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Myanmar: Cautious Optimism on Burma’s Arduous Path to Peace

21 March 2017 - 12:28pm
Source: US Institute of Peace Country: Myanmar

As U.S. Presses Military on Reforms, Policies Need Consistency, Patience

Monday, March 20, 2017 / BY: USIP Staff

A year after Burma’s pro-democracy leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, took office, her country’s transition from military rule toward democracy and peace has made progress—but continued fighting underscores the need for faster progress, said diplomats, scholars and other analysts who convened at USIP on March 16. While Suu Kyi has been criticized for not acting more directly to protect Burma’s Rohingya minority from oppression, she faces complex political conflicts and cannot control the country’s military, the analysts noted. That means U.S. support for Burma’s stabilization must be consistent and long-term.

The top U.S. diplomat for Southeast Asia voiced “cautious optimism” for Burmese stability, as Suu Kyi’s government promised new steps to calm the past five years’ violence in the western state of Rakhine. Suu Kyi said hours earlier that her government would implement recommendations to end the displacement of more than 120,000 people in Rakhine, most from the Muslim Rohingya community.

Deputy U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Patrick Murphy said the Burmese government is pursuing “a good process” on the Rohingya crisis. Burmese officials pledged to act on the recommendations of a commission led by former U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan. The commission, appointed last summer by Suu Kyi’s government, urged steps to let displaced people return and rebuild their homes, ensure humanitarian aid and human rights, investigate abuses by security forces, and build reconciliation between Rakhine state’s Muslim and Buddhist communities.

At the USIP forum, Murphy said the government’s decision to appoint a credible commission, including Annan and two other foreign civil servants among its nine members, “was a bold move.” The government has used international attention and pressure to balance the military’s continued control of security affairs and its frequent use of violent tactics against minority groups.

U.S. Engages Burma’s Military

Suu Kyi’s party, the National League for Democracy, won elections in 2015 after a half century of military rule, but civilians still must share power with the armed forces under a 2008 constitution prepared under the junta. The constitution preserves the armed forces’ power by guaranteeing them control over the defense and security ministries and a quarter of the seats in parliament.

Burma’s armed forces have fought for decades with armed groups representing some of the country’s 100-plus ethnic groups. (A measure of the complexity of Burma’s ethnic map is that even the number of groups in the country is contested.) Most of these conflicts have been centered in the rugged, forested terrain of Burma’s eastern borders with China and Thailand.

The government has prioritized a peace process to end those conflicts, and has started a political dialogue to forge a federal system in which Burma’s minority ethnic groups share power and resources at the local level. Peace talks under the previous government achieved a cease-fire with eight ethnic armed groups in 2015. Warfare, much of it initiated by the military, continues particularly in the northeastern states of Kachin and Shan.

At the civilian government’s request, the United States has begun “very low-level contacts” with Burma’s military, whose officers have worked in relative isolation for decades, Murphy said. The armed forces thus are “unfamiliar with international standards,” he said, and will need time to be reformed “into a professional institution subordinate to elected government and … respectful of human rights.”

Suu Kyi’s Role

USIP works with Burma’s government and civil society groups to support the peace process, training community leaders, Buddhist monks and others to strengthen dialogues among ethnic and religious groups. The institute has trained police in techniques for intervening peacefully in violent conflicts.

Following a visit to Burma, USIP President Nancy Lindborg wrote last week in _The Hill_ that “a greater personal engagement by Aung San Suu Kyi appears vital to revive and expand” the country’s stalled peace process. “A powerful next step would be for Aung San Suu Kyi to visit areas suffering some of the greatest violence, notably in Kachin and Shan states,”

Lindborg wrote. 

At USIP’s March 16 forum, the discussions included these points:

  • Violence in the northeast has worsened in spite of the peace process. “The scale of conflict in the northeast of Burma is the worst it’s been in several decades, despite negotiations and the National League for Democracy government prioritizing peace negotiations,” USIP’s country director for Burma, Vanessa Johanson, noted at the day’s end.

  • Marginalized groups must be given a greater role. Burma’s transition “is not simply a peace process.” It must include women, youth and other marginalized groups, said former U.S. ambassador to Burma Derek Mitchell. “It has to be done with the entire society [from the] bottom-up, not just top-down. …It is absolutely essential that this be an inclusive process to be sustainable and to be credible.”

  • Hardliners and hate speech remain. “More public voices promoting diversity have to be out there, have to be public, and may have to be courageous” in the face of hardliners from many of Burma’s factions, said Mitchell, now a senior advisor at USIP.

Bangladesh: WIDER IMAGE - Rohingya newborns offer frail hope in face of Myanmar violence

21 March 2017 - 5:21am
Source: Reuters - Thomson Reuters Foundation Country: Bangladesh, Myanmar

Huddled in makeshift camps, dependent on food rations and fellow refugees, Rohingya mothers carry hope inspired by their newborn children

By Antoni Slodkowski and Mohammad Ponir Hossain

BALUKHALI, Bangladesh, March 20 (Reuters) - Scared, hungry and badly beaten, Rohingya women fleeing an army crackdown in Myanmar recount harrowing tales of destruction and death: a father burned alive, an uncle slaughtered with a machete, a brother arrested and not heard from again.

Read more on the Thomson Reuters Foundation

Myanmar: WIDER IMAGE - Rohingya newborns offer frail hope in face of Myanmar violence

21 March 2017 - 5:21am
Source: Reuters - Thomson Reuters Foundation Country: Bangladesh, Myanmar

Huddled in makeshift camps, dependent on food rations and fellow refugees, Rohingya mothers carry hope inspired by their newborn children

By Antoni Slodkowski and Mohammad Ponir Hossain

BALUKHALI, Bangladesh, March 20 (Reuters) - Scared, hungry and badly beaten, Rohingya women fleeing an army crackdown in Myanmar recount harrowing tales of destruction and death: a father burned alive, an uncle slaughtered with a machete, a brother arrested and not heard from again.

Read more on the Thomson Reuters Foundation

Myanmar: MYANMAR: Key Immediate Needs (KIN) of communities affected by disasters: Inter-Agency Pre-Crisis Assessment Report (March 2017)

21 March 2017 - 5:00am
Source: UN High Commissioner for Refugees, CCCM Cluster, Shelter Cluster Country: Myanmar

Situation Overview

Myanmar is prone to various natural hazards and historical data shows that there have been medium to large/scale natural disasters every few years. Myanmar is currently ranked 12th out of 191 countries on the Index for Risk Management (INFORM) which assesses the risk of humanitarian crisis and disasters that could overwhelm national capacity to respond. In 2015 Myanmar was hit by devastating floods and landslides affecting over 1.6 million people, totally destroying 38,000 houses and 315,000 heavily damaged, and inundating over 1.4 million acres of farmland, according to the Government figures. Therefore, the humanitarian community in Myanmar, represented by the Humanitarian Country Team (HCT), developed and regularly updates the inter‐agency Emergency Response Preparedness (ERP) Plan to support the Government of the Union of Myanmar in preparing for, and responding to, any of the hazards that may affect the country.

The first element of the ERP Plan is the risk assessment which ranks the hazards in terms of their foreseen impact and likelihood of occurrence. Cyclones, earthquakes and floods are at the top of this list with Rakhine, Ayeyarwady and Mandalay identified as the regions/states at highest risk. The areas along the Ayeyarwady River are regularly exposed to floodswith Sagaing and Magway heavily affected during the 2015 disaster.

Following the onset of an emergency, the immediate response is usually initiated by communities themselves, with support from civil society and the Government. This immediate response might be further supported by international humanitarian community if requested and required. However, despite the recognized importance of community engagement, at that initial stage of the emergency there is usually limited time to consult with affected communities about their needs and preferences. In response, a pre‐crisis assessment was conducted in the preparedness phase to better understand and validate expected key immediate community needs and preferences for assistance (such as the type of goods or use of cash). Recognizing that women and girls are disproportionately affected by disaster, the pre‐ crisis assessment was gender‐responsive and looked at men’s and women’s distinct needs during disasters. The results will enhance emergency response planning in line with communities’ needs and preferences.

Myanmar: Protest held against government plan to give citizenship to some Rohingya

21 March 2017 - 4:14am
Source: Mizzima News Country: Myanmar

Hundreds of hard-line Buddhists in Rakhine state protested yesterday against a perceived government plan to give citizenship to some members of the Rohingya Muslim minority community, AP reported on 19 March.

Rakhine state's dominant Arakan National Party led the protest in Sittwe, the state capital.

The protest took place three days after the Rakhine Advisory Commission, led by former UN chief Kofi Annan, urged the NLD-led government to reconsider a failed programme to verify the Rohingya for Myanmar citizenship and to remove restrictions on freedom of movement.

World: Mixed Migration Flows in the Mediterranean and Beyond: Compilation of available data and information - Reporting period 1 Feb - 28 Feb 2017

20 March 2017 - 5:36pm
Source: International Organization for Migration Country: Afghanistan, Algeria, Bangladesh, Belgium, Bulgaria, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Chad, Comoros, Congo, Côte d'Ivoire, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Egypt, Eritrea, Estonia, Ethiopia, Finland, France, Gambia, Germany, Greece, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Hungary, India, Iran (Islamic Republic of), Iraq, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Liberia, Libya, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Mali, Malta, Morocco, Myanmar, Netherlands, Niger, Nigeria, Norway, occupied Palestinian territory, Pakistan, Portugal, Romania, Senegal, Serbia, Sierra Leone, Slovakia, Slovenia, Somalia, Spain, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Sweden, Switzerland, Syrian Arab Republic, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Togo, Tunisia, Turkey, World

HIGHLIGHTS

  • Until 28 February 2017, there were 13,439 cumulative arrivals to Italy, compared to 9,101 arrivals recorded in the same month in 2016 (a 48% increase). Greece has seen a 98% lower number of arrivals in February 2017 when compared to the same period in 2016, 2,611 and 125,494 respectively.

  • According to available data, there have been 17,479 new arrivals to Greece, Italy and Bulgaria, as countries of first arrival to Europe since the beginning of 2017 till 28 of February 2017.

  • By the end of February, total number of migrants and refugees stranded in Greece and in the Western Balkans reached 75,514. Since the implementation of the EU-Turkey Statement on the 18th of March, the number of migrants and refugees stranded in Greece increased by 46%. For the rest of the countries, please read page 5.

  • As of 28 February 2017, there have been 13,552 indi-viduals relocated to 24 European countries. Please see the new page on relocations for more information.

  • As of 28 February 2017, a total of 915 migrants and refugees were readmitted from Greece to Turkey as part of the EU-Turkey Statement with last readmis-sion taking place on 7 March 2017. The majority of migrants and refugees were Pakistani, Syrian, Afghan, Algerian and Bangladeshi nationals. See Tur-key section.

  • Information about “contingency countries” in the Western Balkans (Albania, Kosovo (SCR 1244)*, Montenegro, and Bosnia and Herzegovina) is on page 30

  • For information on this report, including details on the sources of this report’s data and tallying method-ologies used, please see page 31.

  • For more updates on the Central Mediterranean route, please check IOM’s Mediterranean portal with most recent DTM report from Libya and Niger.

*References to Kosovo should be understood in the context of the United Nations Security Council resolution 1244 (1999)

Bangladesh: UNHCR seeks equal treatment for all Rohingya in Bangladesh

20 March 2017 - 5:13pm
Source: UN High Commissioner for Refugees Country: Bangladesh, Myanmar

A small proportion who fled violence decades ago are considered refugees, while many recent arrivals remain undocumented and miss out on vital aid.

By: Vivian Tan

UKHIYA, Bangladesh - At a glance, Mostafa and Sohel* have a lot in common.

As a young man in 1992, Mostafa fled violence in the northern part of Rakhine state in Myanmar to seek refuge in Bangladesh.

Twenty-five years later Sohel took the same journey. After weeks of violence amid a security operation in his village, the 22-year-old had to be carried across the Naf River to safety earlier this year, his body burnt and swollen.

Pointing to the scars on his feet, Sohel said: “They beat us senseless and left us to die in a ditch. We were five people in the group, only three survived.”

Both men found refuge in Bangladesh, where Mostafa recently guided Sohel to a hospital to received treatment for his injuries. But despite their common Rohingya background and circumstances, Mostafa and Sohel are being treated very differently.

As part of the influx of refugees in the early 1990s, Mostafa is among 33,000 registered refugees living in two government-run camps serviced by UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, and its partners in south-eastern Bangladesh.

He has a home in Kutupalong camp and access to basic services including food assistance, healthcare and education for his wife and three children. Now in his 50s, he has learnt to speak English well and is working as a photographer in the camp.

In contrast, Sohel has no legal status in Bangladesh as one of more than 70,000 Rohingya new arrivals who are believed to have fled a security operation between October 2016 and February 2017. He lives with people from his home village and keeps a low profile. He receives ad hoc assistance if he is lucky.

A third category consists of an estimated 200,000 to 500,000 undocumented Rohingya who arrived in Bangladesh between the two influxes. They live in makeshift sites and local villages, and until recently had no access to humanitarian aid.

“The current situation is not sustainable,” said Shinji Kubo, UNHCR’s Representative in Bangladesh. “Regardless of when they came and where they live, these people have the same needs and deserve equal access to protection and assistance.”

The new influx has highlighted the urgent need to verify the number and location of the new arrivals. Without this information, vulnerable refugees risk falling through the cracks while others could be receiving duplication of assistance.

“We are advocating for a joint verification of the new arrivals with our partners as soon as possible,” said Kubo. “This exercise will help the government and humanitarian agencies to better target assistance to those who need it the most, be they new arrivals, refugees who came earlier or locals who host them.”

UNHCR works with humanitarian agencies such as the International Organization for Migration and the World Food Programme in Cox’s Bazar.

Several thousand new arrivals are believed to be hosted in the two official camps, straining the capacity of existing refugees and the infrastructure. The water supply in Nayapara camp is expected to run out by the end of March and there are fears of disease outbreaks as a result of overcrowding and poor sanitation.

Many more new arrivals are living in existing makeshift sites or new ones that have sprouted spontaneously.

In Ukhiya district, a site called Balukhali has emerged in the last two months and now hosts 1,600 families, according to a local politician helping them. Located beyond some rice fields, it is a mish-mash of flimsy shelters and latrines made of thin plastic sheets, dried leaves, tree branches and bamboo. These structures could constitute safety and health hazards unless proper site planning is undertaken.

Miriam*, 65, has just moved to Balukhali with her son’s family. “We were living in a local village for more than two months but the leader said we can only receive assistance if we go to a camp,” she said as her son cleared some land to build a shelter. “We have nowhere else to go, we’ll have to stay here.”

The Bangladesh government has announced it will extend a 2016 census of undocumented Rohingya living outside the two camps to include the new arrivals.

“In the long run, we hope that all Rohingya in Bangladesh can be documented to ensure full respect for their rights,” said UNHCR’s Kubo. “Knowing the profile of this population will also help us to identify longer-term solutions for them.”

Despite his traumatized state, Sohel is clear about one thing: “Here I am living in someone else’s house and I worry about the future. If we are given status in Myanmar, we will definitely go back.

*Names changed for protection reasons

World: Les Fonds de Financement Communs Pays

20 March 2017 - 3:18pm
Source: UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs Country: Afghanistan, Central African Republic, Colombia, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, Myanmar, occupied Palestinian territory, Pakistan, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan, Syrian Arab Republic, Turkey, World, Yemen

Les Fonds de Financement Communs Pays (CBPF) permettent aux organisations humanitaires d’apporter une assistance rapide et efficace à ceux qui en ont le plus besoin. Ils permettent aux Gouvernements et aux donateurs privés de mettre en commun leurs ressources pour répondre à des crises spécifiques, qu’il s’agisse d’une catastrophe naturelle ou d’un conflit armé.

FONCTIONNEMENT DES CBPF

Les CBPF sont établis par le Coordonnateur des Secours d'Urgence (ERC) lors d’une nouvelle crise ou bien lorsqu’une situation humanitaire existante se détériore. Ils sont gérés localement par le Coordonnateur Humanitaire (HC) en consultation avec la communauté humanitaire.

Les contributions sont collectées dans des fonds par pays et sans affectation spécifique. Elles sont ensuite allouées par un processus inclusif et transparent en appui aux priorités identifiées dans les Plans de Réponse Humanitaire. Cela garantit des allocations priorisées au niveau local par ceux qui sont le plus proches des personnes dans le besoin.

Il y a actuellement 18 CBPF actifs. Ils ont mobilisé 706 millions de dollars en 2016.

UN INVESTISSEMENT DANS L’HUMANITE

Les CBPF aident les organisations humanitaires à atteindre les personnes les plus vulnérables tout en utilisant les ressources disponibles plus efficacement:

• Les CBPF sont inclusifs. Les fonds sont accessibles à une multitude d'acteurs humanitaires, y compris aux ONG nationales qui ont souvent de meilleures connaissances des réalités locales et un accès aux zones difficiles à atteindre.

• Les CBPF sont rapides et flexibles. Ils soutiennent une réponse humanitaire agile dans des situations d'urgence fluides.

• Les CBPF sont efficaces. Ils minimisent les coûts de transaction et assurent une gestion transparente et responsable. Les organisations bénéficiaires sont soigneusement évaluées, les projets suivis, et des rapports réguliers sur les progrès réalisés sont produits.
Suite au Sommet Humanitaire Mondial de 2016, le Secrétaire Général de l’ONU a souligné le rôle crucial des CBPF et appelé les donateurs à accroître la part du financement des appels humanitaires acheminée par le biais des CBPF à 15 pourcent d’ici 2018. Cela correspond à près de 2 milliards de dollars par an.

Myanmar: Supporting local humanitarian action in Myanmar

20 March 2017 - 7:55am
Source: UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs Country: Myanmar

National organizations are at the heart of humanitarian response in Myanmar, using their local skills, relationships and access to assist the 525,000 people who are estimated to be in need across the country. Myanmar is leading the way in embracing the contribution of local partners, in line with commitments made at the World Humanitarian Summit in 2016. This includes record allocations from the Myanmar Humanitarian Fund (MHF) directly to national organizations. In 2016, 45 per cent of the US$5.6 million allocated to projects through this Country Based Pooled Fund went directly to national Non-Government Organizations in Kachin, Shan and Rakhine states.

“Local organizations are an integral part of humanitarian response in Myanmar. They often have better access, operational capacity and presence in affected areas than anyone else. They are also part of the communities that they are assisting so they really understand local needs. Supporting local organizations with funding and capacity-strengthening makes good sense all round,” OCHA Myanmar Head of Office, Mark Cutts said.

Local access to people in need

The Kachin Baptist Convention (KBC) is one of dozens of local organizations working to meet the needs of almost 100,000 people who remain displaced across 188 camps and sites in Kachin and Shan states as a result of the country’s decades-old civil war. Humanitarian access for international organizations to deliver life-saving assistance to affected people in both states is shrinking, resulting in an increasing reliance on local humanitarian organizations like KBC to deliver aid. In recognition of this increasingly heavy load, KBC has received a number of grants through the Myanmar Humanitarian Fund to support their work.

Empowering local partners

32- year- old Ma Kawt Mai and her small family have a roof over their heads today as a result of a Myanmar Humanitarian Fund grant to KBC. A fire at the Shing Jai camp in late 2014 destroyed dozens of structures, leaving some 700 people living in tents for almost six months. The MHF grant allowed KBC to build new shelters and protect people from the elements.“We lost everything, our shelters and all the property we had….We could not stay in the tent when it was hot. It was like you were in a boiler. When it is cold outside, we were almost freezing as it could not stop chilling winds…I am very pleased to move into new shelter from the tent. I am thankful to donors and KBC for providing shelters for us,” Ma Kawt Mai said.

Local knowledge for better response

U Zaw Lun arrived in Shing Jai camp in Kachin State when fighting was re-ignited in 2011. He’s now the secretary of the Camp Committee and recognizes the important role played by local organizations like KBC in meeting humanitarian need. “It is much easier for local organizations to access those areas, particularly to camps in the border area, as well as remote and hard-to-reach areas,” U Zaw Lun said. The localized approach is also effective in Kachin because of the strong relationships between local organizations and the people they assist. In Kachin, where various local dialects are used, language is a big barrier for organizations in carrying out their operations. U Zaw Lun said KBC works effectively because its staff members know the language and understand the local context.“People in the camp trust those who speak the same language as them, as they can easily communicate with them and they can openly share their needs and feelings,” he said.

The Grand Bargain in practice

The Grand Bargain, which was launched at the World Humanitarian Summit, is an agreement between more than 30 of the biggest donors and aid providers to make humanitarian financing more efficient and effective. Among other reforms, it commits donors and aid organizations to provide 25 per cent of global humanitarian funding to local and national responders by 2020. The Myanmar Humanitarian Fund is already exceeding this target. “We are taking the issue of localization very seriously in Myanmar and we are backing this commitment up with funding from the Myanmar Humanitarian Fund. Almost half of the funding went to national NGOs in 2016 and we would like to expand this even further in 2017,” said Mark Cutts, the OCHA Head in Myanmar.

Myanmar: Asia and the Pacific: Weekly Regional Humanitarian Snapshot (14 - 20 March 2017)

20 March 2017 - 6:20am
Source: UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs Country: Bangladesh, Myanmar, Philippines, Sri Lanka

MYANMAR

More than 30,000 people are estimated to have fled the Kokang Self Administered Zone after fighting erupted on 6 March between the Myanmar Military and the Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army. Fighting continues around Laukkai. The Government of China and humanitarian partners confirmed the arrival of more than 20,000 people across the border. In addition, humanitarian organizations estimate more than 10,000 migrant workers left Laukkai to return home to other parts of the country. In another incident, at least four civilians were reported to have been killed in fighting between the Myanmar Military and the Ta’ang National Liberation Army in Kutkai Township in northern Shan State.

On 13 March, a 5.1 magnitude earthquake struck north of Yangon at a depth of 10 km. The earthquake killed two people and injured 36 people. Homes, offices and religious structures were damaged in Taik Kyi near the epicentre of the tremor.

PHILIPPINES

As of 15 March, nearly 8,000 people remain displaced (6,400 inside evacuation centres) in the town of Datu Salibo (Maguindanao province) as a result of continuing law enforcement operations against non-state armed actors that began on 13 March. The municipal social welfare office is providing relief assistance with support from the regional DSWD offices.
Local health clinics are also continuing to monitor the health status of the displaced people.

8,000 people remain displaced

SRI LANKA

As of 19 March, over one million people are affected by prolonged drought in 17 out of 25 districts of Sri Lanka. According to a joint household assessment, an estimated 900,000 people were identified as in urgent need of food assistance, with 25,000 people severely food insecure. Food, water and sanitation, health and agriculture are urgent priority needs. UN agencies are currently finalizing a request for UN Central Emergency Response Fund grant application.

900,000 people in urgent need of food assistance

BANGLADESH

Since October 2016, an estimated 74,000 people originating from Rakhine State in Myanmar have crossed to Bangladesh – this figure has remained steady since 2 February. As of 4 March, Bangladesh confirmed that 384 undocumented Myanmar nationals returned to Myanmar through the Damdamia check point. With the fluid movements along the border, verifying the returns, however, remains a challenge. Additional WASH services and facilities are urgently needed by the new arrivals particularly in Kutipalong and Balukhali.

74,000 people crossed from Myanmar since Oct. 2016

Bangladesh: IFRC launches emergency appeal to support growing needs of recent migrant arrivals in Bangladesh

20 March 2017 - 3:01am
Source: International Federation of Red Cross And Red Crescent Societies Country: Bangladesh, Myanmar

Dhaka, 20 March, 2017 – Today, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) launched an emergency appeal in support of efforts by the Bangladesh Red Crescent Society (BDRCS) to address the most urgent humanitarian needs of thousands of Muslims who have sought refuge in south eastern Bangladesh, having fled violence in the northern area of Rakhine State in neighbouring Myanmar.

Since October 2016, approximately 74,550 people have arrived in Bangladesh. Many are living in unplanned and overcrowded settlements in the district of Cox’s Bazar where living conditions are extremely poor. IFRC’s 3.2 million Swiss Franc (Euros 3 million, USD 3.2 million) appeal will ensure that 25,000 of the new arrivals will receive food aid and other emergency relief items, including shelter materials, together with clean water, sanitation and health care over a nine month period.

“People are existing in very difficult circumstances. Most don’t have access to regular medical services and they are not getting enough food or sufficient nutrition”, explains Azmat Ulla, IFRC Head of Office in Bangladesh. “Shelter is also a big issue. Many are living in sub-standard temporary structures. We need to scale up our support, particularly as there will be additional challenges ahead with the onset of the flood and cyclone season”.

Under the appeal, BDRCS volunteers will also be trained to deliver psychosocial support to families suffering emotional distress. Wells will be installed or repaired to improve clean water supply.

Since January 2017, emergency funds mobilized by IFRC and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) have ensured that the BDRCS has been able to distribute food, blankets, water containers and other relief items to newly arrived families. With ICRC support, mobile health clinics have also been in operation and Restoring Family Links services have helped people to re-establish contact with their loved ones. The ICRC is planning to scale up its emergency response in Cox’s Bazar by providing food and non-food relief through BDRCS for the new arrivals living in host communities.

Over the past three decades 300,000 to 500,000 Muslims from Rakhine have crossed into Bangladesh. Close to 33,000 registered refugees are living in two official camps in Ukhiya and Teknaf sub-districts of Cox’s Bazar. Most migrants however, have been living in makeshift camps or in host communities which have limited infrastructure and public services.

The Bangladesh Red Crescent is one of the countries’ leading humanitarian organizations. It has a strong presence in Cox’s Bazar, and is working closely with all stakeholders involved in the humanitarian response, including the Government of Bangladesh and UN agencies.

Note for editors: Video broll and photographs relating to the humanitarian situation in Cox’s Bazar are available at http://www.ifrcnewsroom.org/

For further information contact:

In Bangladesh:

Mr. K. Jakaria Khaled
Deputy Secretary General, Bangladesh Red Crescent Society
Mobile: +88 0181 145 8501 Email: jakaria.khaled@bdrcs.org

Raqibul Alam
Senior Manager, Planning, Monitoring, Evaluation and Reporting (PMER), IFRC Bangladesh Country Office
Mobile: +88 01714069707 Email: raqibul.alam@ifrc.org

In Kuala Lumpur:

Patrick Fuller, communications manager, IFRC Asia Pacific office
Mobile : +60 122 308 451 Email : patrick.fuller@ifrc.org

In Geneva:

Matthew Cochrane, Manager, Media and Advocacy/Spokesperson, IFRC
Mobile: +41 79 251 80 39 Email: matthew.cochrane@ifrc.org

Myanmar: Myanmar’s ‘Rohingya issue’ is a regional refugee crisis - ASEAN must intervene

20 March 2017 - 12:21am
Source: The Conversation Country: Bangladesh, Myanmar

Author: DB Subedi
Sessional Lecturer, University of New England

Myanmar’s 'Rohingya issue' is a regional refugee crisis – ASEAN must intervene

DB Subedi, University of New England

In June 2012, communal riots between Myanmar’s Rohingya Muslims and Rakhine Buddhists first erupted in the state of Rakhine. After the subsequent government crackdown and “persecution” of the area’s Rohingya, state-sponsored violence induced forced displacements of this Muslim minority. The Conversation

What followed has become what we know today as Myanmar’s “Rohingya issue”.

Nearly five years later, this issue is now a full-blown humanitarian crisis and it’s time for the Association of South-East Asian nations (ASEAN) to present a regional response.

By the end of October 2016, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees had registered some 55,000 Rohingyas in Malaysia, most of whom had fled by boat. Some 33,000 Rohingyas are living in refugee camps in Kutupalong and Nayapara in Bangladesh, while another 300,000 to 500,000 unregistered refugees are estimated to have settled elsewhere in the country. Rohingya refugees have also been temporarily situated in Thailand, Indonesia and India.

Thousands of others have kept roaming and, in 2014 and 2015, they spent up to a month in overcrowded ships on the seas off the coast of Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand.

This massive refugee crisis has raised security concerns in the ASEAN region and drawn global attention partly because so many Rohingyas are falling victim to organised human trafficking rings.

The Rohingya issue has thus become a local problem with regional consequences. Resolving this problem in the long term will require local solutions, but, in the meantime, preventing further Rohingya subjugation should be a major human rights concern for ASEAN member states and the international community.

Local problem, regional consequences

Refugee management in the ASEAN region is always contentious because refugees are seen as non-traditional security threats, and many countries lack effective refugee protection instruments and mechanisms. Apart from the Philippines, Timor Leste and Cambodia, no other ASEAN members have signed the Geneva Convention of Refugees and its protocols.

In Myanmar, even the term Rohingya is highly contested. To the government, they are illegal Bangladeshi migrants, prohibited from acquiring Myanmar citizenship or nationality under the 1882 Burma Citizenship Law. Even though the Rohingyas have been living in Myanmar since before it became independent from the British.

The Rohingyas are minority Muslim groups in Buddhist-majority Myanmar. Of the country’s total population of 51 million, only about 1.2 million are Rohingyas. But in the country’s northern Rakhine state, where most Rohingyas live in townships, they are more numerous than Buddhists.

Violence at the hands of Myanmar’s security forces has begun to radicalise some sectors of this population. And there are reportedly emerging links between the Rohingya insurgent group (the HaY) and extremist outfits in the Middle East. This should be a concern for all ASEAN countries. However, emerging radicalisation should not be used as an explanation to justify state-sponsored violence and undermined peaceful solutions to the humanitarian crisis.

Dilemma of local solutions

Local solutions to Myanmar’s Rohingya issue can come in different forms. First and foremost, state-sponsored violence must end, accompanied by respect for human rights. For starters, aid agencies should be allowed to get aid to the Rohingyas (aid agencies’ access to northern Rakhine state has long been denied).

Inclusive dialogue and the promotion of mutual respect and cooperation would also help address the problem. But lasting solutions to the problem will be impossible without addressing prevailing structural violence.

Because the Rohingyas are not officially considered as citizens, they are deprived of basic services such as public health, education and jobs. Only policy reforms that review and recognise the citizenship of the Rohingyas and provide them with social justice will resolve this sociopolitical problem in the long term.

That seems unlikely to happen any time soon. In December 2016, Myanmar’s government appointed a commission to investigate the violence that erupted in Rakhine state in October 2016. The commission evidently found no evidence of genocide and religious persecution of the Rohingyas there, in sharp contrast with other reports.

Support from the Burmese military will also be a key. Ever since the country’s recent democratic transition, the military holds great power in the country, with 25% of the seats in the national and state parliaments reserved for unelected military representatives. The three most powerful ministries – Defence, Home Affairs and Border Affairs – can only be headed by serving military officers, according to the 2008 constitution.

This means the role and influence of the military in resolving the Rohingya crisis is decisive. But, for now at least, Burmese security forces, which are directly involved in containing the political violence in the Rakhine state, seem to prefer using force over a political solution. This strategy reflects the collective failure of hardline security policies for resolving the crisis.

How ASEAN can help

The ASEAN region, of which Myanmar has been a member since 1997, is interconnected by common ethnic and religious identities, culture, economic exchanges and migration. This means that any form of humanitarian crisis and extremism growing in one country is a regional security threat.

But regional support for Myanmar’s refugee crisis will require the country to change its attitude and be ready to engage with ASEAN partners on an issue that the government has until now considered an internal matter.

It will also require a change in perspective in other ASEAN members, many of which see the issue as largely a national security issue, rather than a regional problem. If the Rohingyas’ plight is not recognised as a humanitarian crisis resulting from state-sponsored violence and social injustice, ASEAN members cannot approach the Myanmar government to address the rights violations it has waged against the Rohingyas.

Though the ASEAN Charter underscores respect for sovereignty and territorial integrity, and non-interference in the internal affairs of member states, the grouping has recently started to work on regional humanitarian issues, security promotion, conflict prevention and preventive diplomacy.

ASEAN nations could help the situation in Myanmar by stepping in with preventive diplomacy – action taken to prevent disputes, conflicts and violence to address a problem that has both local and regional consequences. But member countries take a conservative approach because non-intervention is a guiding principle of the 1976 ASEAN charter. And ASEAN members remain divided on whether the Rohiningya issue should be approached from a preventative diplomacy standpoint.

Some ASEAN countries, such as Malaysia and Indonesia have started breaking from the principle of non-interference to comment on the Rohingya issue. Malaysia initially took a reactive approach, criticising the crackdown on the Rohingya, though it now professes willingness to work with ASEAN members to coordinate aid in Rakhine state.

Indonesia, an ASEAN member which hosts the largest Muslim population in the world, has taken a more constructive approach. It has offered to act as a bridge between Myanmar and ASEAN. Only a limited number of member states are willing to support Myanmar, and efforts are still largely fragmented, uncoordinated and led by individual countries rather than by the ASEAN community.

The region can scarcely afford this tentative approach. To avoid a worsening refugee crisis, ASEAN members must move forward with preventive diplomacy and push the Myanmar government to stop political violence in Rakhine state while emphasising local solutions such as legal and structural reforms that might finally allow the Rohingya to call Myanmar home.

The ASEAN proposal to create a Rohingya state is a positive first step forward, but given how the crisis has unfolded and the lack of action, it remains to be seen whether there will be enough political will in the region for adequate follow through.

DB Subedi, Sessional Lecturer, University of New England

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Indonesia: ASEAN Weekly Disaster Update, 13 - 19 March 2017

19 March 2017 - 11:20pm
Source: Association of Southeast Asian Nations Country: Indonesia, Myanmar, Thailand

MYANMAR

Earthquake

5.1 M earthquake shook Taik Kyi. The earthquake has damaged about 40 buildings. 26 people were also reportedly injured.

INDONESIA

Landslide

194 houses were damaged by landslide in South Minahasa, North Sulawesi Province

Flood

Flood inundated three subdistricts in Jakarta. Nearly 3,300 people were affected.

Flood affected 430 families in Bekasi, West Java Province. 135 people were evacuated because of the incident.

271 people were also evacuated due to flood in Bandung, West Java Province.

Wind

Strong wind hit East Lampung, Lampung Province. 108 houses were reportedly damaged.

THAILAND

Storm

Summer storm has triggered thunderstorm and hails in northeast of Thailand. At least 239 houses were affected in Phetchabun, Uthai Tani and Udon Thani Provinces.

Myanmar: Statement by the Spokesperson on the interim report of the Advisory Commission on Rakhine State, Myanmar

19 March 2017 - 11:29am
Source: European Commission Country: Myanmar

Bruxelles, 18/03/2017 - 10:22 - UNIQUE ID: 170318_11

The issuance of the interim report of the Advisory Commission on Rakhine State, which was established by State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi and led by Dr Kofi Annan, is an important moment for the millions of people who live there, Myanmar, neighbouring countries and the wider international community. The subsequent statement by the Union Government concurring with the report's recommendations and promising speedy progress towards implementation is a welcome step when it comes to the Government's commitment to find viable and sustainable solutions to the complex situation in Rakhine State. The recommendations reaffirm earlier EU calls to address underlying causes, including elimination of statelessness and discrimination, providing equal access to education and health care by all communities and lifting impediments to the freedom of movement. The European Union is fully behind the recommendations of the report, which should be implemented swiftly by the Government of Myanmar. To this end, we stand ready to provide support to the Government.

Bangladesh: Bangladesh: Population movement - Emergency appeal n° MDRBD018

19 March 2017 - 6:45am
Source: International Federation of Red Cross And Red Crescent Societies Country: Bangladesh, Myanmar

This Emergency Appeal is being launched on a preliminary basis and seeks a total of 3,265,766 Swiss francs to enable the IFRC to support the Bangladesh Red Crescent Society (BDRCS) to deliver assistance and support to some 25,000 people for 9 months, with a focus on the following sectors: Health, WASH, food security, nutrition, emergency shelter, non-food items, restoring family links and disaster risk reduction. The planned response reflects the current situation and information available at this time of the evolving operation, and will be adjusted by 1 June 2017 based on further detailed assessments and further analysis.

The crisis and the Red Cross Red Crescent response to date

October-December 2016: Mass population movements influx from Rakhine State in Myanmar to Cox’s Bazar takes place

2 January 2017: Bangladesh Red Crescent Society (BDRCS) requests support from its in-country partners to scale-up activities

17 January 2017: 273,151 Swiss francs allocated from the IFRC’s Disaster Relief Emergency Fund (DREF)

25-31 January 2017: A joint Movement (BDRCS, IFRC and ICRC) assessment takes place in different areas of Cox’s Bazar District

7 February 2017: A Regional Disaster Response Teams (RDRT) member is deployed to support the DREF operation

February 2017: ICRC provides 450,000 Swiss francs towards the BDRCS response, with BDRCS also raising 30,000 Swiss francs from their local donors.

18 March 2017: IFRC launches an Emergency Appeal for 3,265,766 Swiss francs, to enable the delivery of assistance to 25,000 people.

The operational strategy Needs assessment and beneficiary selection Findings from assessments carried out between December 2016 and January 2017 and an analysis of secondary data indicate that the newly arrived population in Cox’s Bazar are extremely vulnerable. Concerns for the newly displaced persons include lack of access to food security and nutrition, basic household items,
WASH facilities, shelter, health, psychosocial support (PSS), gender and protection issues and the need for Restoring Family Links (RFL) services.

Many of the new arrivals have no access to income sources and inadequate access to the minimum levels of food for survival. As a result, many are adopting negative coping strategies which are affecting the new arrivals along with the wider host and other communities. Diarrhoea, skin diseases, pneumonia, fever, respiratory tract infections and water borne diseases are commonly reported. The available health services are unable to cope with the increasing case load.

The new influx group is also at risk of communicable diseases due to poor preventive measures and low knowledge on hygiene practices. Inadequate sanitation facilities are compelling open defecation, creating concerns for the contamination of water sources. At present, one community/shared latrine is used by at least 185 households. These latrines are not protected and are structurally unsound, which is leading to privacy and security concerns.

Menstrual hygiene management is another key aspect which needs to be addressed. Hygiene promotion activities and distribution of menstruation management materials among women and girls of menstruating age will be considered.

There are considerable psychosocial needs among the new arrivals, including those related to gender-related risks, including gender-based violence, and inadequate access to information for females due to low rates of literacy. Gendered roles also impact on access to nutrition and, due to low numbers of female health staff, there are barriers to females accessing basic services due to cultural issues around visiting male service providers.

Many of the new arrivals are children, who face risks to their safety and dignity, including exposure to violence and inadequate access to food and water. Those risks are even higher for unaccompanied children.

Although safe drinking water sources are available, they are insufficient to meet the minimum needs for drinking, cooking and basic hygiene practices. One shallow hand pump is being used by at least 200 households, whereby each household is only receiving an average 17 litres of water. There are also long queues of one hour in the morning and evening to use the hand pump. In some cases, the water quality is found to be not suitable for drinking due to poor water management and storage.

The newly arrived population is seeking shelter in often poor and fragile structures, which are unable to offer privacy, security or protection from weather. This is compounded with limited access to construction and shelter materials and toolkits – often to limit the establishment of permanent settlements. The cutting of hill tops for settlements also increases the risk of soil erosion and landslides around the area. The use of forest trees, shrubs and herbs as fuel for cooking further affects the ecosystem in the area. Therefore, there will be a need to advocate for temporary shelter assistance and measures for environmental protection. The new influx of population is also living with inadequate essential household items to meet the minimum needs of a family.

Some of the identified basic household needs include blankets, kitchen sets, mosquito nets, jerry cans, mats, fire boxes, clothes – sarees, lungies and baby clothes – towels, buckets with lids and cooking stoves with fuel.

There is a need to scale up community engagement activities within host communities and the influx population, including the provision of information on the registration process and mobility options. This could include mapping out BDRCS and other stakeholders’ services, enhancing their visibility and access to the targeted persons. Health and hygiene promotion messaging can be delivered through posters, brochures, and audio recorded information programmes through radio or loud speakers to be played in strategic locations.

In view of the context, BDRCS has come up with an overall response strategy to address the humanitarian needs of affected people. Based on the assessment findings, the National Society developed an initial overall plan of action (PoA) for one year, with a budget of CHF 5 million. This Emergency Appeal focuses on nine months of that plan, thus a budget of CHF 3.26 million.

Myanmar: QRCS Mobile Clinics Treat 2,389 Patients in Myanmar [EN/AR]

18 March 2017 - 5:20am
Source: Qatar Red Crescent Society Country: Myanmar

March 18th, 2017 ― Doha: Qatar Red Crescent (QRCS) is going on with its humanitarian intervention in Myanmar, with a series of health projects for 5,000 families (25,000 people), at a total cost of $485,513.
As a transition from relief to development, the program involves rehabilitation of health infrastructure, provision of medical care through mobile clinics, and capacity building for local medics.
These projects are coordinated with Myanmar Red Cross Society (MRC) and the Health Department in Rakhine State.
QRCS's mobile clinic teams regularly provide primary health care for the beneficiaries in 14 villages and one internally displaced people (IDP) camp.
According to the monthly reports, 2,389 patients were treated, including 1,905 adults and 484 children.
The treated cases included antenatal care, mild diarrhea, dysentery, common cold, chest infection, skin infection, eye infection, trauma /injury, asthma, hypertension, diabetes, gastritis, urinary tract, O&G, and musculoskeletal problems. Confirmed malaria and dengue hemorrhagic fever were found.
Mobile clinic teams participated in the routine immunization program of the State Health Department in two villages and one camp, because the immunization coverage in these areas is low.
To contribute to the promotion of IDP/villager health access, mobile clinic teams also deliver emergency and specialist referral of patients in villages/camp to higher medical services.
Last month, 18 patients received referral for emergency/special care. After discharged from hospital, the teams follow up with the patients as needed.
The Tender Evaluation Committee selected two contractors from among 11 bidders for the tender of village clinic construction. The highest transparency standards were ensured.
QRCS's officials meet regularly with the campers and villagers and inspect the mobile clinic team activities and services.
A third project is the training of community health workers (CHW) and exchange of experience. The programs will adopt the curriculum used by the State Health Department with minor adjustments to be in line with the specific needs of the project.

World: Global Migration Data Analysis Centre: Data briefing series: Issue No. 8, March 2017 - Migrant deaths and disappearances worldwide: 2016 analysis

17 March 2017 - 3:37pm
Source: International Organization for Migration Country: Afghanistan, Algeria, Bangladesh, Colombia, Congo, Côte d'Ivoire, Croatia, Cuba, El Salvador, Eritrea, France, Gambia, Greece, Guatemala, Guinea, Honduras, Hungary, Iran (Islamic Republic of), Iraq, Italy, Mali, Mexico, Morocco, Myanmar, Nigeria, occupied Palestinian territory, Pakistan, Senegal, Serbia, Slovenia, Somalia, Sudan, Syrian Arab Republic, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, World, Yemen

Germany - A new data briefing produced by IOM’s Global Migration Data Analysis Centre (GMDAC) highlights a 27 percent increase in migrant deaths worldwide during 2016 compared to 2015. The number of migrant deaths and disappearances recorded by IOM increased significantly in many regions of the world, including the Mediterranean, the Middle East, North Africa, and Latin America.

Issue 8 of IOM’s GMDAC data briefing series, titled “Migrant Deaths and Disappearances Worldwide: 2016 Analysis”, provides an in-depth look at the recorded data on migrant deaths and disappearances throughout 2016. Key figures for regions in which migrant deaths have been recorded – namely, the Mediterranean Sea, Europe, North Africa, the Middle East, Southeast Asia, and the Americas – are explored.

“In 2016, IOM documented the deaths of 7,763 migrants worldwide,” said GMDAC Director Frank Laczko. “This represents an increase of 27 percent compared to 2015, and of 47 percent compared to 2014.”

Data collected by IOM’s Missing Migrants Project show that more than 5,085 migrants died in the Mediterranean in 2016 – a 34 percent increase compared to the 3,784 recorded 2015. This increase in deaths occurred despite increased search and rescue efforts compared with the previous year.

The increase of fatalities along the Central Mediterranean route is striking. In 2016, the number of deaths in the Central Mediterranean was the highest number recorded by IOM since 2014. The number of migrant deaths in the Mediterranean is higher than any year since at least 2000. The average number of deaths per incident in the Central Mediterranean almost doubled last year, from an average of 12 deaths per incident in 2015 to 33 deaths per incident in 2016.

The briefing also discusses the increase in the number of migrant deaths recorded in Africa. At least 1,280 migrant deaths were recorded in North Africa in 2016, nearly double the 672 deaths recorded in the region in 2015. Though this increase may be indicative of improved data collection efforts in the region, data compiled by Missing Migrants Project indicate that migration routes through southern Libya, in eastern Sudan and southern Egypt are highly risky for migrants.

The number of migrant deaths recorded in the Americas, including the Caribbean, also increased significantly in 2016. IOM´s Missing Migrants project recorded 707 deaths in the Latin America and the Caribbean in 2016, an increase of 43 percent over the 493 recorded in 2015.

The increase in migrant deaths and disappearances across many regions of the world, as highlighted by the data discussed in the briefing, indicate that migration became less – not more – safe.

For further information please contact: Julia Black at IOM GMDAC, Tel: +49 30 278 778 27, Email: jblack@iom.int

Myanmar: Myanmar: Complex Emergency - DREF n° MDRMM008 Operation update n° 1

17 March 2017 - 2:37pm
Source: International Federation of Red Cross And Red Crescent Societies Country: Myanmar

A. Situation analysis

Description of the crisis

The humanitarian situation in the northern areas of Rakhine State, Myanmar, has deteriorated in recent months following an upsurge of violence. The new wave of violence has led to mass displacement and population movement.

However, until a comprehensive assessment is completed, the total number of people who remain displaced within cannot be determined independently. The northern parts of the three townships of Buthidaung, Maungdaw and Rathedaung – where an estimated 95 percent of the population comprises of Muslim communities – are most affected. UN OCHA has reported that available information at present indicates that an estimated 94,000 people fled their homes to either other parts of northern Rakhine or across the border into Bangladesh.

The new wave of violence followed by attacks by armed militants on three border guard police posts in Maungdaw and Rathedaung townships near the north-western border with Bangladesh has been reported in the early hours of 9 October 2016. Per the authorities, nine police and eight attackers were killed in the attacks which triggered a security response from the authorities. Several further clashes occurred in November 2016. As part of the security response, access to some areas, including by humanitarian organizations, has since been denied. Cases of civilian casualties, violence against civilians, civilian arrests and destruction of property have been reported, although they have not been independently verified due to restricted access and limited first-hand information.

It is important to note that the recent events have taken place against a backdrop of decades of protracted tension and violence between Rakhine and Muslim communities in the state. Prior to the October 2016 events, violence had flared up in other parts of Rakhine State in 2012, affecting at least 145,000 people from both Rakhine and Muslim communities, many of whom were left dependent on humanitarian assistance. Since 2014, and until the October events, the situation was relatively stable even though significant humanitarian needs persisted.

The recent events caused widespread fear in both Rakhine and Muslim communities. Some 3,000 Buddhist Rakhine villagers fled to towns. However, UN OCHA has reported that most of the ethnic Rakhine and Mro people who were displaced have returned to their villages, although around 272 Rakhine and Mro people remain displaced in Maungdaw and Buthidaung.

According to UN OCHA, access to 81 village tracts in Buthidaung and Maungdaw, including 17 village tracts in the northern part of Maungdaw, was granted briefly in mid-December 2016 before it was again suspended with immediate effect a few days later. In the most recent update, it is mentioned that five months since the new wave of violence started, there has been an incremental resumption of some services provided by UN agencies and humanitarian organizations in northern areas of Rakhine State although protection activities remain suspended in Maungdaw north and the operating environment remains challenging. Access is being granted for national staff only. These limitations are significantly affecting the quantity, quality and sustainability humanitarian assistance and other services.

The ICRC was provisionally given the greenlight to access the area of the ongoing clearance operations in the northern parts of Maungdaw since mid-November, but authorities continued to invoke security concerns to postpone actual access. The Movement has thus far not yet been able to carry out assessments or to provide assistance to the affected population outside Maungdaw and Buthidaung townships.

Myanmar: Burma is Still on the Rocky Road to Democracy

17 March 2017 - 2:01pm
Source: US Institute of Peace Country: Myanmar

Nancy Lindborg

When the iconic democracy champion Aung San Suu Kyi won her historic, landslide election in Burma (Myanmar), she was met by soaring expectations, as well as by the formidable challenges of violent conflicts, a stuttering economy and the significant constraints of sharing authority with a still-powerful military.

Not surprisingly, she has fallen short.

Since taking office just over a year ago, she has been navigating a thorny and complex landscape with great caution. Many say too cautiously, but getting that balance right will be critical for a successful and peaceful transition.

In Burma, "we are still marching toward the doors of democracy, but we are not a democracy yet," the chief minister of the Mandalay Region, Zaw Myint Maung, told me. The danger that Burma still can slide back from its incomplete transition is dramatized by the continued conflict in Rakhine state, violence in the northeastern states of Kachin and Shan and the muted but still present voice of ultra-nationalist Buddhist monks.

In a recent visit I made to Burma, civil society, political and faith leaders, and members of armed ethnic groups, emphasized to our delegation that Aung San Suu Kyi needs to listen, engage and speak out more. People are hungry to hear her voice and better understand her vision for the country. Despite disappointments, she remains the singular figure who has the ability to mobilize and inspire her people.

After decades of clashes between the military regime and 21 major ethnic armed groups, the previous government began a peace process that showed promise. In 2015, that effort led to eight armed groups signing a Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement.

But since then, authorities have made too little progress in fulfilling the accord's commitments to those groups. That, and ongoing clashes in the northeast that are displacing tens of thousands of people, undermines the incentive for the remaining armed groups to sign on.

A greater personal engagement by Aung San Suu Kyi appears vital to revive and expand that peace process — a point underscored by a successful meeting she held on March 3 with members of armed groups that have not joined the cease-fire.

A powerful next step would be for Aung San Suu Kyi to visit areas suffering some of the greatest violence, notably in Kachin and Shan states, because ultimately her government must win over the people of these states — not just their armed leaders.

The steepest challenge may be the deep-seated conflict in Rakhine, Burma's poorest, least-developed state, which borders Bangladesh.

There, the Rohingya Muslim minority and the Buddhist Rakhine community, itself a marginalized minority, have clashed over land, resources and the Rohingyas' rights to be considered Burmese citizens. Since intercommunal fighting in 2012, the Rohingya have lived in a terrible limbo of displacement and fear of more reprisals.

After attacks on Rakhine border guards in October 2016 attributed to Rohingya insurgents, Burmese military conducted operations that have led to reports, including from U.N. agencies, that security forces used ethnic persecution and brutality against the Rohingya. The military contests that charge, and Aung San Suu Kyi has maintained silence.

There seems little chance for resolution without the transparency of an international investigation. Aung San Su Kyi had been taking commendable steps to address this conflict. Well before the October incident, she appointed former U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan to head a commission to study and recommend next steps.

But absent a credible independent inquiry, Aung San Suu Kyi, the army and Burma as a whole will bear the stain of these charges.

In the complex, historically rooted puzzle of Burma's conflicts, it is clear that Aung San Suu Kyi in recent months has missed important opportunities. She risks losing confidence both among the euphoric Burmese electorate of 2015 and a supportive international community. As we heard repeatedly in our visit, only Aung San Suu Kyi has the stature to mobilize and inspire the peace-making her country needs. Yet she cannot wield direct authority over Burma's military.

For decades, the story of Burma came in simple, compelling headlines: the lady vs. the junta; oppressed ethnic minorities vs. the junta; saffron-robed Buddhist monks vs. the junta. We are now pressed to replace these simple, compelling stories with the more nuanced, complex understanding of the transitional journey underway. Burma's task will require a massive transformation of the country’s political, security and economic systems — work that will take years, if not a generation.

Our recent visit to Burma underscores the importance of consistent U.S. support for sustaining Aung San Suu Kyi and the other reformers — civilians and military — working for reconciliation and better governance. One virtue of America's recent diplomatic and development effort in Burma has been that it has been unusually well-coordinated, which is essential to sustain.

There is good news, though. Burma's reformers remain determined. Grassroots movements are promoting interfaith reconciliation and opposing hate speech that attempts to incite violence.

And Aung San Suu Kyi’s leadership still offers the United States an important opportunity to consolidate the gains to date and support a peaceful transition toward democracy, albeit a long and complicated one.

This piece was revised on Thursday, March 16, 2017 at 10 a.m.

Nancy Lindborg is president of the U.S. Institute of Peace. This piece was originally published on The Hill

Myanmar: Children among hundreds of Rohingya detained in Myanmar crackdown

17 March 2017 - 10:45am
Source: Reuters - Thomson Reuters Foundation Country: Myanmar

Children as young as 10 years old are among hundreds of Rohingya Muslims detained on charges of consorting with insurgents

  • Previously unreported document details charges against 423 men and boys

  • All detainees charged under colonial "Unlawful Associations" law

  • Police say 13 minors - the youngest only 10 - are accused

  • Two special courts set up to deal with Rohingya detainees

  • Map showing where detainees are from: http://tmsnrt.rs/2mrugDe

By Wa Lone, Simon Lewis and Krishna N. Das

SITTWE, Myanmar/COX'S BAZAR, Bangladesh, March 17 (Reuters) - Children as young as 10 years old are among hundreds of Rohingya Muslims detained on charges of consorting with insurgents, according to a police document seen by Reuters that sheds new light on Myanmar's security campaign in the country's northwest.

Read more on the Thomson Reuters Foundation