Myanmar - ReliefWeb News

Syndicate content
ReliefWeb - Updates
Updated: 13 min 56 sec ago

Myanmar: Landslide Kills 5 Civilians in Kachin Camp

22 July 2014 - 8:52am
Source: Irrawaddy Country: Myanmar

By LAWI WENG / THE IRRAWADDY

RANGOON — Five people were killed in a camp for displaced Kachin civilians near the rebel-held town of Laiza on Tuesday after their shelters were buried by a landslide, according to Kachin rebels. They said the disaster occurred after several days of heavy rains hit the mountainous region in Kachin State, northern Burma.

Doi Be Za, an officer in charge of the Kachin Independence Organization (KIO) IDPs and Refugees Relief Committee, told The Irrawaddy that two families were buried alive inside their huts at Je Yang camp during the mudslide and instantly killed.

“There has been a lot of rain here. A landslide from the mountain occurred this morning around 7 am and two shelters were destroyed; two older people and three children were killed,” he said, adding that a funeral would be held for the victims around 4 pm on Tuesday.

The victims include a 50-year-old man, a 40-year-old woman and three teenage boys, aged between 14 and 15 years, according to Doi Be Za.

Three days of downpours in the KIO-controlled parts of Kachin State, which include the town of Laiza and mountainous areas along the Burma-China border, had caused several landslides in the area that have blocked roads and put internally displaced person’s (IDP) camps at risk, he said.

Je Yang refugee camp, located south of Laiza, is home to some 8,000 Kachin who have been displaced by the fighting between the Kachin rebels and the Burma Army, which began in mid-2011.

More than 100,000 ethnic civilians have been displaced by the conflict and the majority live in KIO-controlled areas, where their situation is precarious because the rebels and local Kachin NGOs struggle to support the camps. UN and other international aid groups have only been able to offer some support for several IDP camps in rebel-held areas.

In May, several Kachin NGOs warned that the impending rainy season would bring problems for the displaced as their tents were unsuitable for the heavy downpours that often lash northern Burma.

The conflict quieted down after intense fighting occurred in early 2013, but it continues to fester as attempts to negotiate bilateral ceasefire between Kachin rebels and government have failed.

In recent months, skirmishes have become more frequent and a government offensive in southern Kachin State in April displaced another 2,700 villagers.

Ethnic Palaung and Shan rebels have also increasingly clashed with the Burma Army as fighting has spilled over into northern Shan State, where hundreds of villagers fled their homes in recent weeks.

Myanmar: Two Civilians Killed in Renewed Clashes in Northern Shan State: TNLA

21 July 2014 - 11:45am
Source: Irrawaddy Country: Myanmar

By LAWI WENG / THE IRRAWADDY

RANGOON — Two civilians were killed and at least 10 children were wounded as fighting broke out over the weekend between government troops and rebels in northern Shan State, according to an ethnic Palaung armed group.

Ta’ang National Liberation Army (TNLA) deputy spokesman Tar Parn La told The Irrawaddy that there were four clashes across Saturday and Sunday around Mang Poe village, in the western part of Namkham Township.

He said two people were killed on Saturday, including a woman aged over 70 who was found dead at her house and is thought to have died from the shock of artillery landing nearby. The woman was disabled and unable to flee the fighting along with her family, he said.

The other victim was a 50-year-old man who was hit by an artillery shell, the spokesman said.

“More than 10 children were wounded from artillery and two people were killed. Within 16 hours, we had clashes four times with them [government troops]. Our troops were based at a remote site away from the village, and their troops surrounded us and attacked our troops,” said Tar Parn La.

The clashes appear to have broken out when government troops heard rebel soldiers were in Mang Poe village. Tar Parn La said TNLA troops went to the village to talk to local people about the group’s opium eradication policy, since the village is known as a site of poppy cultivation.

Mang Poe has about 400 houses. More than 100 people have fled to a nearby Buddhist monastery to avoid the fighting. Others have fled into the jungle or to stay with relatives, according to Tar Parn La.

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

The TNLA—along with the larger Kachin Independence Army—does not currently have a ceasefire agreement with the Burmese government. Government negotiators have been attempting to reach a nationwide ceasefire agreement with all of Burma’s ethnic armed groups, but efforts have been marred by frequent reoccurrences of fighting in northern Burma.

Myanmar: New UN Rights Rapporteur Meets With Rohingya, Arakan Leaders

21 July 2014 - 11:42am
Source: Irrawaddy Country: Myanmar

By LAWI WENG / THE IRRAWADDY

RANGOON — Yanghee Lee, the new UN rapporteur on the human rights situation in Burma, visited the Arakan State capital Sittwe and has met with leaders of the Arakanese Buddhist and Rohingya Muslim communities in the troubled region, local sources said.

“She only told us that she wanted to hear about our concerns regarding the situation,” said Than Thun, a leader from an Arakanese NGO who participated in Sunday’s meeting with Yanghee Lee.

“Our community leaders gave her a letter to explain why we have conflict in our region between our Rakhines [Arakanese] and the Bengalis. The letter is explains the history of the conflict and the current situation,” he said, while referring to the Muslim minority as ‘Bengalis’ to suggest that they are immigrants from Bangladesh.

Than Thun said it was too early to determine what the Arakanese leaders thought of the new rights rapporteur, adding, “She will have a press conference at the end of her trip. Let’s see what she will say and then we could know what type of person she is.”

South Korea’s Yanghee Lee is making her first visit to Burma as a rapporteur and succeeds Argentina’s Tomás Ojea Quintana. He wrote numerous reports on the crisis in Arakan State and warned that the stateless Rohingya minority were facing persecution and a range of serious rights violations at the hands of the authorities and the Arakanese community.

The government, Arakanese authorities and Buddhist community leaders dismissed his reports as biased.

The new rapporteur announced last week that she would be visiting Naypyidaw, Rangoon, Mandalay and Arakan and Kachin states from 17-26 July to gather first-hand information on the rights situation in Burma.

She said she planned to have “frank and open exchange of views” during meetings with government officials, political, religious and community leaders, NGO representatives, as well as victims of human rights violations and members of the international community.

State-run media reported that the new rapporteur met with the Burma Human Right Commission last week and several prisoners held in Rangoon’s Insein Prison for political reasons, before heading off to Arakan State.

Aung Win, a Rohingya rights activist living in Sittwe’s Muslim quarter Aung Mingalar, said he and other Rohingya leaders met with Yanghee Lee on Sunday, adding that the rapporteur visited Aung Mingalar and a camp for displaced Rohingya, as well as two camps for displaced Arakanese.

“I told her about how our children could not go to [Sittwe] university. I said everyone has the right to education, according to the UN, but our children cannot get it,” he said.

“One of our leaders told her that we need to have a program to be resettled [in former homes], while another said we needs rights under the 1982 Citizenship Law,” Aung Win said, referring to a Burmese law that has rendered the Muslim minority stateless.

Aung Win said leaders also complained about the lack of medical care in the Rohingya camps. “There is no 24 hour-service. They only provide 2 hours a day of medical treatment through a mobile clinic that visits the camps. So, we told her we have lost our rights [to access to care].”

Roughly 140,000 Rohingya displaced by the outbreak of deadly inter-communal violence have been living in squalid, crowded camps since 2012. Authorities prevent them from leaving the camp and are limiting humanitarian aid and basic government services such as health care, education and food, for the displaced.

Aung Mingalar is considered a ghetto as authorities are preventing its approximately 6,000 Muslim residents from leaving the area in central Sittwe, and families inside lack access to basic services.

Since the outbreak of violence in 2012, tensions have remained high and the government has come no closer to resolving the conflict. International aid groups’ access to needy Muslim communities has been restricted in recent months, and the government blocked two major medical charities helping the Rohingya from operating in the state.

Myanmar: Thai Authorities Hamper Food Deliveries to Burmese Refugee Camp

21 July 2014 - 11:41am
Source: Irrawaddy Country: Myanmar, Thailand

By SAW YAN NAING / THE IRRAWADDY

Thousands of Burmese at the Ei Htu Hta refugee camp in eastern Burma are struggling to feed themselves as monthly food supplies from non-governmental organizations have been interrupted by Thai authorities, according to an aid worker.

Ei Htu Hta, located on the western bank of the Salween River in Burma’s Karen State, across from Thailand’s Mae Hong Son Province, houses about 4,000 Burmese refugees.

Saw Htoo Klei, the secretary of the Karen Office of Relief and Development (KORD), said refugees who live in the camp have seen food rations dwindle beginning late last month, as supply lines to the camp, which come from Thailand, have been monitored and sometimes interrupted by Thai authorities.

“Food for this month should have arrived by late last month, but we were not able to transport it in time as we faced some difficulties from Thai authorities,” said Saw Htoo Klei, whose organization provides assistance to internally displaced persons (IDPs) in Karen State and at the Ei Htu Hta camp.

Eh Doh, an Ei Htu Hta inhabitant, told The Irrawaddy that as a result, refugees were having to look elsewhere for food, and do more with less.

“Because we have had problems receiving rice on time, we have had to buy rice from local merchants,” he said. “Some people say they have been eating boiled rice soup since early this month as they don’t have enough rice.”

Food supplies for Ei Htu Hta are transported by boat through the nearby Thai village of Mae Sam Laep, upstream on the Salween. Thai military checkpoints are positioned along the river, which demarcates the Thai-Burma border.

There are nine refugee camps on the Thai side of the border, where some 130,000 refugees live.

A May 22 military coup brought the National Council for Peace and Order to power in Thailand, and with it have come changes that have restricted refugees’ movement and sent tens of thousands of migrant workers back to their home countries, fearing detention or worse.

At the same time, NGOs’ support to Burmese refugees in Thailand has declined since the beginning of 2012 as peace negotiations between Naypyidaw and ethnic armed rebel groups have ramped up. The prospect of an end to the decades-long armed conflict in Burma has spurred discussions between the Thai and Burmese governments about repatriating refugees.

In an interview with The Irrawaddy, Nyar Hter, chairman of Ei Htu Hta refugee camp, said food supplies have been declining annually.

“We only get rice and salt. We don’t get other additional foods such as yellow bean, cooking oil, canned fish and other nutritious foods like before,” Nyar Hter said.

According to a press release from Thailand’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, a recent visit to Thailand by Snr-Gen Min Aung Hlaing, commander-in-chief of the Burmese armed forces, included a meeting with Gen. Prayuth Chan-ocha, head of the ruling Thai junta.

Both sides touched upon the repatriation issue, according to the press release, and the Burmese side reaffirmed its commitment to working closely with Thailand to prepare for a safe future return, in accordance with humanitarian and human rights principles. The discussion was in general terms with no specific timeframe under consideration, the release stated.

Even as NGO support has declined and talk has increasingly turned to repatriation plans, it is clear that many refugees are not ready to return home.

“There is no safety for us to return as government troops are still occupying our village,” Nyar Hter said.

Myanmar: 2014 Strategic Response Plan Myanmar (December 2013)

21 July 2014 - 5:35am
Source: UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs Country: Myanmar preview

SUMMARY

Since 2011, the Government of Myanmar has made rapid progress on its reform agenda, particularly in the area of democratization and peace building. Meanwhile, humanitarian needs have significantly increased in some areas over the last two years, with the most urgent stemming from inter-communal violence in Rakhine State. Although efforts are being made to find durable solutions and prevent long-term displacement, tensions in Rakhine State remain high and there remains a risk of further violence and displacement in 2014.

Humanitarian needs have also increased in Kachin and northern Shan states, where many people have been newly displaced by fighting over the last two years. Decades of armed conflict in the north as well as in the southeast of the country, combined with chronic under-development, have eroded the resilience of communities and increased the vulnerability of hundreds of thousands of people. The outlook here is more positive, however, as there has been significant progress towards achieving a nationwide ceasefire.

Emergency preparedness also remains a big challenge as Myanmar is considered to be one of the countries at highest risk of natural disasters in South East Asia. There is a continued need for disaster risk reduction and activities aimed at strengthening national capacity to prepare for and respond to natural disasters.

The 2014 Strategic Response Plan for humanitarian action is one component of a much broader engagement by the United Nations and its partners in Myanmar that includes a wide range of peace-building, recovery and longer-term development activities. While humanitarian action will continue to be needed to address the needs of people who have been displaced or severely affected as a result of armed conflict, inter-communal violence and natural disasters, such activities need to be seen in the context of this broader engagement in Myanmar.

In 2014 the United Nations and its partners will continue to focus on assisting the Government of the Republic of the Union of Myanmar to ensure that all crisis-affected people in the country receive the assistance and protection they need, irrespective of their ethnicity, nationality, religion, gender or class, in accordance with humanitarian principles. Further efforts will also be made to support the Government in finding durable solutions for crisis-affected people and to support early recovery, so as to avoid long-term dependency on humanitarian aid.

The Strategic Response Plan focuses primarily on Rakhine and Kachin States where humanitarian needs and vulnerability of people remains at critical levels. At the same time, it takes note of humanitarian needs in other parts of the country including the southeast, Shan and Chin States, where there are high levels of human vulnerability as a result of protracted periods of armed conflict, exposure to natural disasters, chronic underdevelopment and other factors. The Strategic Response Plan also outlines activities aimed at strengthening preparedness to respond to natural disasters and other emergencies.

The Strategic Response Plan highlights the need for joint advocacy to ensure the rights of all crisis-affected people are respected. It stresses the need for humanitarian activities to be calibrated to ensure a conflict-sensitive, “do no harm” approach. In this regard, it outlines the need to ensure strong community participation in all aspects of the programme cycle, from planning to implementation, monitoring and evaluation. A particular focus in 2014 will be that of improving communications with affected people.

With this plan, humanitarian action in Myanmar will be more strategic, targeted, measurable, and accountable than ever before.

PRIORITY HUMANITARIAN NEEDS

1 Life-saving support to displaced and vulnerable people to reduce mortality and morbidity

2 Access to basic services and restoration of livelihoods

3 Protection of people who are at risk of violence, exploitation or abuse

4 Strengthen preparedness to respond to new emergencies

Goal

The overall goal is to ensure that crisis-affected people in Myanmar receive timely, appropriate and impartialhumanitarian assistance and protection wherever this is needed, and to assist in finding durable solutions and promoting early recovery, for the benefit of all people and communities. It is well recognized that humanitarian action is but one component of a much broader peace-building, recovery and development agenda in the country.

Myanmar: Ayeyarwady farmers resort to costly drilling to plant rice crops

20 July 2014 - 10:48pm
Source: Mizzima News Country: Myanmar

Written by Min Min

Unseasonably low rainfall in Ayeyarwady Region has led to farmers resorting to drilling unprecedented levels of artesian wells.

U Soe Lwin, owner of a local drilling business told Mizzima on July 17, that demand for wells in the townships of Einme, Kyaunggon and Kangyidaunt is triple the level normally seen over the traditional monsoon planting season.

"Normally, we plant with rainwater but since we have had to drill for water this year, our expenses have increased. I haven’t sowed a single plant yet," said U Than Htike Oo, a farmer from Kangyidaunt.

Farmers say that normally the planting of paddy fields should be complete by the middle of July but they have had to resort not only to the digging of basic wells or pumping water from nearby ponds, creeks and rivers but to the drilling of costly artesian wells.

The drilling, purchase of pipes and the maintenance of an artesian well, a well that produces a constant supply of water with little or no pumping, costs about K500,000 (US$513) and means their fields are not profitable, said the farmers.

"We've never faced this situation before," said farmer U Tin Hla, adding his disappointment that no government officials had come to witness the situation.

Meteorologist Dr Tun Lwin said that Myanmar was experiencing an abnormal monsoon season.

“This year it is raining more at sea, than on the land, so we are not guaranteed enough rain this year,” said the weatherman.

Myanmar: New HIV Infections Have Fallen in Burma: UN Report

20 July 2014 - 10:42pm
Source: Irrawaddy Country: Myanmar

By NYEIN NYEIN / THE IRRAWADDY| Thursday, July 17, 2014 |

The number of people contracting HIV in Burma decreased between 2000 and 2013, according to a new UN report, which also said there are still 189,000 people in the country living with the virus.

The Joint United Nations Program on HIV and AIDS (UNAIDS) “Gap report”—which was published Wednesday to highlight the global inequity of gains made in fighting the disease—noted a worldwide drop in new HIV infections of 38 percent between 2001 and last year. Despite that progress, 2.1 million people were newly infected with HIV in 2013 in all countries, it said.

In Burma, the report said, “New infections declined in this reporting period, but over 7,000 new infections are estimated to have occurred in 2013, confirming the continuing need for effective prevention efforts.”

The UN report—which used figures collected by Burma’s National AIDS Program, part of the Ministry of Health—did not give figures for the number of new infections in any other years.

Burma is one of six countries—also including India, China, Indonesia, Thailand and Vietnam—that together account for more than 90 percent of the people living with HIV in Asia and the Pacific.

Some 189,000 people in Burma are living with the virus, and an estimated 15,000 people died of AIDS-related illness in 2013, according to the report.

According to a government survey of HIV-infected people in Rangoon and Mandalay alone—cited in the UN report—52 percent of them were men who have sex with men, 25 percent were intravenous drug users and 23 percent were female sex workers.

However, Burmese health experts said the real number of people with HIV/AIDS in the country could be higher than the figures suggest.

“The number of HIV-infected persons or new infections could be more than the UN figures due to the fact that many are still reluctant to seek official treatment,” said Dr. Tin Myo Win, who runs the Karuna La Yeik shelter for people living with HIV in Rangoon.

His organization, which gets no government funding, provides shelter to about 200 people receiving the anti-retroviral treatment (ART).

“Since 2006, we have only been able to provide ART medication for about 200 people—women, men and children—with support from nongovernmental organizations,” said Dr. Tin Myo Win.

“We cannot tell how many remain outside of the survey list in the whole nation because, for instance, those who can pay for ART don’t seek support.”

The figures also do not include children with HIV, who most often are passed the virus from their mother. Many Burmese people living near or across the country’s borders are also likely left out of the statistics.

Myanmar: Nationwide Ceasefire Hangs in the Balance at Rebel Meeting

20 July 2014 - 10:34pm
Source: Irrawaddy Country: Myanmar

By NYEIN NYEIN / THE IRRAWADDY| Friday, July 18, 2014 |

Aung Min, the President’s Office Minister and lead peace negotiator, addressed the Upper House on Thursday to reconfirm the government’s commitment to achieving a nationwide ceasefire agreement, and he voiced his confidence that an accord could be reached soon.

“The peace process will not go backward, although there is some fighting,” he told journalists after the parliamentary session, referring to a growing number of clashes between the Burma Army and ethnic armed groups in Kachin, Shan and Karen states.

Last weekend, President Thein Sein paid a visit to government advisors at the Myanmar Peace Center (MPC) in Rangoon to provide support and instructions on achieving a nationwide ceasefire.

However, some three months after the government, army and the ethnic rebel groups began a new approach to the nationwide ceasefire talks by agreeing to jointly draft a single ceasefire text it is far from clear whether this approach is succeeding.

Some government sources involved in the peace process are even warning that if negotiations fail to progress in coming weeks, a nationwide ceasefire before the 2015 elections could become impossible and rebels might have to deal with a new, tougher commander-in-chief.

On Thursday, Aung Min expressed the government’s oft-repeated, optimistic assumption that a nationwide ceasefire accord with an alliance of 16 ethnic rebels groups is only weeks or months away. “We will meet with the ethnics leaders in Yangon after the ethnic armed groups’ conference in Laiza next week and the signing of the nationwide ceasefire accord will come in September,” he told reporters.

Since mid-2013, Aung Min has repeatedly said a nationwide ceasefire would soon be signed but the agreement has proven elusive. Formal nationwide ceasefire talks on drafting a single ceasefire text have stalled since June.

On July 24-26, the Nationwide Ceasefire Coordination Team (NCCT), an alliance of 16 ethnic groups, will meet in Kachin rebel-held town of Laiza to discuss whether they will accept the current draft of a single ceasefire text and the Burma Army demands for the inclusion of a six-point statement.

The government and rebels have not formally met since June and it appears the sides have reached an impasse in further developing the ceasefire text.

Among rebel leaders opinions are divided over the current draft and the negotiations and concerned about the army’s demands. Worries also abound over the ongoing fighting and the lack of a bilateral ceasefire between the government and the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) and the Ta’ang National Liberation Army (TNLA).

Fighting and Mistrust

In recent months, fighting has intensified in northern Burma, spilling over from Kachin State to northern Shan State, with the Burma Army frequently clashing with the KIA, the TNLA, and the Shan State Army-North and even a Kokang rebel group. Clashes have also occurred in Karen National Union (KNU)-held areas in recent weeks, despite the relatively good relations between the KNU and the government and army.

Col. Mae Aye Sein, of the Karen National Liberation Army (KNLA), said he is concerned over the Burma Army’s demand that its six-point statement becomes part of the ceasefire text. “It is impossible to sign a [nationwide ceasefire] if we are forced to accept the 2008 constitution, which is one of the demands of the army’s chief six-point proposal,” said Mae Aye Sein, of KNLA Brigade 5, a unit that is known to be skeptical of the peace process.

The army’s statement includes a number demands that many ethnic groups oppose, most prominent among them accept the military-drafted Constitution, which asserts all armed group come under the army’s central command.

Sources at the MPC have suggested that the army’s demands regarding the statement are flexible, but it remains unclear how the sides could reconcile the differences over such fundamental issues.

The ethnic groups, for their part, are demanding greater political autonomy and control over natural resources in ethnic minority region through the creation of a federal union, while they want guarantees that a political dialogue on these demands will start within months after a nationwide ceasefire is signed.

Mae Aye Sein said recent clashes in Karen State’s Papun and Bago Division’s Taungoo district and Tenasserim Division’s Dawei district cast further doubts over the peace process and the army’s willingness to end Burma’s decades-old ethnic conflict.

“The clashes were due to the government’s ground forces crossing beyond the line and into our areas of control,” said the colonel, whose unit is controls part of Papun District. “As the SSA-North and KIA are facing the same type of situation, we think that they [Burma Army] are testing our tolerance.”

Mae Aye Sein said KNU leaders had been willing to play down the clashes in order to maintain relations with Naypyidaw, adding, “Our leaders have been talking very carefully as not to damage the ceasefire talks.”

KNU secretary Pado Kwe Htoo Win, who initially had denied the reports of clashes, told The Irrawaddy remains optimistic about the peace process. “Renewed clashes won’t stop our peace effort, as there is a very few engagement compared to the past decades,” he said.

Leaders of the Kachin Independence Organization (KIO), which has been fighting an insurgency since a 17-year-old ceasefire collapsed in mid-2011, remain concerned over the peace process, with some voicing concerns that conflict could intensify if the ethnic groups decided to reject the nationwide ceasefire text next week.

“It seems there are many government troop deployments in Kachin State. We also have to be prepared and stay cautious,” said Daun Kha, KIO liaison office coordinator in the Kachin capital Myitkyina. He said recent clashes between the army and KNU and SSA-North showed that “even for the 14 ceasefire groups conflicts is still raging in their territories.”

The KIO and the government last met in May to discuss a bilateral ceasefire, but negotiations have stalled since.

Government Warnings

In conversations with The Irrawaddy, government advisors at the MPC and senior government sources gave oblique warnings on what might happen if ethnic groups become apprehensive about the direction of nationwide ceasefire negations.

A source at the MPC, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the ethnic groups should seize the opportunity that is being presented to them at the current stage of negotiations as the current Commander-in-Chief Min Aung Hlaing could step down after 2015.

“If a[nationwide ceasefire] could not be signed before 2015 due to the ethnics’ hesitation over the army’s proposal, which is not yet included in the single text, then nobody knows how things might go after a new army chief comes in,” the peace broker said.

Gen. Soe Win, the current deputy commander-in-chief, is being considered as a successor to Min Aung Hlaing, a senior government official said and he warned that he could take a more hardline approach to the ethnic conflict.

The official noted that Soe Win had, for example, threatened to attack the KIA in May unless they immediately released several government staff that had been detained by the rebels.

Hkyet Hting Nan, chairman of the Unity and Democracy Party of Kachin State, believes the peace process has been arduous and long but successful, adding that a nationwide ceasefire should be possible if current agreements are solidified and carried out.

“The process has been gradually improving,” said the Upper House lawmaker, who has been involved in KIO-government negotiations. “[But] there must immediate actions to implement the agreements they made after talks,” he said, referring to for example an agreement between the KNU and the government to establish a code of conduct, which has yet to be implemented.

He added, “It is hard to imagine whether the [nationwide ceasefire] can become a reality before the 2015” elections.

Additional reporting by Kyaw Kha.

Myanmar: Rain dampens relief efforts as fighting continues in northern Burma

19 July 2014 - 8:00pm
Source: Democratic Voice of Burma Country: Myanmar

By MYO ZAW LINN 20 June 201

Relief efforts in Kachin and northern Shan states are falling short, according to a prominent NGO working in the war zone.

Refugees are in dire need of adequate shelter in particular, said the Action Times Foundation, as continuing battles are waged between the government and rebel groups.

Over 100,000 civilians have been displaced by two years of conflict, and many are now sheltering in makeshift camps across government or rebel-controlled territory, as well as in Yunnan State, China.

The Action Times Foundation, a humanitarian organisation based in Rangoon, said that the situation of internally displaced persons (IDPs) is deteriorating rapidly as fighting has intensified as of April this year.

Eindra Nay Nwe, the foundation’s secretary, said that those living in fresh camps, which have sprung up since April, have been unable to stay dry as the rainy season has arrived, while their children are in need of textbooks and other school supplies.

“As the monsoon has arrived, the IDPs are in need of roofing materials, umbrellas and raincoats for the children as well as learning materials for study,” she said.

Last month, Action Times Foundation linked up with much-loved band Shwe Thanzin and Pan Ye Lan, a charity made up of musicians, to stage fundraising performances on sidewalks and in teashops in urban areas of Burma. That effort raised 33 million kyat (US$33,000). Last week, the charity collaboration distributed that assistance to seven camps across Muse in Kachin State, and Namhkam in northern Shan State.

Shwe Thazin member Win Maw took part in the relief mission to the camps. He said the organisation is acting quickly to try to close the gap in delivering humanitarian assistance to the displaced people.

“We went to IDP camps in Muse and asked their coordinators what they required now that it is monsoon season,” he told DVB. “Their children have to go to school and need umbrellas and raincoats. So we immediately ordered 1,000 items of wet weather gear from Ruili, using the funds we collected.”

“We are planning to build bamboo flooring. It’s unliveable with the ground constantly wet,” she said.

As the refugees wait out the wet season, further fighting has been reported by ethic media organisations in Kachin and northern Shan States.

This week, Kachinland News reported that the Kachin Independence Army have been engaged in heavy fighting in the Mansi area.

According to the Shan Herald, the Burmese army shelled the Shan State Army North in their positions at Mongsu for two days last week, forcing the rebel army to cede the camp.

Myanmar: Arakan Minister Struggles to Gain Trust of Rohingyas

19 July 2014 - 2:51am
Source: Irrawaddy Country: Myanmar

By LAWI WENG

RANGOON — The newly appointed chief minister of Burma’s conflict-torn Arakan State appears to be struggling to win the trust of Rohingya Muslims, who continue to live in squalid camps after being driven from their homes in rioting two years ago.

Chief Minister Maung Maung Ohn, who is also a general in the armed forces, has met four times with Rohingya community leaders since he was appointed last month. But in that time, he has been unable to convince the Rohingyas to participate in the government’s controversial “citizenship verification” scheme, according to state government spokesman Win Myaing.

They are refusing to cooperate,” the spokesman told The Irrawaddy on Wednesday.

The Arakan State government implemented a pilot project in Myebon Township last month to determine who will qualify to become a naturalized citizen. Many Rohingya families have lived in the country for generations, but they are widely regarded as illegal immigrants from neighboring Bangladesh and are mostly denied citizenship by the government.

Win Myaing said the international community had pressured Naypyidaw to reconsider their pleas for citizenship. “But we cannot do anything, even though we are trying, because they refuse to cooperate,” he said.

Rohingya rights activists Aung Win said he believed the government wanted to appease the international community but had little interest in actually granting citizenship to the 1 million or so Rohingya people living in western Burma.

“After their work in Myebon, we did not see them grant citizenship to our people,” he said. “I believe that even though we agreed to identify as Bengali, they may grant citizenship only to a few of our people.”

The chief minister, who met most recently with Rohingya leaders on Monday, said applicants would be considered for citizenship only if they identified as Bengali, as they are known by the government. During the nationwide census earlier this year, the government also refused to count anybody who identified as ethnic Rohingya rather than Bengali.

Arakan State was torn apart by communal violence between Buddhists and Muslims in 2012. More than 140,000 people were displaced from their homes, and the majority of these were Rohingya Muslims who continue to live today in camps outside the state capital, Sittwe.

Myanmar: Smiles in darkness: Hundreds of education kits bring happiness to the IDP students

18 July 2014 - 8:03am
Source: Finn Church Aid Country: Myanmar

It was a sunny and wonderful day to see smiles of the primary school students, as they received education kits in a bag that had EU and Finn Church Aid (FCA) logos. In the Internally Displaced People (IDP) camp in Set Yoe Kya and nearby Buddhist camps in Sittwe, in Western Myanmar, smiles are rare for many reasons.

“I am so tired and I have even lost my voice; however, I am so glad for my students receiving the kits. As IDP students, they have to attend classes in a small schools, share small spaces and they don’t have enough facilities with peers”, Than Than Shwe, 47, teacher from Set Yoe Kya school says.

But on the 24th of June, the children were all smiles and looked curiously about what kind of items were inside the enclosed bags, that was were delivered to them by the teachers and staff of Lutheran World Federation (LWF). As the children received their kits, they looked for their family members to come and help carry the heavy kits. Especially 1st grade students’ family members were ready and waiting outside of the school.

Education kit: rubber slippers and a rain coat

Each student received one Penang bag, which includes pencils and erasers, a ruler, a pencil case, a school bag, a lunch box, a water container, a sharpener, rubber slippers, a raincoat and several exercise books, which were funded by the EU Children of Peace Initiative (CoPI).

“The kits are very useful for students, as they include school utensils and other necessary stuff for the primary students. For example, some of the students come to school without slippers. Honestly, they don’t have good slippers to wear during the rainy season as parents cannot afford to buy nice ones. But now, parents don’t need to worry about the slippers”, a student’s mother Khine Khine Nwae, 43, says.

In IDP camps small things also often have large psychological significance.

“I am sure I will see my pupils filled with happiness and satisfaction using the items in the class. They themselves are very proud of owing these kinds of kits. Moreover, these items support IDP students physically and mentally. It will build up their self-esteem and they will be more interested in attending school in order to use all the items”, Than Than Shwe says with a smile.

Students from Grade I-V of Set Yoe Kya No.1 Primary School received 289 kits. Also, those who attended school from nearby, and one of the Buddhist camps of Sittwe Township got another 39 kits. During the academic year, 1345 IDP students have received the CoPI education kit.

Also, it wasn’t an easy job for the teachers to control the parents. Parents were anxious for their children waiting among the queuing students for their teachers to call out their names in order to receive their kits.

“No one will feel unhappy when they have received their kits. I will write until there are no more blank pages left in the exercise books and try very hard to be an outstanding student in the class”, Soe Moe Nwae, 6, says.

In the end, some of the children had to carry the heavy items by themselves. In IDP camps, parents don’t always have the time for anything else than to think about livelihood and daily work in the center of the town, as for instance construction site labour, or at the market place, carrying bags, stones, firewood, or work as tri-cycle drivers. But at least today all the children, teachers and parents left with a big smile on their faces.

Text and photos: Mya Yadanar Khine, Communication and Reporting Officer, LWF

Myanmar: Govt to Start Child Labor Elimination Policy in December

17 July 2014 - 8:00pm
Source: Irrawaddy Country: Myanmar

By SAN YAMIN AUNG / THE IRRAWADDY

RANGOON — Labor rights groups have welcomed remarks by the Minister of Labor Aye Myint, who pledged to start implementing a ban on child labor by December after Parliament passed International Labor Organization Convention 182 on Worst Forms of Child Labor into law on Wednesday.

In December 2013, Burma’s Parliament ratified the ILO Convention, which calls for immediate action to prohibit and the eliminate the worst forms of child labor, including slavery, trafficking, the use of children in armed conflict, the use of a child for prostitution, pornography and illicit activities (such as drug trafficking) as well as hazardous work.

A lawmaker said the president sent Union Parliament speaker a letter asking him to pass the convention into law, adding that the Labor Minister gained Parliament’s official approval for implementation of the law on Wednesday.

Aye Myint told MPs, “We will prevent and take action on all worst forms of child labor and also arrange free basic education and rehabilitation for children,” according to a statement by the Federation of Trade Unions Myanmar (FTUM) released Thursday.

The minister added that the government would begin full implementation in December, one year after ratification of the ILO convention.

Htwe Htwe Thein, a spokesperson from FTUM, said there is a dire need to address all forms of child labor in Burma, in particular the worst forms of labor.

“Currently, there are only discussions and negotiations for prohibition and elimination of child labor. We hope it can be started to be implemented in December since Parliament approved implementation [of the convention],” she said.

Htwe Htwe Thein said Labor Ministry officials had been receiving training on how to carry out a survey on child labor and will form a committee at the end of this month that will implement the convention.

She added that the government should also ratify and implement another ILO convention in order to better protect Burmese children. “I would like to also urge for the ratification of ILO Convention No.138 that sets a minimum age at which children can legally be employed or work,” she said.

A member of the Women and Children Affairs Committee of Upper House said that the implementation of convention 182 will help to eliminate child labor in the country and to rehabilitate those affected by it. “There are many cases of child labor in the country. They are losing their opportunities and rights, and some are even tortured at the work,” said the MP.

Child labor is a major problem in Burma, which is emerging from five decades of military dictatorship that wrecked the economy and the education system, encouraging many children to help their families by taking jobs in teashops or factories.

Children have long been exploited as part of labor pools both at home and abroad, working for a pittance and receiving few social protections, labor activists and community leaders say.

The Burma Army and some rebel groups are known to recruit child soldiers for deployment in the country’s long-running ethnic conflict. The ILO has been working with the army and rebels to address the issue and has had some success, although cases of child soldiers continue to be reported.

World: Asia Pacific Food Price and Policy Monitor, June 2014 - Issue 11

17 July 2014 - 8:10am
Source: Food and Agriculture Organization Country: Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Cambodia, China, Fiji, India, Indonesia, Lao People's Democratic Republic (the), Myanmar, Pakistan, Philippines, Samoa, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Viet Nam, World preview

Highlights

  • Regional general inflation was 6.1 percent in May and food price inflation 5 percent, ending five consecutive months in which the pace of inflation slowed.

  • Regional rice price index increased by 5.3 percent in nominal terms as prices continued to rise in South Asia (including India), East Asia and South East Asia.

  • Wheat price indices in South Asia fell by 6.8 percent driven by an 8.3 percent drop in Pakistan.

  • India expects to set a new record for foodgrains production at 264.4 million tonnes, with rice production estimated at 106.3 million tonnes, and wheat at 95.9 million tonnes.

  • With water shortages affecting rice crops, Sri Lanka is providing subsidies to farmers to cultivate other crops.

  • Indonesia is revising its rice subsidies programme to improve targeting and delivery of subsidized rice to over 15 million households.

  • WEF and ASEAN launch Grow Asia Partnership to strengthen food security in ten Southeast Asian countries

Regional Overview

Food and General inflation

After five consecutive months during which the pace of general inflation slowed, inflation around the region began climbing at a faster rate in May, rising by an estimated 6.1 percent compared to 5.1 percent in April. In a similar pattern, food price inflation also quickened, increasing by 5 percent in May against a 4.3 percent rise in April.
Although Indonesia registered an increase in food price inflation at 7.2 percent, that was actually a slight decline of 0.2 percent from its April increase. Nonetheless, chicken, tomato, red onion and cooking oil were all more expensive than during the previous month. Pakistan also experienced an easing in food price inflation, registering a 6.8 increase in May, down by 1.3 percent compared to April. The price slow down was led by tomatoes, which fell 49.6 percent; onions, down by 9.6 percent; wheat, lower by 8.6 percent and eggs, down 8.3 percent.

The rate of food price inflation rose, however, in China, the Philippines, Thailand and Sri Lanka. In China, a higher-than-average increase in food prices of 4.1 percent was driven by price rises for fresh fruit, up 20 percent; milk and dairy, which rose by 10.3 percent; eggs, up 17.6 percent and meat and poultry, up 3.2 percent. Food prices also increased in the Philippines where the price of pork was driven by a lowered supply to local markets; and in Pakistan where vegetable prices increased mainly as a result of high spoilage in the local markets due the extreme heat.

Rising food inflation in Thailand was caused by higher prices for vegetables and pork. The increase in the price of vegetables was a result of higher temperatures and dry weather conditions that damaged crops. Pork prices rose as a result of higher demand from schools as students returned to start a new semester. In Sri Lanka, tighter supplies of fresh fish and vegetables pushed prices for those commodities higher, but they were partly offset by lower prices for chicken, eggs and coconut.

Myanmar: Women activists stand trial in Chin State for protesting against army rape

16 July 2014 - 3:05pm
Source: Democratic Voice of Burma Country: Myanmar

Eight women’s rights activists were questioned yesterday in two Chin State courts for staging unauthorised public protests against sexual violence by the Burmese military.

In June, about 400 protesters in Matupi took part in a demonstration that was prompted by the alleged attempted rape of a 55-year-old woman by a Burmese Army soldier, Private Myo Thura Kyaw from Light Infantry Battalion No. 269. In neighboring Rezua, roughly 200 people showed up for a similar protest.

Although event organisers had requested permission from local authorities to stage their demonstrations, they were rebuffed – but forged on anyway. Four activists in Matupi and four more in Rezua were then charged with the violation of the Peaceful Assembly and Peaceful Processions Law.

According to a press release yesterday by the Chin Human Rights Organisation (CHRO), the trials for the eight activists will continue on 22 July.

Urging authorities to “immediately and unconditionally drop the charges against the activists”, CHRO reiterated its call for an independent investigation into “serious human rights violations in Burma, including sexual violence, in order to deter further violations and help end the culture of impunity.”

CHRO has documented five cases of sexual violence perpetrated by the Burmese military in Chin State since the nominally civilian government of President Thein Sein came into power in 2011.

However, Cherry Zahau, a prominent Chin activist, said that these recorded instances are just the “tip of the iceberg”, and that the Burmese military is using sexual violence and rape against Chin women to assert power.

“So far, those perpetrators have not been brought into any court system and justice has not been done in the favour of the victims,” Cherry Zahau said. “Clearly, it is a power issue [to show] that the soldier can do whatever he wants to do in that village. That is the message they want to indicate.”

Cherry Zahau added that the way the Burmese military and the government have been dealing with these complaints indicates a lack of political will.

“If there is a functional government or a more democratic government, they should look at the cases and the problems the women are raising instead of arresting the people who are raising the concerns and their voices,” she said.

Myanmar: Hundreds Hide at Monastery After Recent Fighting in Northern Shan State

16 July 2014 - 2:13am
Source: Irrawaddy Country: Myanmar

By NYEIN NYEIN / THE IRRAWADDY

More than 200 ethnic Shan people from Kyaythee Township in northern Shan State are sheltering at a monastery after they fled an outbreak of fighting between government troops and ethnic rebels in late June.

Three weeks after the fighting erupted, tension remains high in the area around Pha Saung village, with government soldiers still present at the village, according to local residents and aid workers.

“They left their homes about 10 days after fighting resumed between the SSA-N [Shan State Army-North] and government troops near Tar Pha Saung bridge on June 26,” said Sai Zin, an editor with Shan-language community newspaper Hsenpai News Journal, who went to provide support for the displaced people on Sunday.

“They told us that they had no place to hide when the government troops attacked the SSA-N troops with artillery. They used to hide in their own bomb shelters, but as now it’s the rainy season, so they could not hide in these bomb shelters underground.”

Sai Shwe Thein, the local chairman of the Shan National League for Democracy in Kyaythee Township, said the Pha Saung residents were now sheltering at a nearby monastery in Wan Wat village.

The displaced are also worried that more people will have to flee due to the possibility of further fighting as government troops remain deployed in contested territory, Sai Shwe Thain said.

Local people said the Tar Pha Saung bridge was under the control of the SSA-N and its political wing, the Shan State Progressive Party, until 2011, when the area saw an offensive by the Burma Army. The rebel group signed a ceasefire agreement with the government in 2012, but the two sides now once again vie to control the bridge.

Sai Shwe Thein said there were 209 displaced people, mostly women, young children and elders currently staying at the monastery.

“Before the refugees arrived at the Wan Wat monastery in July 5, some were hiding in the jungle after they fled from their homes,” he said.

Local residents say they want the fighting to end soon so they can return to their farmland to grow rice paddy this rainy season.

For now, they are supported by civil society groups and donations.

“Providing food and shelter support for them is very difficult, we can only help them temporarily,” said Sai Kyaw Khaing, a Kyaythee Township resident who is helping the displaced people.

Additional reporting by Nang Seng Nom.

World: Alternative Crops Vital to Fighting World’s Drug Problem, Promoting Progress, Secretary-General Tells Economic and Social Council

15 July 2014 - 11:32pm
Source: UN Economic and Social Council Country: Afghanistan, Colombia, Myanmar, Peru, World

ECOSOC/6644

Economic and Social Council
2014 Substantive Session
43rd & 44th Meetings (AM & PM

Organized crime and illicit criminal activity undermined essential institutions like the rule of law and delivery of education and health, the United Nations leading expert on drugs and crime told the Economic and Social Council today.

Opening a high-level panel discussion entitled “Sustainable development and the world drug problem: challenges and opportunities”, Yury Fedotov, Executive Director, United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), said that drug cultivation hindered growth of legitimate economies and businesses. Alternative development strategies promoted by UNODC had reduced cultivation, but farmers also needed infrastructure in order that the new crops they produced could be marketed and income generated.

Joining Mr. Fedotov in making opening statements were United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, and Economic and Social Council President Martin Sajdik.

On the panel were Khaled Abdel-Rahman Shamaa, Permanent Representative of Egypt to the United Nations in Vienna and Chair of the fifty-seventh session of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs; Norachit Sinhaseni, Permanent Representative of Thailand to the United Nations; Mary Chinery-Hesse, Commissioner, West Africa Commission on Drugs; Lochan Naidoo, President, International Narcotics Control Board, Aldo Lale-Demoz, Deputy Executive-Director, UNODC; and Alberto Otárola Peñaranda, Executive Director of DEVIDA.

Mr. Ban agreed on the negative impact drugs and organized crime could have on people’s lives and on societies. Drugs and crime were corrosive and harmed justice systems, State institutions and communities.

“That is why it is so important to help farmers choose alternative crops,” he said, stressing the need to stabilize markets and create decent jobs. “When we take these measures, we do more than fight drugs and crime — we promote progress and peace.”

Panellists shared their experiences in addressing the drug problem from the State and regional level, as well as from within international institutions.

Mr. Shamaa said alternative development featured heavily in the 2009 Political Declaration and Plan of Action on International Cooperation, which promoted an integrated and balanced strategy to counter the world drug problem. In preparations for the 2016 United Nations General Assembly Special Session on the World Drug Problem, he had seen the link between sustainable development and the drug problem repeatedly raised. There was also broad international agreement on the need to tackle the problem, even if differing views remained on how the issue should be integrated into the post-2015 development agenda.

Mr. Sinhanesi described Thailand’s efforts to apply supply side alternative development. Crop substitution, allied with efforts to improve health care and education in rural communities were central to the strategy. An enormous decline in opium cultivation had been recorded, from 17,920 hectares in the 1960s to an insignificant level in 2001. Decreased opium cultivation was matched by increased income, showing the importance of efforts to address root causes, such as poverty.

Ms. Chinery-Hesse said Africa’s voice had been muted in the past, but its full participation had to be ensured during the 2016 General Assembly Special Session on Drugs. In the past, West Africa was known as a transit point, but consumption and production were now increasing. She called on Governments to deal with that as a health issue, rather than putting extra pressure on their criminal justice systems.

The Economic and Social Council also took up several reports relating to social and human rights questions, with Mr. Naidoo presenting the International Narcotics Control Board’s Annual Report for 2013 and Mr. Shamaa introducing the report of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs on its fifty-seventh session (document E/2014/28). Vladimir Galuska, Chair of the twenty-third session of the Commission on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice, introduced the report of the Commission on its twenty-third session (document E/2014/30) and Jay Karia presented the report of the Board of Trustees of the United Nations Interregional Crime and Justice Research Institute on behalf of the President of the Board of Trustees of the Institute.

During a discussion of social and human rights questions, Mexico’s delegate noted that it was crucial to properly prepare for the General Assembly Special Session on Drugs slated for 2016. It must be inclusive and based on scientific evidence. The involvement of the General Assembly President in preparatory work was vital as resolving the drug problem required concerted international action.

Her counterpart from the Russian Federation emphasized the threat posed by illicit production of narcotic drugs to international peace and security. He was concerned particularly about the situation in Afghanistan, where international troops were withdrawing.

Following that discussion, Simona Petrova, Director of the Secretariat of the United Nations System Chief Executives Board for Coordination, introduced the “Annual overview report of the United Nations System Chief Executives Board for Coordination for 2013” (document E/2014/69).

In an ensuing discussion, the representative of Cuba praised the Chief Executive Board’s work to promote coordination and coherence and to simplify institutional practices, saying that would increase administrative efficiency. Action and initiatives that the Board undertook had to be aligned with the priorities of Member States.

The Council postponed action on 10 draft resolutions and six draft decisions contained within the recommendations of several reports because it did not have a quorum present.

The Council will meet again at 10 a.m. on Wednesday, 16 July, to take action on drafts and continue its coordination and management segment.

Panel Discussion

Oh Joon ( Republic of Korea), Vice-President of the Economic and Social Council, introduced the panel, “Sustainable development and the world drug problem: challenges and opportunities”.

Opening statements were made by Martin Sajdik ( Austria), President of the Economic and Social Council, Ban Ki-moon, Secretary-General of the United Nations, via video message, and also via video message by Yury Fedotov, Executive Director, United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC).

On the panel were Khaled Abdel-Rahman Shamaa, Permanent Representative of Egypt to the United Nations in Vienna and Chair of the fifty-seventh session of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs; Norachit Sinhaseni, Permanent Representative of Thailand to the United Nations; Mary Chinery-Hesse, Commissioner, West Africa Commission on Drugs; Lochan Naidoo, President, International Narcotics Control Board; Aldo Lale-Demoz, Deputy Executive-Director, UNODC; and Alberto Otárola Peñaranda, Executive Director of DEVIDA.

Mr. SAJDIK, opening the panel, recalled that, in 2009, the Commission on Narcotic Drugs adopted the Political Declaration and Plan of Action on International Cooperation towards an Integrated and Balanced Strategy to Counter the World Drug Problem. The Declaration called on the Council to devote a session and to contribute to the preparations for the 2016 General Assembly Special Session on Drugs. He highlighted several key points to consider in the run-up to the adoption of the post-2015 development agenda and the 2016 special session.

First, he said, drug addiction was a health problem and many States had achieved significant success in reducing demand by adopting national drug strategies, including primary prevention, early intervention, treatment, care, rehabilitation, recovery and social reintegration measures, as well as steps aimed at minimizing the public health and social consequences of drug abuse. Effective national drug control strategies must be further strengthened based on scientific evidence. Second, alternative development was vital to counter the world drug problem as it drew together sustainable development and the challenge of illicit drugs and organized crime. In that regard, the work of UNODC in Afghanistan, Colombia, Myanmar and many other places was commendable.

Third, he said, all relevant efforts must respect human dignity, liberty, democracy, equality, solidarity, the rule of law and human rights. Lastly, tackling the world drug problem required international cooperation. Civil society, including the scientific community, non-governmental organizations and young people had an important role to play. Cooperation between relevant United Nations bodies and entities were also essential. “Throughout the world, illicit drugs and organized crime weaken democratic institutions, undermine peace and hinder sustainable development, particularly ongoing efforts to rid the world of poverty, conflict and inequality.” That highlighted the need to deal with development and illicit drugs as a single holistic issue.

Mr. BAN said that delegates met today as the international community worked to reach the Millennium Development Goals by the year 2015 — and shape a new long-term vision for sustainable development. Illicit drugs and organized crime undermined people’s lives and devastated societies. Drugs and crime corroded fragile countries. They weakened criminal justice systems and other State institutions. And they destroyed communities. Development activities could address those concerns.

“That is why it is so important to help farmers choose alternative crops,” he said, stressing the need to stabilize markets and to create decent jobs. “When we take these measures, we do more than fight drugs and crime — we promote progress and peace.” Today’s discussion would help pave the way for success at the General Assembly’s Special Session on the World Drug Problem in 2016. That would be a valuable opportunity for Member States to openly exchange ideas and lessons on what works in addressing the drug problem.

Mr. FEDOTOV said that organized crime and illicit criminal activity undermined essential institutions like the rule of law and delivery of education and health, including efforts to combat HIV/AIDS. Drug cultivation hindered growth of legitimate economies and businesses and interfered with efforts to improve education and protect the environment. The importance of alternative development had been stressed at the High-level Review of the Fifty-seventh Session of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs in March.

Alternative development strategies promoted by UNODC had reduced cultivation, and in Myanmar and Afghanistan it had loosened the grip of drug lords. Equally important as providing farmers with alternative crops was the provision of infrastructure, so that the crops they produced could be sold and income generated. He said that $32 million worth of alternative development had been delivered in Colombia, helping 136,000 families, and similar work was under way in Peru.

Mr. SHAMAA said replacing illicit crops with legal ones would help tackle hunger and promote sustainable development. Alternative development had featured strongly in the 2009 Political Declaration and Plan of Action on International Cooperation, which promoted an integrated and balanced strategy to counter the world drug problem. The midterm review of progress in March had resulted in a ministerial statement reflecting a global commitment to tackling the problem. In preparations for the 2016 United Nations General Assembly Special Session on the World Drug Problem, the link between sustainable development and the world drug problem was repeatedly raised. States had differing views on integrating efforts to tackle the problem in the post-2015 development agenda, but broad support existed for a focus on practical, operational, field level work that supported Member States in fulfilling the goals of the Political Declaration. The youth dimension had been stressed, as was the need to engage a broad range of stakeholders in efforts to address the problem and promote sustainable development.

Mr. SINHASENI shared Thailand’s experiences in tackling the drug problem through supply side alternative development strategies. Lack of development and opportunities had promoted illicit drug cultivation and Thailand’s efforts had sought to address that. In the 1960s, 17,920 hectares of opium was cultivated, but by 2001, UNODC considered Thai opium production to be insignificant. Crop substitution was central, as were efforts to improve health care and education in rural communities. As opium cultivation had decreased, incomes in the highlands had increased tenfold, showing the importance of sustainable development and addressing root causes, like poverty, to tackling the drug problem. Thailand’s strategies had been applied in Myanmar, Aceh and Afghanistan. His country advocated for alternative development internationally, having helped establish the United Nations Guiding Principles on Alternative Development, and called for including alternative development strategies in the post-2015 development agenda.

Ms. CHINERY-HESSE said that Africa’s voice had been muted in the past and the 2016 General Assembly Special Session on Drugs must ensure full participation of African stakeholders in all fora. West Africa achieved fast economic growth. In 2013, the West African Commission on Drugs had been established so that the drug problem did not disrupt that positive trend. In the past, West Africa was known as a transit point. But, consumption and production were now increasing. The Committee’s June 2014 report, titled “Not Just in Transit”, reflected the changing landscape. The Commission had worked with non-governmental organizations, regional entities and other partners. Its work had been adequately plugged into international efforts. There was a need to move from anecdotes to concrete evidence, as well to target those running the drug network rather than the “foot soldiers”. Drug money could undermine development and derail democratic processes. She said tackling the drug problem required a shift in thinking. Rather than putting pressure on the criminal justice system, Governments must consider the problem as a health issue. The United Republic of Tanzania initiated efforts to send drug users to hospitals rather than prison.

Mr. NAIDOO said that the International Narcotics Control Board was mandated to monitor and promote the three international drug control conventions. The objective of the global drug control system was twofold — to ensure availability of internationally controlled substances for medical and scientific use while preventing their diversion to illicit channels, trafficking and abuse. As for alternative development, efforts had evolved from straightforward crop substitution to promoting rural development and provision of sustainable livelihoods for those growing illicit drugs. The concept must expand to include urban societies. Those efforts would only be viable they were implemented as part of a comprehensive national development programme that raised the economic and social well-being of the entire population.

Mr. LALE-DEMOZ described lessons he had learned supervising large-scale alternative development programmes with UNODC. The viability and sustainability of programmes aimed at preventing, reducing or eliminating illicit crops had increased in proportion to the presence of sound drug control policies, a strong commitment to multisectoral social and economic rural development and the full participation of local farm communities in designing and implementing schemes. Despite diverse realities seen in different countries, international standards like the 2009 Political Declaration and the United Nations Guiding Principles on Alternative Development could apply. Outlining successes in Afghanistan, Colombia, Peru and elsewhere, he described how reductions in illicit crop cultivation were possible if farm communities were empowered to meet broader development goals. The strategies used to combat the world drug problem were valid for counteracting other forms of organized crime.

Mr. PEÑARANDA outlined results yielded by Peru’s alternative development efforts, including coca eradication efforts that had been heralded as a “historic breakthrough” by UNODC. State policies to tackle drug production had been backed by a 300 per cent increase in the budget for implementing the national strategy. Eradication had to be accompanied by alternative development if the strategy was to work. Under the Government’s strategy, illegal crop producers were presented with alternative, sustainable development opportunities; the Government had extended the rule of law, with interdiction, prevention and treatment of drug use; and there was a cross-cutting commitment to linking international and national efforts. In Monzon, a rapid change had occurred in the last three years. The area had been considered impregnable because of the presence of subversive groups that impeded Government efforts to extend its authority and institutions, but the Government policy had seen a reduction in coca leaf cultivation from 7,000 hectares in 2011 to 227 hectares in 2014.

In the ensuing discussion, the representative of the Russian Federation noted the key role alternative development could play in addressing the world drug problem. In Afghanistan, the largest producer of heroin, farmers needed alternative livelihoods following the withdrawal of the international forces. He hoped that the General Assembly Special Session on Drugs would provide an opportunity to give a clear definition of alternative development. Further, the drug issue should be included in the sustainable development goals.

The representative of Iran stressed that his country wished to strengthen cooperation with European countries. About 4,000 Iranian soldiers had been killed in the fight against illicit drugs.

The representative of Cuba said tackling illicit drugs required a multidisciplinary approach based on shared but differentiated responsibility, taking into account different realities of States and respecting full sovereignty of each country. She asked panellists what challenges lie in international cooperation and technical assistance.

The representative of Colombia noted that, with the support of UNODC, her country had implemented a programme on alternative development aimed at reducing coca crops. The General Assembly Special Session would provide an opportunity for transparent evaluation of existing strategies and help find new ways to deal with the drug issue. Her delegation, however, felt it was counterproductive to include drug control in the sustainable development goals.

The representative of China described how his country had stepped up its international cooperation efforts through bilateral and multilateral frameworks, most notably by providing funding and technical assistance to help poppy producers find alternative cultivation in the Golden Triangle area consisting of Myanmar, Laos and Thailand.

The representative of Guatemala asked panellists if a strategy to find alternative livelihood in drug producing countries could be applied in transit countries, where trafficking was a primary source of income for a large portion of the population.

Mr. PEÑARANDA said that Peru had seen cocoa production replacing coca cultivation due to such schemes as supporting smallholder farmers, improving the soil and providing technical training. The process of switching to alternative crops would be a success if products became competitive in markets.

Mr. LALE-DEMOZ highlighted challenges, including implementation of the international conventions, coordination of work between many stakeholders and engagement of civil society. Alternative development could apply to transit countries, as well.

Mr. NAIDOO said profiling drug users could be an effective way to counter trafficking. In high security risk areas, it was also vital to find crops that could grow quickly. It all came down to consistent implementation of the global treaties.

Ms. CHINERY-HESSE stressed shared but differentiated responsibility because imperatives differed from place to place. West Africa would carefully examine the question about alternative livelihood in transit countries posed by the delegate of Guatemala as the subregion was a transit point.

Mr. SHAMAA emphasized the need for a hybrid approach that took into account each country’s specificity while using existing regional and global regimes. On the question of alternative livelihood to traffickers, careful consideration was necessary as it entailed implications on the criminal justice system.

For information media • not an official record

Syrian Arab Republic: R2P Monitor - 15 July 2014 Issue 16

15 July 2014 - 10:53pm
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 is a bi-monthly bulletin applying the Responsibility to Protect lens to populations at risk of mass atrocities around the world. Issue 16 looks at developments in Syria, Sudan, South Sudan, DR Congo, Nigeria, Burma/Myanmar, Central African Republic, and Iraq.

Myanmar: Shan MP Asks Govt to Cease Army Operations in Northern Shan State

15 July 2014 - 8:00pm
Source: Irrawaddy Country: Myanmar

By LAWI WENG / THE IRRAWADDY

RANGOON — A Shan ethnic lawmaker in the Lower House asked the Burmese government on Tuesday to cease military operations in Kyaythee Township in northern Shan State, where several hundred villagers have been displaced after fighting between the Shan State Army-North (SSA-North) and the Burma Army has recently escalated.

Sai Um Hseng Mong, an MP with the Shan Nationalities Democratic Party (SNDP), said he received a letter from his constituents in Kyaythee Township asking him for help in requesting an end to the operations.

“A lot of farmers who are there are having problems. They say they could not grow paddy as there is fighting even though it is the paddy-growing season. So they asked me to discuss this issue in Parliament,” he said.

Sai Um Hseng Mong asked the government to explain the situation in northern Shan State in an urgent parliamentary meeting on Tuesday.

Deputy Defense Minister Maj-Gen. Kyaw Nyunt replied that the Burma Army had been holding operations in the area to flush out rebels who had supposedly been reinforcing their troops and recruiting soldiers among local Shan villagers, according to Sai Um Hseng Mong.

According to government mouthpiece The New Light of Myanmar, the minister also “explained that the commander-in-chief of the defense services has always strived for regional peace and stability, expressing his understanding that civilians are innocent victims of clashes.”

The newspaper said Kyaw Nyunt “pledged prompt action by watching [sic] the incident in question closely.”

It remains unclear what the steps the Defense Ministry, which is directly controlled by a Burma Army general, will do to address the SNDP lawmaker’s concerns.

More than 200 Shan villagers have been displaced by the fighting in recent weeks and they are hiding in a local monastery, local villagers and aid workers have said.

Three weeks after the fighting erupted, tension remains high in the area around Pha Saung village, with government soldiers reportedly still present at the village.

The SSA-North is one the largest ethnic armed groups in Shan State, and although it has had a bilateral ceasefire with the Burmese government since 2012 hundreds of skirmishes and clashes have been reported since.

The SSA-North has claimed that Burma Army units has attempted to enter rebel-held areas and has taken several rebel bases in recent months. Northern Shan State has also been the scene of frequent clashes and Burma Army operations against Kachin, Palaung and Kokang rebel troops recently.

The fighting continues despite the government’s publicly stated goal of wanting a nationwide ceasefire with more than a dozen ethnic armed groups, including the SSA-North, in the coming months.

World: Annual Report and Accounts 2013–14

15 July 2014 - 1:12pm
Source: Department for International Development Country: Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, Ghana, India, Iraq, Jordan, Kenya, Kyrgyzstan, Lebanon, Liberia, Malawi, Mozambique, Myanmar, Nepal, Nigeria, occupied Palestinian territory, Pakistan, Philippines, Rwanda, Sierra Leone, Somalia, South Africa, Sudan, Syrian Arab Republic, Tajikistan, Turkey, Uganda, United Republic of Tanzania, World, Yemen, Zambia, Zimbabwe, South Sudan preview

Annual Report

The Annual Report meets DFID’s obligation to report on its activities and progress toward the Millennium Development Goals under the International Development (Reporting and Transparency) Act 2006. It includes information on DFID’s results achieved, spending, performance and efficiency. The audited statutory accounts include spend against Parliamentary Estimate, and a statement of DFID’s assets and liabilities.

Accounts

DFID’s Accounts are prepared in accordance with the 2013-14 Government Financial Reporting Manual (FReM), issued by HM Treasury. The accounting policies contained in the FReM apply International Financial Reporting Standards as adapted or interpreted for the public sector context. DFID’s Accounts are similar in many respects to the annual accounts prepared by private sector businesses. They contain the primary financial statements recording the full costs of activities, DFID’s assets and liabilities as well as providing information on how resources have been used to meet objectives. The format is tailored to central government accounting including, for example, financial comparisons against the Department’s resource-based estimates. Those not familiar with the format of the accounts might like to focus on the Financial Review within the Strategic Report to the Accounts, which summarises the key areas of performance. The accounts are audited by the National Audit Office before they are presented to Parliament.

Headline results

By 2013–14, DFID had achieved the following results:*

  • provided 43.1 million people with access to clean water, better sanitation or improved hygiene conditions

  • supported 10.2 million children – 4.9 million girls – to go to primary and lower secondary school

  • ensured that 3.6 million bir ths took place safely with the help of nurses, midwives or doctors

  • prevented 19.3 million children under 5 and pregnant women from going hungry

  • reached 11.4 million people with emergency food assistance

  • provided 54.4 million people, including 26.9 million women, with access to financial services to help them work their way out of poverty

  • reached 6.7 million people with cash transfers programmes

  • helped 85.8 million people to hold their authorities to account and have a say in their community’s development

In 2013, the multilateral organisations that DFID supported:

  • provided food assistance to 80.9 million people in 75 countries; of these 67.9 million were women and children (World Food Programme)

  • immunised 48 million children against preventable diseases (GAVI Alliance)

  • detected and treated 1.5 million cases of tuberculosis (The Global Fund to Fight AIDS,
    TB and Malaria)

  • gave 1.0 million new households a water supply (Asian Development Bank)

  • provided 9.7 million people with new or improved electricity connections (African Development Bank)

  • supported over 4.5 million children in primary education, including 2.2 million girls (Global Par tnership for Education)

  • enabled 11.5 million people to benefit from healthcare facilities (International Committee of the Red Cross)

  • generated 6.5 million jobs and livelihoods in 113 countries, of which 58% were for women (United Nations Development Programme)

World: Global Emergency Overview Snapshot 9 - 15 July

15 July 2014 - 10:29am
Source: Assessment Capacities Project Country: Afghanistan, Angola, Bolivia (Plurinational State of), Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Democratic People's Republic of Korea, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Gambia, Guatemala, Guinea, Haiti, Iraq, Jordan, Kenya, Lebanon, Liberia, Malawi, Mali, Mauritania, Myanmar, Namibia, Niger, Nigeria, occupied Palestinian territory, Pakistan, Paraguay, Philippines, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Somalia, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Syrian Arab Republic, Uganda, World, Yemen, South Sudan preview

Snapshot 9–15 July

oPT: 178 Palestinians have been killed since the launch of Israel’s Operation Protective Edge on 8 July. Around 17,000 people have sought shelter in UNRWA schools. Rockets from Syria and Lebanon have hit the north of Israel, raising fears of the conflict spreading.

Democratic Republic of Congo: More than 30,000 people are estimated to have been displaced in North Kivu, South Kivu, and Katanga in June, due to FARDC military operations and fighting between armed groups.

Syria: Host populations are struggling to cope with growing camp populations, and people in informal settlements are receiving very little assistance. The population of Lattakia and Tartous has grown by 50%. The conflict death toll has passed 170,000.

Updated: 15/07/2014. Next update: 22/07/2014

Global Emergency Overview Web Interface