Myanmar - ReliefWeb News

Syndicate content
ReliefWeb - Updates
Updated: 5 min 19 sec ago

Thailand: Thailand to Allow Foreign Day Laborers Without Passports

18 September 2014 - 11:35pm
Source: Irrawaddy Country: Myanmar, Thailand

By SAW YAN NAING / THE IRRAWADDY|

CHIANG MAI, Thailand — Thai authorities plan to put a new rule in place allowing foreign migrant laborers without passports to work in border towns of the Kingdom on a day-to-day basis, in an attempt to reduce the number of migrants who travel on to bigger cities for better paying jobs.

The Thai Labor Ministry’s new regulation will allow foreign workers to enter and work legally without passports, but only in border areas and with the stipulation that they must return to their home country at day’s end. Daily entry documents will be used in lieu of passports.

The news comes as a rare spot of good news for many Burmese who work in Thailand illegally and have seen a deterioration in their fortunes since a May coup brought several measures restricting their ability to live and work in the Kingdom.

Most of Thailand’s foreign labor force is from neighboring Burma, with the number of Burmese nationals working in the Kingdom estimated to be as high as 3 million. Migrants’ rights groups estimate that about 2 million have been registered under a “national verification program” and are legally eligible to work in Thailand, but hundreds of thousands are believed to be undocumented and stand to benefit from the opportunity to work legally under the new regulation on day laborers.

Htoo Chit, executive director of the Thailand-based migrant rights group Foundation for Education and Development, welcomed the new policy.

“It is a good system for migrant workers because it will be easier for them to come and work daily in Thai border towns,” he said. “The new law will allow them to work officially with border passes.”

Htoo Chit, however, said the new regulation would not affect registered migrant workers who have already passed national verification and obtained passports to work and travel across Thailand.

“They [Thai authorities] won’t stop issuing or extending passports for migrant workers who hold them. So I think it is a good regulation,” said Htoo Chit, adding that he was not aware of when the new plan would go into effect.

Many migrant workers travel beyond Thailand’s border towns for big cities, where they can earn more money after passing the national verification process and obtaining passports. The trend has been a source of frustration for business operators on the border, who are forced to deal with disruptive employee turnover rates as a result.

Though Thai law mandates a minimum daily wage of 300 baht (US$10) for both domestic and migrant workers, many foreign laborers on the border earn far less.

Thailand’s permanent secretary for labor, Jirasak Sukhonthachat, told the Bangkok Post newspaper that Labor Ministry authorities had approached the ruling Thai junta, which calls itself the National Council for Peace and Order, for approval and the plan is now under consideration.

“The regulations would stipulate which documents could be substituted for passports, where the workers could work, suitable occupations and work timeframes for those foreign workers,” the Bangkok Post reported, citing Jirasak.

Currently, Thai law states that border passes only allow foreigners to enter Thailand to visit or trade, but not to work. Only migrant workers with passports are officially allowed to travel around the country.

The Bangkok Post reported that the new regulations must be approved by the cabinet before negotiations with neighboring countries can move forward.

The Thai junta in July approved special economic zones to be set up in a handful of border towns including Mae Sot, which borders Burma’s Karen State.

Businesses along the border are also expected to view the forthcoming regulation favorably, as it has the potential to reduce the number of migrant workers that leave their jobs in border towns for Bangkok and other urban centers.

Myanmar: Tensions Rise as Military Orders Rebels to Disarm in Myawaddy

18 September 2014 - 11:32pm
Source: Irrawaddy Country: Myanmar

By LAWI WENG / THE IRRAWADDY

RANGOON — Tensions continue to rise in Karen State’s Myawadday after a local Burma Army commander reportedly ordered some armed Karen rebel groups not to carry weapons or wear uniforms in the Burma-Thai border town.

The news comes just days after the discovery of two small bombs in and around Myawaddy, and follows a temporary blockade of a nearby road by a Karen rebel group last week.

The order was sent by the commander of Light Infantry Battalion 275 in Myawaddy in a letter dated Sept 14, according to Col. Tiger, who leads a small armed group callings itself the KNU/KNLA-Peace Council, a splinter faction of the Karen Nation Union (KNU).

He said he his men would ignore the order.

“Why can they use guns and wear their uniforms, but not us? We will keep holding on to our weapons and uniforms. Our weapons are to protect our people,” Col. Tiger said. “We will only agree to their order when their units decide not to hold guns and wear uniforms.”

He quoted the letter as stating that, “Starting today, we fully prohibited all armed groups to wear uniforms and hold guns while travelling in the town. In urgent cases, your liaison offices in Myawaddy first need to inform us about the number of troops and guns, and where they want to go, before they can travel in the town.”

“Traveling in the town in full uniform disturbs the security of the civilians… Therefore, we ask you to act in accordance with the rule of law, which is the basis of our ceasefire agreement,” the letter said.

Col. Tiger said the Democratic Karen Benevolent Army (DKBA) and the small rebel group Klohtoobaw Karen Organization (KKO) also received the letter of the Burma Army commander.

Maj. Saw Roe, in charge of the KNU liaison office in Myawaddy, said he did not receive the Burma Army order, but added that KNU officers did not wear uniform or carry arms in the town.

“We heard that they [Burmese authorities] issued the letter ordering Karen armed groups not to wear uniform and carry weapons when traveling in towns and cities. They sent it to other Karen armed groups, but not us,” he said.

The KNU, the DKBA, the KNU/KNLA-Peace Council and the KKO all have signed bilateral ceasefires with the central government and are allowed to maintain liaison offices in Myawaddy and their soldiers regularly travel into town. This is the first time that they have been ordered to disarm when entering the town and it is unclear what prompted the message.

Myawaddy is the most important route for Burma-Thai trade, but has always been vulnerable to the influence of Karen rebels in the surrounding countryside, who have fought an insurgency against the Burman-dominated government for decades. In 2010, the DKBA temporarily seized the town.

Many of the groups also seek a cut from the profitable cross-border trade and smuggling of goods and drugs in the region.

Earlier this week, authorities discovered two small explosive devices in and around Myawaddy. None of the armed groups have claimed responsibility for the explosive devices.

Last week, the KNU/KNLA-Peace Council temporarily blocked 30 trucks that were attempting to transport Thai goods across the border in a show of force meant to draw the attention of Thai authorities.

The group has accused Thai border authorities of mistreating and extorting Burmese migrant workers, citing the daily bribes that migrants crossing the border to work in Mae Sot are forced to pay as an example.

The KNU/KNLA-Peace Council have threatened to stage another blockade if they are not granted a requested tripartite meeting with the Burmese and Thai governments to address migrant workers’ mistreatment.

Additional reporting from Chiang Mai by Saw Yan Naing.

Myanmar: Karen Rebels, Govt Troops Clash as Peace Talks Loom

18 September 2014 - 11:30pm
Source: Irrawaddy Country: Myanmar

By SAW YAN NAING / THE IRRAWADDY|

As Burma’s government and ethnic armed groups prepare to meet for peace talks next week, on-and-off fighting between the Burmese Army and ethnic Karen rebels continues to plague eastern Burma.

The latest clash took place on Sept. 9 in an area controlled by Brigade 5 of the Karen National Liberation Army (KNLA), the military wing of the Karen National Union (KNU), near the Oo Thu Hta region of Karen State’s Papun District.

Maj. Saw Kler Doh from KNLA Brigade 5 told The Irrawaddy by phone from the frontline that one Burmese Army soldier was killed in the clash.

“They [Burmese Army troops] crossed the limits of the border line and entered our territory. They also didn’t inform us before they patrolled. They met with a group of our soldiers by surprise, and both opened fire. We later found out that one Burmese soldier died.”

The KNU signed a ceasefire with the Burmese government in 2012, but clashes between the two sides have continued intermittently ever since. Critics say a failure to consolidate the ceasefire through efforts such as the implementation of a code-of-conduct to govern the armed groups has contributed to the ongoing hostilities.

“We asked them [the Burmese Army] to inform us first if they want to travel anywhere in our territory. They can travel only where we allow. If they cross the line or don’t inform us in advance, there is always the possibility of a clash,” Saw Kler Doh said.

According to Karen sources who asked for anonymity, some clashes in the area controlled by Brigade 5 are not even reported to senior KNU leaders for fear that the fighting might affect the peace process.

Some KNU leaders are thought to be eager to press ahead with a government-spearheaded effort to ink a nationwide ceasefire agreement between Naypyidaw and Burma’s ethnic armed groups, while Brigade 5 leaders are viewed as more reticent to move quickly on the proposed accord.

Brigade 5 has an estimated 3,000 troops and is believed to be the KNLA’s strongest brigade.

On Sept. 1, the KNU suspended its participation in a bloc of 12 ethnic armed groups known as the United Nationalities Federal Council (UNFC), saying it would focus its peacemaking efforts on a process led by the Nationwide Ceasefire Coordination Team (NCCT), an alliance of 16 ethnic armed groups.

The move raised speculation that the Karen group might take the lead in pushing for a nationwide ceasefire, which the Burmese government is trying to secure but has failed several times to meet deadlines it has set for a signing.

In addition to the Karen rebels, two other ethnic armed groups—the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) and the Ta’ang National Liberation Army (TNLA)—have regularly traded fire with government troops in recent months. Those two rebel groups do not have ceasefires with the central government in place.

The NCCT is due to meet on Sept. 22 with government negotiators from the Union Peacemaking Working Committee (UPWC), led by President’s Office Minister Aung Min, in Rangoon to continue discussions on a nationwide ceasefire agreement.

Myanmar: Severe floods swamp Shan border

18 September 2014 - 7:30am
Source: Democratic Voice of Burma Country: Myanmar

Five residential areas of Tachilek, on the border between Shan State and northern Thailand, were devastated by floods on Wednesday evening. Heavy rains caused nearby mountain streams to overflow and sweep through low-lying towns.

Houses in Talaw , Ponhtwan, Makahohkam, San Sai and Mae Khao in Tachilek town are reportedly submerged in several feet of water, and many stranded civilians were in need of rescue.

“The water was about neck-deep and even higher in some areas,” said Hla Moe, chairman of a local charity group, Tachilek Funeral Assistance Association. “We had to evacuate some residents in badly hit areas, physically carrying them out of their houses, where their beds and furniture were floating in the water.”

Schools in the region are closed until further notice. No deaths have been reported. While the extent of the damages have not been fully assessed, many market stalls in the town –which is a major trade hub between Burma and Thailand — were reported to be severely damaged.

Earlier this month, Tachilek witnessed its worst flooding in 15 years, with more than 4,000 people forced to flee their homes, 800 houses submerged and large scale destruction of property and business assets.

Pakistan: The 2014 Rainfall Season: South and East Asia

17 September 2014 - 12:14pm
Source: World Food Programme Country: Afghanistan, Bangladesh, China, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar, Nepal, Pakistan, Philippines, Thailand, Viet Nam preview

Highlights

• The dominant feature of the 2014 season across East Asia so far has been widespread rainfall deficits that led to delayed starts of the growing season across vast areas of the continent.

• Conditions were worst around mid July, followed by a general improvement, which still left moderate rainfall deficits as the predominant pattern. SE Pakistan has been the worst affected area, in particular for livelihoods dependent on rainfed agriculture and pastoral resources.

• In early September, extreme rainfall events, the heaviest in at least 30 years, led to flooding and loss of life in Kashmir. In contrast, heavy rainfall relieved dry conditions in Gujarat, India.

• Seasonal forecasts indicate a continuation of broadly drier than average conditions across the continent. Weakening El Nino conditions may change these perspectives.

World: The 2014 Rainfall Season: South and East Asia

17 September 2014 - 12:14pm
Source: World Food Programme Country: Afghanistan, Bangladesh, China, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar, Nepal, Pakistan, Philippines, Thailand, Viet Nam, World preview

Highlights

• The dominant feature of the 2014 season across East Asia so far has been widespread rainfall deficits that led to delayed starts of the growing season across vast areas of the continent.

• Conditions were worst around mid July, followed by a general improvement, which still left moderate rainfall deficits as the predominant pattern. SE Pakistan has been the worst affected area, in particular for livelihoods dependent on rainfed agriculture and pastoral resources.

• In early September, extreme rainfall events, the heaviest in at least 30 years, led to flooding and loss of life in Kashmir. In contrast, heavy rainfall relieved dry conditions in Gujarat, India.

• Seasonal forecasts indicate a continuation of broadly drier than average conditions across the continent. Weakening El Nino conditions may change these perspectives.

Myanmar: Myanmar: Internal Displacement in Kachin and northern Shan States (1 August 2014)

17 September 2014 - 5:46am
Source: UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs Country: Myanmar preview

Myanmar: Myanmar: Internal Displacement in Myanmar (1 August 2014)

17 September 2014 - 5:44am
Source: UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs Country: Myanmar preview

Myanmar: Rakhine State to receive K1 billion from presidential reserve fund

17 September 2014 - 2:51am
Source: Mizzima News Country: Myanmar

Kay Zue

Development activities in Rakhine State will be allocated more than K1 billion (US$1 million) during the 2014-2015 fiscal year from President U Thein Sein’s presidential reserve fund, the Rakhine State Minister for Social Affairs, Dr Aung Kyaw Min told Mizzima on September 11.

Dr Aung Kyaw Min said the fund would be overseen by Union Vice President Sai Mauk Khan, support development in education, agriculture and fisheries, and be implemented through six working committees.

The involvement of the Vice President and the working groups was required because the Rakhine State Government would be unable to manage the fund independently, said the State Minister.

He added that the fund would support both Buddhist and Muslim communities in the state that has in the recent past witnessed communal violence fuelled by religious and ethnic tensions.

U Aung Win (Rakhine State Hluttaw, Rakhine National Party, Myebon Township) told Mizzima on September 11 that he believed the funds should be managed by people with local knowledge.

“Funds should be spent in consultation with the state government and state hluttaw who understand the needs of the state,”he said.

Other members of the state hluttaw told Mizzima on September 11 that when the Vice President visited Rakhine in the first week of September they had been refused the opportunity to present their opinions on the development needs of the State.

World: Global emergency overview Snapshot 10–16 September

16 September 2014 - 8:37am
Source: Assessment Capacities Project Country: Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bolivia (Plurinational State of), Burundi, Cambodia, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Congo, Côte d'Ivoire, Democratic People's Republic of Korea, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Djibouti, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Gambia, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, India, Iraq, Jordan, Kenya, Lebanon, Lesotho, Liberia, Libya, Mali, Mauritania, Myanmar, Namibia, Nepal, Niger, Nigeria, occupied Palestinian territory, Pakistan, Paraguay, Philippines, Rwanda, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Somalia, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Syrian Arab Republic, Uganda, Ukraine, World, Yemen, South Sudan preview

Ebola in Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Guinea: Transmission remains high, and case numbers doubled between the last week of August and the first of September in Liberia; in Sierra Leone 150 cases were reported for each of the last two weeks. Fewer cases have been reported in Guinea – 49 between 5 and 7 September – but the case fatality rate has been extremely high, at 65%. Currently, the secondary impact of the epidemic will potentially leave 500,000 in dire need of humanitarian assistance in Sierra Leone, while WFP has targeted 449,000 people for food assistance in Liberia.

Pakistan: Monsoon rains have affected almost 2.5 million people in Azad Kashmir, Punjab, and Gilgit Baltistan. 140,330 evacuations had been made. In Sialkot, Punjab, waterborne diseases have been recorded in Bajwat, Head Marala, Chaprar, and Pasrur (DAWN, 11/09/2014). The flood waters are now moving towards Sindh province, with warnings for Guddu and Sukkur.

Updated: 16/09/2014. Next update: 23/09/2014

Global Emergency Overview Web Interface

Thailand: In Thailand’s refugee camps, a shift in attitudes towards sexual and reproductive health

16 September 2014 - 1:40am
Source: UN Population Fund Country: Myanmar, Thailand

MAE SOT, Thailand – Visiting a sexual and reproductive health clinic may seem like an ordinary routine for many women. This is not the case for Saba, a 21-year-old mother who has been living in the Mae La refugee camp along Thailand’s border with Myanmar for the last two years.

Covered in a pink and black headscarf, Saba is paying a visit to one of the camp’s sexual productive health clinics operated by the Planned Parenthood Association of Thailand (PPAT) with the support of UNFPA, the United Nations Population Fund.

Saba recently gave birth and is seeking advice on how to delay her second pregnancy.

“I want to have time for myself. I don’t want to have the second child any time soon,” she said through an interpreter.

Family planning is essential to improving the lives of women, but in a refugee camp, it becomes critical. In times of upheaval, many women lose access to family planning services, exposing them to unwanted pregnancy in perilous conditions. Living in cramped quarters, they often lack knowledge about sexual and reproductive health and hygiene.

With more than 40,000 residents, Mae La is the largest refugee camp in Thailand. Sharing a long border with Myanmar, the country has been home to one of the largest protracted refugee populations in the world, most of them from Myanmar.

Traditionally, refugee women in the Mae La camp, most of whom are ethnic Karen, would not openly visit a sexual and reproductive health clinic. Social norms and family pressure had long discouraged them from doing so. In addition, most of them had married at a young age and did not discuss family planning openly.

But today, the reproductive health centre is teeming with people and young children are running about; some women even brought along their husbands. This would have been an unlikely scene just a few years ago.

Earning and building trust

The positive changes in the Mae La camp were possible in part thanks to the partnership between UNFPA and the PPAT, who have been providing integrated services and educating refugees in the camp about reproductive health, including counselling on domestic violence, since 2012.

Significantly, a group of refugees has been selected and trained as assistant nurses and peer-educators, which has helped to communicate and build trust by working with people from within the community instead of relying on outside teachers.

In a small building with walls made from local jute, Naw Shair Paw, a refugee assistant nurse, speaks to Saba in Burmese. She then puts her on a scale to measure her weight and blood pressure before leading her to a private room for a contraceptive implant.

“I can use the needle,” said Naw Shair Paw, who was trained by Thai nurses through the UNFPA-sponsored programme. Beaming with pride, she lifts another assistant nurse’s arm to show the spot where she injected the contraceptive implant. “Birth control provides women free time to study, like us, who can be assistant nurses.”

Dispelling myths

In addition to the lack of understanding about the vital role of family planning and sexual and reproductive health, some refugees also had misconceptions about the programme an attempt to ‘control’ the refugee population.

UNFPA and the PPAT worked with local communities to dispel these myths and build demand for services by providing information about the benefits of family planning and its positive effect on maternal health and the survival of newborns. This information was conveyed by refugee nurse assistants and peer educators through a series of small group meetings in various communities.

Saba came to the clinic with the consent of her husband. Traditionally, Muslim husbands would have been reluctant to have their wives seek out family planning services, but he now understands the health benefits to his wife and his family.

“I came here many times. And now my husband understands that it is good for our family,” Saba explains.

Since 2012, UNFPA has partnered with the PPAT to provide reproductive health services in five camps across the Thai border with Myanmar. It is estimated that more than 55,000 refugees of reproductive age directly benefited from integrated reproductive health and gender-based violence services between January and November 2013. In addition, more than 18,300 refugees, including peer educators and assistant nurses, received sexual and reproductive health and related training.

Jeerawat Na Thalang

Myanmar: 3 Rohingya Drown After Police Fire Rubber Bullets at Boat

16 September 2014 - 12:13am
Source: Irrawaddy Country: Myanmar

By LAWI WENG

RANGOON — Two women and a man of the Rohingya Muslim minority drowned near the Arakan State capital Sittwe on Friday after they jumped from a boat because police fired rubber bullets at them, a local officer said.

Sittwe Police Col. Tun Oo told The Irrawaddy on Monday that a group of about two dozen Rohingya was travelling on a small boat in an estuary near Sittwe at around 8 pm Friday when a police patrol boat caught sight of them and approached the vessel. He claimed the passengers acted hostile and police were forced to draw their weapons.

“They held knives and prepared to defend their boat. And then we opened fire, shooting [warning shots] into the air first, but they still did not let us get into their boat. Finally, we used rubber bullets like we were trained to and we shot at them,” he said. “They became afraid and jumped out of the boat into the water.”

On Saturday morning, police found the washed up bodies of two women and a man, all in their early 20s, Tun Oo said, adding that eight Rohingya were picked up out of the water and arrested.

“We don’t know what happened to the rest—they disappeared. We could only arrest eight people,” he said, adding that the police were formulating charges against the detainees and would bring them to Sittwe Township Court.

Asked what charges authorities would bring against the Muslim civilians because of their alleged resistance against the police patrol, he said, “We will see, at least we can charge them with travelling without the right documents.”

The stateless Rohingya minority in northern Arakan, which numbers around 1 million people, are denied citizenship rights by the Burmese government. The Rohingya say they have lived there for generations, but authorities claim they are illegal “Bengali” immigrants from Bangladesh and impose numerous restrictions on the group, such as limiting their right to travel and access to health care and education.

International human rights group accuse the government of persecuting the Rohingya and say police regularly carry out rights violations, such as extrajudicial killings, with impunity.

Many Rohingya try to flee the dire conditions in their impoverished communities and the camps for internally displaced persons (IDPs) in Maungdaw, Buthidaung and Sittwe townships. Some 140,000 Rohingya have been living in dirty, crowded camps since mid-2012 when they were displaced by clashes between Muslims and the Arakanese Buddhist population.

The UN has said that last year an estimated 86,000 Rohingya fled by boat on a perilous journey through the Bay of Bengal in an effort to reach Muslim-majority Malaysia.

Aung Win, a Rohingya rights activist and community leader in Sittwe’s Muslim neighborhood Aung Mingalar, said he had heard that the Rohingya on the boat had been trying to flee from Ohn Taw Gyi 1 camp in Sittwe Township, a site which according to the UN houses some 6,200 IDPs.

“Many of them tried to get out from the camp. Unfortunately, the police found their boat,” he said, adding that the group were travelling in a small boat and probably trying to reach a bigger boat waiting off the coast, which would take them to Thailand and on to Malaysia.

Tun Oo, of the Sittwe police, however, claimed that his patrol boat had tried to stop the boat because the Rohinya passengers were trying to enter Ohn Taw Gyi 1 camp.

“Usually, if we know they are trying to get out of the camp by boat we just ignore it and let them get out… but there are also people who come inside the camp. We have a duty to arrest them if they come inside the camp, this is why we tried to arrest them,” he said.

Sources at Ohn Taw Gyi 1 camp could not be reached for comment.

Thailand: 2013 Nutrition Survey Report to CCSDPT Health Agencies

15 September 2014 - 11:46pm
Source: American Refugee Committee International, Malteser, International Rescue Committee, The Border Consortium, Première Urgence - Aide Médicale Internationale Country: Myanmar, Thailand preview

*The Committee for Coordination of Services to Displaced Persons in Thailand (CCSDPT) is the coordinating committee for 20 NGOs working in nine refugee camps along the Thailand / Myanmar border.

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

TBC and CCSDPT Health Agencies conducted collaborative nutrition surveys of children 6-59 months of age in all camps in 2013. Additionally, the Household Hunger Scale, a simple indicator to measure household hunger in the refugee camps, was added to the Nutrition Survey. The Household Hunger Scale will be used to inform TBC and its partners about the impact of the 2013 ration changes.

Survey Methods

Random sampling was used to select households with children 6-59 months of age in all camps using TBC’s Total Population Database. TBC trained health agency staff to implement surveys in all camps, and supervised all surveys to completion. Data were analyzed using SPSS software (version 19). WHO growth standards were used to report principal anthropometry results.

Results

A total number of 4,782 children were surveyed in all camps.

Thailand: Flash Flood in Ban Mai Nai Soi Camp

15 September 2014 - 11:37pm
Source: The Border Consortium Country: Myanmar, Thailand

Heavy rains followed by flash flooding in the early hours of Wednesday 27 August caused significant damage to many sections of Ban Mai Nai Soi camp in Mae Hong Son Province. Homes, NGO and CBO buildings, schools, TBC warehouses, roads and bridges were all affected by the flash flood.

TBC staff immediately visited the camp to support the community, as well as to participate in emergency coordination meetings with KnRC, Thai officials, and UNHCR.

Initial assessments indicate that 25 houses affecting 99 persons were completely destroyed and will need to be rebuilt. Landslides have also created unstable conditions for other houses within the camp which affects a further 44 people. Inhabitants of these unstable dwellings, as well as the aforementioned 25 families, are now staying with friends and relatives.

13 sacks of AsiaREmix and 864 sacks of charcoal in TBC warehouses were destroyed.

TBC will immediately supply five days of rice, oil and pulses for the 25 families who have lost everything, and then provide regular rations once numbers of those in need are clarified. An initial shelter assessment has been carried out, which will be further refined in the next day or two, so that replacement building materials can be quickly sourced and delivered to the camp.

A further emergency coordination meeting between the humanitarian community, refugee leadership and Thai authorities will take place at 15:00 Thursday 28 August.

Syrian Arab Republic: R2P Monitor - 15 September 2014 Issue 17

15 September 2014 - 9:11pm
Source: Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect Country: Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Iraq, Myanmar, Nigeria, Sudan, Syrian Arab Republic, South Sudan preview

R2P Monitor:

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

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

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

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

Syria {p. 2}
Iraq {p. 4}
CAR {p. 6}
Sudan {p. 8}
Nigeria {p. 9}
South Sudan {p. 11}
DR Congo {p. 13}
Burma/Myanmar {p. 14}

Myanmar: Briefing: Myanmar’s “Rohingya” - what’s in a name?

15 September 2014 - 2:42am
Source: IRIN Country: Myanmar

BANGKOK, 15 September 2014 (IRIN) - Already widely reduced to statelessness and in many cases forced into camps for displaced people, an 800,000-strong population of Muslims in western Myanmar now faces increasing efforts to eradicate the very word they use to identify themselves as a group. Under pressure from Myanmar’s nominally-civilian government, the international community sometimes appears complicit in the airbrushing of “Rohingya” from official discourse.

In this briefing, IRIN breaks down some of the questions about a group of people that has been called one of the most persecuted minorities in the world.

Who are the Rohingya?

Approximately 800,000 Rohingyas live in Myanmar. Tens of thousands have fled in recent decades to Malaysia, up to half a million to neighbouring Bangladesh, and an unknown number are scattered from Thailand, to India, to Saudi Arabia.

A 1799 study lists an identity called “Rooinga” in what is now Myanmar’s Rakhine State. However, a historian in March 2014 argued that “this term has only become popular since the late 1990s”.

Some Muslims were brought to Myanmar territory under British rule in the 19th and 20th centuries, fuelling a popular claim that more continue to pour over the border from Bangladesh, which has been refuted by economists.

Why are they so marginalized?

For years, Rohingyas have had their rights - from movement to reproduction to citizenship - restricted by what a Bangkok-based human rights organization called deliberate state-designed "policies of persecution".

In July and October 2012, violence erupted between ethnic Rakhine Buddhists and Rohingyas. The outbursts and ensuing round-ups by security forces resulted in 140,000 people, mostly Rohingyas, being held in government-built camps.

Meanwhile, government officials openly promised to tighten regulations on Rohingya movement and other rights.

Nearly two years later, the outgoing UN special rapporteur on human rights in Myanmar said: “The pattern of widespread and systematic human rights violations in Rakhine State may constitute crimes against humanity.”

What does the Burmese government say?

When Myanmar’s reform-minded president, Thein Sein, addressed the UN General Assembly in 2012, he referenced the Rakhine violence without naming parties to the conflict.

U Shwe Maung, a Rohingya member of parliament, told IRIN: “When I talk about the Rohingyas with government officials, they just go silent. They know their silence is extremely powerful.”

The politician argues that the term appeared in a government-published geography textbook as recently as 2008.

However, in response to a September 2014 announcement that Bangladesh would repatriate some of the verified Myanmar citizens it hosts, the Burmese government rejected the name of the group itself, saying: “We have never had ethnic nationals called ‘Rohingya’”.

What happened on the 2014 census?

Myanmar had not conducted a census in 30 years, and partnered with the UN Population Fund (UNFPA) for its 2014 survey.

Despite warnings from local leaders, the Transnational Institute (TNI), the International Crisis Group (ICG) and Human Rights Watch (HRW), the questionnaire included a particularly contentious item: a question about ethnicity for which a 1982 list of 135 ethnic groups, which does not include “Rohingya,” would be used.

The government initially promised they would allow Rohingyas to self identify on an open-ended “other” option. But two days before the start of enumeration in March 2014, international aid workers fled western Myanmar after being targeted by Buddhist mobs who attacked their offices over perceived humanitarian bias towards Rohingyas. The government reneged on its promise to record “Rohingya” on security grounds.

Anyone who asked to be recorded as “Rohingya” went uncounted; some were allowed to be listed as “Bengali”. “Both options entailed denial of the ethnic group's existence,” prominent international lawyer Geoffrey Nice and analyst Francis Wade wrote in a May 2014 article, which warned that the Rohingya were likely to fall victim to more organized violence.

“The census team asked me ‘what is your ethnicity?’ When I answered ‘Rohingya’, they walked away. They didn’t even ask me any of the other questions,” Nor Mohammed, 60, who lives in the Dar Paign camp in Rakhine State, told IRIN. “Now if we don’t appear in the census, are we really here?”

UNFPA’s country representative Janet Jackson explained: “In Rakhine State before enumeration, opposition to any use of the term Rohingya proved far more serious than anticipated” and that “UNFPA voiced regret that people could not self-identify and were consequently not included in the census.” In a statement the agency said the move “could heighten tensions in Rakhine State.”

In the wake of the census, David Matheison, HRW’s senior Burma researcher lamented “the failure of the government, the UN and international donors to take action to effectively address the ethnic and religious divides that help fuel instability, violence and disenfranchisement”.

An international observer report called the census process in Rohingya areas “a complete failure”, explaining that Rohingyas “very much wanted to participate in the census but were prevented from doing so by the census field staff and the Department of Population officials.”

Why does exclusion from the census matter?

Srdjan Mrkic, chief of demographic statistics at the UN Statistics Division, explained that while an ethnicity question (along with religion and language) is not mandatory on a census, about 85 percent of countries do include it.

However, he explained, if ethnicity is included, there are guidelines for asking the question: “Ethnicity should be a completely blank line. Even if you list five options for ethnicity and have a line marked 'other', you are in a certain way appearing to limit the choice of responses. The enumerator must not guide responses in any way.”

In September the government released provisional results from the census, but said ethnicity data would not be published until 2015 on the grounds that such data could enflame intercommunal tensions.

Nonetheless, census information, with a zero count for Rohingya and an unknown number of people registered as “Bengali”, appears to be informing citizenship verification programmes, designed to determine who is eligible for documents based on how long their families have lived in Myanmar.

However, for those who qualify, documents will come without the label “Rohingya,” and probably with “Bengali” instead. According to HRW, “the stipulations of the Burma Citizenship Law governing the right to one of the three types of Burmese citizenship effectively deny to the Rohingya the possibility of acquiring a nationality.”

The government is running verification programmes in several locations, including Rakhine’s Myebon Township, which was razed in the 2012 violence, and where a high percentage of people reportedly accepted “Bengali” as their ethnicity on the 2014 census.

Some cling intensely to the identity term.

“I am Rohingya, I am not Bengali,” said Muhammad Uslan, 58. “I’m holding onto the name no matter what. In 2012 the Rakhines attacked us for our ethnicity, and today if they want to try to kill me again, they can - I’m not changing it.”

Others are open to the idea of shedding the Rohingya label in exchange for more rights.

“If we get equal rights with other ethnic groups by calling ourselves Bengalis, then we should accept that name,” said Hamid Huq, a 36-year-old living in a camp outside Sittwe.

However, even in his assertions, Huq retains distrust of the government and acknowledges pressure to change identity terms has been increasing.

“At every meeting we have with government officials, they always tell us we are going to have to register as Bengalis. But the government must declare it genuinely equal citizenship. I don’t trust this government so they must say this specifically or I won’t believe them,” he said.

“Even when foreign missions come to meet with us, Western government officials take us to the side and tell us that we should accept Bengali so we can leave the camps.”

What do international actors say?

In June 2014 after local media reported that the government had asked the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) to apologize for using “Rohingya” in a presentation, UNICEF called the incident “an oversight”, asserting that the agency “had no intention of engaging in a discussion on [the] sensitive issue of ethnicity at that forum”.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon continues to use the term in his speeches about Myanmar.

In July, the UN special rapporteur on human rights in Myanmar explained at the conclusion of her mission to the country: “I was repeatedly told not to use the term ‘Rohingya’ as this was not recognized by the government.”

A joint OCHA/UNDP mission to Rakhine ending on 11 September mentioned “ethnic Rakhine” and “Muslim” communities, but not “Rohingya”. An ICRC statement one day earlier used the same terms.

kk/am/cb

India: India's lack of refugee recognition leaves Myanmar's Rohingya in limbo

15 September 2014 - 1:56am
Source: AlertNet Country: India, Myanmar

Source: Thomson Reuters Foundation - Mon, 15 Sep 2014 05:08 GMT

Author: Nita Bhalla

NEW DELHI, (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - When Kohinoor, a stateless Rohingya Muslim, fled her home in Myanmar after a wave of attacks by majority Buddhists, she hoped for a chance to rebuild her life in a new country.

Read more on AlertNet

Myanmar: Building Bridges to Connect People to Opportunities

13 September 2014 - 6:02am
Source: UN Development Programme Country: Myanmar

Sittwe - Villagers in Myanmar’s Rakhine State capital Sittwe yesterday turned out in numbers to witness the inauguration of the Ye Chan Pyin bridge construction. The bridge will connect four villages to Sittwe providing easy, all-season access to the capital. More than 4000 households in this locality have difficulties reaching schools, hospitals, jobs and businesses in Sittwe especially during the long rainy season when ferry services are irregular or suspended.

The bridge construction is part of the United Nations Development Programme’s efforts to improve the lives of people in the Rakhine State and responds to a request made by the State Government and local communities.

UNDP’s support to Ohm Re Paw village and construction of the Ye Chin Pyin bridge is being supported by the Governments of Japan and Denmark as part of its local governance and local development programme.

The construction work was officially inaugurated by the Rakhine State Chief Minister His Excellency U Maung Maung Ohn and the United Nations Assistant Secretary General, UNDP Assistant Administrator and Director of the Regional Bureau for Asia Pacific, Haoliang Xu on 10 September. Mr. Xu is on his joint official visit to Myanmar, with Mr. John Ging, Director of Coordination and Response Division of the UN Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.

“This bridge has tremendous symbolism. It symbolizes the partnership between the Government of Myanmar and specifically, the Rakhine State Government, the United Nations and the international donor community and our collective interest in the peace, security and development of Rakhine State,” said Mr. Xu.

“I hope also that this bridge will serve as a symbol of connectivity between the people of Rakhine; that it does more than facilitate business; that it helps communities on all sides to grow in understanding, tolerance and respect and work together towards the development of Rakhine State.”

“This bridge meets a critical need for the people of this area, and the Rakhine State Government under my leadership, UNDP and the Governments of Japan and Denmark are coming together to meet this need. I hope this will be a model for future development activities,” said Rakhine State Chief Minister His Excellency U Maung Maung Ohn.

Ohm Re Paw is one of the four villages that will be connected by the new bridge. The UN and development partners are providing support to development activities in this impoverished Rakhine village, where the main sources of incomes are from fishing and casual labour work. In addition to the bridge construction, UNDP has established a food bank to reduce the village’s food insecurity, provided capital for livelihoods to reduce the reliance on casual labour and training and equipment for prawn preservation, processing and paste-making to help fishing families add value to their catch.

In addition to livelihoods support from UNDP, the Danish Refugee Council (DRC) is providing the village with latrines for each household, while the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) has initiated a series of capacity building activities to increase gender awareness and promote gender equality.

“Ohm Re Paw village demonstrates the UN’s commitment to equitable development in Rakhine. I hope it will be a good model for supporting other impoverished communities in other parts of the state,” said the Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator of the United Nations in Myanmar, and UNDP Resident Representative, Ms. Renata Lok-Dessallien.

In addition to Sittwe, UNDP is working in five other townships in the Rakhine State – Minbya, Kyauktaw, Mrauk-Oo, Maungdaw and Pauk Taw, providing social protection assistance, capital assistance for livelihoods, livelihood training and infrastructure support. The work is designed to improve social cohesion amongst communities living side by side.

For further information, contact: Shobhna Decloitre, UNDP Communications Specialist on Shobhna.decloitre@undp.org or Tel: +95 (0) 9250345158

World: Ten years after 2004 Tsunami, successful exercise demonstrates the efficiency of Indian Ocean Warning System

13 September 2014 - 4:04am
Source: UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization Country: Australia, Bangladesh, Comoros, India, Indonesia, Iran (Islamic Republic of), Kenya, Madagascar, Malaysia, Maldives, Mauritius, Mozambique, Myanmar, Oman, Pakistan, Réunion (France), Seychelles, Singapore, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Timor-Leste, United Republic of Tanzania, World, Yemen

The Tsunami Warning System established under the auspices of the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC) of UNESCO in the Indian Ocean following the December 2004 disaster is functioning effectively. This was demonstrated in a simulation exercise conducted on 9 and 10 September 2014, with the participation of 24 countries of the Indian Ocean Rim*.

According to the preliminary results of the simulated alert, all of the participating countries received timely tsunami advisory messages, and no delays were reported.

Notification messages were issued by the Indian Ocean Regional Tsunami Service Providers (Australia, India and Indonesia) and sent to National Tsunami Warning Centres.

On this basis, most of the participating countries successfully conducted exercises involving the national tsunami warning, disaster management and main emergency response organisations. Several countries also chose to involve the general public in the exercise, including India, Mauritius and the Seychelles, where evacuation exercises were conducted in coastal areas. Tourists and personnel were evacuated from a hotel in Mauritius. A full evaluation report of the exercise will be published in November 2014.

“The terrible images of the 2004 Tsunami are still fresh in our memories. Ten years later, this new warning exercise demonstrates that the efforts of the Indian Ocean Rim countries to be better prepared for such disasters are bearing fruit. The warning system established under the auspices of the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission of UNESCO is a major achievement of global scientific cooperation that can help to save lives” declared UNESCO Director General Irina Bokova.

“The Indian Ocean tsunami warning system is the result of significant international collaboration and contributions from countries all around the Indian Ocean in response to the devastating tsunami of December 2004. Countries now need to sustain the tsunami warning system, community education and response capability that have been developed across the Indian Ocean. Countries must remain alert and prepared against the ever present tsunami threat”, said Rick Bailey, Chair of the Intergovernmental Coordination Group of the Indian Ocean Tsunami Warning and Mitigation System.

The exercise, known as « IOWAVE14», comprised two scenarios: the first simulated an earthquake with a magnitude of 9.1 south of Java, in Indonesia, on 9 September (00:00 UTC), while the second scenario simulated an earthquake with a magnitude of 9.0 in the Makran Trench south of Iran and Pakistan. In both cases, the earthquakes would have resulted in a tsunami affecting the entire Indian Ocean.

This test was designed to assess the effectiveness of communication flows between the stakeholders involved, country readiness and the efficiency of emergency procedures.

The Indian Ocean nations called for the establishment of an Indian Ocean Tsunami Warning and Mitigation System (IOTWS) in the wake of the 2004 catastrophe. An Intergovernmental Coordination Group was established in 2005 with the support of UNESCO’s Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission to provide a governance mechanism for the new System, which became operational in 2011.

*To date : Australia, Bangladesh, Comoros, France (Réunion), India, Indonesia, Iran, Kenya, Madagascar, Malaysia, Maldives, Mauritius, Mozambique, Myanmar, Oman, Pakistan, Seychelles, Singapore, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Tanzania, Thailand, Timor-Leste, Yemen.

Media contact: Agnès Bardon, UNESCO press service. Tel : +33 (0) 1 45 68 17 64. Email : a.bardon(at)unesco.org

Myanmar: Listening to Communities of Karen State

12 September 2014 - 5:15pm
Source: Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies Country: Myanmar preview

This publication serves to elevate voices from communities in Kayin State, also known as Karen State, in Myanmar. It provides an opportunity for the voices of participants to be heard in Myanmar’s peace process and to participate in events that will ultimately affect their futures. Using listening methodology, conversations were held with one hundred and eleven individuals from a cross-section of communities in Kayin State. Key themes and commonalities have been identified and are further detailed in the publication. The final version in English is expected to be made available in September 2014.