma Army faced little resistance when it drove MNDAA leader Peng Jiasheng from Laukkai, shutting down his arms factory and drug business in the process. It was believed at the time that the move was retaliation for Peng—who had hitherto maintained two decades of cordial relations with the government—refusing to cede his troops to the government’s Border Guard Force.

Peng, who is now aged in his mid-80s, fled to Wa territory after the 2009 skirmish to regroup his army. It has been suggested by the government that the MNDAA received ammunition and support from the United Wa State Army (UWSA) during the recent attack, a claim the UWSA denies.

Whether or not this was the case, it certainly seems that the Kokang were well prepared for this offensive.

For instance, on the night of Feb. 15, rebels drove dozens of vehicles into Laukkai, managing to kill a number of Burma Army officers and soldiers in a surprise attack by utilizing sniper rifles and night vision goggles.

After the attack, rebels retreated quickly but a rear guard force remained embedded in the town, killing several more soldiers. Some refugees fleeing the conflict reported seeing rebel soldiers sneaking across the border with China.

Which leads to the final question: the extent to which China is implicated in the current conflict. Aung Min, the Burmese government’s chief negotiator, said that China was not responsible for the events of the last month, although Lt-Gen Myat Htun Oo also claimed that “Chinese mercenaries” had joined the ranks of the MNDAA.

Back in July 2013, Snr-Gen Min Aung Hlaing received Gen. Fan Changlong of the People’s Liberation Army, with the pair holding a wide-ranging discussion on cooperation between the two armies, border stability and the eradication of narcotics in the region, according to contemporary reports in state-run newspapers. It is certain they canvassed the lingering issue of the Kokang rebels at the time, but it remains unknown what was discussed.

Since the beginning of peace talks between the Burmese government and rebel groups in the north of the country, China has sent officials from both Yunnan and Beijing to observe these meetings. What is certain is China’s continued determination to maintain its influence along the Burmese border, where the Burma Army has never been able to establish an uncontested presence.

Myanmar: Reunions and ransoms: a day online in Myanmar's Rohingya camps

25 February 2015 - 8:34pm
Source: AlertNet Country: Malaysia, Myanmar, Thailand

Source: Wed, 25 Feb 2015 21:26 GMT
Author: Andrew R.C. Marshall

THAE CHAUNG, Myanmar, Feb 26 (Reuters) - In this teeming camp for displaced Rohingya Muslims in western Myanmar, it's easy to overlook the internet huts. The raw emotion they generate is much harder to ignore.

Read more on AlertNet.

Myanmar: Myanmar “needs urgently to get back on track” - Zeid

25 February 2015 - 7:59am
Source: UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights Country: Myanmar

GENEVA (25 February 2015) – UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein today warned that Myanmar “seems headed in the wrong direction and needs urgently to get back on track” in a crucial year for the country’s democratic transition and long-term reconciliation.

“The international community has seen the transition in Myanmar as a story of promise and hope,” the High Commissioner said. “But recent developments relating to the human rights of minorities, the freedom of expression and the right to peaceful protest are calling into question the direction of that reform, and even threatening to set it back.”

Zeid cited a number of recent cases in which the new space for freedom of expression and peaceful protest has been curtailed by regressive application of the law.

“In the latest in a long line of similar cases, last week 14 members of the Michaungkan community were jailed for peacefully protesting the alleged confiscation of their land by the military. Last year, we saw the jailing of 10 journalists under outdated defamation, trespassing and national security laws. And U Htin Lin Oo remains in detention for speaking out against the use of Buddhism as a tool for extremism,” Zeid said.

“Myanmar had promised to end the era of political prisoners, but now seems intent on creating a new generation by jailing people who seek to enjoy the democratic freedoms they have been promised.”

The High Commissioner stressed that ensuring democratic space will be critically important for the upcoming constitutional referendum and elections. This will require greater tolerance and respect for freedom of expression and peaceful assembly.

On 11 February, the President issued a notification announcing the expiry by the end of March of temporary “white cards”, held mainly by ethnic minorities who do not have citizenship under the discriminatory 1982 Citizenship Law. The decision appears designed to prevent “white card” holders – the majority believed to be members of Myanmar’s stateless Rohingya Muslim minority – from being eligible to vote in the upcoming constitutional referendum and possibly in the General Election later this year. Furthermore, on 16 February, the Constitutional Tribunal ruled that it would be unconstitutional for “white card” holders to vote in any upcoming referendum.

The Rohingyas, who number about one million, have lived in Myanmar for generations, but they are denied equal access to citizenship, and many have been victims of violent attacks and pogroms. Notwithstanding that the Government has made some efforts to improve services, around 140,000 people continue to reside in overcrowded camps, the vast majority of whom are Rohingya, with severe and discriminatory restrictions placed on their freedom of movement. Noting the Government’s official resistance to the use of the term “Rohingya”, Zeid warned the denial of a group’s right to self-identification “should sound a clear warning bell” to the international community.

“During an election year, it will be tempting for some politicians to fan the flames of prejudice for electoral gain,” the High Commissioner said. “But at a time when religious extremism is creating havoc in many parts of the world, the terrible consequences of appealing to or appeasing such sentiments should be all too clear. A new democratic Myanmar should be built on the strength of its diversity.”

High Commissioner Zeid also expressed particular concern about four new laws, currently before Parliament, that are discriminatory against women and religious minorities and breach international standards on freedom of religion. The package of laws would place restrictions upon people who wish to change their religion, control the marriage of Buddhist women to non-Buddhist men, and allow the Government to regulate birth spacing and family planning in certain areas through the designation of special zones for “healthcare”.

The situation in the Kokang self-administered zone in northeastern Shan State, which is fast deteriorating following the escalation of violence between the Myanmar Army, the Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army and other armed groups, is also cause for alarm, the High Commissioner warned. He added that the two attacks against Red Cross convoys in the space of a week were very disturbing.

Reports suggest tens of thousands have been displaced by the current fighting. On 18 February, a State of Emergency was declared for 90 days in the Kokang self-administered zone, providing wide-ranging executive and judicial powers to the military.

“It will be tragic for Myanmar’s peace process if this violence is allowed to spiral,” Zeid said. “All parties must step back from the brink and ensure full respect for human rights and protection of the civilian population.”

Zeid also called for accountability for any violations that may have been perpetrated by the military and by non-State armed groups.

On 13 February, Brang Shawng, an ethnic Kachin, was sentenced to six months in prison or alternatively a 50,000 kyat fine following his call to the Myanmar National Human Rights Commission for an investigation into the military’s role in the fatal shooting of his 14-year-old daughter. And in January, following the rape and murder of two Kachin school teachers working for the Kachin Baptist Convention in northern Shan State, the military warned that anyone alleging that the army was responsible for the killings would be subject to legal action.

“Ensuring accountability for the military will be a key test for the transition,” Zeid said.

ENDS

For more information, please contact Ravina Shamdasani (+41 22 917 9769 / rshamdasani@ohchr.org) or Cécile Pouilly (+41 22 917 9310 / cpouilly@ohchr.org)

Myanmar: Myanmar “needs urgently to get back on track” - Zeid

25 February 2015 - 7:59am
Source: UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights Country: Myanmar

GENEVA (25 February 2015) – UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein today warned that Myanmar “seems headed in the wrong direction and needs urgently to get back on track” in a crucial year for the country’s democratic transition and long-term reconciliation.

“The international community has seen the transition in Myanmar as a story of promise and hope,” the High Commissioner said. “But recent developments relating to the human rights of minorities, the freedom of expression and the right to peaceful protest are calling into question the direction of that reform, and even threatening to set it back.”

Zeid cited a number of recent cases in which the new space for freedom of expression and peaceful protest has been curtailed by regressive application of the law.

“In the latest in a long line of similar cases, last week 14 members of the Michaungkan community were jailed for peacefully protesting the alleged confiscation of their land by the military. Last year, we saw the jailing of 10 journalists under outdated defamation, trespassing and national security laws. And U Htin Lin Oo remains in detention for speaking out against the use of Buddhism as a tool for extremism,” Zeid said.

“Myanmar had promised to end the era of political prisoners, but now seems intent on creating a new generation by jailing people who seek to enjoy the democratic freedoms they have been promised.”

The High Commissioner stressed that ensuring democratic space will be critically important for the upcoming constitutional referendum and elections. This will require greater tolerance and respect for freedom of expression and peaceful assembly.

On 11 February, the President issued a notification announcing the expiry by the end of March of temporary “white cards”, held mainly by ethnic minorities who do not have citizenship under the discriminatory 1982 Citizenship Law. The decision appears designed to prevent “white card” holders – the majority believed to be members of Myanmar’s stateless Rohingya Muslim minority – from being eligible to vote in the upcoming constitutional referendum and possibly in the General Election later this year. Furthermore, on 16 February, the Constitutional Tribunal ruled that it would be unconstitutional for “white card” holders to vote in any upcoming referendum.

The Rohingyas, who number about one million, have lived in Myanmar for generations, but they are denied equal access to citizenship, and many have been victims of violent attacks and pogroms. Notwithstanding that the Government has made some efforts to improve services, around 140,000 people continue to reside in overcrowded camps, the vast majority of whom are Rohingya, with severe and discriminatory restrictions placed on their freedom of movement. Noting the Government’s official resistance to the use of the term “Rohingya”, Zeid warned the denial of a group’s right to self-identification “should sound a clear warning bell” to the international community.

“During an election year, it will be tempting for some politicians to fan the flames of prejudice for electoral gain,” the High Commissioner said. “But at a time when religious extremism is creating havoc in many parts of the world, the terrible consequences of appealing to or appeasing such sentiments should be all too clear. A new democratic Myanmar should be built on the strength of its diversity.”

High Commissioner Zeid also expressed particular concern about four new laws, currently before Parliament, that are discriminatory against women and religious minorities and breach international standards on freedom of religion. The package of laws would place restrictions upon people who wish to change their religion, control the marriage of Buddhist women to non-Buddhist men, and allow the Government to regulate birth spacing and family planning in certain areas through the designation of special zones for “healthcare”.

The situation in the Kokang self-administered zone in northeastern Shan State, which is fast deteriorating following the escalation of violence between the Myanmar Army, the Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army and other armed groups, is also cause for alarm, the High Commissioner warned. He added that the two attacks against Red Cross convoys in the space of a week were very disturbing.

Reports suggest tens of thousands have been displaced by the current fighting. On 18 February, a State of Emergency was declared for 90 days in the Kokang self-administered zone, providing wide-ranging executive and judicial powers to the military.

“It will be tragic for Myanmar’s peace process if this violence is allowed to spiral,” Zeid said. “All parties must step back from the brink and ensure full respect for human rights and protection of the civilian population.”

Zeid also called for accountability for any violations that may have been perpetrated by the military and by non-State armed groups.

On 13 February, Brang Shawng, an ethnic Kachin, was sentenced to six months in prison or alternatively a 50,000 kyat fine following his call to the Myanmar National Human Rights Commission for an investigation into the military’s role in the fatal shooting of his 14-year-old daughter. And in January, following the rape and murder of two Kachin school teachers working for the Kachin Baptist Convention in northern Shan State, the military warned that anyone alleging that the army was responsible for the killings would be subject to legal action.

“Ensuring accountability for the military will be a key test for the transition,” Zeid said.

ENDS

For more information, please contact Ravina Shamdasani (+41 22 917 9769 / rshamdasani@ohchr.org) or Cécile Pouilly (+41 22 917 9310 / cpouilly@ohchr.org)

Myanmar: Myanmar: Fighting Spreads Through Northern Shan State, Displacing Hundreds of Civilians

25 February 2015 - 7:24am
Source: Irrawaddy Country: Myanmar

RANGOON — Heavy fighting between the Burma Army and ethnic rebels is continuing in northern Shan State and has spread beyond the Kokang Special Region in recent days, causing hundreds of civilians to flee, rebel officers and aid workers said on Wednesday.

Since Feb. 9, fighting has raged in the Kokang area on the Burma-China border. The heaviest clashes took place in and around the region’s administrative capital Laukkai until the army established control of the town about a week ago.

In recent days, army operations have expanded and targeted rebel positions of the Kokang rebels, also known as the Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA), and the Ta’ang National Liberation Army (TNLA) in Laukkai Township and areas further north and south in Konyan and Kunlong townships. The TNLA and the Arakan Army are allied with the MNDAA.

Htun Myat Lin, MNDAA general-secretary, said units of his group clashed with the army in a village called Peng Shwe Shen in Laukkai Township on Tuesday, adding that he heard reports of large army convoys leaving Laukkai town in order to quell resistance in the wider region.

“We heard they drove with 40 army trucks out from Laukkai. The truck at the front point and shoot along the roads everywhere,” he said.

Mai Aike Kyaw, a spokesman for the TNLA, said the ethnic Palaung rebel group had clashed with the army on three occasions in Konyan Township and at Tarmoenye, a sub-township of Kutkhai Township. “They are hunting for our troops. Most clashes broke out in the jungle where our troops are based because they came to attack our bases,” he said.

State-owned media have reported that from Feb. 9-21 the army lost five senior officers and 54 soldiers in the fighting, while 105 were injured. The army said more rebels were killed, claims that have not been confirmed by the rebels.

Aid workers based in northern Shan State said the number of civilians fleeing the spreading fighting was increasing, with daily arrivals of families fleeing south to the towns of Kunlong, Kutkhai and Lashio.

“They arrived almost every day; about 200 new IDPs [internally displaced persons] arrived on Feb 23. Then today has 350 people came from Laukkai,” said Chit Mee, a school teacher who is assisting a temporary shelter for the displaced set up a Buddhist monastery in Lashio.

“We have told some IDPs not to come now, as there is ongoing fighting along the road,” she said. A monk at the monastery said there were a total of some 8,000 people staying there.

Ko Htay, a volunteer overseeing a camp for the displaced in Kunglong, said some 5,000 people were receiving shelter there.

Zau San, an emergency aid coordinator with the Kachin Baptist Convention based in Muse, said clashes between the army and the TNLA had caused about 700 civilians from six villages in Mongkoe sub-township in eastern Muse Township to flee their homes in recent days.

“One house in Hpawng Seng Village was shelled by mortar, and fighting broke out nearby the villages. Many villagers ran away for safety. Some people wanted to go home, but still more Burmese Army soldiers are deployed there. Tensions are high and they could not go home,” he said.

Zau San said many of the displaced had family in China and were trying to cross the border.

Many Burmese residents working in the Kokang Region fled earlier this month and the recent spreading of the fighting is now affecting ethnic minority Palaung, Shan and Kachin villagers living in the countryside.

During the start of the fighting, the mostly ethnic Chinese minority residents of Laukkai town have fled the region and tens of thousands crossed the border into China, where authorities have been providing shelter. It remains unclear exactly how many civilians have fled into to China and Chinese authorities have released little information about the situation.

Unconfirmed media reports have suggested that 100,000 people have fled across the border since Feb. 9. According to provisional results of the 2014 Population Census, Laukkai Township is home to about 95,000 people.

Myanmar: Myanmar: Relief supplies running short for Kokang refugees

25 February 2015 - 6:46am
Source: Democratic Voice of Burma Country: Myanmar

By ECHO HUI

As clashes intensify in northern Shan State between Burmese government forces and ethnic rebels, aid workers say humanitarian supplies are fast drying up for the thousands of Kokang civilians who fled their homes to take refuge in shelters.

Speaking exclusively to DVB, medical and aid workers at the Sino-Burmese border have called for an urgent response of increased international support and more attention to be focused on the plight of the tens of thousands of refugees from the Kokang region.

“The number of refugees is growing by the day, and it is getting harder and harder to provide enough food, volunteers, doctors, medicine and clothes to meet their needs. They require an urgent helping hand,” said Xiao Ruan, a member of KokangBoAi, a Chinese non-governmental aid agency, which has set up a shelter for displaced Kokang families around Nansan Township in Yunnan Province, just a stone’s throw from the Burmese border.

Since hostilities broke out in the Kokang Special Region on 9 February between the Burmese army and Kokang rebels of the Myanmar Nationalities Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA), more than 30,000 refugees have taken refuge on Chinese soil.

“Many refugees are here in Nansan’s 125 camps,” said a refugee identified as Mr Yang by the Voice of America’s Chinese service on Monday. “But many others have not been allocated places. The international community should pay more attention to these people.”

He said that many displaced persons from Laogai [Laukkai] and villages caught in the crossfire of the conflict have crossed into China and dispersed amongst various villages and towns. Others appear to be living in a makeshift fashion in the forest, he added.

A medic surnamed Zhao, who is assisting at a Nansan refugee camp, has said that Health Unlimited placed two doctors at the camp, but that they must attend to around 3,000 refugees.

“The doctors are essentially there just to ensure that cholera and diarrhoea do not break out in the camp,” he said.

“So far, we are doing OK. We go through a sterilisation process three times per day, and send more serious cases to Nansan Hospital.”

Zhao said the camp received a donation of some 10,000 kilograms of rice and also has access to spring water, but lacks meat and nutritious food.

KokangBoAi’s Ruan said he had been told that infectious diseases had broken out at some camps set up temporarily in mountainous areas.

Ruan said that the regional authorities of Zhenkang County, which oversees Nansan, have tightened their grip on NGOs providing relief to refugees in case the supplies fall into the hands of ethnic rebels. He said some local youth groups had been trying to provide medicine and supplies to Kokang rebels.

“The Burmese authorities have been in touch with their Chinese counterparts to discuss plans for resettling the refugees back in their hometowns, but no dates have been fixed,” he said.

Burma’s state-run media reported on Tuesday that “stability had returned” to the troubled region, and that as many as 800 residents from Laogai had returned home by Sunday.

The MNDAA released a statement on Wednesday on its official Chinese website, accusing local police officers in Laogai of resorting to “both mild and severe measures” to lure refugees back to the town. It added that “such an irresponsible move puts our brothers and sisters’ precious lives at risk.”

The MNDAA claimed that Burmese soldiers killed a number of Kokang civilians who returned to Laogai on Tuesday, accusing them of being Kokang rebels in plain clothes.

Earlier this week, Burmese aid groups suspended relief convoys into the Kokang region, following a series of ambushes on non-military convoys.

The Kokang militia on Tuesday denied any involvement in two separate attacks on Red Cross convoys.

“The attack reported by Burmese media about a second Red Cross convoy on 21 February had nothing to do with the MNDAA,” read the statement, written in Chinese and posted on the MNDAA website. “The area where the Red Cross-flagged truck was attacked is under the tight control of the Burmese army … The MNDAA does not even have forces in that area, nor does it attack civilian vehicles.”

Myanmar: Village admin and BGP officers extort money in population data collection program

25 February 2015 - 2:53am
Source: Kaladan Press Network Country: Myanmar

Village admin officers from Rohingya villages are extorting money from villagers when Burma Border Guard Police (BGP) accompanied by local immigration officers have been collecting population data collection (Hswe Tin Si in Burmese) resumed again in Rohingya populated areas since December 2014, said Hamid, a village admin officer from Maungdaw township.

The BGP director general Tin Ko Ko had stated in a public meet in Maungdaw south on November 2014 that his department will not collect any money – adding children and bride, erasing persons (dead, going abroad), family photographing in their family list, marriage permission and food serving while the officers are on duty) from Rohingya families who join the population data collection program, Hamid more added.

But, most of the villager admin and BGP officers were extorting money from Rohingyas villagers in the name of population data collection program and also harassing and treating villagers to join the program and to accept the name Bengali in the place of Rohingya in the Form of Race column, Hamid more added.

However, the population data collection program was started since February 20 and the local village Administration officer U Chit Maung (45), son of Azan Pru (Chakma) extorts Kyat 70.000 to give marriage permission to Rohingya community. At present, the village Administration officer has the power to issue marriage permission to Rohingya, Jafor, a businessman from the locality said.

The village Admin U Chit Maung accompanied by other admin members---Md.Taher (40), son of Kala Meah, deputy Admin; Anwar (32), son of Noor Mohamed; and Nobi Hussain (40), son of Kala Meah extorted the money from villagers, Jafor more added.

Besides, immigration officers in the same village extorted Kyat 2,000 for group photo, Kyat 3,000 to register new born, Kyat 3,000 to terminate dead person and Kyat 50,000 for reckoning new bridegroom, said Ashaff, one of father-in-laws said from the village.

On the other hand, the population data collecting program was started since February 18 in Lone Don village of Maungdaw north, where the BGP Deputy Director General was going from one village to another village and asked villagers to accept the data collection program. It is the order of central government if not, authority will take action, Anwer, a businessman said from the locality.

“The concerned authorities will write “Bengali” in place of “Rohingya” in the race,” the deputy said the villagers. “No money will collect while the data collection (Hswe Tin Si) is processing.”

But, immigration officers extorted Kyat 1,000 for group photo, Kyat 2,000 to register new born, Kyat 2,000 to terminate dead person and Kyat 40,000 to count on new bridegroom, Kolim said from the locality.

Besides, the local village Administration officer, Myra Ra Kyaw (Mro community) extorts Kyat 40,000 to give marriage permission to Rohingya people, Ullah Meah, a father of a bridegroom said.

An ex-schoolteacher, Searaz said, “Census or population data collection is a kind of money extortion, so people reluctant to participate it."

Similarly, the block two admin officer Yousuf extorting huge amount of money from rich villagers, in the name of serving food to duty officers and also collecting money from all villagers for adding new born babies/ bride, erasing person when he recommend to add or to erase person from family list, said Maung Hla shwe, a local from the block.

Myanmar: Thousands of Refugees Hampered by Border, Road Closures in Kokang Conflict

25 February 2015 - 1:44am
Source: Radio Free Asia Country: China, Myanmar

While fighting rages between ethnic Kokang rebels and government troops near the country's northeastern border with China, civilians fleeing the conflict are increasingly squeezed by roadblocks and border closures, local sources said on Tuesday.

Thousands of refugees remain trapped in the Kokang area, according to an ethnic Kokang volunteer working in the border area opposite the Chinese town of Nansan.

"There are 40,000 to 50,000 people over in Nansan, and their numbers are gradually increasing," the aid worker, who gave only a nickname, Xiao Yuan, told RFA. "There are about 5,000 to 6,000 refugees on the Kokang side of the border."

"Some of them can't get out, but from time to time the authorities release some of them across the border," he said.

He said many of the roads leading out of Kokang have been shut down by police.

"Nobody can get in," Xiao Yuan said. "The police are going after arms traffickers between Yangon and Kokang. They have caught some young ethnic Chinese, as well as arms smugglers from all the main ethnic groups."

"When they are caught, they're sent to work in army munitions camps," he said.

A second volunteer surnamed Yan said he had been told that the Chinese authorities had sealed off some border crossings.

"Some people told me that the Chinese border is already closed," Yan said. "But it's still possible to go via mountain and forest paths and get to China that way."

He said some refugees had decided to head south towards Thailand instead, however.

"They are going through the No. 4 Special Wa Region, and heading in the direction of Thailand," Yan said.

Meanwhile, Xiao Yuan, who is on the Kokang side of the border, said fighting had continued in the area on Tuesday.

"I can hear shelling, perhaps once every 10 minutes, but no gunfire," he said. "It has been going on since this morning. It's probably government troops."

Kokang self-administered zone

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

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

The MNDAA has been joined by 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).

Government officials said the MNDAA are being helped in combat by guerrilla armies from the minority areas of Kachin, Mong La, Wa, Palaung, and northern Shan, as well as by former Chinese soldiers working as mercenaries.

According to a KIA official in the conflict zone, some refugees have remained in Kokang, while a few hundred are following KIA troops.

"There are more than 400 people here with the KIA, more than 60 households," Pai, a former deputy health minister in a pre-2009 regional administration, said on Tuesday.

He said they had been unable to cross into China because some of the roads were closed.

State of emergency

Across the border in China's Yunnan province, an estimated 100,000 refugees are now encamped in tents and makeshift public buildings after taking refuge across the border from the fighting, according to aid workers.

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

Chinese officials have stepped up border controls and called on all parties to prevent a further escalation of fighting.

A missionary aid worker in Yunnan's Dehong autonomous prefecture said many ethnic Chinese who were permanent residents of Myanmar are now also fleeing to China, alongside other Kokang-based ethnic groups.

"The Myanmar government troops are targeting people who hold dual nationality, including Chinese passports," the missionary said.

"A lot of the ethnic Chinese businessmen from Laukkai have crossed the border into China,” he said. “According to my understanding, there are around 30,000 of them who have arrived in Nansan."

He said the Myanmar authorities were sending ethnic Chinese with dual citizenship to work mending railroads.

He said there is a general shortage of basic foodstuffs and other supplies.

"It's really medicines, tents, rice, cooking oil and salt [they lack]," the missionary said.

Northern Shan state

Ethnic Kokang are primarily based in northern Shan state and the minority group maintains a rebel army of around 3,000 troops under ethnic Chinese commander Peng Jiasheng, known as the Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA).

Yun Sun, East Asia Program fellow at the Washington-based Stimson Center, said the border region has always been an ethnically mixed area that eventually ended up as Myanmar's territory.

Sun, who visited the region in 2009, said the legal status of many residents of Kokang is undetermined, and that many identify as Chinese despite being referred to as ethnic Kokang by Myanmar officials.

"Some people there are Myanmar citizens, legally speaking, and in terms of their identity...but in the areas controlled by ethnic minorities, they don't have Myanmar ID cards," Sun told RFA.

"China's view is that the Kokang group is ethnically Chinese, and that even Peng Jiasheng, the king of Kokang, has his ancestral home in Sichuan," she said.

"This is actually true; [when I visited the] border area I found that the people there are [Chinese] in terms of their appearance, the languages they speak," Sun said. "They use Chinese currency, and even Chinese networks for their cell phone services."

"They have no problems speaking Mandarin," she said.

The MNDAA was formerly part of a China-backed guerrilla force called the Communist Party of Burma (CPB), and became the first of about a dozen factions to sign a bilateral cease-fire agreement with the government after the group broke apart in 1989.

However, the agreement faltered in 2009 when armed groups came under pressure to transform into a paramilitary Border Guard Force under the control of Myanmar's military—a move the MNDAA resisted.

Peng (also known as Phone Kya Shin) left the Kokang self-administered zone, which the MNDAA had controlled, during a government push into the territory that year.

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

Myanmar: Thousands of Refugees Hampered by Border, Road Closures in Kokang Conflict

25 February 2015 - 1:44am
Source: Radio Free Asia Country: China, Myanmar

While fighting rages between ethnic Kokang rebels and government troops near the country's northeastern border with China, civilians fleeing the conflict are increasingly squeezed by roadblocks and border closures, local sources said on Tuesday.

Thousands of refugees remain trapped in the Kokang area, according to an ethnic Kokang volunteer working in the border area opposite the Chinese town of Nansan.

"There are 40,000 to 50,000 people over in Nansan, and their numbers are gradually increasing," the aid worker, who gave only a nickname, Xiao Yuan, told RFA. "There are about 5,000 to 6,000 refugees on the Kokang side of the border."

"Some of them can't get out, but from time to time the authorities release some of them across the border," he said.

He said many of the roads leading out of Kokang have been shut down by police.

"Nobody can get in," Xiao Yuan said. "The police are going after arms traffickers between Yangon and Kokang. They have caught some young ethnic Chinese, as well as arms smugglers from all the main ethnic groups."

"When they are caught, they're sent to work in army munitions camps," he said.

A second volunteer surnamed Yan said he had been told that the Chinese authorities had sealed off some border crossings.

"Some people told me that the Chinese border is already closed," Yan said. "But it's still possible to go via mountain and forest paths and get to China that way."

He said some refugees had decided to head south towards Thailand instead, however.

"They are going through the No. 4 Special Wa Region, and heading in the direction of Thailand," Yan said.

Meanwhile, Xiao Yuan, who is on the Kokang side of the border, said fighting had continued in the area on Tuesday.

"I can hear shelling, perhaps once every 10 minutes, but no gunfire," he said. "It has been going on since this morning. It's probably government troops."

Kokang self-administered zone

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

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

The MNDAA has been joined by 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).

Government officials said the MNDAA are being helped in combat by guerrilla armies from the minority areas of Kachin, Mong La, Wa, Palaung, and northern Shan, as well as by former Chinese soldiers working as mercenaries.

According to a KIA official in the conflict zone, some refugees have remained in Kokang, while a few hundred are following KIA troops.

"There are more than 400 people here with the KIA, more than 60 households," Pai, a former deputy health minister in a pre-2009 regional administration, said on Tuesday.

He said they had been unable to cross into China because some of the roads were closed.

State of emergency

Across the border in China's Yunnan province, an estimated 100,000 refugees are now encamped in tents and makeshift public buildings after taking refuge across the border from the fighting, according to aid workers.

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

Chinese officials have stepped up border controls and called on all parties to prevent a further escalation of fighting.

A missionary aid worker in Yunnan's Dehong autonomous prefecture said many ethnic Chinese who were permanent residents of Myanmar are now also fleeing to China, alongside other Kokang-based ethnic groups.

"The Myanmar government troops are targeting people who hold dual nationality, including Chinese passports," the missionary said.

"A lot of the ethnic Chinese businessmen from Laukkai have crossed the border into China,” he said. “According to my understanding, there are around 30,000 of them who have arrived in Nansan."

He said the Myanmar authorities were sending ethnic Chinese with dual citizenship to work mending railroads.

He said there is a general shortage of basic foodstuffs and other supplies.

"It's really medicines, tents, rice, cooking oil and salt [they lack]," the missionary said.

Northern Shan state

Ethnic Kokang are primarily based in northern Shan state and the minority group maintains a rebel army of around 3,000 troops under ethnic Chinese commander Peng Jiasheng, known as the Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA).

Yun Sun, East Asia Program fellow at the Washington-based Stimson Center, said the border region has always been an ethnically mixed area that eventually ended up as Myanmar's territory.

Sun, who visited the region in 2009, said the legal status of many residents of Kokang is undetermined, and that many identify as Chinese despite being referred to as ethnic Kokang by Myanmar officials.

"Some people there are Myanmar citizens, legally speaking, and in terms of their identity...but in the areas controlled by ethnic minorities, they don't have Myanmar ID cards," Sun told RFA.

"China's view is that the Kokang group is ethnically Chinese, and that even Peng Jiasheng, the king of Kokang, has his ancestral home in Sichuan," she said.

"This is actually true; [when I visited the] border area I found that the people there are [Chinese] in terms of their appearance, the languages they speak," Sun said. "They use Chinese currency, and even Chinese networks for their cell phone services."

"They have no problems speaking Mandarin," she said.

The MNDAA was formerly part of a China-backed guerrilla force called the Communist Party of Burma (CPB), and became the first of about a dozen factions to sign a bilateral cease-fire agreement with the government after the group broke apart in 1989.

However, the agreement faltered in 2009 when armed groups came under pressure to transform into a paramilitary Border Guard Force under the control of Myanmar's military—a move the MNDAA resisted.

Peng (also known as Phone Kya Shin) left the Kokang self-administered zone, which the MNDAA had controlled, during a government push into the territory that year.

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

Myanmar: Thousands of Refugees Hampered by Border, Road Closures in Kokang Conflict

25 February 2015 - 1:44am
Source: Radio Free Asia Country: China, Myanmar

While fighting rages between ethnic Kokang rebels and government troops near the country's northeastern border with China, civilians fleeing the conflict are increasingly squeezed by roadblocks and border closures, local sources said on Tuesday.

Thousands of refugees remain trapped in the Kokang area, according to an ethnic Kokang volunteer working in the border area opposite the Chinese town of Nansan.

"There are 40,000 to 50,000 people over in Nansan, and their numbers are gradually increasing," the aid worker, who gave only a nickname, Xiao Yuan, told RFA. "There are about 5,000 to 6,000 refugees on the Kokang side of the border."

"Some of them can't get out, but from time to time the authorities release some of them across the border," he said.

He said many of the roads leading out of Kokang have been shut down by police.

"Nobody can get in," Xiao Yuan said. "The police are going after arms traffickers between Yangon and Kokang. They have caught some young ethnic Chinese, as well as arms smugglers from all the main ethnic groups."

"When they are caught, they're sent to work in army munitions camps," he said.

A second volunteer surnamed Yan said he had been told that the Chinese authorities had sealed off some border crossings.

"Some people told me that the Chinese border is already closed," Yan said. "But it's still possible to go via mountain and forest paths and get to China that way."

He said some refugees had decided to head south towards Thailand instead, however.

"They are going through the No. 4 Special Wa Region, and heading in the direction of Thailand," Yan said.

Meanwhile, Xiao Yuan, who is on the Kokang side of the border, said fighting had continued in the area on Tuesday.

"I can hear shelling, perhaps once every 10 minutes, but no gunfire," he said. "It has been going on since this morning. It's probably government troops."

Kokang self-administered zone

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

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

The MNDAA has been joined by 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).

Government officials said the MNDAA are being helped in combat by guerrilla armies from the minority areas of Kachin, Mong La, Wa, Palaung, and northern Shan, as well as by former Chinese soldiers working as mercenaries.

According to a KIA official in the conflict zone, some refugees have remained in Kokang, while a few hundred are following KIA troops.

"There are more than 400 people here with the KIA, more than 60 households," Pai, a former deputy health minister in a pre-2009 regional administration, said on Tuesday.

He said they had been unable to cross into China because some of the roads were closed.

State of emergency

Across the border in China's Yunnan province, an estimated 100,000 refugees are now encamped in tents and makeshift public buildings after taking refuge across the border from the fighting, according to aid workers.

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

Chinese officials have stepped up border controls and called on all parties to prevent a further escalation of fighting.

A missionary aid worker in Yunnan's Dehong autonomous prefecture said many ethnic Chinese who were permanent residents of Myanmar are now also fleeing to China, alongside other Kokang-based ethnic groups.

"The Myanmar government troops are targeting people who hold dual nationality, including Chinese passports," the missionary said.

"A lot of the ethnic Chinese businessmen from Laukkai have crossed the border into China,” he said. “According to my understanding, there are around 30,000 of them who have arrived in Nansan."

He said the Myanmar authorities were sending ethnic Chinese with dual citizenship to work mending railroads.

He said there is a general shortage of basic foodstuffs and other supplies.

"It's really medicines, tents, rice, cooking oil and salt [they lack]," the missionary said.

Northern Shan state

Ethnic Kokang are primarily based in northern Shan state and the minority group maintains a rebel army of around 3,000 troops under ethnic Chinese commander Peng Jiasheng, known as the Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA).

Yun Sun, East Asia Program fellow at the Washington-based Stimson Center, said the border region has always been an ethnically mixed area that eventually ended up as Myanmar's territory.

Sun, who visited the region in 2009, said the legal status of many residents of Kokang is undetermined, and that many identify as Chinese despite being referred to as ethnic Kokang by Myanmar officials.

"Some people there are Myanmar citizens, legally speaking, and in terms of their identity...but in the areas controlled by ethnic minorities, they don't have Myanmar ID cards," Sun told RFA.

"China's view is that the Kokang group is ethnically Chinese, and that even Peng Jiasheng, the king of Kokang, has his ancestral home in Sichuan," she said.

"This is actually true; [when I visited the] border area I found that the people there are [Chinese] in terms of their appearance, the languages they speak," Sun said. "They use Chinese currency, and even Chinese networks for their cell phone services."

"They have no problems speaking Mandarin," she said.

The MNDAA was formerly part of a China-backed guerrilla force called the Communist Party of Burma (CPB), and became the first of about a dozen factions to sign a bilateral cease-fire agreement with the government after the group broke apart in 1989.

However, the agreement faltered in 2009 when armed groups came under pressure to transform into a paramilitary Border Guard Force under the control of Myanmar's military—a move the MNDAA resisted.

Peng (also known as Phone Kya Shin) left the Kokang self-administered zone, which the MNDAA had controlled, during a government push into the territory that year.

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

Myanmar: Report shines light on health, human rights in E Burma

24 February 2015 - 4:31pm
Source: Democratic Voice of Burma Country: Myanmar

By DVB 23 February 2015

A recent report on health in eastern Burma highlights the relationship between human rights abuses and the health of the area’s population, while drawing comparisons with war-torn Somalia.

The Long Road to Recovery report, released this month by the Health Information System Working Group, advocates for a structural reform of the health care system in the country’s east, and calls for a “convergence” of different actors working in health in the area.

The mortality rate of infants and children under five in eastern Burma – spurred by preventable diseases such as diarrhoea, malaria and acute respiratory infections – has been likened to that of Somalia in the Horn of Africa, a country notorious for its lack of national infrastructure.

The report draws a direct correlation between the health of individuals and families and human rights violations by the Burmese government, attributing ten percent of critical malnutrition in children to human rights deficits.

It is also stated that 10.7 percent of households reported at least one incident of human rights abuses. The most common reported rights violations are destruction and seizure of food, livestock, or crops (7.7 percent) and forced labour (3.5 percent). In particular, a loss of livelihoods severely affects food security and cripples access to healthcare, the report says.

Other pressing health issues outlined in the report include maternal and child health, including nutrition; the difficulty of accessing healthcare services due to proximity issues; and the onslaught of drug-resistant malaria.

In The Long Road to Recovery, the Burmese government is urged to facilitate the establishment of a proper health system in Burma, and the “convergence” of parallel health systems.

The report calls upon the country’s leaders to to prioritise dialogue in the country’s peace process, recognise ethnic-led health structures and systems, and to halt large-scale development projects in ethnic areas “until a full peace agreement can be reached, democratic rights guaranteed, and a decentralised federal union achieved.”

In the report’s forward, the founder of Mae Tao Clinic, based in the Thai-Burma border town of Mae Sot, and the recipient of several humanitarian awards, Dr Cynthia Maung says that health groups working in eastern Burma: “have begun to have preliminary discussions with Ministry of Health officials.”

She says: “We view future opportunities for coordination and cooperation as critical to improving health for the people of eastern Burma who have been disenfranchised as a result of decades of conflict and militarisation.

Dr Maung goes on to emphasise how the country’s health is underscored by its politics, saying: “Burma’s military continues to have significant powers under the constitution and has a mandatory 25 percent control of parliament. In the absence of constitutional reform, civil society and community-based organisations, including the ones represented in this report, are not in a position of equal partnership with the government.

“In order to build a solid foundation for a strong democracy, people must have the opportunity to be active participants in the political process at both national and local levels so that they are empowered to make a difference in their communities,” she continues.

Myanmar: Dozens injured as prison convoy attacked in Myanmar: media

24 February 2015 - 4:26pm
Source: Agence France-Presse Country: Myanmar

Yangon, Myanmar | AFP | Tuesday 2/24/2015 - 07:26 GMT

Dozens of female prisoners were injured in a fierce firefight between rebels and soldiers in northeastern Myanmar following an attack on a government convoy, state media said Tuesday.

The Global New Light of Myanmar said the military launched airstrikes after ethnic Kokang fighters attacked vehicles carrying local people, government workers and inmates from a nearby prison, in the latest assault on civilians trying to escape deadly clashes in Shan state.

It said 44 female prisoners as well as a staff member from the correctional department and a soldier were injured in the fighting Monday in the Kokang region bordering China.

Myanmar last week declared a state of emergency in Kokang in response to the conflict, which began on February 9 and has also sparked alarm in Beijing.

The unrest has virtually emptied the main Kokang town of Laukkai, the epicentre of the fighting, with streets in the once-bustling frontier community transformed into a battleground.

At least 30,000 civilians have fled into southwest China, while tens of thousands more are believed to have been displaced on the Myanmar side of the border.

The Myanmar Red Cross has come under attack twice in recent days while ferrying civilians from the Laukkai area towards the Shan town of Lashio outside the conflict zone. The incidents have drawn condemnation from the United Nations.

Five people were wounded when a vehicle for the aid group, which is separate to the International Committee of the Red Cross, came under fire Saturday -- just four days after an earlier attack on a humanitarian convoy left two injured.

Myanmar has blamed the rebels for the assaults on the aid vehicles -- a claim denied by the Myanmar Nationalities Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA), the main Kokang insurgent group.

Representatives of the MNDAA could not immediately be reached for comment on Tuesday.

Despite continuing battles Monday, state media said the army had restored "stability" to Laukkai town itself.

It is unclear how many people remain in the remote Kokang region, which is almost cut off from help by aid groups and under martial law. There are no official figures on the civilian death toll.

klm/pj/sm

© 1994-2015 Agence France-Presse

World: Global Emergency Overview Snapshot 18–24 February 2015

24 February 2015 - 10:26am
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, World, Yemen

Snapshot 18-24 February 2015

Myanmar: 90,000 people are now reported to have been displaced by continuing violence between government troops and multiple armed groups in Kokang, Shan state. Aid organisations have been subject to attack – seven people were wounded in two separate incidents.

Kenya: The number of cholera cases has risen in the past week to 644, from 186. The outbreak was declared in Homa Bay, Migori, and Nairobi counties on 13 February. 17 people have died, most in Migori, and there are fears that the outbreak will spread due to the lack of safe drinking water.

Nigeria: 564 cholera cases have been reported in Nigeria since January, with a fatality of rate of 8.3%. There has been a resurgence of cases in Kano and Kaduna states. In Borno state, the Nigerian military claims to have taken back Baga, Monguno, and ten other communities from Boko Haram.

Updated: 24/02/2015. Next update: 03/03/2015

Global Emergency Overview Web Interface

World: Global Emergency Overview Snapshot 18–24 February 2015

24 February 2015 - 10:26am
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, World, Yemen

Snapshot 18-24 February 2015

Myanmar: 90,000 people are now reported to have been displaced by continuing violence between government troops and multiple armed groups in Kokang, Shan state. Aid organisations have been subject to attack – seven people were wounded in two separate incidents.

Kenya: The number of cholera cases has risen in the past week to 644, from 186. The outbreak was declared in Homa Bay, Migori, and Nairobi counties on 13 February. 17 people have died, most in Migori, and there are fears that the outbreak will spread due to the lack of safe drinking water.

Nigeria: 564 cholera cases have been reported in Nigeria since January, with a fatality of rate of 8.3%. There has been a resurgence of cases in Kano and Kaduna states. In Borno state, the Nigerian military claims to have taken back Baga, Monguno, and ten other communities from Boko Haram.

Updated: 24/02/2015. Next update: 03/03/2015

Global Emergency Overview Web Interface

Myanmar: The State of Local Governance: Trends in Magway

24 February 2015 - 3:26am
Source: UN Development Programme Country: Myanmar

Executive Summary

This report outlines the results of the Local Governance Mapping conducted by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in Magway Region in November-December 2014. It attempts to examine the state of local governance in Magway Region. The findings show while many aspects of township management, planning and participation are very similar to other States and Regions in Myanmar, in particular the neighbouring Regions of the Dry Zone, Magway also features a number of governance arrangements and innovations that are unique to the Region.

Based on the perceptions of the people and of local governance actors like government officials, committee members and Civil Society Organisations (CSOs), the mapping has captured some key aspects of the current dynamics of governance at the frontline of statecitizen interaction including participation in public sector planning, access to basic social services and transparency and accountability in local governance.

In consultation with the Magway Region government, the Local Governance Mapping was conducted in the townships of Pakokku, Gangaw and Mindon, which together can be considered representative for the different geographic and socio-economic areas of the Region.