Myanmar - ReliefWeb News
STRONG gales accompanied by heavy rains and hailstones struck two townships in Mandalay Region on 22 April, levelling trees, destroying houses and killing people and animals.
The water flowing downhill resulting from torrential rains caused havoc in the townships of Sintgaing and Kyaukse, blowing the roofs off over 450 buildings and killing six people and over 300 domesticated animals, with two children reported missing.
Central Command Commander Maj-Gen Win Bo Shein, teaming up with officials, visited the disaster-affected villages, where he offered words of comfort and encouragement and contributed financial assistance to the victims. Mobile military medical teams were found providing treatment to people in the affected areas, while local military personnel distributed relief.
Two religious buildings and over 100 houses were damaged in a fierce gale in Yezagyo Township, Magwe Region, on 21 April. Local military personnel, together with police and fire brigade members, conducted rescue operations under the supervision of the Northwest Command Commander Brig-Gen Than Hlaing.
Witnesses said the loss of life and the bulk of property damage were caused by hailstones, some of which were reportedly the size of coconuts.
Local officials and civil society organisations are carrying out rescue services by sheltering victims in monasteries and schools and providing financial assistance for recovery. —Aung Thant Khaing with Myawady
Following the 6.5 and 7.3 magnitude earthquakes which struck Kumamoto Prefecture on 14 and 16 April, an estimated 60,000 people remain in more than 600 evacuation centres. With the resumption of basic services, the number of the evacuees has decreased from 112,100 people last week. The Government has secured apartment units for 8,350 households as temporary accommodation. On 22 April, the Republic of Korea delivered food, bottled water and blankets, by sending two military aircraft to Kumamoto Airport.
The series of earthquakes caused 48 fatalities and over 1,400 injuries.
48 people killed
As of 20 April, an estimated 733,650 families (3.5 million people) have been affected by El Niño across the Philippines. The Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) updated the number of affected people based on most recent available information. To date, DSWD released US$14.8 million for food assistance and cash-for-work programmes.
3.5 million people affected
Across five municipalities (Lautém, Viqueque, Baucau, Covalima and Oecusse) severely impacted by El Niño-induced drought, an estimated 120,000 people require water and sanitation, food, nutrition, health, livelihoods and education support. The Government and the Humanitarian Country Team has developed an Emergency Response Plan seeking US$25 million to respond to the urgent needs of the affected communities.
Since 19 April, strong winds, hail and heavy rains have affected over 40 townships across Mandalay and Sagaing regions and Shan, Kachin and Chin states. Over 1,100 houses were destroyed and 11,600 houses damaged. As of 25 April, authorities confirmed 14 deaths and 18 people injured due to the severe weather conditions – these figures are expected to change as more information becomes available. In Kachin, strong winds destroyed internally displaced persons (IDP) shelter and camp structures.
14 people killed
1,100 houses destroyed
On 16 and 19 April, fighting reportedly broke out between the military and an armed group identified as part of the Arakan Army in Kyautaw and Rathedaung townships, Rakhine State. Village authorities confirmed that about 80 households (380 people) were displaced. Local authorities and the military provided rice and basic health care services to the displaced people.
From 23 to 24 April, Category 2 Tropical Cyclone Amos traversed just north of Samoa, avoiding a direct hit on the island nation of 190,000 people. Heavy rains triggered landslides in Upolu Island and floods in low lying coastal areas. Electricity and water supply was temporarily disrupted across the archipelago – power outages affected 70 per cent of the country. No fatalities have been reported.
70% of the country affected by power outages
Context: In rural areas of Myanmar, less than half of all children complete primary school. High dropout rates in primary school remain a serious concern, especially in remote areas. In 1996, WFP launched school feeding in northern Rakhine, which has some of the lowest education and food security indicators in Myanmar. Ever since, WFP has expanded its school feeding programme to Chin, Kachin, Magway, Shan, and Wa. Under the current Protracted Relief and Recovery Operation, launched in January 2013, WFP school feeding covers early childhood care development (ECCD) centres and primary schools with on-site school feeding of a daily snack, fortified high energy biscuits (HEB), during the entire length of the school year, which runs from the beginning of June, to the end of February.
Globally, WFP has supported governments in the transition to nationally-owned school feeding programmes. The Government of Myanmar’s transformational goal of reaching the Middle Income Country status by 2030 has signaled its readiness to employ school feeding as a social safety net.
In this regard, WFP coordinates closely with the Ministry of Education (MoE) whose officials oversee the implementation of the activities at township level in the operational areas. WFP welcomes the government’s leadership, which was formalised through a Letter of Intent signed between the MoE and WFP in June 2015. It was agreed, together with the government, to nationalise WFP’s school feeding programme, and gradually extend the programme to the entire country beyond 2016.
Myanmar’s national school feeding programme will be designed with technical assistance from WFP, following WFP standards and policy for school feeding programmes, aligned with national policy and legal frameworks; this includes the National Education Strategic Plan, as well as the National Social Protection Framework. In order to support the Myanmar government in realizing its own first ever national school feeding programme, WFP also will provide the necessary support in building the capacity of relevant ministerial staff from MoE.
Response: Traditionally, WFP has provided monthly take-home rations of rice under its school feeding programme in Myanmar. However, since the daily on-site feeding of HEB was introduced as a pilot project in 2012, this child-centred approach has been well accepted by the children themselves, their parents and teachers; therefore, in consultation with the government, from the 2015-2016 academic year, the modality of the school feeding programme has been switched to daily on-site biscuit feeding. HEBs diversify the diet and contribute to tackling micronutrient deficiencies in school-aged children, improving their overall nutrition and health status.
In addition, the HEB programme contributes to changing health-related behaviours both among children and school staff, as it combines the distribution of HEBs with health and hygiene practices. In this way, children learn the importance of hand-washing and sanitation.
From 2015/16 academic year, WFP has expanded its operational coverage to additional schools in Magway Region, in particular Sidoktayar Township, which is one of the poorest areas in the Region. The operation in Rakhine State was expanded to include Myebon Township, whereas in Kachin, school feeding was resumed in 47 primary schools in Myitkyina, Mansi and Moe Mauk Townships; this is the first time schoolchildren received WFP food assistance since the activity was suspended in 2011 due to the recurrent armed conflict. WFP has continued to provide support to the poorest monastic schools in its targeted areas.
NAY PYI TAW, MYANMAR – The Asian Development Bank (ADB) has approved a $10 million grant from the Japan Fund for Poverty Reduction to rebuild cyclone-damaged community infrastructure and restore livelihoods in villages in Chin state—the poorest and most remote part of Myanmar.
The project will upgrade rural roads in seven target townships in the north of Chin State, using a “build-back-better” approach to withstand future disasters and cope with climate change. Power systems will be repaired in 25 villages, water supply infrastructure upgraded in 44 villages, and inundated farmland reclaimed. The capacity building component of the project will focus on upgrading disaster risk management systems at the district, township and village levels, and help state and local government officials, civil society organizations and communities to identify risks and prioritize risk reduction measures.
“The devastating floods and landslides in June and July 2015 left a trail of destruction across Chin state where many communities remain isolated because of widespread road damage and long-term power and water supply interruptions,” said Winfried Wicklein, director of ADB’s country office in Myanmar. “This Japan-supported assistance will work with affected communities to restore damaged assets crucial to their livelihoods, as well as strengthen their disaster resilience for the future.”
Local labor will be used, where feasible, to carry out the repair and restoration work, boosting local incomes and providing a cash infusion to participating villages. The project design reflects lessons learned from recent disasters in Myanmar and other countries in the region; it is deliberately simple and flexible to better respond to on-the-ground needs and to ensure greater efficiency in management, procurement and implementation. The project will run for about 3 years, with an estimated completion date of April 2019.
More than 130 people died and around 1.6 million were displaced from their homes as a result of the floods and landslides triggered by Cyclone Komen in June and July 2015, causing estimated damage and losses of around $1.5 billion.
ADB is working closely with the Government of Myanmar and other development partners to help the country recover from the disaster. As well as the current project, ADB will support upgrading of flood affected bridges in affected states and regions, while a flood risk management and disaster risk reduction project will help strengthen institutions and develop policies to allow the national government to address disaster risks more effectively.
ADB, based in Manila, is dedicated to reducing poverty in Asia and the Pacific through inclusive economic growth, environmentally sustainable growth, and regional integration. Established in 1966, ADB in December 2016 will mark 50 years of development partnership in the region. It is owned by 67 members—48 from the region. In 2015, ADB assistance totaled $27.2 billion, including cofinancing of $10.7 billion.
The ADB program in Myanmar has provided loans, grants and technical assistance to grow the country’s economy and improve the lives of people, particularly the poor, women, children and other vulnerable groups.
ADB is supporting Myanmar’s economic and social transition, with development loans and grants amounting to $991.5 million from 2013 to 2015.
The ADB program in Myanmar aims to promote inclusive and sustainable economic growth. It ranges from transport, energy, and telecommunications to water supply, rural and urban development, skills, and capacity building.
Updated yearly, this ADB Fact Sheet provides social and economic indicators on Myanmar as well as concise information on ADB's operations in the country and contact information.
Ongoing clashes between Myanmar army soldiers and an armed ethnic group have forced about 300 villagers in Buthidaung township to flee their homes in western Myanmar’s war-ravaged Rakhine state, a local government official said.
About 30 children and senior citizens are among those who left the area during the latest army offensive against the Arakan Army (AA), said Shwe Kyaw Aung, director of Buthidaung’s development committee.
The refugees have sought shelter in the township’s Sithaung village, according to local media reports.
“Township administrators, members of parliament, and some civil society organizations are helping them find food and a place to stay,” he told RFA’s Myanmar Service. “We have placed them at the village’s middle school.”
The villagers survive off the surrounding mountains and nearby forests where they grow crops and collect firewood, but they can’t go there now because of the fighting in those areas, he said.
“They will suffer if they can’t go to work for a long time, Shwe Kyaw Aung said. “We can help them only for a short time. We need peace and stability in this area to ensure their long-term survival.”
Those who have fled the violence join hundreds of other villagers who escaped fighting that erupted in late December and January in Rakhine’s Kyauktaw township.
The fresh clashes broke out on Sunday in the area occurred in Buthidaung and Rathedaung. A battalion commander and 20 soldiers from the government army were killed after launching two ambush attacks against AA forces in Ponnagyun and Rathedaung townships.
Army abducts villagers
Government army troops on Wednesday abducted five residents from Yasoechaung village of Rathedaung township, in Rakhine state, only three miles (4.8 kilometers) from the current fighting, said a relative of one of the abductees.
The five are Nga Htaung Che, Than Tun, Kyein Kyan Aung, Lu Phyu Che and Tun Aye Thein, said Khine Mya San, daughter of Kyein Kyan Aung.
“They brought my father from the farm,” she said. “We don’t know where he is or whether he was asked to perform hard labor.”
Some displaced villagers told the online journal The Irrawaddy that their relatives have been forced to serve as porters for the Myanmar forces.
“We are very worried about him because he is getting old,” Khine Mya San said. “My mother cries all the time for him.”
In a related development, a peace negotiator from the Myanmar army said he will hold unofficial discussions next month with armed ethnic groups that did not sign a nationwide cease-fire agreement (NCA) last October, in keeping with a pledge by the new government to seek permanent peace and reconciliation.
Retired Lieutenant General Khin Zaw Oo told RFA on Wednesday that he will meet with members of the AA, Kokang, and Ta’ang National Liberation Army (TNLA) in early May in Chiang Mai, Thailand.
The meeting will also include leaders of the United Nationalities Federal Council (UNFC), an alliance of nine ethnic armed groups that did not sign the NCA with the previous government under Thein Sein, he said.
“We have received an offer to hold discussions with army negotiators unofficially, although we will not discuss the matter as part of the UNFC,” said Naing Han Thar, deputy leader of the UNFC, who is also a senior official of the New Mon State Party.
“We have been standing by three groups which the previous government and army didn’t include in the NCA,” he said.
Eight of more than 20 of Myanmar’s armed rebel organizations signed the October peace accord. Others, including the AA, Kokang and TNLA, were excluded by the government because of ongoing hostilities with the Myanmar army or opted not to sign.
The UNFC ended a three-day meeting on Thursday in Chiang Mai about its future plans and negotiations with the new government led by the National League for Democracy, local media reported.
President Htin Kyaw and State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi have made peace and reconciliation the main goal of their administration and pledged to create a democratic federal union that includes all ethnic groups.
The participants discussed what its negotiation group has done to end a conflict between the Restoration Council of Shan State/Shan State Army-South (RCSS/SSA-S) and the TNLA/Palaung State Liberation Front (PSLF), The Irrawaddy reported.
The hostilities between the two armed ethnic groups, which began last November in northern Myanmar’s Shan state, have displaced thousands of people.
The meeting participants also discussed the state of a merger between the United League for Arakan/Arakan Army (ULA/AA) and the political framework agreed upon by Thein Sein’s government and armed ethnic groups that signed the NCA, The Irrawaddy said.
By Kyaw Thu, Min Thein Aung and Aung Moe Myint for RFA’s Myanmar Service. Translated by Khet Mar. Written in English by Roseanne Gerin.
Bangladesh’s border guard this month deported at least 340 Muslim Myanmar nationals – more commonly known as Rohingyas – without any resistance from Myanmar border police, the head of the Bangladeshi force said Thursday.
“Over the last 20 days, we caught illegal Myanmar nationals, photographed them and sent 340 of them back to their homeland,” Lt. Col. Imran Ullah Sarker, chief executive of the Border Guard Bangladesh (BGB), told RFA.
The latest batch of 20 Rohingyas was turned back Wednesday with no obstruction from the BGB’s counterpart on the Myanmar side of the border, after these members of the neighboring county’s Muslim minority were caught trying to cross into Bangladesh without proper papers, Sarker said.
The process of catching and sending Rohingyas back to Myanmar has, in fact, been occurring over the past several months, leading to a slight reduction in the number entering Bangladesh, he added.
“This is very unusual that the Myanmar border police have allowed the Rohingyas in,” former Bangladeshi ambassador Ashfaqur Rahman told RFA.
“The Myanmar border guard allows the Rohingya Muslims to go out of the Buddhist- majority Myanmar, but they had been very tough on repatriation as they [label] the Muslim minority as ‘illegal Bangladeshis’ or ‘illegal Chittagonians,’” he said.
Rahman, a former ambassador to Germany, China and Singapore, served in the 1970s as chief administrative officer in Cox’s Bazar, a district in southeastern Bangladesh where hundreds of thousands of Rohingya refugees are now concentrated.
The influx of Rohingyas from neighboring Rakhine started in the ’70s but swelled in 1992 and 2012, when thousands of Rohingyas spilled across the border to escape from religious violence.
“Though the number of returnees is very small compared with the huge number of illegal Rohingyas living in Bangladesh, this repatriation is significant. But we have to wait to see whether this happened due to the change of government in Myanmar or for other factors,” Rahman added.
Rohingyas, who are mostly concentrated in Rakhine, a state in western Myanmar that borders Bangladesh, for many years fled abroad by land and sea to escape from persecution at the hands of Myanmar’s Buddhist majority.
Last year, more than 3,000 Rohingya Muslims and Bangladeshi migrants came ashore in Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand after the Thai government imposed a maritime blockade on human-trafficking boats sailing in from the Bay of Bengal. Many were fleeing from Myanmar, where Rohingyas are not recognized as citizens.
On Wednesday, the death toll from a boat that capsized off Myanmar’s coast while carrying Rohingyas rose to more than 20. The accident occurred on Tuesday as the overloaded vessel approached Sittwe, the capital of Rakhine, in rough waters.
A softening in Myanmar?
Delwar Hossain, a professor of international relations at Dhaka University, told RFA that the recent change of government in Myanmar may have softened the attitude of that nation’s border police.
“The exit of a military-backed government brings in some hopes among the people. So, the ascendency Aung San Suu Kyi’s democratically elected government may have brought some hope among the Rohingyas, though we do not see any significant change in the government policy on them,” Hossain said.
According to a report in the Myanmar Times that cited information from the U.N.’s refugee agency, as many as 500,000 Rohingyas are living in Bangladesh, but their repatriation has been stalled since 2005.
Of the total, 30,000 Rohingyas have refugee status and live in two camps in Cox’s Bazar.
Meanwhile, a survey done by a parliamentary committee in 2013 estimated that more than 300,000 Rohingyas were living illegally in Cox’s Bazar, where they live in shantytowns.
‘The Nasaka threatened to kill me’
Mohammad Hashem, a Rohingya Muslim in his seventies who fled to Cox’s Bazar to escape Buddhist attacks on Muslims in 1992, told RFA that he would like to return home to Sittwe to see his wife, daughter and grandsons.
“I tried at least 100 times over the years to see them [in Sittwe]. But the Nasaka threatened to kill me. Instead they sought money from me to push my wife and daughter into Bangladesh,” said Hashem, who works as a vendor in Cox’s Bazar.
Nasaka, Myanmar’s notorious border patrol force, was replaced in 2013 by the new border police.
“I would go back if the Moghs (Buddhists) do not torture us,” he said.
Reported by RFA.
Myanmar: New study on tradition- and faith-oriented insider mediators calls for more effective collaboration between peacebuilding actors
The study, titled Tradition- & Faith-Oriented Insider Mediators (TFIMs) in Conflict Transformation – Potential, Constraints, & Opportunities for Collaborative Support, launched this week in New York, conceptualises and contextualises a specific set of religious and traditional peacemakers as tradition- and faith-oriented insider mediators (TFIMs). The study considers their peace mediation roles, their potential and the constraints under which they work, and reflects on the opportunities for collaborative support that links various actors within conflict contexts.
The study was commissioned by The Network for Religious and Traditional Peacemakers and conducted by the Berghof Foundation with the support of the Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Finland, the International Dialogue Centre (KAICIID) and Finn Church Aid. It draws from empirical knowledge acquired through case studies in Myanmar, Thailand, Lebanon, Colombia, Kenya and Mali.
The study identifies TFIMs as persons whose social position and function is explicitly defined by tradition and religion and/or whose inspiration, motivation, strategies and methodologies are implicitly shaped by tradition and religion. Enjoying the moral legitimacy and respect required to influence the opinions and perceptions of conflict stakeholders, TFIM’s are able to facilitate dialogic processes that create and nurture space for conflict transformation.
“TFIMs not only mediate between communities in conflict, but also help create the social and human capacity to transform conflicts, e.g. by engendering new TFIMs. In Myanmar there are a couple of fascinating examples where some TFIMs are facilitating dialogue among, and the empowerment of, (intolerant) religious leaders, who then gradually emerge as TFIMs. Two key aspects that contribute to their success is that they are innovative and that they prefer to keep a very low-profile”, explains Mir Mubashir, one of the two authors of the study.
TFIMs are subject to constraints in the support structures, which limit the effectiveness of their peace mediating efforts. These constraints include lack of effective collaboration and coordination between TFIMs and other peacebuilding actors, being overshadowed by national or international peacebuilding agendas, conflict-insensitive interventions on the part of international actors, and structural restrictions on TFIM engagement.
The study proposes a collaborative support framework as a tool for addressing these constraints.
The study holds great value for the Network for Religious and Traditional Peacemakers. “This baseline is very significant ground work for the Network in developing the concepts on how to better support local tradition and faith oriented inside mediators”, says Antti Pentikäinen, Executive Director of the Network for Religious and Traditional Peacemakers.
“We will now negotiate with Network members and the UN on how to apply this framework in practice.”
Read the synopsis of the study here. Visit the website of the Network for Religious and Traditional Peacemakers by clicking here.
By Simon Nazer, Abu Obeida Eltayeb
There’s a big, never before seen switch happening throughout the world. It’s the largest, fastest globally coordinated rollout of a vaccine into routine immunization programs in history and will help make polio a thing of the past.
The switch is happening from one type of polio vaccine to another. The older version of the vaccine contains a strain of the polio virus, type 2, which has been eradicated and no longer needs to be introduced to children. This means we are another step closer to ensuring children throughout the world are safe from the polio.
In the East Asia Pacific region, all but the four countries that already switched to the new vaccine are now delivering the new vaccines to health centres and to children.
The fact that the world is ready for the switch is a sign that we have come a long way in our journey to stop all polioviruses and that we are closer than ever to eradication – but there is still much work to be done.
Closing the gap
While it is important countries have access to the vaccines, it is also critical that every child is immunized. If this doesn’t happen, life-threatening outbreaks will continue to affect the most vulnerable.
But reaching every child in a place like East Asia and the Pacific, which is home to many mountains, thousands of islands and a huge variety of languages, isn’t easy. It takes time and resources and that’s why it’s important that governments are supported to ensure every child is fully immunized.
Unrelated polio outbreaks were recently seen in Laos and Myanmar, where hard to reach communities were affected by ‘vaccine-derived polio virus’. This virus is a rare but well-documented weakened strain of poliovirus used in the oral polio vaccine which is sometimes found when vaccination levels are low.
If people are fully immunized, they are protected against all forms of the virus. But in areas where there is low immunization coverage and where people do not have access to safe water and sanitation systems, there is a risk of fecal-oral transmission of this weakened virus to unimmunized people.
In response, UNICEF and partners worked with Governments in Laos and Myanmar to stop the polio outbreaks. This is being done by ensuring the availability of vaccine supplies, informing communities in some of the most remote areas on the need for children to be fully vaccinated, and by vaccinating those most at risk over multiple vaccination rounds.
The only way to ensure that crippling polio virus is eradicated is by ensuring immunization coverage levels remains high.
It is well recognized that large investments and huge efforts will be needed to reach the geographically or socially hard-to-reach populations and communities, and in East Asia and the Pacific the challenge can hardly be bigger.
To make sure that the switch goes smoothly, independent monitors in each country will visit health facilities to check that the older trivalent oral polio vaccine is no longer in use, and the bivalent oral polio vaccine is used instead. In addition, dozens of global monitors/observers have been assigned and will be going to select countries to support and participate in the process. It is important that all countries make the switch during the same period to ensure that there is no risk of vaccine-derived type 2 polio virus spreading.
The switch is just the first step in the endgame toward global polio eradication.
Abu Obeida Eltayeb is Immunization Specialist at UNICEF East Asia & Pacific
Highlights 1-31 March 2016
Bangladesh: During March, IOM provided return assistance, including food and onward transportation, to 40 Bangladeshis returning from Indonesia and Thailand. There were no minors among these returnees. To date, IOM has provided return assistance to 2,607 Bangladeshis
Indonesia: As of 31 March, there are a total of 291 migrants (6 Bangladeshis and 285 Myanmar Muslims from Rakhine State) throughout five shelters in Aceh and North Sumatera. Out of 291, there are 38 women, 118 men, 45 girls, and 90 boys under 18 years old.
Four Bangladeshis returned under IOM’s Assisted Voluntary Return (AVR)
Programme in March.
Thailand: To date, 382 Myanmar Muslim men, women, and children from Rakhine State and 20 Bangladesh men remain in 7 Immigration Detention Centers and 10 shelters in Thailand. In March, 36 Bangladeshis returned under IOM’s AVR Programme. To celebrate International Women’s Day on 8 March, IOM organized special events for 127 women and children in Suratthani and Padang Besar IDCs with the Thai authorities and NGOs.
At least 5,543 persons who departed from Myanmar and Bangladesh managed to disembark in Bangladesh, Indonesia, Malaysia,Myanmar, and Thailand, between 10 May and 30 July 2015. Embarkation recommenced on 20 September and at least 1,500 persons departed from Myanmar and Bangladesh from September to December 2015.
1,149 stranded Myanmar Muslims from Rakhine State and Bangladeshis remain in shelters and Immigration Detention Centres in Indonesia, Thailand, and Malaysia. IOM continues to provide shelter support, non-food items, health screenings, WASH support, and psychosocial support.
2,607 Bangladeshis who disembarked after 10 May in Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar, and Thailand returned to Bangladesh under IOM’s AVR Programme and Government agreements.
Sagaing was one of the worst affected regions by the floods that devastated large parts of Myanmar last July/August 2015, which were associated with cyclone Komen. This audio file includes an interview with a villager who talks about the impacts of the flooding on her land and soil fertility, which has resulted in decreased crop yields; an interview with an FAO Agronomist from the office in Monywa, Sagaing, who talks about the needs of the communities in order to recover after such flooding. The assistance that FAO is providing to this village, amongst others, as part of a CERF-funded emergency project is also mentioned.
PAILIN, Cambodia—No one knows exactly why resistance to malaria drugs always emerges first in this remote western province of Cambodia, nestled in the Cardamom Mountains. “The reasons are as much social as biological,” says malariologist Tom Peto, who is here in this dusty, unremarkable-looking town battling the latest threat to global malaria control: multiple drug–resistant (MDR) malaria.
Myanmar: Statement attributable to Ms Janet Jackson, UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator (A.I.) in Myanmar [EN/MY]
Statement attributable to Ms Janet Jackson, UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator (A.I.) in Myanmar
(YANGON: 20 April 2016). I was deeply saddened by the tragedy which unfolded on 19 April when a boat locally reported to be transporting more than 60 people capsized in rough waters near Thae Chaung in Sittwe Township.
The toll is now estimated to be 21 dead, including 9 children, is expected to rise as there are still a number of people unaccounted for. At least 6 injured people received treatment at Sittwe General Hospital and Thet Kae Pyin health clinic. UN and NGO staff on the ground have provided support in the transport of injured people and have been providing extra medical capacity to the Thet Kae Pyin health clinic. The UN has been in contact with local authorities to follow up on this incident and to confirm the number of fatalities and casualties.
From the information we have, the majority of the passengers on the boat were internally displaced people (IDPs) from the Sin Tet Maw camp in Pauktaw Township who were on an authorized day trip to rural Sittwe to make purchases at the market.
This accident serves as a tragic reminder of the vulnerability that many communities and families face in this area of Rakhine where their only option is to use this mode of travel in order to access markets, livelihoods, and other basic services that are essential for a dignified life.
On behalf of the United Nations, I would like to express my sympathy and offer condolences to the families and communities of the victims of this tragic accident. The United Nations will continue its efforts in support of the Government and local authorities to ensure the safety and well-being of all people in Rakhine State, irrespective of religion, ethnicity and citizenship.
Yangon, Myanmar | AFP | Wednesday 4/20/2016 - 07:20 GMT
by Athens ZAW ZAW
Witnesses to a boat capsize that left some 20 people dead, including children, say the victims were from the persecuted Rohingya Muslim minority and blamed the tragedy on travel restrictions that forced them to journey by sea.
At least 21 people, including nine children, died after a packed boat capsized in choppy waters on Tuesday as it approached the Rakhine state capital of Sittwe, according to the United Nations.
Most of the passengers were inhabitants of Sin Tet Maw, in Paukaw township, a camp for Rohingya Muslim minority members forced from their homes by bouts of communal violence.
"It (the boat accident) happened because of unsafe transport... we cannot use direct transport (overland) to Sittwe to buy goods or medicine," Rohingya activist, Kyaw Hla Aung, told AFP from Sittwe.
The boat's passengers had received special permission to travel by boat to the market in Sittwe from Paukaw -- a journey through the mouth of a wide river that then skirts several kilometres around the coast to the capital.
Photographs showed locals carrying the dead and injured to shore on makeshift gurneys.
More than 100,000 Rohingya have been forced to live in apartheid-like conditions since unrest between Buddhists and Muslims left hundreds dead in 2012.
Their movement and access to services, including health care, is severely restricted by authorities in the Buddhist-majority country.
The activist said he had counted 22 bodies in Sittwe and they all were Rohingya.
- Fearing the worst - Another Rohingya man, Tin Hla, who also lives in the camp of 1,500 people, said his son was unaccounted for among the boat passengers.
"When we need to go to Sittwe, we have to go there in an unsafe way (by sea)," he said, adding that he fears the worst for his son and had travelled to Sittwe to find his body.
Myanmar does not formally recognise the Rohingya as one of the country's patchwork of ethnic minorities.
A rising tide of Buddhist nationalism has in recent years deepened hostility towards the group -- most of whom are rendered stateless by a web of citizenship laws.
Many Rohingya trace their roots in the country back for generations.
But officials routinely refer to them as "Bengalis" -- a pejorative term identifying them as outsiders from neighbouring Bangladesh.
"This accident serves as a tragic reminder of the vulnerability that many communities and families face in this area of Rakhine," said Janet Jackson, the UN's resident and humanitarian co-ordinator in Myanmar.
"Their only option is to use this mode of travel in order to access livelihoods, and other basic services that are essential for a dignified life."
The deprivations of camp life has led thousands of the minority group to take to the sea in crammed boats, seeking sanctuary in Muslim-majority Malaysia and Indonesia.
They were among the victims of last year's Southeast Asian migrant crisis which saw trafficking networks suddenly unravel, leaving thousands of Rohingya and Bangladeshi migrants stranded without food at sea.
Pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi has come under pressure for failing to speak up for the rights of the much-maligned Rohingya.
She has however vowed to press for greater autonomy for other ethnic minorities.
© 1994-2016 Agence France-Presse She has however vowed to press for greater autonomy for other ethnic minorities.
Reacting to the accident the UN Special Rapporteur on Myanmar Yanghee Lee tweeted her "sorrow" at the deaths of "Rohingyas, including children", adding "Must find solution".
© 1994-2016 Agence France-Presse
Yangon, Myanmar | AFP | Tuesday 4/19/2016 - 17:17 GMT
At least 21 people including nine children died after a boat capsized off the coast of Myanmar's restive Rakhine state on its way to a local market Tuesday, a United Nations spokesman said.
The vessel was transporting around 60 passengers from a camp for internally displaced people, the UN said, in a region where sectarian violence has pushed tens of thousands of Rohingya, Myanmar's largely stateless Muslim minority, from their homes.
"The majority of passengers on the boat were internally displaced people from the Sin Tet Maw camp in Pauktaw Township," Pierre Peron, a spokesman for the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA) in Myanmar, told AFP.
They were "on an authorised day trip to Sittwe to make purchases at the market", he said, adding that the number of fatalities was expected to rise as many of the passengers remained unaccounted for.
Paukaw is surrounded by rivers that feed into the sea and people from its camps can only reach the markets in coastal Sittwe, the state capital several dozen kilometres away, by boat.
An official from the Rakhine's security and border affairs ministry also confirmed the accident but put the death toll at 14.
"The boat sank because of a heavy wave in the sea," the official said, requesting anonymity.
He said the passengers were "Bengalis" -- a term many officials use to refer to Rohingya.
The Rohingya have been forced to live in apartheid-like conditions ever since unrest between Buddhists and Muslims tore through Rakhine state in 2012 and left hundreds dead.
Their movement and access to services, including health care, is severely restricted by authorities in the Buddhist-majority country, where many insist they are foreign interlopers from neighbouring Bangladesh.
The new civilian government led by Aung San Suu Kyi has vowed to press for greater autonomy for Mymar’s patchwork ethnic minorities in an early move to soothe the rebellions roiling the country.
But the human rights icon has faced international criticism for not taking a stronger stance on the Rohingya's plight, and for failing to field any Muslim candidates in the November election.
A rising tide of Buddhist nationalism across the country has in recent years deepened hostility towards the group -- most of whom are rendered stateless by a web of citizenship laws despite having lived in the country for generations.
Tens of thousands have fled persecution and poverty in dangerous boat journeys headed for neighbouring countries.
In 2015 a Thai crackdown on people smuggling led gang bosses to abandon many Rohingya on land and at sea, sparking a regional crisis.
Last week the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom urged Suu Kyi's administration to "radically change" the country's "abusive policies and practices in Rakhine state".
© 1994-2016 Agence France-Presse
Spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights: Ravina Shamdasani
Date: 19 April 2016
The High Commissioner warmly welcomes the release Sunday of a second wave of 83 prisoners on Myanmar's New Year, by Presidential amnesty. Released prisoners include land rights activist Naw Ohn Hla who had been jailed six times for various peaceful protests; human rights defender Nay Myo Zin; community campaigner Htin Kyaw; five journalists from the Unity newspaper who were sentenced to seven years in prison in 2014 after the publication of an article; four labour activists convicted for supporting garment workers on strike; and Htin Lin Oo, sentenced in 2015 to two years in prison with hard labour for "insulting religion" after he delivered a speech criticising the misuse of religion to incite religious hatred.
This follows the release of 199 political prisoners on 8 April who had charges dropped against them or were pardoned, including students who were facing a prolonged trial following a protest against the National Education Law in March 2015.
The Government announced that these releases were part of its commitment to promote national reconciliation. President U Htin Kyaw also stated in his New Year address that sustained effort would be made in the future to prevent "those who act legally for political causes or for their own conscience from being imprisoned". The continued release of political prisoners and the commitment to take preventive measures are important steps in the right direction. We encourage the Government to build upon such human rights gains to ensure that all the people of Myanmar enjoy their fundamental freedoms. In doing so, we encourage the Government to ensure that all those who have been arbitrarily detained, including in remote areas, are also promptly released.
Among those who remain behind bars are interfaith activists, Pwint Phyu Latt and Zaw Zaw Latt, who were sentenced in February 2016 to two years' imprisonment with hard labour under the Immigration (Emergency Provisions) Act 1947, and U Gambira, also known as Nyi Nyi Lwin, a prominent figure in the 2007 Saffron Revolution, who is currently on trial in Mandalay under the same legislation.
Our office stands ready to provide its expertise in support of efforts by the Government and Parliament to reform remaining laws that do not conform with international standards and have been used in the past to jail peaceful critics, and to take further strides in promoting and protecting human rights in Myanmar.
(2) Deputy High Commissioner visits Iraq
UN Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights Kate Gilmore is in Iraq this week on her first official mission to the country. During her visit, Gilmore is meeting senior Government officials, parliamentarians, civil society members, including leaders of minority groups and religious communities, as well as internally displaced people in Iraq. Gilmore will hold a press conference in Geneva on Monday, 25 April, to brief journalists on the details of her visit.
For more information and media requests, please contact Rupert Colville (+41 22 917 97 67 / email@example.com), Ravina Shamdasani (+41 22 917 9169 / firstname.lastname@example.org) or Cécile Pouilly (+41 22 917 9310 / email@example.com)
Syria: In recent weeks, clashes between Islamic State and other non-government forces over the border area between Turkey and Syria have intensified. IDPs in camps located along the border are at risk: over 35,000 have fled the area since 14 April and are in need of protection. Additional displacement is likely.
Yemen: Flash floods in seven governorates on 13 and 14 April killed at least 24 people and displaced an estimated 19,000. 24,000 people have been affected and over 2,000 houses have been partially or completely destroyed. The displaced are located primarily in Amran, Hajjah, and Hodeidah governorates and are in immediate need of shelter, NFI, food, WASH, and medicines.
Ethiopia: On 15 April, 208 people were killed and 75 wounded in an attack by South Sudanese gunmen from the Murle ethnic group in Gambella's Jakawa area, which straddles the Ethiopia–South Sudan border. The assailants also abducted 108 children and stole 2,000 cattle.
Next week the GEO will be published from our new web platform – join the digital launch event here: https://www.thunderclap.it/projects/40290-new-platform-for-humanitarians?locale=en
Updated: 19/04/2016. Next update: 26/04/2016.
HIGHLIGHTS OF THE MONTH
- DRD continues to refill ponds dewatered during cyclone Komen
- Increasing numbers of empty ponds are noted in villages, raising immediate concerns for the dry season/El Nino
- Options for sludge management for Sittwe camps are under investigation