Myanmar - ReliefWeb News
Stateless Rohingya in Burma/Myanmar face systematic persecution that poses an existential threat to their community. Recent violence and ongoing human rights violations against the Rohingya amount to possible crimes against humanity and ethnic cleansing.
The situation in Arakan/Rakhine state in northwest Burma/Myanmar continues to deteriorate following a series of attacks on border guard posts on 9 October by what appears to be a newly-established armed group, and a subsequent joint army-police counterinsurgency operation that began on 10 October. Since then, there have been widespread reports of mass arrests, rape, forcible removal from homes, extrajudicial killings of Rohingya and the widespread destruction of Rohingya buildings and mosques. The army deployed helicopter gunships to several Rohingya villages on 12 and 13 November, resulting in the death of at least 25 civilians. On 24 November the UN Refugee Agency's (UNHCR) representative in Bangladesh accused the Burma/Myanmar government of seeking the "ethnic cleansing" of the Rohingya from its territory.
Humanitarian assistance for more than 130,000 people in the northern part of Arakan/Rakhine state remains suspended. Following a 2 to 4 December visit to Arakan/Rakhine state, Kofi Annan, in his capacity as the Chairperson of the Advisory Commission on Rakhine State, called for humanitarian and media access to the affected area.
On 1 December the government established a "national level committee" to investigate the 9 October border post attacks and allegations of abuses by the security forces in northern Arakan/Rakhine state. Vice President Myint Swe, a retired army general, was appointed to lead the committee, which does not include any Rohingya commissioners.
The Rohingya, a distinct Muslim ethnic minority group, have been systematically disenfranchised and marginalized under discriminatory laws in Burma/Myanmar. In March 2015 the former government invalidated the identification cards held by many Rohingyas, forcing them to apply for citizenship as "Bengalis," implying their illegal migration from Bangladesh. This follows the government denying Rohingyas the ability to self-identify on the national census of March 2014, the first since 1983. Former President Thein Sein signed into law the last of four so-called "Protection of Race and Religion" bills in August 2015. These discriminatory laws place harsh restrictions on women and non-Buddhists, including on fundamental religious freedoms, as well as reproductive and marital rights. Rohingyas were largely disenfranchised in advance of Burma/Myanmar's historic November 2015 elections and continue to be denied citizenship and other fundamental human rights. According to the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra'ad al Hussein, the "widespread and systematic" abuses of the Rohingya community amount to crimes against humanity.
According to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), as of November 2016 an estimated 120,000 people, mostly Rohingyas, continue to live in internally displaced persons (IDP) camps in Arakan/Rakhine state, many of them since 2012 inter-communal violence. Many Rohingyas in Arakan/Rakhine state also face the ongoing threat of recurring violence at the hands of Buddhist extremists who reject their right to exist in Burma/Myanmar.
The cumulative impact of deteriorating living conditions, combined with ongoing persecution, has led tens of thousands of Rohingyas to flee to neighboring countries, where they are often subject to further abuse, human trafficking and refoulement. After the recent escalation of violence, as many as 20,000 Rohingya have fled to Bangladesh. The Bangladeshi authorities have been criticized for forcing many asylum-seekers to involuntarily return to Burma/Myanmar.
The country's military forces (Tatmadaw) also pose an ongoing threat to other ethnic groups in Burma/Myanmar. While the previous government signed ceasefire agreements with several ethnic armed groups, conflict continues. The NLD government held a peace conference – the 21st Century Panglong – with ethnic armed groups from 31 August to 3 September. However, shortly after the conference fighting resumed in several states, including in northern Shan, Kachin and Karen.
The recent violence in Arakan/Rakhine state represents a dangerous escalation of the conflict between state security forces and the Rohingya minority, heightening the risk of further mass atrocity crimes. The obstruction of humanitarian aid further endangers the lives of vulnerable populations.
While independent investigation into the situation in northern Arakan/Rakhine state is urgently needed, international observers have questioned the impartiality of the newly-established national investigatory committee.
The previous government's refusal to end discriminatory state policies against Rohingyas encouraged violations of their fundamental human rights and reinforced the dangerous perception of the Rohingya as ethnic outsiders. The Protection of Race and Religion bills were intended to eradicate the Rohingya's legal right to exist as a distinct ethnic group in Burma/Myanmar.
The NLD government, uniquely positioned to improve the plight of the Rohingya and hailed by many international partners for making progress towards democracy, has yet to repeal existing discriminatory laws and anti-Rohingya policies.
With a pervasive culture of impunity, the military has not been held accountable for previous mass atrocity crimes, and there are grave fears for the safety of vulnerable Rohingya civilians as the security forces continue operations in Arakan/Rakhine state.
The government of Burma/Myanmar is failing to uphold its primary Responsibility to Protect with regard to the Rohingya.
Following decades of military dictatorship, democratic reforms have contributed to rapprochement between Burma/Myanmar and the international community, including the lifting of sanctions by a number of countries.
Citing progress on human rights under the leadership of Aung San Suu Kyi, the European Union (EU) announced on 16 September that it would not be submitting a UN General Assembly human rights resolution on Burma/Myanmar for the first time since 1991, effectively terminating the position of the UN Special Adviser on Myanmar.
At the request of the United States, on 17 November the UN Security Council (UNSC) was briefed on the situation in northern Arakan/Rakhine state by the Special Adviser of the UN Secretary-General on Myanmar, Vijay Nambiar. Following the briefing, the Permanent Representative of the United States to the UN, Samantha Power, called for international observers to be allowed to enter the affected area and for humanitarian assistance to be restored.
On 29 November the UN Secretary-General's Special Adviser for the Prevention of Genocide, Adama Dieng, released a statement calling on the government to allow investigation of allegations of "serious human rights violations against the civilian population, particularly the Rohingya Muslim population." Special Adviser Dieng also urged the government of Bangladesh not to close its borders to refugees.
On 4 December Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak led a protest rally in Kuala Lumpur against what he called a "genocide" of the Rohingya minority and urged other Asian countries to apply pressure on the government of Burma/Myanmar.
On 8 December Special Adviser Nambiar issued a statement calling upon Aung San Suu Kyi to visit Maungdaw and Buthidaung townships in Arakan/Rakhine state and to reassure civilians they would be protected. The Special Adviser also urged Aung San Suu Kyi to address "the root causes affecting the local population," particularly the question of citizenship.
On 9 December Austria, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Greece, Ireland, Netherlands, Poland, Spain, Sweden, Turkey and United States issued a statement calling for a full and immediate resumption of humanitarian assistance in Arakan/Rakhine state.
Aung San Suu Kyi called for a special informal meeting with foreign ministers of Association of Southeast Asian Nations on 19 December in Yangon to discuss international concerns over the situation in Arakan/Rakhine state.
While responding to the recent border post attacks, the NLD government and Tatmadaw, which the government does not directly control, must work together to prioritize protection of civilians and ensure that all security operations in Arakan/Rakhine state are fully compliant with international law. Authorities must urgently ensure that humanitarian aid can reach vulnerable populations in Arakan/Rakhine state, especially the Rohingya.
The government of Burma/Myanmar must uphold its Responsibility to Protect all populations, regardless of their ethnicity or religion. The NLD government should immediately abolish the Rakhine Action Plan and end institutionalized discrimination against the Rohingya, including the denial of citizenship. The government must prohibit hate speech and hold accountable all those who commit human rights abuses. The government should collaborate with the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) to open a UN human rights office in Burma/Myanmar.
In Arakan/Rakhine state the government must facilitate the safe, voluntary return of IDPs to their communities. Countries that receive Rohingya asylum seekers should offer them protection and assistance.
The UN should establish an independent, international Commission of Inquiry to investigate the situation in northern Arakan/Rakhine state.
This Situation Update describes events occurring in Dwe Lo Township, Hpapun District during the period between May and August 2016, including livelihood issues, gold mining, health and education.
• In May 2016, more than half of the civilians in Dwe Lo Township had to stop working on their hill farms because all of their paddy plants were destroyed by mice.
• Between 2015 and 2016, Chinese wealthy individuals conducted gold mining in Bu Law Klo River, Dwe Lo Township, Hpapun District. This impacted civilians’ livelihoods because it destroyed their river-side farm lands and civilians could no longer easily travel and use the river for their livelihood.
• Between May and August 2016, diarrhoea, headaches, leg or arm pains, and flu were common illnesses faced villagers in Bu Tho Township, Hpapun District. They usually accessed medical treatment through nurses or medics in the village, but without money they could not access medical treatment.
• In 2016, Dwe Lo Township Karen Education Department [KED] chairman Saw Bwah reported that, “students in Dwe Lo Township still have to pay the student fee for the teachers’ salary but we will try for the students [to get] free education in the coming year”.
Situation Update | Dwe Lo Township, Hpapun District (May to August 2016)
The following Situation Update was received by KHRG in August 2016. It was written by a community member in Hpapun District who has been trained by KHRG to monitor human rights conditions. It is presented below translated exactly as originally written, save for minor edits for clarity and security. This report was received from Hpapun District.
Between 2010 and 2014, civilians who had boats in Dwe Lo Township, Mu Traw [Hpapun] District could travel on [Bu Law Klo] river for their livelihood without any difficulty. [However], between 2015 and 2016, civilians faced human rights abuse [livelihood impacts] from gold mining [project] ships. Gold mining ships ploughed the sand and stone in the river to make a bank, [which interrupted] the boats’ travel route. [Therefore], when the boats travelled on the stone bank it caused boat accidents.
Since May 2016, many mice were coming, digging paddy seeds [from the ground] and eating them after civilians planted [the seeds] on their hill farms. Then, all of the paddy [plants or seeds] were gone. [Approximately] Seventy percent of the civilians in Dwe Lo Township could not work on their hill farms anymore.
In the past there were ten ships, [but] in August 2016 four more ships arrived when it was not raining much. The civilians who have farm lands beside the river have boats and travel by boat, [but] the soil [on their farm lands] collapsed [into the river] more and more, so they gathered together and discussed the problems that they will face in the future with the leaders, who gave permission to the ships [to mine the river for gold].
Since January 2016, flu, malaria, headaches, leg and arm pains are common illnesses faced by civilians in Dwe Lo Township.
A special diplomatic team from Myanmar will begin talks with their counterparts in Bangladesh on Wednesday in a bid to reduce growing tensions with the neighboring country over the tens of thousands of Rohingya Muslims who have fled there from Myanmar following violence that began in northern Rakhine state in early October.
Deputy Foreign Affairs Minister Kyaw Tin will lead the team which will return from Dhaka to Myanmar on Friday, said foreign affairs ministry spokeswoman Aye Aye Soe.
“The deputy minister and the group will be there from Jan. 10-13 to discuss the two countries’ relations and internally displaced persons,” she said.
“They will also discuss Myanmar citizens who have been living in Bangladesh for several years and how both countries will work together on this issue in the future,” she said.
A previous trip slated for last December was postponed for security reasons.
Bangladesh’s foreign affairs ministry has complained several times to Myanmar about the influx of Rohingya Muslims—now estimated to be 65,000 by the United Nations—who fled a crackdown by security forces in northern Rakhine following deadly attacks on Myanmar border guard stations on Oct. 9, and sought refuge in Bangladesh.
Some members of the stateless minority group have accused Myanmar security forces of arbitrary arrests, torture, rape and arson during the security operation, though both the government and army have denied the charges.
Independent media and observers have largely been kept out of the conflict zone. On Dec. 30, the Myanmar government said it will take back 2,415 of its citizens living in Bangladesh—a small number of the 300,000 people who Bangladesh says are Myanmar citizens who have taken refuge there over the course of recent conflicts and should return home, Reuters reported.
Bangladesh has refused to grant the Rohingya refugee status because it considers them citizens of Myanmar, while Myanmar considers the Rohingya illegal immigrants from Bangladesh and has denied then citizenship and access to basic services for decades.
Reported by Thiri Min Zin for RFA’s Myanmar Service. Translated by Khet Mar. Written in English by Roseanne Gerin.
Multiple bombings across Baghdad killed at least 111 civilians and injured 197 between 2 and 8 January in attacks mostly claimed by IS. In Anbar governorate, an offensive was launched to recapture IS-held territories, raising fears of displacement towards territories west of Ramadi, where access remains severely constrained. In Mosul, despite military advances in the eastern part of the city enabling limited aid deliveries, 700,000 are trapped and out of reach of humanitarian assistance in the west.
At least 65,000 Rohingya have arrived in Bangladesh since October 2016, including 22,000 over the past week. The Myanmar Army continues crackdown operations in Rohingya communities paired with grave abuses including murder, rape, looting, burning, torture, and arbitrary arrest, in northern Rakhine. The government and army deny any allegations.
In June, more than one million are expected to face severe food insecurity, up 11.7% from the same period in 2016. The number of children facing severe acute malnutrition will increase by 7%. Despite relatively good harvests in 2016, compared to 2015, the population’s resilience is still limited, and displaced populations keep high pressure on food stocks, especially in the Lake region. Regional disparities in food production and low trade between regions also contribute to food insecurity.
Updated: 10/01/2017. Next GEO updated on Tuesday 17 January 2017.
“When my husband beat me, I came here,” said Bu Meh (alias), a Karenni mother of five from Myanmar. She was referring to a community-based multi-sectoral project that works to end violence against women and supports survivors in one of the many Karenni refugee camps dotted along the Thailand-Myanmar border.
The project was implemented by the International Rescue Committee (IRC) in collaboration with the Karenni National Women’s Organization. The UN Trust Fund to End Violence against Women (UN Trust Fund) supports the IRC programme that responds to the needs of women survivors of violence. The UN Trust Fund is managed by UN Women on behalf of the UN System.
A recent reproductive health assessment by the IRC in nine of the camps along the border found that more than one in five women had experienced some form of gender-based violence in their lifetime. Camp residents suffer in other ways too. Most refugees from Myanmar are not allowed to work in Thailand or to even leave the camps, leaving them dependent on foreign aid organizations like the IRC. Despite the humanitarian assistance, conditions in the camps remain harsh.
The project that helps Bu Meh also informs residents of the services available in the camp, including three safe houses that offer psychosocial support. It runs workshops to raise awareness about violence against women and the rights of women and girls. Thousands of adolescents, male and female, have attended the workshops.
Read the full story on the UN Trust Fund website.
Over the past week, 22,000 new arrivals were reported to have crossed the border from Rakhine State (Myanmar) to Bangladesh. As of 5 January, an estimated 65,000 people are residing in registered camps, makeshift settlements and host communities in Cox’s Bazaar. Biometric registration for new arrivals has been proposed to assist partners to further improve relief service provision. To complement the local response, UN agencies and NGO partners continue to provide food, NFIs, emergency shelter materials and protection services to the new arrivals and undocumented Myanmar nationals. shelter materials and protection services to the new arrivals and undocumented Myanmar nationals.
65,000 new arrivals
Days of incessant rains triggered flooding in many parts of Nangroe Aceh Darussalam and West Sumatra provinces between 3 and 6 January. In Aceh, 59,000 people were affected with one death reported. On 5 January, localized whirlwinds were also reported in Yogyakarta and East Java provinces. The whirlwinds killed two people and damaged 292 houses. Local authorities provided humanitarian assistance to the affected communities.
Amid ongoing fighting between the Myanmar military and the Kachin Independence Army, about 2,700 people from Zai Awng/Mungga Zup camp in Waingmaw Township (Kachin State) relocated to makeshift shelters around Hkau Shau IDP camp. Urgent needs include food and other relief supplies, education support and shelter. Health is a major concern due to the winter weather and the limited shelter available. Local organizations are providing a range assistance with support from the UN and INGOs.
Since 1 January, continuous heavy rains caused widespread flooding across 11 provinces in southern Thailand. As of 9 January, over 330,300 households were affected and authorities reported 21 deaths. The Government upgraded the disaster management response level to 3 (large scale disaster) and established disaster command centres in Surat Thani and Songkla to coordinate the national response. With rains forecast to continue until 10 January, a public warning on potential landslides was issued. The UN Resident Coordinator has issued a letter to the Department of Disaster Prevention and Mitigation (DDPM) offering support.
330,300 households affected
Over the past week, seasonal rains triggered severe flooding across the east coast of Malaysia. As of 5 January, around 25,000 people were displaced in the states of Kelantan and Terengganu. The floods damaged bridges and blocked roads restricting access to several villages. Local media sources reported that the number of evacuees decreased to 13,500 people on 7 January as weather conditions improved. The Government is leading the national response with support from the national Red Crescent Society and civil society organizations. No international assistance has been requested.
As of 9 January, about 22,880 people were displaced in CARAGA region (including 20,430 people inside evacuation centres) as a result of Tropical Depression 01W. After making landfall on 7 January, the storm has weakened into a low pressure area but continues to bring moderate to heavy rains across central and southern Philippines.
By Wai Wai Lwin
RANGOON — More than 1,300 internal displaced persons (IDPs) who are taking shelter in a monastery in northern Shan State’s Namtu town will soon face food shortages, according to local sources.
Nang Sam Hown, a lawmaker from the Shan Nationalities League for Democracy in Namtu Township said the IDPs have enough food for one week. She added that the IDPs are also facing problems finding sufficient shelter as well.
Fighting broke out in the area between the Ta’ang National Liberation Army (TNLA) and the Shan State Army-South (SSA-S) as well as between the TNLA and the Burma Army. The conflict forced local Shan, Kachin and Palaung (Ta’ang) people to flee the township.
About 1,300 IDPs took refuge at five camps in Namtu Township, as well as in religious buildings.
“The government and local donors are providing food and shelter for IDPs but it still is not enough. Also, some donors cannot make it to the area for various reasons,” said Nang Sam Hown.
Ethnic Shan and Palaung had previously lived alongside one another for years. However, SSA-S troops reportedly tried to form a base in northern Shan State after the group signed the nationwide ceasefire agreement in Oct. 2015, prompting the TNLA to attack in an effort to oust the group from the area.
A Rangoon-based local NGO also visited an IDP camp in Kachin State’s Mansi Township hosting 2,500 people and said that soon, it too will face a food shortage.
U Moe Kyaw Thu Bo Bo, a senior staff member from the NGO, hosted a press conference on Friday in Rangoon at the Royal Rose guesthouse where he told reporters about his trip and the food insecurity in IDP camps.
He added that Burmese authorities have restricted the transportation of humanitarian aid at Shan State’s Ruili Bridge.
“On the phone, you can get permission to cross. But on the ground, it is a different story. They won’t let you cross. I was hidden in the back of a car in order to get into the camps,” he said.
“If this restriction remains, people in the camps will go hungry,” said U Moe Kyaw Thu Bo Bo.
Nay Pyi Taw, Jan 8
The Investigation Commission on Rakhine State, which is on its second round of field trips to northern Rakhine, visited Norula Villlage and Alethankyaw Village in Maungtaw yesterday morning.
The chairman Vice President U Myint Swe and members of the commission, accompanied by Rakhine State Chief Minister U Nyi Pu, Commander of Western Command Maj-Gen Maung Maung Soe and officials, visited the scene of an ambush by six violent attackers on motorbikes at the police outpost in Norula Village, where police repelled the attack by sacrificing a police officer and seizing a pistol and three motorcycles from the attackers. Witnesses of the attack were interviewed yesterday.
Later, the Vice President and the commission met with residents at the post-primary school in the village. The residents told the commission that they had to flee the village as violent attackers approached. They promised to cooperate with others for the security of the village and surrounding villages. They said they had received adequate supplies from the Union Government. The residents interviewed said that they had never seen security forces commit violence against local women.
After it was explained to them, the residents also said they were willing to accept the National Verification Card (NVC) programme of the Union Government and were desirous of freedom of travel to other areas.
The Vice President said that he wanted to urge parents to send their children to school as teachers were ready to resume classes and to tell any organization and any media to tell the truth without worries. The Vice President also promised immediate issuance of NVC cards and told them that there would be no restrictions on travel and religious activities before encouraging them to report to authorities for transportation difficulties.
Meanwhile, commission members Dr Daw Thet Thet Zin and Daw Kyaing Ngai Man interviewed women in the village at the school exclusively and separately and were told that they had never experienced violence against them.
Later, the commission chairman and members met with locals at the high school of Alethankyaw Village and asked them to talk about their difficulties for food, shelter, clothing, education and health. The residents told the commission that they had never seen violence and requested that the authorities arrange for their fishing activities.
The Vice President was pleased with the questions and requests of the residents and said that the commission would be able to decide what to do correctly thanks to the questions and requests. He also pledged to solve any other problems.
Arrangements are underway to explain the process of the NVC as many residents could not understand it.
Rakhine State Chief Minister U Nyi Pu also said that he would like to urge local residents to tell the truth about the incidents they had experienced so that regional stability could be restored. The Chief Minister also said that measures have been taken for safe fishery operations for local fishermen and trawlers.
At the same time, commission members Dr Daw Thet Thet Zin and Daw Kyaing Ngai Man interviewed women in the village separately and they told the commission that no women and children in the village experienced abuse against them.
Then, the Vice President met with members of border guards and their families at No. 4 Border Guard Police Headquarters and provided food. The Chief of the Myanmar Police Force Police Maj-Gen Zaw Win also provided edible oil to the members and families of the border guards.
Myanmar: Myanmar: Investigation Commission conducts second round of field trips to northern Rakhine State
Nay Pyi Taw, Jan 7
Investigation Commission on Rakhine State led by Chairman Vice President U Myint Swe has begun its second field trip to Maungtaw yesterday morning, to investigate violent attacks that took place in October and November.
The aim of the commission’s second visit to the area is to investigate into the real causes of violent attacks in Maungtaw, to find means to prevent further attacks and to find out whether measures taken there during the incidents were in accordance with the law and in order to report its findings and recommendations to the President on time.
The commission led by the Vice President left Nay Pyi Taw for Sittway and proceeded to Zinpaingnya and Myothugyi Villages which experienced violent attacks.
First, the Vice President and commission met with residents of Zinpaingnya Village at the post-primary school and discussed about security and development of the village. The village was the place where about 15 people had come and beaten family members of U Nu Mammaud before abducting his two sons, one was 18 years old and another was 12 years old, on 7 November 2016. The commission interviewed some residents and attended to their needs.
Union Minister for Social Welfare, Relief and Resettlement Dr Win Myat Aye and Rakhine State Chief Minister U Nyi Pu, who accompanied the commission, presented 99 bags of rice and 16 bags of chickpeas to residents through the village administrator. The Muslim village has a population of 8821 people of 920 households.
Then, the Vice President and the commission met with locals of Myothugyi Village at the post-primary school and talked about security, the socioeconomic situation, trade and transportation difficulties and organizing religious events in freedom, before attending to their needs.
Members of the commission Dr Daw Thet Thet Zin and Daw Kyain Ngai Man met with Muslim women of the village at the school and asked them individually whether violence against women were committed during the incidents but the local women told the commission that there had not been any violence against women in their village and that there were only rumours of such things.
Afterwards, the Vice President and the commission members visited the scene of clashes between security forces on area clearance duty when about 20 violent attackers armed with knives and other weapons attacked the security forces. Later seven bodies of the attackers, a homemade gun and three of its bullets were seized on 10 October 2016. The village is resided mostly by Muslim and has a population of 8,879 from 1,240 households. Not a house was burnt down in the village and residents live peacefully.
In the afternoon, the Vice President and the commission met with the Chief Minister, State Minister Dr Chantha, and representatives of Pyithu Hluttaw, Amyotha Hluttaw and Rakhine State Hluttaw and discussed challenges to regional security and stability and measures taken by the Rakhine State Government and assistance that should be provided by the Union government.
The Vice President explained the responsibilities of the commission, the interim report and requirements for the final report. Participants at the meeting discussed prevention of violent attacks including transportation, the rule of law, regional stability, electricity supply and issuance of citizenship scrutiny cards.
Members of the commission Dr Daw Thet Thet Zin and Daw Kyain Ngai Man met with Rakhine nationals at the Sasana Beikman Hall in Maungtaw while commission members U Thar Nyan and U Saw Thalay Saw met with Muslims at Maungtaw District General Administration Department, with Hindus at the township administration department and abbots in Muangtaw at Myoma Monastery and members of the commission U Tun Myat and U Nyunt Swe met with UN Agencies, INGO’s and local civil society organizations separately at the township administration department.
The commission has been findings facts for its final report adopting a cautious approach between acts in breach of the law and rumours.
With the humanitarian situation drastically deteriorating in a number of countries and regions, the EU is releasing urgent assistance. A total of €28.7 million have been allocated to respond to the most pressing humanitarian needs in Somalia, Afghanistan, Myanmar, Egypt and Libya.
"Humanitarian needs worldwide reached record levels last year. We are mobilising the last reserves of the Commission's 2016 budget to help cover the most urgent needs, in particular in countries where the humanitarian response is underfunded. We will continue to support the most vulnerable people worldwide with EU aid in 2017," said Commissioner for Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Management Christos Stylianides.
The biggest share of the package, €10 million, will go to humanitarian assistance in Somalia, for which the United Nations launched an urgent appeal last month. The country is currently facing a severe and worsening drought that has left additional hundreds of thousands of people short of food and water, while five million Somalis – more than 40 per cent of the population – already lack access to sufficient food.
€8 million of the package will address the needs of the increasing numbers of displaced people and recent returnees in Afghanistan, who have been particularly hard hit by the sub-zero winter – as well as vulnerable Afghan refugees in Iran.
Humanitarian assistance of €3.9 million will be channelled to populations affected by conflict in Myanmar. At least 30 000 people have been newly displaced by recent violence, and some 22 000 have fled across the border into Bangladesh. An estimated 14 000 people have crossed into China and a further 3 500 are displaced within the Northern Shan State. All need urgent humanitarian assistance.
Egypt, where the influx of refugees, asylum seekers and migrants from Syria, Iraq and sub-Saharan Africa continues, will receive €3.8 million humanitarian aid channelled through EU humanitarian partner organisations. As of 31 October 2016, UNHCR reported over 190 000 registered asylum seekers and refugees in Egypt.
In Libya, where the humanitarian situation remains very fragile, the Commission will allocate €3 million of the package for relief assistance to vulnerable people. Governance challenges, the economic crisis, insecurity and violence have caused displacement, unsafe living conditions and a lack of access to essential goods and services. Some 1.3 million people – 19 per cent of the population - require humanitarian assistance.
EU humanitarian aid is delivered in line with the humanitarian principles of humanity, neutrality, impartiality and independence. It covers intervention areas such as food and nutrition, water and sanitation, shelter, health care and education in emergencies, and is channelled through partner organisations - UN agencies, international organisations and NGOs.
The European Commission has been providing humanitarian aid since 1992 in over 110 countries. While its annual budget for such operations is only around €1 billion, the Commission's assistance reaches over 120 million people every year.
Myanmar: Myanmar: UN rights expert launches new official visit to assess recent developments in the country
GENEVA (6 January 2017) – The United Nations Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar, Yanghee Lee, will undertake her fifth information-gathering visit to the country from 9 to 20 January.
Ms. Lee plans to visit Kachin State (Myitkyina, Hpakant and Laiza) as well as Rakhine State (Sittwe, Rathedaung, Buthidaung and Maungdaw), in addition to Nay Pyi Taw and Yangon in order to assess recent developments.
“The events of the last few months have shown that the international community must remain vigilant in monitoring the human rights situation there,” the independent expert said.
“Apart from what is happening in Rakhine, the escalation in fighting in Kachin and Shan, with its inevitable negative impact on the situation of civilians, is causing some disquiet regarding the direction that the new Government is taking in its first year of administration,” she added.
During the 12-day visit, at the invitation of the Government, the Special Rapporteur will address a broad range of human rights issues with the authorities and various stakeholders, including political and community leaders, civil society representatives, as well as victims of human rights violations and members of the international community.
In line with her mandate from the UN Human Rights Council, Ms. Lee has proposed benchmarks to the Government ahead of her visit to help monitor and assess progress in the situation of human rights in Myanmar. By the end of her visit, she hopes to arrive at mutually agreed benchmarks with the Government, which will include priority areas for technical assistance and capacity building.
“My main objective, as Special Rapporteur, has always been to work closely with the authorities and people of Myanmar, for the promotion and protection of human rights in the country,” the expert noted.
“I look forward to the good cooperation which the Government has always extended to my mandate. I especially hope for the constructive and frank exchange of views which always take place during my visits to lead to real and meaningful change for the people of Myanmar,” she said.
Following her country visit, the human rights expert will present a report* to the UN Human Rights Council in March 2017.
A press conference will be held at the end of the Special Rapporteur’s visit. Details on time and venue will be announced during the course of the visit. Access to the press conference will be strictly limited to journalists.
Following her country visit, the human rights expert will present a report to the UN Human Rights Council in March 2017.
Ms. Yanghee Lee (Republic of Korea) was appointed by the UN Human Rights Council in 2014 as the Special Rapporteur on situation of human rights in Myanmar. She is independent from any government or organization and serves in her individual capacity. Ms. Lee is currently serving as the Chairperson of the Coordinating Committee of Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Ms. Lee served as member and chairperson of the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child (2003-2011). She is currently a professor at Sungkyunwan University, Seoul, and serves on the Advisory Committee of the National Human Rights Commission of Korea. Ms. Lee is the founding President of International Child Rights Center.
The Special Rapporteurs are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council.. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, is the general name of the Council’s independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms. Special Procedures mandate-holders are independent human rights experts appointed by the Human Rights Council to address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. They are not UN staff and are independent from any government or organization. They serve in their individual capacity and do not receive a salary for their work.
UN Human Rights, country page: Myanmar.
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World: Towards Policy Integration of Disaster Risk, Climate Adaptation, and Development in ASEAN: A Baseline Assessment
By Jonatan A. Lassa and Margareth Sembiring
This NTS Insight attempts to create a baseline assessment of disaster risk reduction (DRR) and climate change adaptation (CCA) policies in ten Southeast Asian countries. More than 50 per cent of global disaster mortality occurred in Southeast Asia between 2004 and 2014, and four ASEAN member states are ranked in the top 10 countries most affected by climate risk between 1996 and 2015. The integration of relevant existing global mechanisms into national and local regulatory systems, and especially into national development plans, is therefore necessary to ensure the development of adaptive and resilience capacities. Although the region has realised the importance of streamlining DRR and CCA policies in development plans, a baseline of such efforts has yet to exist to date. This is the first series of the NTS Insight on a larger climate change and disaster risk study. The next NTS Insight will look into climate risks in ASEAN.
Effective reduction of losses and risks from natural hazards and climate extremes requires integrated actions at different levels of governance. One of the greatest challenges faced by governments of developing countries today is in creating institutional convergence that integrates global goals emanating from the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction (SFDRR), Paris Agreement on Climate Change (PACC) and the World Humanitarian Summit. Disaster risk reduction (DRR) and climate change adaptation (CCA) are part of key agendas being considered in all these recent global agreements.
The SFDRR lays down the guiding principles for each state to take on “the primary responsibility to prevent and reduce disaster risk, including through international, regional, sub-regional, transboundary and bilateral cooperation” through four priorities for action. The first priority action is understanding risk which encompasses data collection, risk analysis, risk baseline, regular updates of progress, capacitybuilding, promotion of investment and innovation in risk reduction and dissemination of disaster risk information. The second priority action is strengthening disaster risk governance to manage disaster risk through “mainstreaming and integrating DRR within and across sectors” at different levels, empowering local authorities, coordinating with civil societies, formulating relevant policy, and addressing risk reduction needs. The third priority action is investing in risk reduction for resilience by providing incentives and allocating necessary resources at all levels, promoting public and private mechanisms for risk transfer and insurance, and risk sharing and protection. The fourth priority action is to “enhance disaster preparedness for effective response and “to build back better” in recovery, rehabilitation and reconstruction”.
The SFDRR seeks to “substantially increase the number of countries with national and local disaster risk reduction strategies by 2020.” It sets the following targets: to reduce global disaster mortality between 2020-2030 compared to 2005-2015 (measured by average per 100,000 reduce the number of affected people globally (measured by average per 100,000) between 2020-2030 compared to 2005-2015,1 “substantially reduce disaster damage to critical infrastructure and disruption of basic services, among them health and educational facilities, including through developing their resilience by 2030” and “substantially increase the availability of and access to multi-hazard early warning systems and disaster risk information and assessments to the people by 2030”.2 While the Sendai Framework has set the grounds for DRR efforts, SDG 2030 has now emerged as new global driving force for risk reduction (See Box 1).
At a regional level, Southeast Asian countries have realised the need to address disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation in an integrated manner. The Declaration on Institutionalizing the Resilience of ASEAN and its Communities and Peoples to Disasters and Climate Change issued in April 2015 acknowledged the threats posed by climate change and ensuing extreme weather events and called for the mainstreaming of disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation in overarching development agendas. Multi-sectoral collaborations collaboration in multi-level governance are key to make such integration happen. The ASEAN Committee on Disaster Management (ACDM) has been identified as the focal point for this cooperation.
The ASEAN Vision 2025 on Disaster Management adopted the SFDRR vision by encouraging ASEAN member states to develop new DRR strategies by 2020. The Vision that states that “AADMER (The Asean Agreement on Disaster Management and Emergency Response) will need to be linked to the integration efforts under the ASEAN Economic Community” could probably credited for the first systematic attempt to integrate both DRR and CCA into wider development policy in ASEAN.3 Thus far, comprehensive baseline information on DRR and CCA policies in ASEAN is not yet available.
The overall objective of this paper is to provide a baseline of existing national and local arrangements that incorporate DRR and CCA into development policy processes. This study uses existing secondary sources including formal policy reports, and relevant grey and peer review literature.
The Myanmar government said it hopes to send a special diplomatic team led by the deputy foreign minister to Bangladesh later this month amid increasing tension with the neighboring country over the tens of thousands of Rohingya Muslims who have fled Myanmar following violence that began in northern Rakhine state in early October.
“It is possible that a Myanmar special diplomatic team will travel to Bangladesh this month when the Bangladesh prime minister and foreign affairs minister are available to meet them,” said Kyaw Zayya, director general of Myanmar’s foreign affairs ministry, on Thursday.
“We will arrange it through discussions with their government,” he said. “The deputy foreign affairs minister will possibly lead the team. The team will have only three or four members, but it is difficult to say the exact date of the travel.”
A previous trip arranged in December failed to materialize after it was postponed for security reasons.
Bangladesh’s foreign affairs ministry has complained several times to Myanmar about the influx of 50,000 Rohingya Muslims who fled violence in Rakhine after deadly attacks on Myanmar border guard stations in Maungdaw and Rathedaung townships on Oct. 9, and sought refuge in Bangladesh.
Members of the stateless minority group have left northern Rakhine in droves since soldiers and police locked down the area after the attacks, which the Myanmar government has blamed on Muslim insurgents.
On Dec. 30, the Myanmar government said it would take back 2,415 of its citizens living in Bangladesh—a small number of the 300,000 people who Bangladesh says are Myanmar citizens who have taken refuge there and should return home, Reuters reported.
Bangladesh has refused to grant the Rohingya refugee status because it considers them citizens of Myanmar, while Myanmar considers the Rohingya illegal immigrants from Bangladesh and has denied then citizenship and access to basic services for decades.
Proper channels for aid
In a related development, Myanmar’s foreign affairs ministry has informed the embassies of some member states of the Association for Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) that their countries should submit proposals to provide for cash and in-kind support for Rakhine through proper diplomatic channels.
A statement issued on Thursday by Myanmar’s State Counselor’s Office said the ministry will work with the Rakhine state government and its ministry of social welfare, relief and resettlement to distribute supplies that should be meant without any distinction for both Rohingya Muslim and ethnic Rakhine Buddhists living in the western state.
“The Rakhine state government will distribute the assistance to both communities,” the statement said.
Indonesia and Malaysia—both predominantly Muslim countries and ASEAN members— called on Aung San Suu Kyi, Myanmar’s de facto leader, to allow unimpeded humanitarian access to the areas affected by violence when they and other ASEAN states met with her on Dec. 19 to discuss the crisis in northern Rakhine.
The government’s statement appears to be directed, however, at a Malaysian Muslim organization that plans to send boats laden with 200 metric tons of rice, medical aid, and essential supplies for Rohingya Muslim communities on Jan. 10.
The Myanmar government opposes the flotilla because the organization has not obtained permission to enter its territory to deliver supplies, and has said that such plans should be made between the governments of each country.
Government spokesman Zaw Htay said last Wednesday that the Muslim group from Malaysia had to obtain permission to enter Myanmar when its boats arrived or risk being stopped or attacked by Myanmar security forces, and its crew deported.
Myanmar’s home affairs minister Lieutenant General Kyaw Swe on Dec. 30 called the plans for the food flotilla an “insult.”
The Indonesian government has already sent 10 shipping containers of food, baby food, and clothes for Rohingya affected by the violence.
The statement issued by the State Counselor’s Office said the Indonesian government had officially proposed the delivery of humanitarian aid according to the policies of the Myanmar government, and that the two nations are undertaking necessary distributions.
Security forces make arrests
In Rakhine, authorities arrested one militant trainer and three trainees and seized 14 homemade guns on Wednesday in Maunggyitaung village in northern Rakhine’s Buthidaung township, the State Counsellor’s Office said.
The men, who had completed an insurgent military training course, were carrying weapons near the village when security forces blocked entry routes to intercept them, said a statement issued by the office.
Security forces detained Mamad Karat, the trainer, and the three trainees—Kumuru, De Mamud, and Mardular—it said.
“After an interrogation that resulted in confessions, security forces searched for weapons and captured 14 handmade guns in a field of betel palms which belonged to De Mamud at about 2 p.m.,” the statement said, adding that legal action would be taken against the men.
Authorities have detained roughly 600 people in connection with the raids during which nine officers were killed and subsequent violence between security forces and armed men in northern Rakhine. Nearly 90 others have been killed in the crackdown.
Meanwhile, rights groups, including New York-based Human Rights Watch (HRW), have accused Myanmar of attempting to cover up abuses against Rohingya villagers allegedly perpetrated by security forces in northern Rakhine, a day after an investigation commission said it found no evidence to support accusations of genocide or repression.
Rohingya from the areas affected by violence have accused security forces of executions, arbitrary arrests, rape, and arson during their security operations in search of attackers. The government of de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi has denied the allegations, but formed the commission to investigate them in response to pressure from the international community.
Phil Robertson, HRW’s deputy Asia director, said on Wednesday that the government “remains curiously intransigent” concerning allegations of serious abuses in northern Rakhine state, which has been largely closed to outside observers since the October attacks.
“[N]umerous other rights abuses, including extrajudicial killings, rape, and the destruction of villages await proper investigation and appropriate prosecution,” he said in a statement. “Ultimately, this case may be yet another attempt to keep the lid on crimes being committed by security forces in locked-down northern Rakhine state.”
There was no immediate response from the Myanmar government to the latest criticisms.
Reported by Thiri Min Zin for RFA’s Myanmar Service. Translated by Khet Mar. Written in English by Roseanne Gerin.
The Humanitarian News Digest is a monthly compilation of links to reports, web stories, press releases, and other public products published online by organizations with humanitarian operations in Myanmar. The content and views expressed in these publications do not necessarily reflect the views of OCHA.
By Moe Myint
RANGOON — Security forces arrested four militants and confiscated 14 homemade guns near Maung Gyi Taung village in Arakan State’s Buthidaung Township on Tuesday evening after a tip off, according to the State Counselor’s Office information committee.
An investigation will be carried out in line with Burma’s laws, according to a statement released Wednesday.
The arrests and seizure is the first in Buthidaung Township, which has seen less police action than neighbouring Maungdaw, according to head of Buthidaung Township police Maj. Tun Wai.
‘‘The situation is calm down here despite some rumors spread by the residents,” he told The Irrawaddy, refusing to provide more information but stating that counter-insurgency operations are currently handled by the border police.
Buthidaung resident U Aung Ko told The Irrawaddy on Thursday that the arrests had not disturbed residents.
The government released a statement on Tuesday saying that eight Muslim residents had been found killed in northern Arakan State since Oct. 8, while three are missing and two have reported receiving death threats.
An interim report from the Vice President U Myint Swe-led Arakan State Investigation Commission claimed that villagers who cooperated with government departments and organizations were at risk of violence from “terrorists” for being government informers.
Since attacks on police border posts by suspected militants on Oct. 9, 10 government border police and eight soldiers have died in security operations, according to the report. Meanwhile, 80 suspected militants have been killed.
The report states that 485 individuals were detained in 49 separate cases, of whom 10 have been released. Twenty-eight cases have gone to court, with convictions being handed down in three cases so far.
The 13-member commission made “special investigations into the allegations” of Burma Army human rights abuses by international organizations, including accusations of rape, torture, extrajudicial killings, and arson.
Referring to the self-identifying Rohingya community as “Bengali,” the Arakan State Investigation Commission reported that the group’s presence in Maungdaw Township, in addition to “the increasing population of Mawlawi, mosques and religious edifices,” served as “proof that there were no cases of genocide and religious persecution in the region.’’
The commission reportedly interviewed local women in regard to rape allegations and found “insufficient evidence to take legal action.” The report stated that accusations of arson, illegal arrests, and torture were being investigated.
The commission reported that 26 village bazaars and two township markets in the region had reopened, along with 171 schools of the 183 that were closed. The report claims there were “no cases of malnutrition in the area due to the area’s favorable fishing and farming conditions.”
The commission concluded that recent attacks in northern Arakan were designed to draw the attention of the international community and is harming the sovereignty of the State.
It also described the situation as more “complicated” than previous incidents in northern Arakan State, as it alleged that area “militants” have connections with overseas organizations.
Countries and territories reporting mosquito-borne Zika virus infections for the first time in the past week:
Countries and territories reporting microcephaly and other central nervous system (CNS) malformations potentially associated with Zika virus infection for the first time in the past week:
Countries and territories reporting Guillain-Barré syndrome (GBS) cases associated with Zika virus infection for the first time in the past week:
This is the last weekly situation report. Going forward, the reports will be published every two weeks. The next report will be issued on 19 January.
Overall, the global risk assessment has not changed. Zika virus continues to spread geographically to areas where competent vectors are present. Although a decline in cases of Zika infection has been reported in some countries, or in some parts of countries, vigilance needs to remain high.
Seventy-five countries and territories (Fig. 1, Table 1) have reported evidence of mosquitoborne Zika virus transmission since 2007 (69 with reports from 2015 onwards), of which:
o Fifty-eight with a reported outbreak from 2015 onwards (Fig. 2, Table 1).
o Seven with having possible endemic transmission or evidence of local mosquitoborne Zika infections in 2016 or 2017.
o Ten with evidence of local mosquito-borne Zika infections in or before 2015, but without documentation of cases in 2016 or 2017, or with the outbreak terminated.
Thirteen countries have reported evidence of person-to-person transmission of Zika virus (Table 2).
The Myanmar Earthquake Committee (MEC) will check that pagodas in ancient Bagan, Nyang U District, Mandalay Region can withstand future temblors.
“Earthquakes shook Myanmar ancient pagodas last year, causing extensive damage. We take measures that the Ministry of Religious Affairs and Culture and the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) will renovate the damaged pagodas. And we will check the earthquake resistance of Bagan pagodas. We are currently assessing how to conduct these activities,” said U Myo Thant, the secretary of MEC.
“We will submit our suggestion on which pagodas need to be renovated based on the assessment to the department concerned.”
The earthquake on 24th August damaged 258 vaunted temples, 104 pagodas and 13 brick monasteries. MEC will lead the assessment activity in cooperation with Myanmar Engineering Society (MES).
This website allows you to explore how different scenarios of global greenhouse gas emissions and adaptation to climate change could change the geography of food insecurity in developing and least-developed countries. By altering the levels of future global greenhouse gas emissions and/or the levels of adaptation, you can see how vulnerability to food insecurity changes over time, and compare and contrast these different future scenarios with each other and the present day.