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Bangladesh: Are SE Asia’s trafficking kingpins getting off the hook?

30 June 2015 - 1:54am
Source: IRIN Country: Bangladesh, Malaysia, Myanmar, Thailand

By Mubashar Hasan

COX'S BAZAR, Bangladesh, 30 June 2015 (IRIN) -

Karim Khan* is out of work, but that’s not a bad thing.

He spent two years transporting would-be migrants on his fishing trawler from the coast of Bangladesh to large boats anchored far offshore. The passengers had paid to be smuggled into Malaysia in the hope of finding work there. But Khan was actually delivering them into the hands of human traffickers who would hold them for ransom.

Khan said he thought he was dealing with smugglers who move migrants across borders for a fee, not traffickers who hold people prisoner. He said he only realised the truth when stories began to surface in the media about rape, torture and killings.

“I felt very bad when I learnt about the fate of some of the smuggled people,” he said. “I didn't know there were such great risks involved in this journey.”

Khan has now gone back to fishing and says he won’t be helping to smuggle people again.

Under the scrutiny of international media and the security agencies, Southeast Asia’s smuggling and trafficking rings have now gone dormant. But rights groups warn that the criminal syndicates will soon be back unless the authorities go after the kingpins, who may include politicians and businessmen, as well as senior police and military officers.

“They will certainly re-emerge again, because the arrests have been limited in scope and have not gone to the top levels of these trafficking rackets,” said Phil Robertson, Human Rights Watch’s deputy director for Asia.

Bangladesh has arrested hundreds of alleged traffickers and the government is now considering setting up special tribunals in seven divisional capitals to try suspects, Abdul Matin Khasru, an MP and member of a parliamentary justice committee, told IRIN.

Thai police recently concluded the country’s biggest ever investigation into human trafficking and arrested 56 suspects. Malaysian police detained a dozen of their own officers, but had to fend off allegations they had ignored tip-offs about human trafficking rings for years, including a detailed report provided to them in 2008 by a local advocacy group called Tenaganita. http://www.irinnews.org/report/101569/did-malaysian-cops-ignore-rohingya-trafficking Speaking in May to the state news agency Bernama, Malaysian Deputy Home Minister Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar promised a transparent investigation that would net traffickers regardless of rank.

Turning a blind eye

Despite such assurances, rights groups remain sceptical.

“This region has a history of targeting low to mid-level operatives rather than big fish, and even then there have been failures to convict,” said Mathew Smith, executive director of Fortify Rights.

In May, after years of turning a blind eye to human trafficking, the scope of the operations became too obvious and too public for regional governments to ignore, as images of jungle graves and stories of terrible abuse exploded into international headlines. The victims were Bangladeshis escaping poverty, and ethic minority Rohingya Muslims fleeing persecution in Myanmar who were seeking work elsewhere in the region, mainly in Malaysia.

On 29 May, there was an emergency summit in Bangkok that brought together representatives from 17 affected countries, including Bangladesh. The Thai government called the meeting after launching a crackdown on operations on its soil and uncovering mass graves along its border with Malaysia near jungle camps where traffickers held their victims captive until their families could pay ransoms.

The crackdown created a crisis at sea, as smugglers refused to land and in many cases abandoned the boats leaving their victims adrift with little food or water, while regional countries refused at first to rescue them. Under intense pressure, Malaysia and Indonesia finally agreed to host refugees provided they would be resettled elsewhere within a year.

At the summit in Bangkok, participants resolved to create a taskforce among the most affected countries aimed at fighting “transnational organised criminal syndicates.” Among other measures, they also pledged to strengthen national law enforcement to combat smuggling and trafficking.

‘Trafficking halted’

Bangladeshi authorities are taking action, and police in Cox’s Bazar have arrested 350 people since January, according to police superintendent Shyamal Kanti Nath.

"People smuggling and trafficking is now on complete halt,” he told IRIN.

Nath dismissed allegations that police were targeting only low-level traffickers while letting more powerful players go free.

But stories of official involvement are widespread in areas where the traffickers operate, including Teknaf and Cox’s Bazar in southern Bangladesh, according to Supreme Court lawyer Jyotirmoy Barua.

"Ruling party men and members of law enforcing agencies are involved with drug and human trafficking and smuggling,” said Barua, who is from Cox’s Bazar.

Sources in the police and border guard forces speaking on condition of anonymity also told IRIN that some security officers and politicians were involved in the human smuggling and trafficking rings.

Unless the government breaks with the past and makes a serious effort to prosecute the kingpins, the problem is unlikely to disappear, according to Tasneem Siddiqui, chair of the Refugee and Migratory Movements Research Unit at the University of Dhaka.

“It’s a multi-million dollar business and Bangladesh needs to demonstrate that people smugglers are punished,” he told IRIN. “There is little or no evidence that people smugglers were being tried and punished in a court previously.”

Fear at home

Some victims who survived imprisonment and abuse by traffickers are living in fear even after escaping.

Suman Barua is back in Cox’s Bazar after Thai police found him in a jungle prison camp. After being detained in Thailand, he was sent home where he filed a case against the broker who facilitated his departure.

“I am afraid to travel outside of my home, because I fear friends of that broker would harm me,” he told IRIN.

Brokers, who are near the bottom rung of the human trafficking ladder, often suck in prospective clients by telling them tantalising stories of a better life to be had overseas for a relatively cheap fee.

Mohammad Nurunnabi was working as a photographer, taking pictures of tourists on the expansive beaches near Cox’s Bazar when he met a “kind and friendly” man who offered him a job in a factory of Malaysia.

Nurunnabi would be able to earn US$480 per month, more than double his income as a photographer. He needed to pay only $64 to travel by “big ship” across the Bay of Bengal and Andaman Sea. After making it to Malaysia, his family would pay the broker $2,600 – a fee he could then pay off with his factory wages.

By the time he reached Teknaf, a sub-district about 90 kilometres south of Cox’s Bazar, where there was a fishing trawler ready to take on human cargo, he realised he had been abducted.

“That ‘friendly tourist’ and his mates took everything away from me at gun point,” he said. “I was scared and I wanted to leave, but they said if I left they’d be exposed and I was forcefully pushed into the trawler with others.”

Nurunnabi said he was tortured both at sea and in the jungle prison in Thailand. A Bangladeshi trafficker at the Thai camp told him to call his family and ask them to pay $2,600 for his freedom.

“They shot down six rebellious Bangladeshis to show they were not joking,” he said, adding that the men were killed.

After a harrowing year in captivity, Nurunnabi is now back in Cox’s Bazar snapping photos of tourists. His family is even more impoverished, since they had to sell their land to buy his freedom.

Nurunnabi wants the traffickers who abducted him to face justice, and he wants the money returned so he can pay off some of his family’s debt. But he doesn’t hold out much hope as he doesn’t even know the real identities of his captors.

Crackdown corrupted?

Victims like Nurunnabi and Barua have little recourse once they are released, said Robertson of Human Rights Watch.

“Migrants know that official corruption, particularly among police, means that those who escape and complain could face retaliation from police or being handed back to their trafficker,” he said. “In some cases, people pay with their lives for trying to escape or filing a complaint.”

So far, investigations have offered little reassurance that victims might see their captors face justice, said Smith of Fortify Rights.

“Thailand and Malaysia haven't scratched the surface when it comes to combating trafficking. Dozens of traffickers are roaming free,” he said.

Smith pointed out that past trials in Thailand have been undermined when key witnesses, who were Rohingya asylum-seekers, conveniently “escaped” police custody.

Myanmar’s track record is no better.

On 8 June, the state-run Global New Light of Myanmar newspaper reported that the government had arrested 93 human traffickers since the beginning of the year, most of whom had facilitated the forced marriages of women brought across the border into China.

The newspaper said there had been “no reports of human trafficking cases” in Rakhine state, where about one million ethnic minority Rohingya Muslims live under apartheid-like conditions. They include almost 140,000 Rohingya who have been confined to dismal camps since their homes were destroyed during clashes with members of the majority ethnic Rakhine Buddhists population in 2012.

The UN’s refugee agency, UNHCR, says about 100,000 people have fled Rakhine state since 2012. About 25,000 people left the shores of southern Bangladesh and Rakhine state in the first three months of this year, according to UNHCR.

The exodus has largely halted now as security agencies crack down on smuggling and trafficking networks. But migration has also historically slowed with the onset of the monsoon season around June, when the seas get rough.

The real test of whether the smuggling and trafficking rings have been broken will only come later in the year, once storms abate and the international spotlight has faded.

*Not his real name

(Additional reporting by Jared Ferrie in YANGON)

mb/jf/ag

Thailand: UAE Embassy in Thailand oversees Zakat Fund distribution to 1,000 families

30 June 2015 - 1:52am
Source: Emirates News Agency Country: Myanmar, Thailand, United Arab Emirates

BANGKOK, 29th June, 2015 (WAM) -- The UAE Embassy in Thailand has overseen its Zakat Project, implemented by the Zakat Fund in Abu Dhabi and benefitting around 1,000 families from Myanmar living inside the Thai border.

The initiative is part of the embassy's Ramadan projects being implemented by UAE-based humanitarian and charitable institutions in coordination with local Islamic associations in the region.

The distribution was overseen by Ali Al Mazrouei, Charge d'Affaires of the UAE Embassy in Thailand, and members of the Islamic society involved in the project.

The beneficiaries expressed their thanks and appreciation to the Zakat Fund and its employees for their efforts in helping the underprivileged.

WAM/Rasha/Moran/Esraa

India: Asia and the Pacific: Weekly Regional Humanitarian Snapshot (23 - 29 June 2015)

29 June 2015 - 5:32am
Source: UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs Country: Bangladesh, China, Democratic People's Republic of Korea, India, Indonesia, Myanmar

CHINA

Heavy rains across eastern China's Anhui and Jiangsu provinces since 25 Jun have caused flooding, including in Nanjing and Changzhou where some 65,000 people have been affected by flooding with 10,000 people evacuated and more than 410 million yuan (US$ 66 million) in damages reported. In Anhui Province, more than 1.25 million people have been affected by the flooding, with nearly 11,000 people evacuated, and 820 million yuan in damages. Some 2,000 houses have been severely damaged, as well as more than 100,000 hectares of farmland. Swelling rivers and reservoirs led officials to issue a flood alert, with media reporting on 28 Jun that an overflowing reservoir left one person dead and five others missing in Anhui province.

21,000 people evacuated

In south-eastern China, Typhoon Kujira affected 193,000 people in Hainan Province as torrential rain damaged crops and caused economic losses

DEMOCRATIC PEOPLE’S REPUBLIC OF KOREA

Drought conditions persist in the key agricultural provinces of the country.
A joint Government-international community assessment reports impact to agricultural production, decreased quality and drying up of water resources and an increase in waterborne diseases.

BANGLADESH

Flooding is reported in Cox’s Bazar, Bandarban, and Chittagong in south-eastern Bangladesh. The worst affected areas are Lama and Naikhongchhari upazilas in Bandarban. 19 people died and an estimated 200,000 people are affected. The Government is providing financial assistance and rice to affected families. The Health cluster, led by WHO, is closely monitoring the situation and local medical teams in affected areas have been activated.

INDIA

Unusually heavy monsoon rains since 19 Jun caused flooding in parts of Gujarat State in western India.
More than 10,000 people in Amreli, Rajkot and Surat districts were evacuated to higher ground, including 100 people who were airlifted from parts of Amreli district.
Thousands of houses were reportedly damaged or destroyed. The National Disaster Response Force, District Emergency Operation Centres and other concerned agencies have been deployed to flood affected areas. State officials announced compensation and relief packages for affected families will be distributed over the coming week.
Neighbouring communities and local non-governmental organizations are providing relief goods, including food, water and medicines, to affected communities.

10,000 people evacuated

MYANMAR

Heavy rains over the past week across Rakhine State have led to localized flooding in various parts of the state, with Buthidaung and Thandwe townships the most affected. The local authorities, Myanmar Red Cross and local civil society organizations are providing assistance to those evacuated, including food and water. To date, there has been no official request for assistance, however, UN agencies and international NGOs have reviewed their emergency stocks and stand ready to support if needed. Latest reports indicate that the flood waters are receding in many places.

INDONESIA

Mt Sinabung continues to spew hot ash and lava, as its alert status remains at level four. Nearly 6,200 people from seven villages have been prohibited from returning to their homes since June and are located in temporary shelters. The Government has rented houses and agricultural land for them and is beginning the relocation process.

Myanmar: At Least One Dead as Southern Burma Lashed by Heavy Rains, Flooding

26 June 2015 - 7:28pm
Source: Irrawaddy Country: Myanmar

By MOE MYINT / THE IRRAWADDY

RANGOON — Heavy rains and flooding hit Burma’s south on Thursday, with at least one dead in Dawei and damage to roads and paddy fields elsewhere, according to locals.

Thet Pai Soe, a Dawei resident, told The Irrawaddy that one man had been electrocuted by power lines after flooding in the area, adding that some local NGOs were organizing food and clothing donations for those affected by the rains.

In Arakan State, there has been flooding in Taungup, Minbyar, Thandwe, Kyauktaw and Mrauk-U Townships, according to Khine Pyi Soe, vice president of the Arakan National Party’s Sittwe branch.

Kyauktaw Township police captain Khin Maung told The Irrawaddy on Friday that the district health department, local police and civil society organizations were preparing for makeshift road repairs and were attempting to reach Sabar Site village, which had been inundated by the flooding.

Kyaukphyu local Ko Tun Tun Naing told The Irrawaddy that some bridges had been damaged by the flooding near Ann Township, where many paddy fields had been ruined and where local villagers were waiting for aid.

The Irrawaddy was unable to make contact with the Arakan State government on Friday, as officials were busy with engagements relating to World Anti-Narcotics Day.

On Wednesday, former government forecaster Tun Lwin warned the public via Facebook that coastal regions such as Arakan State and Tenasserim Division would face flooding as a result of the landfall of Typhoon Kujira, which made its way through the South China Sea this week.

Indonesia: Protecting the Most Vulnerable, Ensuring Reproductive Health Needs Are Not Neglected News

26 June 2015 - 12:24pm
Source: UN Population Fund Country: Bangladesh, Indonesia, Myanmar

26-June-2015

“How far along are you?” a midwife asks a pregnant woman, making a hand gesture over her stomach.

Without saying anything, the expectant mother puts up one hand.

“Five months,” repeats the aid worker, holding up her own hand in unison.

The woman nods.

“And your age? How old are you?”

The woman flashes both hands three times.

“30?” the midwife repeats, imitating the young woman’s hand actions.

The woman nods.

Simple and straightforward, these questions among others provide the basic information required to assess the reproductive health needs of women following an emergency or in this particular case, in a humanitarian situation.

The expectant mother, named Montas, is one of 315 Rohingya refugees stationed in a temporary shelter in the north Sumatran province of Aceh. Having spent months at sea, the young woman was rescued by local fishermen off the coast of Aceh near the city of Lhoksumawe in May after the captain abandoned the boat she was travelling on.

Wiping away her tears as a midwife and a humanitarian worker ask her about her health in the corner of a crowded room – where other women are resting and young children run around – Montas explains primarily through hand gestures that she is alone and this is her first child.

Despite the language barrier, obtaining this data is vital to make sure that the health needs of pregnant women are not neglected.

Montas is part of the group of 996 ethnic Rohingya Muslims and 795 Bangladeshis escaping poverty, according to data from UNHCR, who ended up in Indonesia after a failed attempt to reach Malaysia or Australia in search of a better life.

When the boats filled with hundreds of Bangladeshi and Rohingya migrants were first spotted off the coast of Aceh in May, local fishermen were unable to ignore the pleas from the men, women and children aboard the stranded boats at sea, rescuing them before towing them to safety.

On 20 May, the Government of Indonesia agreed to provide temporary shelter to the refugees for one year.

Basic Needs

UNFPA Indonesia sent a team to visit four of the six camps housing the refugees in Aceh in June to conduct reproductive health and sexual-gender based violence assessments before determining what steps needed to be taken next.

The mission also provided the opportunity for humanitarian workers from the agency to distribute pregnancy and hygiene kits – basic essentials required during the early stages of an emergency – to women and children in need.

“Dignity kits are important to hand out to women to make sure that they at least have access to basic necessities such as clean underwear, clothes, soap and sanitary pads,” explains Leny Jakaria, a Humanitarian Focal Point Officer with UNFPA Indonesia, who joined the mission to Aceh.

“During a humanitarian situation like this one, we also need to pay attention to the care management. Women and children should be separated from the men to ensure they are in a safe and protective environment. At one of the camps more than half of the people there were children and we saw that there were a few policewomen working at that particular camp, which was a good sign.” A Helping Hand

Walking through one of the temporary shelters housing Rohingya and Bangladeshi migrants in Kuala Cangkoi, on the northern coast of Aceh, there are young kids running around and taking turns riding a toy car, a group of teenage boys huddle around two others playing a game of chess and some women are washing their children in an outdoor open-air shower facility.

“Assalamualaikum,” refugees say as they pass visitors to the camp.

While they may not be able to communicate fluently with the Acehnese locals, they use the Muslim greeting that roughly translates to “peace be with you” to say hello.

Since the migrants arrived in May, a team of local midwives in Aceh have visited the camps to help ensure pregnant women – one of the most vulnerable groups during an emergency situation – are provided with the necessary health services that they require. This includes antenatal care for pregnant women and also post-partum care for new mothers and their infants.

“Our priority is to make sure the pregnant women and new mothers are given the right care and receive the necessary check-ups,” explained Indra Supradewi, Chief of the Educational Department from the Central Board of the Indonesian Midwives Association (IBI), who was part of the UNFPA team to visit the refugee camps.

“We met nine pregnant women on this mission, ranging from the ages of 15 to 30 and they were all at different stages. Some were just a few months while one young girl was already at eight months,” she said, adding that there was a referral system in place for any of the expectant mothers to deliver their baby in a puskesmas (public health centre) or hospital.

In Aceh, there are 15,000 registered midwives with IBI. Ahead of Indra’s visit, local midwives at four of the six refugee camps located primarily along the northeast coast of Aceh had already met most of the pregnant women, to not only provide support and health services, but also to help empower them.

“Along with offering counselling services for the women, we have tried to provide them with activities to engage in, such as sewing,” explained Syafrina, a local midwife who has been visiting the temporary shelter in the city of Langsa, where there are three pregnant women.

“We want to open a public kitchen for the women to use so that they can cook food for themselves. We want to empower them and provide spaces for the children and also with specific women-friendly spaces at these camps.”

Myanmar: Residents receive disaster preparation briefing

25 June 2015 - 9:35pm
Source: New Light of Myanmar Country: Myanmar

Kyaikto, 25 June — An educative talk on prevention of natural disasters was recently presented at the Dhammayon in Nawarat Ward, Theinzayat village-tract, Kyaikto Township.

Head of Township Fire Services Department U Tin Htwe explained two types of disasters caused by nature and human beings, natural disaster management and preparedness for disaster risk reduction.
Firefighters later demonstrated the use of life jackets. IP Zaw Min Oo of Theinzayat Police Station gave lectures on natural disasters that occurred last year while village administrator U Khin Zaw spoke about emergency shelters and storage of aid.

Ye Khaung Oo

Myanmar: JICA provides assistance for sinking tube-wells in Myothit Tsp

25 June 2015 - 9:32pm
Source: New Light of Myanmar Country: Japan, Myanmar

Myothit, 25 June — A team led by of Department of Rural Development Director U Hla Khaing and officials recently inspected the sinking of a four-inch-diameter tubewell in Baw Village in Myothit Township, Magway Region. The Japan International Cooperation Agency provided assistance for sinking the tubewells.

The department will sink 87 tube-wells under the project.

The department sank 60 tube-wells last fiscal year and plans to sink 20 of the remaining 27 wells this year.

Upon completion, the tube-wells will benefit more than 97,000 people from 87 villages in Myothit Township.

Than Naing Oo (Ngaphe)

Myanmar: Myanmar plans to introduce emergency ambulance services

25 June 2015 - 9:28pm
Source: New Light of Myanmar Country: Myanmar

Nay Pyi Taw, 25 June — Myanmar plans to introduce its first-ever emergency ambulance services, it was revealed at a workshop here on Thursday.

Vice President Dr Sai Mauk Kham described the workshop as an important step for the country’s healthcare.

Rapid emergency ambulance responses will be able to bring down the mortality rate by 20 percent to 30 percent, with the vice president stating that 89 percent of patients do not receive systematic treatment before being admitted to hospital.

Regarding fewer emergency ambulance services, he quoted a research finding as saying that only 3 to 5 percent of emergency admissions to hospital have access to ambulance services.

According to a 2014-2015 report on the under-5 mortality rate, the number of child deaths accounted for nearly one third of child births.

Myanmar still sees 62 to 72 child mortalities for every 1,000 child births.

Dr Sai Mauk Kham recognized healthcare services provided by government and private hospitals and civil services organizations.

On the subject of international cooperation in health care, he said Yangon University of Medicines-1 offers master’s degree courses in partnership with the Australian College of Emergency Medicine (ACEM).

He also pointed out the need for prompt voluntary medical services and valid emergency telephone numbers.

MNA

Myanmar: UNOPS Myanmar holds three workshops to enhance project management capacity in the country [EN / MY]

25 June 2015 - 9:26pm
Source: UN Office for Project Services Country: Myanmar

25 June 2015 – Yangon: Approximately 230 representatives from the Government, international and national development partners are being trained in project management techniques this week, in a series of three workshops organized by UNOPS Myanmar. The sessions focus on how to implement better projects by measuring their success, cost and quality, in order to increase their impact and control risks, thereby better supporting people in need.

The first session, which took place in Nay Pyi Taw on 23 June, gathered 85 participants from 13 infrastructure-related national ministries, including the Ministry of Construction and Ministry of Transport. On 25 June, a second workshop was held in Yangon for 75 participants from donors, UN agencies, NGOs and private sector. The final session, due to take place tomorrow (Friday, 26 June) in UNOPS’ premises, will target 70 UNOPS local and international staff stationed in Yangon.

The workshop has been held already 35 times in more than 20 countries and for more than 1300 attendees. It is led by Mr. Wagner Maxsen, Senior Advisor at UNOPS Sustainable Project Management Practice Group, also currently director of the Project Management Institute’s (PMI) Board. This is the second time the workshop comes to Myanmar, since two sessions were held in 2013 in Nay Pyi Taw and Yangon.

“This workshop is very informative and relevant”, commented Daw Ni Ni Lwin, Deputy Director of the Planning Department of the Ministry of National Planning and Economic Development. “One of my responsibilities is the inspection of implemented projects and we will use the experience from this workshop in my job”.

This workshops, which are participative and interactive through role-plays and simulations, are offered free of charge and allow all participants to receive a certificate of attendance issued by UNOPS, as a PMI Global Registered Education Provider.

For more information contact Frank Thomas at frankt@unops.org

Tel: +95 (0)1 657 281~7 Ext: 107

Mobile: +95 (0)9 420 048 439

Notes to the editors:

As the operational arm of the UN with the mission to “serve people in need by expanding the ability of the UN, governments and other partners to managed project, infrastructure and procurement in a sustainable and efficient manner”, UNOPS has organized the Best Practices in Project Management Workshop series with the aim of transferring Project Management skills to our partners and personnel in a concise and practical manner.

Myanmar: Pyidaungsu Hluttaw votes down 5 of 6 changes to constitution

25 June 2015 - 9:22pm
Source: New Light of Myanmar Country: Myanmar

By Aye Min Soe

Nay Pyi Taw, 25 June — The Pyidaungsu Hluttaw on Thursday voted down proposed amendments to the constitution that sought to remove the military’s effective veto power over key legislative reforms and alter the eligibility requirements for the presidency.

Out of six proposed changes to the constitution, the parliament voted in favour of only one, an amendment to Section (d) which changes the wording of “military” to “defence” in a clause stipulating that a president must be well acquainted with the political, administrative, economic and military affairs of the Union.

The five amendments rejected by the parliament included one which sought to limit the military’s legislative power by lowering the voting threshold for constitutional reform from 75 to 70 percent of MPs in the Pyidaungsu Hluttaw in Section 436 (a) and (b).

The sections currently stipulate that amendments of some key provisions must be agreed upon by more than 75 percent of MPs, in addition to more than 50 percent of eligible voters in a referendum. As the military is guaranteed a quarter of the seats in parliament through appointment, it has an effective veto over reforms.

The remaining amendments rejected by the parliament are the amendment to Section 60 (c) dealing with the eligibility for the presidency, stating that the president shall be selected from elected MPs, and the amendment to Section 59 (f), which bars non-citizens from becoming president or vice-president, as well as anyone with a spouse, “legitimate child,” or child’s spouse who holds foreign citizenship.

As a change to Section 59 (f), the ruling Union Solidarity and Development Party sought to exclude just “one of the legitimate children or their spouses” from the section.

The constitutional amendment bill was proposed by the USDP.

Out of 633 MPs, 583 attended the parliamentary meeting and 50 were absent Thursday. Of 583 voters, 467 MPs were elected representatives, comprising 73.78 percent, while 166, or 26.22, were military appointees.

Before the vote, five MPs debated the bill. U Thein Zaw from the USDP said during the debate that the party submitted the bill to the parliament at the right time and under the right circumstances, urging the MPs to support the constitutional amendment bill.

Col Than Htike, a military MP in the parliament, argued against the amendments.

National League for Democracy MP U Win Myint demanded before the vote that the parliament record the party’s stance of sharing the USDP’s wish to amend the constitution, but did not agree with specific details of the reforms.

Thura U Shwe Mann, the Speaker of the Pyidaungsu Hluttaw, declared that the parliament put it on record.

After the session, NLD chairwoman Daw Aung San Suu Kyi told reporters she was not surprised with the result.

The amendments proposed by the USDP were not effective enough to help the country’s reforms, and voting against even such amendments indicate a lack of willingness for reform, she added.

GNLM

Myanmar: Stateless at Sea: The Moken of Burma and Thailand

25 June 2015 - 8:34am
Source: Amnesty International Country: Myanmar, Thailand

Thailand/Burma: Sea Nomads Vulnerable to Abuse Protect Sea Moken People’s Basic Rights, Create Path to Citizenship

(Bangkok, June 25, 2015) – The governments of Thailand and Burma should immediately end discrimination and other rights abuses against the Moken, sea nomads who are among the few remaining hunter-gatherer populations in Southeast Asia, Human Rights Watch said in a new report today. Approximately 3,000 Moken live mostly on small boats within the Mergui archipelago along Burma’s southern coast, while another 800 are settled in Thailand.

The 25-page report, “Stateless at Sea: The Moken of Burma and Thailand,” describes in words and photographs serious violations of the rights of the Moken by state authorities – particularly the Burmese navy – including extortion, bribery, arbitrary arrest, and confiscation of property. Human Rights Watch also examines tightening immigration and maritime conservation laws that threaten their freedom of movement and traditional lifestyle. Most Moken are stateless, making them extremely vulnerable to human rights abuse and depriving them of access to medical care, education, and employment opportunities.

“Far from the idyllic image that tourism promotes of the Moken people, these sea nomads face increasing restrictions and attacks at sea, and systematic discrimination on land,” said Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “By effectively denying them citizenship, the Thai and Burmese governments make the Moken easy targets for exploitation and other threats to their very existence.”

The Moken are listed as one of the 135 recognized “ethnic races” of Burma under the 1982 Citizenship Act, but the issuance of national ID cards to the Moken has been inconsistent, hindering their travel within Burma. The Burmese government is required to provide national ID cards to all who are entitled; to ensure birth registration documents are issued to all Moken children; and to provide the Moken equal access to social welfare, education, health, and other services provided to other Burmese citizens, Human Rights Watch said. The Moken have also suffered from violent attacks and seizure of property by the Burmese navy.

A Moken man named Gamat from Burma told Human Rights Watch:

[The navy] point their guns at us so we just jump into the water. If we show them that we have money then sometimes they stop bothering us and don’t take anything else. If we decide to stay on an island, or fish around it, then we have to pay the island head – and these are also Burmese soldiers.

In Thailand, the Moken’s ability to pursue their traditional livelihoods is limited by marine conservation regulations, such as the ban on gathering sea products for trade and chopping trees to build or repair boats. Thai middlemen exploit Moken vulnerability in order to persuade them to undertake illegal and dangerous work, such as dynamite fishing. On land the Moken also face forced displacement, since they own no title to the traditional shore areas where they live for part of the year.

The Thai government should review all applications from Moken for citizenship and grant those with legitimate claims. The authorities should also end threats of forced resettlement of Moken populations, create a complaints mechanism that Moken can easily access when their rights are violated, and support access to culturally suitable education for Moken children and lawful work opportunities.

In recent years, more Moken have given up their nomadic ways and decided to reside permanently in Thailand and Burma. Both governments should act to protect and promote their rights, including providing a pathway to citizenship and protecting them from economic exploitation that threatens their way of life. They should ensure that the Moken, as people indigenous to the Mergui archipelago and the Andaman sea coast, are treated in accordance with the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

“Burma and Thailand need to recognize and respect the rights of the Moken people to live as they always have,” Adams said. “Protecting them from abuses, ensuring a path to citizenship, and providing access to basic services is best way forward for these indigenous and too often exploited people.”

For quotes from the report, please see below.

“Stateless at Sea: The Moken of Burma and Thailand” is available at: http://www.hrw.org/sites/default/files/reports/moken0615_web_0.pdf

For more Human Rights Watch reporting on Thailand, please visit: http://www.hrw.org/thailand

For more Human Rights Watch reporting on Burma, please visit: http://www.hrw.org/burma

For more information, please contact: In Bangkok, Sunai Phasuk (English, Thai): +66-81-632-3052 (mobile); or phasuks@hrw.org
In Bangkok, Phil Robertson (English, Thai): +66-85-060-8406 (mobile); or robertp@hrw.org. Twitter: @Reaproy
In Tokyo, Brad Adams (English): +1-347-463-3531 (mobile); or adamsb@hrw.org. Twitter: @BradMAdams
In Washington, DC, John Sifton (English): +1-646-479-2499 (mobile); or siftonj@hrw.org. Twitter: @johnsifton
In New York, James Ross (English): +1-646-898-5487 (mobile); or rossj@hrw.org
In New York, Joe Saunders (English): +1-347-853-2314 (mobile); or saundej@hrw.org

Quotes From the Report

“I have met the Burmese navy men before and they always ask us for money or food. They always show us their guns.... Mostly we have no money so we can only give them fish.” – Moken woman from Ply Island, Thailand

“The Burmese soldiers sometimes shoot at our boat while we are fishing. They have done this to me many times. My older brother was shot by a Burmese navy officer while fishing with other Moken and died. Those other Moken who were on the boat just jumped into the water and swam away.” – Gamat, Moken man from Dung Island, Burma

“There are 14 of us in this house, from age 60 to a year old. We were all born here in this village. But the document [official land deed] said the land where we have lived for generations belongs to someone else. It said a Thai businessman owns the land. Now he wants to kick us out and sell it. Where are we going to live now? I don’t know. One by one, Moken families have been taken to court and told to leave this village because they do not have ownership of the land.” – Bulai, Moken woman from Rawai Beach, Phuket, Thailand

“I had five children but two of them died after having very bad diarrhea. They were both infants when they died. At that time, I didn’t have any money to take them to the hospital even though they were sick.” – Moken woman, Thailand

“I used to be a diver. When I was a teenager, there was no limit for Moken fishermen. We could go anywhere from Phuket to the Surin Islands and beyond to catch fish, shrimps, lobsters, and shellfish. We brought our catch ashore to the middlemen, who would sell them in downtown markets or to beachside restaurants…. Life was not comfortable, but we had freedom to go wherever we wanted to go…. But then around 16 years ago, government officials told us we could not fish around Surin Islands anymore.… They set so many rules and restrictions on our ways of life…. My family now cannot earn enough from fishing. I come out on the beach, talking to tourists and begging money from them.… It is embarrassing. But at least I could bring cash back to my family.” – Jui, Moken man, Thailand

Myanmar: Myanmar/Kachin: WASH Cluster Snapshot, June 2015

25 June 2015 - 7:00am
Source: UN Children's Fund, WASH Cluster Country: Myanmar

HIGHLIGHT OF THE MONTH

  • WASH cluster team participated to a rapid UNICEF led multi-sectorial assessment in Namtit from 28th – 30th May 1

  • Household Treatment Water Working group was held in Bhamo on 28th May with particpatuion of 21 staff from governmental authorities (DRD, DOH, RRD and TDC) and humanitarian agencies

  • 55 camps out of a total of 155 (35%) are not currently targeted by a WASH ptoject. These camps host 18155 IDPs (12210 in GCA and 5945 in NGCA) out of a total of 74001 IDPs (24%). 49 out of these camps are located in CGA. 21 are located in Hpakant area where clashes occurred at the beginning of 2015. The 34 remaining non WASH targeted IDPs camps are located in 15 different townships of Kachin and NSS.

  • Preliminary discussions with DRD State authorities to strengthen WASH sector coordination in Kachin

World: The Human Rights Council holds general debate on human rights situations requiring its attention

25 June 2015 - 12:51am
Source: UN Human Rights Council Country: Burundi, Democratic People's Republic of Korea, Iraq, Myanmar, occupied Palestinian territory, South Sudan, Sudan, Syrian Arab Republic, World

MIDDAY

24 June 2015

Minister of Justice of South Sudan Addresses the Council

The Human Rights Council today held a general debate on human rights situations that require the Council’s attention, during which speakers raised allegations of human rights violations in countries and regions around the world and reiterated the Council’s responsibility to address all situations of concern. The Council also heard an address from Paulino Wanawilla Unango, Minister of Justice of South Sudan.

Speakers in the general debate highlighted concerns about shrinking space for civil society and harassment of human rights defenders and journalists in a number of countries. They also expressed concerns about attacks against civilians and violations of international law during armed conflicts. Several speakers regretted the confrontational approach of this item of the Council and condemned the politicization of human rights issues.

Latvia on behalf of the European Union, Ireland on behalf of 25 States, Iran on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement, Latvia on behalf of a group of countries, Ireland, Germany, France, Netherlands, Saudi Arabia, United Kingdom, Japan, Montenegro, Russian Federation, Venezuela, Cuba, China, Norway, Iceland, Canada, Switzerland, Australia, Israel, Czech Republic, Ecuador, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Belgium, Azerbaijan, Spain, Iran, Georgia, Belarus, Slovakia, Malaysia, Ukraine and Eritrea took the floor.

Also speaking were the following non-governmental organizations: Sudwind, Minority Rights Group, Human Rights Watch, International Federation for Human Rights Leagues, Reporters without Borders, Franciscans International in a joint statement with Budi Tjahjono, Liberation, Nonviolent Radical Party, Transnational and Transparency, African Development Association, Action internationale pour la paix et le développement dans la région des Grands Lacs, Khiam Rehabilitation Centre for Victims of Torture, Victorious Youth Movement, International Movement against All Forms of Discrimination and Racism, Association Dunenyo, World Organisation against Torture, Centre for Reproductive Rights, Alsalam Foundation, Centre for Human Rights and Peace Advocacy, International Humanist and Ethical Union, British Humanist Association, World Muslim Congress, Africa Culture Internationale, Asian Legal Resource Centre, World Barua Organization, Mbororo Social and Cultural Development Association, Centro de Estudios Legales y Sociales, Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development, Human Rights House Foundation, OCAPROCE Internationale, United Nations Watch, Federacion de Asociaciones de Defensa y Promocion de los Derechos Humanos, Amnesty International, Civicus, Presse Embleme Campagne, American Association of Jurists, Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies, Article 19, East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project, Agence Internationale pour le Developpement, Arab Commission for Human Rights, Gazeteciler ve Yazarlar Vakfi, Baha’i International Community and Centrist Democratic International.

Myanmar, Ethiopia, Bahrain, China, Sudan, Japan, Burundi, Uzbekistan, Pakistan, Egypt, Republic of Korea, Russian Federation, Maldives, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Saudi Arabia, Cuba, Indonesia and Iran spoke in right of reply.

The Council also heard an address from Paulino Wanawilla Unango, Minister of Justice of South Sudan, who said that, in the context of the ongoing crisis, the Government had to extend the tenure of the National Legislature and the tenure and the mandate of the Office of the President to avoid a constitutional vacuum and negotiate a peace agreement.

The Council is having a full day of meetings today. At 4 p.m., it will consider the Universal Periodic Review outcomes of Kyrgyzstan and Guinea. The consideration of the outcome of Kiribati has been postponed to next week.

General Debate on Human Rights Situations that Require the Council’s Attention

Latvia, speaking on behalf of the European Union, condemned serious human rights violations and abuses in eastern Ukraine and Crimea, and called for accountability in South Sudan. The European Union was also extremely concerned about the excessive use of the death penalty and the harassment of human rights defenders in Egypt. It called for the release of all prisoners of opinion in Azerbaijan and China. The European Union expressed concerns over the situation in Uzbekistan, and torture in Turkmenistan. It was deeply concerned about restrictions on the freedom of expression in the Russian Federation and Venezuela, and regretted that Israel had not granted access to the United Nations Commission of Inquiry.

Ireland, speaking on behalf of 25 States, expressed concern about the shrinking space and harassment of civil society and journalists in Azerbaijan, where critical voices were systematically silenced. It called for the immediate and unconditional release of all political prisoners in Azerbaijan and referred to individual cases of political prisoners in urgent need of medical care. Azerbaijan should cooperate fully in the field of human rights with the international community, and facilitate visits with Special Procedures. Azerbaijan was bound to abide to decisions of the European Court on Human Rights.

Iran, speaking on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement, said the international community should support human rights in all countries, and that human rights had to be addressed in a fair and equal manner, with objectivity, non-selectivity, non-interference and respect to sovereignty of States. It stressed the importance of human rights not to be used for political purposes and adopting politically motivated decisions. All actors on the international scene should build an international order based on inclusion, mutual respect and the promotion of cultural diversity.

Latvia, speaking on behalf of a group of countries, voiced concerns over violations and abuses of human rights in Burundi, in particular the excessive use of force by the security forces against demonstrators, and restrictions incompatible with the right to freedom of expression, including media freedom, and the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and association. The Council should stand ready to convene an urgent debate on the human rights situation in Burundi should the situation further deteriorate.

Ireland voiced concern over increasing restrictions on civil society space in many countries, including in the Russian Federation and Ethiopia. In Nigeria, Syria, Iraq and Myanmar there were threats to freedom of religion and belief. Violence against children and recruitment of child soldiers were worrying in South Sudan. Ireland called on the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea to enter into an active dialogue with the Council, and noted that the situation in the occupied Palestinian territory remained a matter of serious concern.

Germany expressed concern over the worsening human rights situation in China and urged the Government to immediately release all detained human rights defenders and to stop restricting the work of international civil rights organizations. It was also concerned about the shrinking space for civil society in the Russian Federation and Egypt, and condemned human rights violations in eastern Ukraine, Uzbekistan and the effects of the conflict in South Sudan.

France reiterated its concerns about the situation in Syria and the suffering caused by the regime and ISIS. France called on all parties to the conflict in eastern Ukraine to abide by international human rights and humanitarian law. France supported the creation of a mandate to investigate human rights violations in South Sudan and hold perpetrators accountable, and underlined the importance for Burundi to respect freedom of information. France called for accountability of perpetrators of systematic violations in Eritrea; and condemned acts by Boko Haram, recalling that counter-terrorism activities had to comply with international law.

Netherlands remained highly concerned over the situation in Iraq and international crimes by ISIS, and urged the Iraqi Government to hold perpetrators of crimes to account. Netherlands underlined the situation of vulnerable groups in Iraq, including women, children and refugees. Netherlands called on all parties to the conflict in eastern Ukraine to abide by international human rights and humanitarian law and to investigate abuses, and expressed concerns about the situation in Crimea. In South Sudan, justice and accountability would be a crucial part in any peace agreement.

Saudi Arabia condemned continuous violence against Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar and their lack of recognition by the State and denial of their basic human rights. Saudi Arabia also regretted hate speech and discrimination against the Rohingya. The continuous violations against them led to them fleeing the country and putting their lives at risk. Saudi Arabia called for international solidarity to help the Rohingya Muslims.

United Kingdom remained deeply concerned by the appalling violations and abuses of human rights in Syria, and by Iran’s use of the death penalty and restrictions on freedom of expression and belief. It welcomed the opening of the new Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in Seoul as an important step towards establishing accountability for human rights violations in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. Other concerning situations were in Burma, Gaza, South Sudan and Sudan.

Japan welcomed the establishment of the field-based structure in Seoul, and expressed hope that the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea would heed the calls of the international community to improve its human rights record. It also expressed concern about the human rights situation in Syria, South Sudan and Nigeria. A human security based approach, with emphasis on protection and empowerment of each individual, should be the high priority.

Montenegro encouraged States, as principal guarantors of human rights, to redouble efforts within the existing international legal framework. Decisive actions and firm commitments from all Governments were needed to place human rights and fundamental freedoms of all citizens at the heart of their national policies. Montenegro was concerned that Syria did not cooperate with the Commission of Inquiry. The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea was encouraged to renew its initially expressed interest in cooperating with the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.

Russia stated that Ukrainian forces had once again started shelling populated areas and civilians were suffering. The restrictions on movement, introduced by Kiev, were limiting movements of humanitarian organizations as well. Russia was seriously concerned about Ukraine’s suspension of certain provisions of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. Some Ukrainian battalions, such as “Aydar”, were committing crimes and had not yet been brought to justice.

United States was deeply concerned about the human rights situations in Iran, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and South Sudan. In China, concern remained about increased arrests, detentions and forced disappearances, including in Tibetan and Uighur areas. Cuba was urged to improve respect for fundamental freedoms, release arbitrarily detained activists and provide greater internet access. Egypt violated freedoms of expression, peaceful assembly and association. Minority groups and independent media were prosecuted in Russian-occupied Crimea.

Venezuela was opposed to the selective practice that promoted initiatives directed specifically at some countries, and said this item of the Council should not be used at directing unjustified and politically motivated accusations. It underlined the credibility of the Council, and said naming and shaming should be eradicated from its work. Venezuela regretted that major powers just criticized the human rights of developing countries to fulfil their political agendas, and omitted to address poverty and the right to development. Venezuela expressed concerns about arbitrary detention by the United States.

Cuba said Western powers used this debate at every session to advance their political agendas and make baseless accusations against developing countries. Western powers should first address their own human rights problems, including arbitrary detention and other violations perpetrated in the name of countering terrorism, violations of the rights of migrants, racism and xenophobia and police brutality. The Council was set up to encourage dialogue and promote cooperation. Cuba had nothing to be taught about human rights.

China said the work of the Council should focus on dialogue, cooperation, technical assistance and capacity building. Country specific dialogues and mandates were in opposition with this goal and with the United Nations Charter. Regrettably, the United States and European countries had made false allegations against countries of the South, including China. China pointed at human rights problems in the United States, including torture, police violence and racism. In European countries, bills on terrorism restricted freedoms, migrants suffered violations, and xenophobia was on the rise.

Norway said it was concerned about massive human rights violations in South Sudan. The Government had to investigate those incidents and prosecute the perpetrators. Norway opposed the death penalty in all circumstances as a matter of principle. An alarming number of executions were being carried out in Saudi Arabia, Iran, Pakistan and Indonesia. Norway regretted the persistent worsening of conditions for civil society in the Russian Federation.

Iceland said that States were ultimately responsible for combatting discrimination and had to do so actively, both internally and by speaking up internationally. In Saudi Arabia women and girls faced severe discrimination in law and practice, whereas in the Russian Federation discriminatory legislation targeted civil and political rights. In Myanmar there were ongoing instances of religious and anti-Muslim violence, while the human rights situation of the Rohingya community was worsening.

Canada remained concerned by the widespread human rights abuses in South Sudan, and by the indiscriminate targeting of civilians in Sudan. Accounts of mass rape by Government-aligned troops had to be investigated and perpetrators had to be held accountable. Canada was also concerned about the human rights situation in Eritrea and Uzbekistan.

Switzerland said that increasing restrictions on civil society organizations in a number of countries was a raising concern for Switzerland. In China, criminal charges brought against individuals and institutions were reducing the space for civil society. In Russia, a recent law on undesirable international organizations had created a risk of the interference by the State in the legitimate activities of civil society. Switzerland was preoccupied with restrictions on human rights in the context of political manifestations.

Australia stated that the barbaric terrorist organization Daesh was a major and lethal threat to the people of Iraq and Syria. The abuse of human rights and violence by Daesh were deeply concerning and Australia condemned them in the strongest terms. Australia reiterated its call for the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea to implement the recommendations from the Commission of Inquiry’s report.

Israel said that in Iran, executions multiplied by the day, journalists were imprisoned, minorities were persecuted and women were discriminated against. In Saudi Arabia, women were still subject to discrimination, and the use of torture and executions had increased. A plethora of violent radical non-State actors, supported by States sitting in the Council, terrorized the population. The Council was politicized and biased and it exhibited hypocrisy instead of discussion of the root causes of extreme Islamic terrorism.

Czech Republic expressed concern over the silencing of dissenting voices in China, Azerbaijan and Venezuela. It expressed hope that the situation in Bahrain would be resolved peacefully. It called on all those countries to release those who defended the rights of others. Czech Republic was also concerned about mass death sentences in Egypt. The culture of impunity in Syria was alarming. In the Russian Federation a law stifling civil society had been passed.

Ecuador drew the Council’s attention to the growing use of fire arms against alleged criminals, usually black and Latino, in the United States, and the impunity of persons who used such force. It raised concern over the overcrowding of prisons in the United States and the bad conditions in which inmates were held. The Committee against Torture had criticized that practice, but it nevertheless persisted.

Democratic People’s Republic of Korea noted that human rights violations in the United States had reached a grave stage in the form of interference in internal affairs, plots, aggression and war against other countries. The European Union was committing gross violations, such as rejection and brutal killing of immigrants, desecration, Islamophobia, praising and inciting neo-Nazism and discrimination against minorities.

Belgium stated that in Eritrea, systemic and grave violations had caused mass departures of young people. Uzbekistan had refused 13 times visits in the context of the Special Procedures of the Council. In Burundi, the culture of fear created obstacles for the opposition to campaign, which would make the upcoming elections less credible. Recent legislation in Russia allowing for arbitrary decisions limiting space for civil society was extremely regrettable.

Azerbaijan said that intolerance and hate speech against minorities in a number of European countries, neglect of women and children in the Magdalene laundries in Ireland, and discrimination of Roma in Germany and Poland, were all matters of concern. Overcrowding of prisons and the high number of gun-related deaths in the United States were among serious problems which should be looked into.

Spain was worried about the expansion of settlements, forced demolitions and displacement of Palestinians in the territories occupied by Israel. The situation in Libya was gravely deteriorating, and was being made worse by the rise of Daesh. Violations of international humanitarian law in the east of Ukraine were unacceptable, and Spain was particularly concerned about the deteriorating human rights situation in Crimea.

Iran noted that the United States had failed to implement many recommendations of its Universal Periodic Review process. Iran was deeply disturbed by the systematic human rights violations of the Palestinians in Gaza by the Israeli regime. Noting that discrimination was one of the greatest challenges today, Iran said that in the United Kingdom, Czech Republic and Norway, people were subject to exclusion and violence because of who they were and what they believed.

Georgia reminded that on numerous occasions it had drawn the Council’s attention to the alarming humanitarian situation and persistent human rights violations in Georgia’s occupied regions of Abkhazia and the Tskhinvali region/South Ossetia. The continuous vacuum of international presence on the ground had turned both regions into “black holes” and one of the most inaccessible places on earth.

Belarus said it would prefer for all human rights issues to be discussed at the Council in accordance with the principles of universality and impartiality. Nevertheless, some countries were promoting their political agenda, which was a clear example of double standards. Belarus called on the Council to put an end to politicizing, and to perform its work on the basis of constructive dialogue and cooperation.

Slovakia remained concerned that many individuals were prevented from exercising their fundamental freedoms and human rights, particularly freedom of expression and association, and reiterated concern about the situation in Belarus and in Eritrea. Slovakia reiterated the urgent need to end impunity and hold perpetrators of human rights violations in South Sudan accountable.

Malaysia remained profoundly concerned about the deterioration of the humanitarian situation in Syria and strongly urged all parties to end violence and cease all discriminate and disproportionate attacks in civilian populated areas. Achieving a diplomatic and peaceful solution to the conflict in Syria would also address the IS threat in the country and the region in a more effective manner.

Ukraine drew attention to the continuing neglect of Russia of its obligations arising from the Minsk Agreement, and stressed that its obligation of release of all detainees related to all Ukrainian citizens unlawfully detained in Russia. Russia should stop torture and cruel treatment of illegally detained Ukrainian citizens and ensure their release and safe return to Ukraine.

Eritrea rejected politically motivated country-specific mechanisms. Human rights were being used for political purposes and promoting various geopolitical agendas, which was a trend that should be avoided. The neutrality and objectivity of the Council had been compromised. It remained necessary to combat all efforts violating non-selectivity, impartiality and objectivity of the Council.

Sudwind said that the number of executions in Iran was more than the number of executions in all other countries, except for one. Iran pretended that it cared about the economic, social and cultural rights of its people, but it imprisoned a number of citizens for defending the rights of street children.

Minority Rights Group drew attention to the pressing situation concerning violence against women in Iraq. Protection and provision programmes for survivors were inadequate to facilitate victim reintegration into society. The vast majority of violent crimes against women were not prosecuted.

Human Rights Watch voiced concern about the detention of dissidents, human rights defenders and journalists in Uzbekistan, and the fact that the Government refused to investigate human rights violations and crimes. In South Sudan, thousands of civilians had been killed and both sides used child soldiers; Human Rights Watch called on the Council to create a Special Rapporteur for South Sudan. The Council should also monitor the human rights situation in Burundi.

International Federation for Human Rights Leagues drew the Council’s attention to the surge of sexual violence by Egyptian security forces. The Egyptian Government recently opened an investigation into the activities of several civil society organizations. Saudi Arabia continued to defy all international human rights standards. The Council had failed to take action on the situation in Bahrain, which was a stain on its reputation.

Reporters without Borders called on Saudi Arabia to respect its international obligations in which it reaffirmed its commitment as a Council member. It urged the King to issue a pardon for all news providers who were unjustly detained, and asked Member States of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation to support those issues.

Franciscans International, on behalf of severals NGOs1 said that the Council was the only international mechanism that had the competency to fully and comprehensively address the human suffering witnessed today due to climate change. The Council should have this issue permanently on its agenda and establish a mandate on human rights and climate change to assess its full impact on human rights.

Liberation said that traditional institutions in India functioned as watchdogs in maintaining social order, but their power had been undermined and they were not recognized by the State, which led to disorder.

Non-Violent Radical Party, Transnational and Transparty drew attention to the violation of international free territory of Trieste by Italy, where citizens were arrested for exercising their right to freedom of expression and of association. An international Commission should be established to determine the role of free port of Trieste.

African Development Association said that perfectly ordinary situations in provinces in the south of Morocco were being instrumentalized in order to tarnish the image of Morocco on the international stage. In 2014, the World Human Rights Forum in Marrakech had demonstrated the significant progress Morocco had made in the field of human rights.

Action international pour la paix et le développement dans la région des Grands Lacs said that nobody was denying progress made in certain parts of Morocco. There were high levels of schooling, low levels of poverty, and the human development index there was rather high. Civil society ought to be reinforced to further promote human rights in the region.

Khiam Rehabilitation Centre for Victims of Torture said that Israeli jailers did not care about the wellbeing of the imprisoned Palestinians. There were at least 25 Palestinian prisoners suffering from cancer, who were not receiving appropriate care in the Ramla jail. The occupiers should be pressured into releasing them. Negligence leading to the deaths of prisoners ought to be monitored.

Victorious Youth Movement was deeply concerned about the human rights situation and security situation in so-called Azad Kashmir and Gilgit Baltistan. People in the Pakistani administered Kashmir still lived in pathetic conditions and did not have freedom to exercise their fundamental rights.

International Movement against All Forms of Discrimination and Racism was alarmed by the current situation in Japan with the rights of the people of the Ryukyu/Okinawa under threat by the construction plan of a new United States military base in Henoko. Environmental human rights defenders, peace activists and protestors demonstrating against the plan had been subjected to violence by the police.

Association Dunenyo said that natural resources were a matter of sovereignty and fuelled economic development, and this was the case in Western Sahara. There was a need to ensure the fair distribution of income from natural resources for the benefit of the people of Western Sahara.

World Organisation Against Torture, in a joint statement with International Federation for Human Rights Leagues (FIDH), stated that the repression in Azerbaijan had particularly escalated over the previous year, with arbitrary arrests of prominent human rights defenders and journalists. The repression seemed to be a strategy closely linked with the celebration of the European Games, to prevent criticism from spoiling the event.

Centre for Reproductive Rights was concerned about violence targeting women and girls in Nigeria and neighbouring countries by Boko Haram. The extremist group had abducted more than 2,000 girls since early 2014. The captors repeatedly subjected kidnapped women and girls to rape. In Paraguay, abortion was denied to a 10-year old girl reportedly raped by her stepfather. The girl should be given full medical services.

Alsalam Foundation said that in 2011, Bahrain had used arbitrary detention, enforced disappearances, excessive force and torture in response to a widespread peaceful protest movement calling for reforms. In 2014, the Government had arbitrarily stripped a total of 52 Bahrainis of their native-born citizenship for exercising their human rights or opposition activism.

Centre for Human Rights and Peace Advocacy said that Dalits in India were not provided with political representation and were treated as second grade citizens. Sikhs were restricted to petty businesses and were deprived of their due economic rights to excel in India like other elite Hindus. Socio-economic exclusion of north-eastern populations and Kashmiri Muslims was also a problem.

International Humanist and Ethical Union said that atheists in Egypt were threatened and prosecuted and last June authorities had launched a campaign against atheism which was jeopardising the society. This systematic operation jeopardised free society and freedom of opinion and thought.

British Humanist Association said that violence to which religious non-conformists were subjected had increased in both severity and frequency in Bangladesh. The Government had criminalized “defamation of religion”, creating a de facto blasphemy law, while violent vigilantism had also increased. Bangladesh should reform its legal code and practice in order to preserve the fundamental human rights to freedom of thought and expression.

World Muslim Congress said that India deprived people in the occupied Kashmir of human rights. The Army was provided with full impunity from being prosecuted for gross human rights violations. An example of a 21-year university student who was arrested and killed was given. Peaceful protests against such killings were regularly violently broken. Arbitrary arrests of protesters regularly took place.

Africa Culture Internationale stated that military operations in Balochistan existed to silence the voices of Baloch people, who asked for the rights to their land and access to vital resources. Asking for the right to protect identity, faith, culture, language and uphold socio-economic rights had become a crime for the people in Balochistan.

Asian Legal Resource Centre, in a joint statement with Franciscans International, stressed that judges, prosecutors and lawyers in Asia faced acute forms of suppression of their freedom to engage in their profession independently. Thailand’s judiciary, for example, had been passively supporting the military installed administration.

World Barua Organization said policies of the Government of India divided the population of the northeast of the country into castes. The different developmental policies of India had also discriminated against the region and had been used to justify discrimination policies.

Mbororo Social and Cultural Development Association raised concerns about summary executions and arbitrary detentions in India, especially in Jammu and Kashmir. The Indian army had declared war against the civilian population.

Centro de Estudios Legales y Sociales (CELS) Asociación Civil, in a joint statement with Conectas Direitos Humanos, International Federation for Human Rights Leagues (FIDH), Minority Rights Group (MRG), and International Federation for Human Rights Leagues (FIDH), spoke about the interrogation programmes by the United States’ Central Intelligence Agency and human rights violations related to it. It said the United States had failed to hold perpetrators of torture accountable, and therefore had failed to ensure non-recurrence.

Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development expressed concern about the deteriorating situation in Maldives where the right to peaceful assembly was being severely restrained and trumped up charges suppressed political dissent. The ongoing political impasse in Bangladesh continued to induce serious human rights violations, including extra-judicial killings and enforced disappearances, and the draft Foreign Donation Act would stifle democratic space.

Human Rights House Foundation, in a joint statement with Article 19- International Center Against Censorship, and The International Federation for Human Rights Leagues (FIDH) that the Government of Azerbaijan employed politically motivated criminal prosecutions and detentions, and the current crackdown was set apart from past repression by the scope of individuals being targeted, seriousness of charges and length of prison sentences imposed. Azerbaijan should put an end to this unprecedented repression against civil society and immediately release and rehabilitate the civil and political rights of all prisoners of conscience.

Organisation pour la Communication en Afrique et de Promotion de la Coopération Economique Internationale regretted that little was said about Tinduf camps, where the rights of refugees were being violated. The lack of justice and lack of prospect for the future meant that the youth were targets for terrorist recruitment, and there had been cases of abduction. Criminal responsibility of those who deprived people of freedom should be raised.

United Nations Watch said that the vision of peace from the United Nations Charter had sadly not yet become a reality. Hamas in Gaza had been given tons of cement by the international community, which it had used to build kilometres of tunnels under the Israeli territory to kidnap and harm Israeli citizens. The Hamas charter called for war.

Federacion de Asociaciones de Defensa y Promocion de los Derechos Humanos stated that serious human rights violations committed by Moroccan forces in Western Sahara were of a systematic and persistent nature. Families of 400 people who had disappeared were continuing to demand access to justice, truth and reparations. Morocco did not facilitate the humanitarian work of independent experts.

Amnesty International said that the Conservative Government would bring forward proposals on the United Kingdom’s Bill of Rights. Proposals to replace the human rights act were not merely cosmetic and could lead to the United Kingdom’s withdrawal from the European Convention on Human Rights altogether. Individual States should not be the only and final arbiters of human rights on their territories.

World Association for Citizen Participation Civicus expressed concerns at restrictions of freedom of expression and of assembly and the persecution of human rights defenders. Shrinking space for civil society had emerged as a global challenge. The Association was concerned about the Government’s clampdown on civil society and opposition in Ethiopia, and on restrictions in Azerbaijan.

Presse Embleme Campagne expressed concern about the space for free journalism in Yemen, and reminded members of the Council of a resolution adopted by this body last year on the security of journalists and media staff. It referred to attacks and threats against reporters in Yemen.

American Association of Jurists, in a joint statement with International Association of Democratic Lawyers (IADL) called for the release of Puerto Rican political prisoner Oscar Lopez Rivera, who had completed 34 years in imprisonment in United States prisons for supporting the inalienable right to self-determination and independence of Puerto Rico.

Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies said that in response to the popular unrest against decades of severe repression, human rights violations, social injustice and rampant corruption in the Arab region, almost all governments, with the exception of Tunisia, had failed to enact fundamental institutional reforms and ensure a transition to democracy. Instead, they had chosen to double-down on repression by attempting to silence dissent, restrict civil society, and lay siege to human rights defenders, all in the name of insuring stability and security.

Article 19 - International Centre Against Censorship, in a joint statement with Civicus-World Alliance for Citizen Participation said that civic space was shrinking across Europe and Central Asia, with many governments increasingly perceiving the expression of alternative viewpoints and dissent as a threat. Russian influence on countries’ legislation was growing, with an increasing rejection of universal human rights, and the replication of its restrictive “foreign agents law” across the region.

Eastern and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project said that thousands of civilians had been killed since the conflict in the young country of South Sudan broke out in December 2013. It was time for the Council to address this situation, establish a mandate on South Sudan and call on the African Union to release its own report on this country. The situation in Burundi was of concern, and the Council must take action to address emerging human rights and humanitarian crises.

Agence Internationale pour le Developpement spoke of a case of a person abducted by the Polisario Front and accused of high treason. He had been released since, but had no passport which would allow him to circulate freely and could not reunite with his wife and five children. His case expressed the clear violation of human rights in numerous ways.

Arab Commission for Human Rights said that the Council needed to act to ensure that all citizens in all countries could enjoy their rights to the fullest. The tragic situation of the Rohingya in Burma was shocking, and the way the Burmese authorities were acting was unacceptable. A country mandate should be established for South Sudan as well.

Gazeteciler ve Yazarlar Vakfi stated that it was very uncommon for Heads of State and Government to commit violations, such as hate speech, as was the case with the Turkish President Erdogan. Around 559 Turkish journalists and photographers had lost their jobs in 2014. All those not aligned with the President were exposed to violations of their human rights.

Baha’i International Community described how Iran shut down businesses for having closed during Baha’i holidays. Iranian authorities were persecuting the Baha’i community, and violating their economic rights in an effort to eradicate it as a viable entity in the place of its birth.

Centrist Democratic International had someone from Cuba speaking about her son being arbitrarily detained in Cuba in reprisal for her human rights work. Cuba had also denied all his fair-trial rights and his right to be released on parole. She asked that harassment against her and her family by the Cuban authorities stop.

Statement by the Minister of Justice of South Sudan

PAULINO WANAWILLA UNANGO, Minister of Justice of South Sudan, said that the Government had to extended the tenure of the National Legislature, and the tenure and the mandate of the Office of the President, which were due to come to an end by 9 July 2015 as per the provisions of the Transitional Constitution. In the context of the ongoing crisis, this had been done to avoid a constitutional vacuum and ensure that those two institutions had the mandate to negotiate with rebels and own any peace agreement concluded on behalf of South Sudanese. The Government continued its efforts to demobilise children associated with armed forces and had issued Punitive Orders which prohibited recruitment and use of children, and occupation of schools and hospitals. Since the National Security Service Law had been passed, the reform of the Service had been undertaken, including the recent recruitment based on educational standards and other requirements provided in the law. The Government was quite aware that there was no other alternative to end the current crisis other than sustainable peace, and that fair accountability would only be when peace had been achieved.

Right of Reply

Ethiopia, speaking in a right of reply, said the Eritrean Government valued the freedom of expression and opinion, as well as the right to free assembly and association. The Constitution provided for the work of civil society at the grass root level. Elections were held in a democratic and transparent manner, with the participation of all political parties. Civicus had to accept that Ethiopia was a country that enjoyed the rule of law. No arrests were made because of criticism of the Government, and Civicus was called upon to base their statements on facts.

Myanmar, speaking in a right of reply, raised objections to the usage of the country name of Burma in the Council. It noted that the relevant law defined the responsibility of media workers and established a new media council. Myanmar was stressed that the country was multi-ethnic and multi-confessional and that no discrimination was allowed. The Government would continue working to preserve stability and peace.

Bahrain, speaking in a right of reply, responding to the accusations of the delegations of Ireland and Switzerland regarding the rights of human rights defenders, said such statements should be governed by the general principles of human rights, rather than limited to narrow political considerations. Bahrain reaffirmed the rights of human rights defenders as long as they did not commit acts that were legally unacceptable. Any trial was the result of a violation of the law, which represented some threat to the peace and stability of the country.

China, speaking in a right of reply, refuted allegations by Switzerland and the Czech Republic and recalled both countries’ human rights problems, including racial discrimination, violations of the rights of migrants, racism and repression against the Roma community.

Sudan, speaking in a right of reply, rejected the unfounded and politically motivated allegations by the United States and the United kingdom. Freedom of the press was protected in Sudan. Disputes and law violations were settled before independent courts, and the recent elections were free and fair. A politically negotiated settlement was the way toward peace, but the rebels refused such a settlement. The United States’ sanctions were a violation of the right to development of Sudan.

Japan, speaking in a right of reply, said human rights and respect of humanity were a basic principle on which Japan stood. Japan called on the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea to cooperate with United Nations human rights mechanisms.

Burundi, speaking in a right of reply, rejected accusations that Burundi violated freedom of expression, suppressed demonstrations and closed down local media. Sometimes people abused the freedom of expression and Burundi said that no one was above the law, and cautioned that there was a need to draw distinction between demonstrations and insurgency. The Government was working towards holding free and fair elections.

Uzbekistan, speaking in a right of reply, was consistently working to promote and protect human rights and strengthen the rule of law. It was regularly monitoring places of detention and was developing national preventive mechanisms. In November 2014, the National Action Plan had been adopted for the implementation of the recommendations made during the Universal Periodic Review and by other human rights treaty bodies.

Pakistan, speaking in a right of reply concerning comments on the death penalty, said Pakistan was aware of the international law on the subject and had not violated any of its provisions. Pakistan had lifted its 2008 moratorium on the death penalty in 2014 after being criticized for not doing its utmost to address terrorism. The use of the death penalty was a criminal justice issue and it was a sovereign right of States to choose their own justice system.

Egypt, speaking in a right of reply, rejected the allegations that the judiciary in the country was not independent. It was stressed that no power could interfere in its proceedings and decisions. As for the death sentence, according to Egyptian law it could be applied in certain cases. Freedom of association and assembly was also upheld, as long as it did not jeopardize public order and security. The allegations of civilians being delegated to the military court were false, except for crimes that were direct assaults on military facilities. The number of civil society organizations was increasing, and Egypt rejected any attempt of using human rights for political purposes.

Republic of Korea, speaking in a right of reply in response to the remarks made by the delegation of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, said it was regrettable that that country was making such false accusations, which held no merit. The field structure in Seoul was established in accordance to the relevant decisions of the United Nations bodies. The Republic of Korea called on the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea to fully cooperate with the field based office in order to improve the human rights situation on the ground.

Russian Federation, speaking in a right of reply, clarified that the Crimean people had decided to realize their right to self-determination in line with international law. As for the right of the Crimean Tatars and other national minorities, they had full access to their rights. Any violations of human rights were monitored by a relevant body and sanctioned if proven true. The United States continued to consider themselves as a model of democracy, but it continued to violate human rights at home and abroad, such as freedom of speech, xenophobia and violations in the penitentiary system. Serious problems of racism and xenophobia, including the endorsement of neo-Nazism, also existed in the European Union.

Maldives, speaking in a right of reply, said a non-governmental organization’s statement on the human rights situation in Maldives was based on false accusations. Maldives was a peaceful country, and most protests were held peacefully. Some individuals had been arrested in connexion to violence during some protests. Maldives had always encouraged cooperation, transparency and mutual respect. The former President was serving a jail sentence on terrorism charges.

Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, speaking in a right of reply in response to statements by Japan and Republic of Korea, said Japan had committed atrocities in the last century, including sexual slavery known as comfort women. The current Japanese authorities remained a long way from sincere acknowledgment. The authorities of the Republic of Korea were using security legislation to violate human rights, and it was clear that the Office of the High Commissioner there had a political agenda to implement the will of the United States.

Saudi Arabia, speaking in a right of reply, said the Syrian regime had lost credibility in the whole world. Saudi Arabia was committed to protect the rights of its people, based on Sharia law. In response to Iceland and Israel, Saudi Arabia categorically rejected foreign interference in its judicial affairs. Saudi Arabia condemned countries financially supporting terrorism.

Cuba, speaking in a right of reply, drew attention to police violence and citizen insecurity in the United States and said that human rights were being systematically violated in developed countries. Cuba would continue to respect the human rights of its entire people, contribute to the exercise of those rights in other countries, and continue to encourage civil society to participate in all public spaces so that they could contribute to the construction of the society that Cuba wanted without outside interference.

Indonesia, speaking in a right of reply, said that countries which retained the death penalty should always apply it with utmost caution and in full compliance with international law. The death penalty served as a deterrent against most serious crimes in a society.

Iran, speaking in a right of reply, was firmly convinced that manipulation of the Human Rights Council by Saudi Arabia was far from the cause of human rights.

Republic of Korea, speaking in a second right of reply, stated that the international community had adopted resolutions on the human rights situation in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea since 2003. It was the time for that country to take concrete measures to promote and protect the rights of its own people, in close cooperation with the field structure.

Japan, speaking in a second right of reply in response to the statement made by the delegation of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, noted that instead of attempts to blame others, that country should take positive actions.

Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, speaking in a second right of reply, noted that the Republic of Korea should end the military presence of the United States on its territory. Japan committed crimes against humanity during its military occupation of Korea. The atrocities committed by the Japanese imperialists in Korea were unforgettable, and Japan was called upon to face the crimes it had committed instead of embellishing its history.

1 Joint statement: Franciscans International, Center for International Environmental Law (CIEL), Foundation for GAIA, Foodfirst Information and Action Network (FIAN), Commission of the Churches on International Affairs of the World Council of Churches, Institute for Planetary Synthesis, Planetary Association for Clean Energy (PACE), Sovereign Military Order of the Temple of Jerusalem (OSMTH), International Movement ATD Fourth World, Edmund Rice International, and Brahma Kumaris World Spiritual University (BKWSU).

For use of the information media; not an official record

Myanmar: Armed conflict in Kachin and parts of Shan State continues

24 June 2015 - 11:02pm
Source: Mizzima News Country: Myanmar

Armed conflict in Kachin and parts of Shan State is continuing, despite ongoing ceasefire talks between the Myanmar Government and ethnic armed groups, Burma News International reported on 22 June quoting the Karen Information Centre.

Free Burma Rangers (FBR), a humanitarian organisation delivering frontline assistance to civilians across Myanmar, estimates that there were 127 armed clashes in April and May alone causing hundreds of casualties including both civilians and soldiers.

“This period has seen a major escalation in conflict with heavy fighting in the Kokang Region, Northern Shan State, between the Burma Army and the Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army’s (MNDAA),” A FBR report said.

The FBR report noted that the “Burma Army has massively increased its troop levels in the region and has engaged in major military operations, including the use of tanks, heavy artillery barrages and the alleged use of chemical weapons.”

The Kachin Women’s Association of Thailand said that the overall situation in Northern Myanmar had deteriorated sharply this year.

“Since February 2015, an estimated 100,000 people have been displaced from the Kokang area, adding to over 120,000 already displaced in Kachin areas since 2011.”

KWAT has documented more than 70 cases of sexual violence perpetrated by government forces since the conflict started.

World: Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator Positions (19 June 2015)

24 June 2015 - 1:30pm
Source: UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs Country: Afghanistan, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Colombia, Côte d'Ivoire, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Haiti, Indonesia, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, Libya, Mali, Myanmar, Nepal, Niger, Nigeria, occupied Palestinian territory, Pakistan, Philippines, Somalia, South Sudan, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Syrian Arab Republic, Ukraine, World, Yemen

Myanmar: Case study: Epidemic preparedness in Myanmar

24 June 2015 - 7:34am
Source: International Federation of Red Cross And Red Crescent Societies, Myanmar Red Cross Society Country: Myanmar

Adaptation and roll-out of Epidemic Control for Volunteers’ (ECV) Toolkit and Training Manual in Myanmar / Myanmar Red Cross Society / 2015

Background

Myanmar is the largest country in mainland South-East Asia and is vulnerable to a wide range of hazards including floods, cyclones, earthquakes, landslides and tsunamis.
Over the last decade the country has dealt with the devastating effects of Cyclone Nargis (May 2008); which severely impacted the Ayeyarwady and Yangon divisions, and Cyclone Giri that hit Rakhine State (October 2010). Rural areas, some unreachable by modern transportation methods, are the most vulnerable to disasters.

Communities across the country are also faced with chronic threats from communicable diseases, food insecurity and malnutrition. The impact of communicable diseases on the community varies between urban and rural areas, with potential for outbreaks in rural communities higher than in urban society. Malaria also presents a significant problem in Myanmar with approximately 76 percent of the population (7,931,446) living in high-risk malaria areas, divided into 80 endemic townships of 15 States and Regions. National statistics indicate over 200,000 laboratory-confirmed cases per year.

The evolving political context has resulted in changes to the health care system, in terms of administration and roles and responsibilities, however the Ministry of Health remains the major provider of comprehensive health care.
Health care is organized and provided through the public and private sectors with significant numbers of the population relying on traditional medicine.

In line with the National Health Policy, Myanmar Red Cross Society is taking some share of service provision, its role increasingly important as the need for collaboration becomes more apparent. Myanmar Red Cross Society community health volunteers are part of the health workforce in Myanmar, especially in relation to preparedness and response to emergencies and disease outbreaks/epidemics. Myanmar Red Cross Society also continues to run programmes for combating HIV,tuberculosis and malaria

Myanmar: Where Next in Latest Ceasefire Deadlock?

24 June 2015 - 1:03am
Source: Irrawaddy Country: Myanmar

By NYEIN NYEIN / THE IRRAWADDY

CHIANG MAI, Thailand — Cynicism, suspicion and deadlock have occasionally boiled over in the course of Burma’s arduous ceasefire talks, and so they have once again.

The 18-month-long talks between government and ethnic peace negotiators culminated in a provisional agreement on the draft text for a nationwide ceasefire agreement at the end of March, the first step towards political dialogue and the emergence of a genuine federal system of governance.

Things seemed to be proceeding smoothly and the mood in government circles was optimistic until the conclusion of an ethnic armed group conference, in the Karen National Union-controlled Law Khee Lar region, on June 8. There, ethnic leaders established a new negotiating bloc to replace the Nationwide Ceasefire Coordination Team (NCCT) in order to press their demands for 15 amendments to the draft text.

On Monday, the government’s Union Peacemaking Working Committee (UPWC) made clear its reluctance to accept the amendment proposals and accept the new negotiating bloc, which it regards as comprised of “hardliners”, during an informal meeting with a delegation led by NCCT chair Nai Hong Sar. Meanwhile, government and ethnic negotiators plan to hold yet another meeting with an unknown agenda next month in the Thai city of Chiang Mai.

The lack of trust in the government side is reflected in the stated desire of ethnic leaders at Law Khee Lar summit to postpone the nationwide ceasefire accord until after this year’s general election. Underpinning that lack of trust is a wariness of the old divide-and-rule tactics employed against ethnic insurgents during the junta era, which also explains why the summit resolved to withhold an agreement until armed groups currently battling the government are allowed to participate as signatories.

As a result of the summit, ceasefire negotiations could stretch years into the future. After placing such a premium on reaching an accord before the 2015 elections, the government is now uneasy and embarrassed after having touted the success of the draft text agreement in March.

Rangoon-based political analyst Yan Myo Thein told The Irrawaddy that the government should accept the new negotiating bloc in the hopes of expediting a ceasefire agreement.

“The longer time the government takes to accept them, the longer the delay in finalizing the nationwide ceasefire agreement text, and the longer the delay in signing it,” he said.

But government negotiators, who said after the draft text agreement they were ready to sign and waited more than two months before they were ultimately rebuffed, do not want a repeat of the experience.

According to sources close to the government-affiliated Myanmar Peace Center (MPC), President’s Office minister and MPC chief Aung Min, as well as the military, are upset that they have been blindsided by the new bloc. The government would prefer the bloc included the heads of the various ethnic armed groups it represents, rather than those who were not in a position to make binding promises.

On the other side, ethnic leaders have remained steadfast in their commitment to a ceasefire agreement and subsequent peace talks that guarantee autonomy and a federal union. The prevailing sentiment at the Law Khee Lar summit was that the NCCT had bent too far to the government’s will, and a new team was needed to enshrine ethnic demands that would have otherwise been deferred until after the agreement was signed.

How negotiators will overcome the present deadlock is yet to be seen, but there is a growing sense of inevitability that the next steps in the ceasefire negotiations will be the responsibility of the next government.

In the words of Dr Emma Leslie, the executive director of Cambodia-based Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies and a close observer of ceasefire talks in Chiang Mai, “This peace process will continue into next administration and will have to be robust enough to face many more changes and many more setbacks.”

The last 18 months have shown that both sides are willing to set aside lingering mistrust and negotiate their way out of periodic stalemates. At the same time, past experience suggests this latest deadlock won’t be the last.

Thailand: Karen rights plan gets govt nod

24 June 2015 - 12:52am
Source: Bangkok Post Country: Myanmar, Thailand

Republished with permission. © Post Publishing PCL. www.bangkokpost.com'

The cabinet yesterday approved the Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation's plan to improve the living conditions of Karen people in the Kaeng Krachan Forest Complex in Phetchaburi province.

The approval was made ahead of the 39th session of the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organisation (Unesco)'s World Heritage Committee (WHC) to be held in Bonn, Germany, from Sunday to July 8.

The Thai delegation, led by Natural Resources and Environment Minister Gen Dapong Ratanasuwan, will meet WHC members to give updates on progress in ecosystem conservation and the government's plan to improve the Karen's living conditions.

The delegation will also prepare to seek World Heritage status for the Kaeng Krachan Forest Complex next year.

The cabinet's decision to accept the plan was seen as a response to a recent request by the Karen and human rights activists that the WHC deny the Thai government's bid to have the Kaeng Krachan Forest Complex selected as a heritage site.

They said the process was being done without their participation.

Permanent secretary of the Natural Resources and Environment Ministry, Kasemsun Chinnawaso, said the WHC would allow Gen Dapong to explain to its 21 members about efforts by Thai authorities to protect the human rights of Karen people in the forest complex.

This comes after recent reports emerged of alleged human rights abuses including the case of a Karen activist who disappeared following a dispute with forestry officials.

Mr Kasemsun said the plan includes providing land for Karen people so they can use it for living and growing crops.

The government will set up measures to allow them to participate in conservation of the forest complex, if it is successfully selected as a world heritage site.

Government deputy spokesman Sansern Kaewkamnerd said yesterday the Thai delegation is obligated to address all concerns over the nomination of the forest complex for heritage status if asked by the WHC.

Mr Kasemsun said Gen Dapong would also inform them of the ministry's progress in reviewing the forest complex's plant and animal biodiversity, including extinction risks facing forest wildlife. Human rights and the forest's ecological health are the main concerns raised by the WHC and it needs to see the country's action plan, he said.

"Kaeng Krachan Forest Complex itself has outstanding value as a biological system, which perfectly matches the WHC's criteria to be inducted as a world heritage site.

"But unfortunately, [over past years] we have received complaints of human right abuses against the Karen people there. We have to explain what we have done to [protect their rights] to the world community," he said.

The forest complex was on the tentative list for registration in 2011. The authorities have raised their hopes it would win heritage site designation next year.

Meanwhile, the Thai delegation will propose the Lanna Culture Complex in Chiang Mai be included on the tentative list of world heritage sites at the WHC session in Bonn.

Myanmar: Myanmar Parliament Begins Debate on Bill to Amend Constitution

23 June 2015 - 10:09pm
Source: Radio Free Asia Country: Myanmar

Myanmar’s Union parliament on Tuesday began debate on a bill proposing changes to the country’s military-drafted constitution, with some democracy advocates saying its provisions fall short of hoped-for reforms, sources said.

Discussions by lawmakers on key points, including changes to procedures to amend the country’s 2008 charter, will continue until June 25, when a final vote on the bill is expected.

Political opposition figures are seeking amendments to Article 436 of the constitution, which guarantees Myanmar’s military a quarter of the seats in parliament through appointment, giving them an effective veto over proposed charter reform.

Also being sought are changes to Article 59 of the constitution, which makes opposition National League for Democracy (NLD) party chairwoman Aung San Suu Kyi ineligible for the country’s presidency because her sons are British citizens.

Likely domination of Thursday’s vote by appointed lawmakers from Myanmar’s military may doom all chances for reform, though, a parliamentarian from the ruling Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) said on Tuesday.

“At least 75 percent of votes cast must be in favor for changes to be made,” USDP lawmaker Thura Aye Myint said during the debate.

“After that, a public referendum must be held in which at least 50 percent of the public agrees to the proposed changes,” he said.

However, to obtain at least 75 percent of favorable votes in the parliament, at least one of those votes must be cast by a military member of parliament (MP), Thura Aye Myint said.

“This will make it impossible to make changes,” he said.

Military 'trying to keep control'

“We want a 5 percent reduction of the minimum vote required from 75 percent to 70 percent,” agreed Arakan National Party MP Pe Than, speaking to RFA’s Myanmar Service on Tuesday.

“The military is trying to keep control so that nothing can be done without their consent,” he said.

Myanmar’s people want the number of military MPs in parliament to be “gradually reduced, within a fixed time frame,” Pe Than said, adding, “They also want Article 59 to be changed.”

“All these hopes are being shattered,” he said.

This week’s debate on constitution reform comes at the end of a two-year process that began in March 2013, and which has now “picked up pace” with the approach of general elections scheduled for late October or early November, The Myanmar Times said in a June 23 report.

Even if the bill proposed this week becomes law, a push for further reforms will almost certainly continue, said Oxford University legal scholar Andrew McLeod, quoted in The Times.

“I doubt these amendments will satisfy the calls for constitutional reform,” said McLeod, who advised and provided support to the Myanmar parliamentary committees that developed them.

“The demand for reform of the constitution will remain on the agenda for some time yet,” he said.

Reported by Thin Thirri for RFA’s Myanmar Service. Translated by Khin Maung Nyane. Written in English by Richard Finney.

Bangladesh: Bangladesh rejects Myanmar "proposal" to link migrant return to freeing guard

23 June 2015 - 5:47pm
Source: Reuters - AlertNet Country: Bangladesh, Myanmar

Source: Reuters - Tue, 23 Jun 2015 15:32 GMT

Author: Reuters

DHAKA, June 23 (Reuters) - Bangladesh's border guard said on Monday it turned down a proposal it said Myanmar had made to return a captured officer if Dhaka also took in some 600 illegal migrants from a people trafficking ship intercepted by the Myanmar navy.

Read the story on the Thompson Reuters Foundation