Myanmar - ReliefWeb News
Three border posts along the Myanmar–Bangladesh border were attacked on 9 October.
Nine police officers were killed, as well as eight attackers. It remains unclear who the assailants are, but reports indicate that at least 90 people were behind the seemingly well-coordinated operation. In a response, the Myanmar Army has deployed more troops into the northern Rakhine area, comprised of Maungdaw, Buthidaung, and Rathedaung townships, and has conducted a security operation. At least 26 people have since been killed in raids and skirmishes. A state of emergency has been declared.
Anticipated scope and scale
At least 26 people have been killed by the Myanmar Army in northern Rakhine. Some are accusing the Rohingya of having perpetrated the border post attacks, and there are concerns that the Myanmar Army will focus its operations on the Rohingya, and that tensions between majority Buddhist population and minority Rohingya may again descend into violence.
In 2012, at least 100 people, mainly Rohingya, were killed when intercommunal tensions escalated.
Priorities for humanitarian intervention
Protection: The state of emergency and curfew limit the population’s mobility. Raids have reportedly killed 26 people.
Livelihoods: Restrictions on the freedom of movement, and the closure of shops and markets, make it difficult for the population of northern Rakhine to pursue livelihood opportunities.
Education: Over 400 schools in northern Rakhine have been ordered to close on 10 October.
Access into northern Rakhine has reportedly been restricted. In order to conduct raids, the military has reportedly closed roads and waterways. The border with Bangladesh has also been closed.
Myanmar: UN Humanitarian Chief calls for strengthened humanitarian action to support the people of Myanmar [EN/MY]
(Yangon, 14 October 2016) - Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, Stephen O’Brien, concluded his three-day mission to Myanmar today. His trip took place shortly after the outbreak of violence in the northern part of Rakhine State and at a time of escalating armed clashes in Kachin. He expressed deep concern regarding recent developments and called for all sides to find peaceful ways to resolve differences rather than choosing the path of violence. He also called on all parties to uphold their responsibilities to protect people affected by violence and conflict and to ensure humanitarian access to people in need.
In meetings with State Counsellor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and other Government officials, the Emergency Relief Coordinator welcomed Myanmar’s recent transition to democracy and the progress that has been made by the Government, local communities, and national organizations in preparing for and responding to natural disasters. He acknowledged the tremendous work that lies ahead to continue to make progress on a number of critical fronts, including addressing humanitarian issues in the country. Mr. O’Brien stated that “humanitarian need is our only measure and impartial aid our only goal.” He stressed that the United Nations is a key partner to the Government and that it stands ready to provide the required support to enable the Government to meet the needs of its people.
In Kachin and Shan States, almost 100,000 people remain displaced due to armed conflict and are unable to return home because of continued fighting and the deadly threat posed by landmines. Mr. O’Brien welcomed the Government’s support in facilitating his travel to conflict-affected areas on both sides of the conflict line. He expressed concern that humanitarian aid to some areas had recently been blocked and urged local authorities to drop their demand for displaced people in some areas to cross an active conflict line in order to receive humanitarian assistance. He stressed that many of those currently receiving humanitarian assistance are women and children, elderly, sick or disabled people. “It was very important for me to visit people on both sides of the conflict line, to see first-hand the impact of the conflict on vulnerable communities. I spoke with people who fled violence more than five years ago and who are simply waiting for the guns to go silent before they can go home,” said Mr. O’Brien.
Mr. O’Brien also travelled to Sittwe in Rakhine State where he visited displaced Muslims in camps as well as a recently resettled Rakhine community, all of whom were affected by inter-communal violence in 2012. He saw the level of poverty that the people of Rakhine endure and witnessed the dire living conditions and hardships endured by Muslim communities who are still denied freedom of movement. He also met with some distressed Rakhine women who had only just arrived in Sittwe after fleeing the recent violence in northern Rakhine.
“The recent violence in Rakhine State is deeply troubling and the immediate priority must be to prevent further violence and to ensure the protection of all civilians. The situation is affecting all communities in Rakhine and has further disrupted the provision of health, education, and other essential services for some of the most vulnerable, particularly the Muslim communities who are not allowed to move freely.”
“When I was in Rakhine State, I talked to people about their suffering and their inadequate access to essential services including health and education. All people in Rakhine State, irrespective of their ethnicity, religion or citizenship status, must have safe access to their nearest hospital or medical centre, to regular schools and to livelihoods.”
Around 120,000 people, most of whom are Muslims who call themselves Rohingya, are still living in displacement camps, four years after the outbreak of inter-communal violence in Rakhine State.
“Freedom of movement is clearly what is needed most. Without this, people are going to remain dependent on humanitarian aid. But for this to happen, more work needs to be done to build trust between the communities. We must work with the Government on practical ways of achieving this, in line with Aung San Suu Kyi’s stated commitment of bringing peace to the whole country. That is her priority and it’s the priority of all those I spoke with during my visit. It is our priority too.”
The Myanmar Humanitarian Response Plan for 2016 is 55 per cent funded (US$104 million), leaving a gap of $86 million. More funding is urgently required to scale-up the humanitarian response across the country, particularly in education and health.
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A l'occasion de la Journée internationale de prévention des catastrophes célébrée chaque année le 13 octobre, le Secrétariat de la Stratégie internationale de prévention des catastrophes des Nations Unies (UNISDR) a présenté mercredi, à Genève, un nouveau rapport sur l'impact des catastrophes naturelles dans le monde. Le document est alarmiste en raison du nombre de victimes de plus en plus importantes constatées depuis 1995, principalement dans les pays en développement, lesquels ne disposent pas de moyens suffisants, explique le Secrétariat, pour répondre à ces catastrophes.
En matière de catastrophes, les principaux pays concernés sont, l'Indonésie (180.000 victimes), Myanmar (139.000) mais surtout Haïti, qui au cours de ces deux dernières décennies est devenu un véritable cas d'école. En effet, durant cette période, 229 699 personnes sont mortes lors de catastrophes naturelles dans cet État de l'île d'Hispaniola. Ce bilan, proportionnellement à la population haïtienne, constitue le plus grand pourcentage de victimes, tous pays confondus. Or, ce décompte macabre est appelé à s'aggraver davantage, depuis le passage de l'ouragan “Matthew” à la fin de la semaine dernière, si des mesures efficaces ne sont pas adoptées dans l'urgence par les autorités locales. Au total, en 20 ans, les catastrophes naturelles ont fait environ 1,35 million de victimes. D'après l'UNISDR, le réchauffement climatique, qui s'accroit d'année en année malgré les efforts entrepris pour réduire la production de gaz à effet de serre, risque encore de faire des milliers d'autres victimes. En effet, les vagues de chaleurs sont désormais légion, notamment dans des pays comme la France, l'Espagne, l'Italie et la Russie, avec à chaque fois un cortège de victimes de plus en plus élevé. Enfin, environ 7000 catastrophes naturelles ont été enregistrées par l'UNISDR au cours des vingt dernières années. Parmi les catastrophes relevées, outre celles dues au climat, figurent les tremblements de terre et les tsunamis, notamment dans un pays comme le Japon.
(Interview : Debarati Guha-Sapir, Directrice du Centre de recherche sur l’épidémiologie des désastres, Université de Louvain, Belgique; propos recueillis par Wissam El Bouzdaini)
Myanmar: Myanmar: Dooplaya Field Report - Military conflict, violent abuse, and destruction caused by development projects, January to December 2015
This Field Report describes events which occurred in Dooplaya District, southeast Burma/Myanmar, between January and December 2015. It includes information submitted by KHRG community members on a range of human rights violations and other issues important to the local community including ceasefire concerns, the military situation, rape, violent abuse and killing cases, development projects, land confiscation, health and education, natural resource extraction and land mines.
The military situation in Dooplaya District is ongoing following the preliminary ceasefire. Based on one report, military target practice conducted by Tatmadaw in Win Yin (Win Yay) Township affected local civilian’s rubber plantations, as well as their livelihoods.
Over one thousand villagers from five different villages in Kawkareik Township fled their homes and sought shelter at monasteries because of the outbreak of fighting on the Asian Highway between DKBA and Tatmadaw. Local schools in these villages were consequently affected, and were forced to close temporarily due to fears for the safety of the students.
Four sensitive incidents such as rape, violent threats, violent abuse and killing occurred in Kawkariek and Kyainseikgyi townships, committed by ethnic armed groups and neighbouring villagers. Two women were raped, one of whom became pregnant, and the other woman was physically harmed as a consequence of the rape. One villager was arrested and violently abused by a Karen ethnic armed group and one villager was killed by neighbouring villagers who accused him of practicing black magic.
Regarding development projects, Burma/Myanmar government, private companies, and wealthy individuals implemented infrastructure, particularly roads and bridges, in Win Yin, Kyainseikgyi, Kyonedoe and Kawkareik townships. A regional project for the Asian Highway was implemented in Kawkareik Township in 2014 and completed in 2015. It crossed through 17 villages and destroyed villagers’ plantations, paddy fields, shops and houses along the route. Only a few local residents were consulted by project developers in advance; the remaining residents were neither consulted nor compensated for the destruction and loss of their land.
By Mariana Palavra
Rakhine State in western Myanmar has seen years of ethnic tensions, causing death, displacement and loss of livelihoods. UNICEF and the NGO Community and Family Services International (CFSI) are working together to make sure that children and adolescents are shielded from the effects of inter-communal conflict, discrimination and poverty.
MAUNGDAW, Rakhine State, Myanmar, 12 October 2016 – When Saw Myat Thu was 20 years old, she discovered a new passion. Done with school and eager to help her family, she took a job as an assistant teacher at an Early Childhood Development (ECD) centre in Maungdaw, Myanmar. To her surprise, she loved it.
“I used to read poems to children, sing songs, help them draw and paint, tell them stories, teach them how to wash hands and brush teeth,” she recalls. “I loved taking care of children. It was a great environment and I was happy.”
The ECD centre was run by the NGO Community and Family Services International (CFSI), and was located in Rakhine State – an area that has seen years of ethnic tensions. Saw Myat Thu taught at the centre twice – first with Buddhist children, and then with a mixed class attended by Buddhists, Muslims and Hindus. But to the children, she says, there were no differences.
“It was a similar environment, it was the same dynamic. They are all children playing together with no fighting.”
Now, two years after her first class, Saw Myat Thu will soon work with children again. She was one of the first assistant facilitators recruited to work in one of the Child Friendly Spaces (CFS) formed by CFSI, a project supported by UNICEF with financial assistance from the European Commission - Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection (ECHO).
She and the other facilitators received specialized training, which included life skills, HIV prevention, risks faced by adolescents, and training of trainers to help build capacity in the community.
“The religion of the communities I am working with doesn’t make any difference to me. Whatever group I am given, I will be happy,” she says.Strong partnership
The CFS project is part of a larger ECHO-funded programme carried out by UNICEF and CFSI. The organizations are working together to strengthen child protection in three townships in the northern part of Rakhine State: Maungdaw, Buthidaung and Rathedaung. With the overall goal of preventing the abuse, exploitation and neglect of all children living in these townships, the programme will establish strong community-based child protection mechanisms and public awareness.
“The main child protection concerns in northern part of Rakhine stem from poverty, discrimination and inter-communal conflict,” says Aaron Greenberg, Child Protection Chief at UNICEF Myanmar. The area is also prone to natural disasters, such as the 2015 Cyclone Komen that affected 15 per cent of the total population in these three townships.
“Children still feel the effects of inter-communal tensions and dedicated support is still very much needed,” Mr. Greenberg adds. Adolescents, too, have limited access to youth services, which can lead to child marriage, child labour, risky migration and conflict with the law.
The UNICEF-CFSI programme will work closely with communities, including women leaders, to identify protection concerns and implement appropriate responses. The programme also provides case management services to child survivors of abuse, exploitation and neglect. Another key part of the programme is establishing safe spaces, like the one where Saw Myat Thu will work. These spaces provide physical, psychosocial, and cognitive protection to children while teaching essential life skills.
The activities will be inclusive of the affected populations across the community divides, and will focus particularly on the vulnerable – those girls and boys affected by conflict, the floods, migration and trafficking. More than 140,000 people will directly or indirectly benefit from the year-long project.Community forum
One of the ways the programme is working with communities is through child protection forums. These platforms encourage participants to identify the most significant child protection issues affecting their community, particularly the impact of inter-communal violence, child trafficking, sexual abuse, parental neglect and vulnerability to migration.
Ebrahim is a volunteer teacher in a post-primary school in Phar Wet Chaung village. Since he was a member of the child protection group from his community, he was chosen to participate in the village’s forum. He is one of 15 participants, including community and religious leaders, youth, children and single mothers.
“As a teacher, I am in a privileged position as I can make a difference by identifying child protection issues and trying to find solutions, together with other community members,” Ebrahim says.
According to the village leaders, since these child protection mechanisms started to be implemented, a few things have already changed in some communities, namely an increase in the participation of children and a decrease in cases of corporal punishment.Living in peace
Despite the challenges, both Ebrahim and Saw Myat Thu believe in a brighter future for their community.
Saw Myat Thu recently learned that she will be placed in a mixed Child Friendly Space for adolescents from different religious backgrounds. She is ready for the new challenge.
“Children between 3 and 5 don’t look at each other differently, but adolescents may be already influenced by society,” she says. “So, we need to focus more on peace messages so that adolescents can contribute to peacebuilding.”
She adds, “Wouldn’t it be so good if we could all live in peace?”
Sittwe, Myanmar | AFP | Friday 10/14/2016 - 05:36 GMT
Terrified residents were fleeing northern Myanmar on Friday, thousands leaving on foot and others airlifted out by helicopter, as troops hunted through torched villages for those behind attacks on police that have raised fears Rakhine state could again be torn apart.
Local officials believe hundreds of people from the area, home to many from the persecuted Muslim Rohingya minority, spent months planning attacks on police posts along the Bangladesh border that sparked the crisis this week.
Dozens of people have died in an ensuing military lockdown, sparking fears of a repeat of 2012 when sectarian clashes ripped through Rakhine leaving more than 100 dead and driving tens of thousands into displacement camps.
Troops and police have repelled multiple onslaughts on a security office by 50 "violent attackers" and captured a fifth suspect, state media reported on Friday.
Meanwhile families have streamed down the roads around Maungdaw town on foot, their worldly possessions stuffed into carrier bags and plastic buckets or strapped to the front of bicycle rickshaws.
Around 180 teachers, workers and residents were also airlifted out of the region at the epicentre of the crisis, while hundreds of government staff have poured into the state capital Sittwe.
On the ground in Maungdaw, an AFP journalist reported seeing clouds of smoke billowing from a village Thursday near charred remains of two dozen bamboo houses that the military said "terrorists" had torched the previous day.
Troops have killed 26 people since deadly raids on border posts Sunday, according to state media. Nine police died that night, and four more soldiers have lost their lives in ensuing clashes.
Witnesses say troops used Sunday's attacks as an excuse for a crackdown against them, gunning down unarmed Muslim civilians in the street. The military say they have been defending themselves from armed attackers.
Most residents in northern Rakhine are Rohingya, a stateless minority branded illegal immigrants from Bangladesh by many from Myanmar's Buddhist majority.
- Killings, burnings, arbitrary arrests -
The Organisation of Islamic Cooperation issued a statement calling for calm, after receiving "disturbing reports of extra-judicial killings of Rohingya Muslims, burning of houses, and arbitrary arrests by security forces".
Rakhine state government spokesman Min Aung said the border post assailants had spent months plotting the raids, which were originally intended to hit as many as seven targets.
"There are about 200 to 300 currently in the group," he told reporters in Sittwe, declining to explain how he knew.
"According to our interrogations of those we have arrested, they initially planned to attack six or seven locations."
Authorities have given scant details of who was behind the assaults, though officials have publicly pointed the finger at Rohingya insurgents and privately blamed Bangladeshi groups across the border.
The military said late Thursday troops had captured a fifth suspect, along with a gun, ammunition and flags featuring the logo of the RSO, a Rohingya militant group founded in the 80s and long considered defunct.
The RSO vigorously denied the accusations in a message to AFP. Attempts to contact the sender went unanswered.
Videos showing armed men speaking the Rohingya language calling for jihad that have been circulating on social media -- which analysts said appeared to be genuine -- have raised concerns a new local militant group may have emerged.
The escalating unrest in Rakhine poses a major challenge for the country's new elected government, led by democracy champion Aung San Suu Kyi.
The Nobel laureate has faced international criticism for not doing more to help the Rohingya, and on Wednesday she vowed to follow the rule of law when investigating the border guard attacks.
© 1994-2016 Agence France-Presse
71.9 M required for 2016
16.7 M contributions received, representing 23% of requirements
55.2 M funding gap for the Myanmar Situation
Sri Lanka is literally baking these days.
During the first week of October, the Metrological Department reported that maximum daytime temperatures in some parts of the country were between 5 to 2C above average. They hit 38.3C in some parts of the North Central Province, a region vital for the staple rice harvest.
The prolonged dry spell has already impacted over 500,000 people, with government agencies and the military providing them with safe drinking water brought in from other areas. When those supplies are not sufficient or delayed, the affected communities can buy water from private dealers who sell safe drinking water in one-litre bottles at a price between Rs four to 10 (three to seven cents).
“It has been like this for over three months now,” said Ranjith Jayarathne, a farmer from the region.
Ironically, a little over three months back, the area was fearing floods. In early May, heavy rains brought in by Cyclone Roanu left large parts of the country inundated, caused massive landslides, and left over half million destitute and over 150 dead or missing.
It is not only Sri Lanka that is facing the acute impacts of changing weather. A study by the Asian Development Bank (ADB) found the entire South Asia region stands to lose around 1.3 percent of its collective annual GDP by 2050 even if global temperature increases are kept to 2 degrees Celsius.
After 2050, the losses are predicted to rise sharply to around 2.5 percent of GDP. If temperature increases go above 2 degrees Celsius, losses will mount to 1.8 percent of GDP by 2050 and a staggering 8.8 percent by 2100, according to the analysis.
Coping is not going to be cheap. South Asia needs around 73 billion dollars annually from now until 2100 to adapt to the negative impacts of climate change if current temperature trends continue.
In its regional update, the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) said that this year, above-average monsoon rains, coupled with a succession of typhoons and tropical storms from June to early August, have caused severe localized floods in several countries in the subregion, resulting in the loss of hundreds of lives, displacement of millions of people and much damage to agriculture and infrastructure.
Losses of livestock, stored food and other belongings have also been reported. Affected countries include Bangladesh, Bhutan, China, India, Myanmar, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka.
If current climate patterns continue, like Sri Lanka, Bangladesh will face severe fallout. The ADB study said Bangladesh is likely to suffer an annual economic loss from climate risks of about 2 percent of GDP by 2050. That is expected to balloon to 8.8 percent by 2100.
Annual rice production could fall by 23 percent by 2080 in a country where agriculture employs half of the labour force of around 60 million. Dhaka could see 14 percent of its territory underwater in case of a one-metre sea level rise, while the South Eastern Khulna region and the delicate eco-system of the coastal Sundarbans could fare far worse, the report said.
Bangladesh’s other South Asian neighbours also face mounting risks, according to ADB assessments.
Nepal could lose as much as 10 percent of GDP by 2100 due to melting glaciers and other climate extremes, while in neighbouring India, crop yields could decline 14.5 percent by 2050, the bank said.
India’s 8,000 kilometre-long coastline also faces serious economic risk due to rising sea level, it said. Currently 85 percent of total water demand for agriculture is met through irrigation, and that need is likely to rise with temperature increases, even as India’s groundwater threatens to run short.
Sri Lanka has already seen its rice and other harvests fluctuate in recent years due to changing monsoon patterns. ADB data warns that yields in the vital tea sector could halve by 2080.
Death and mayhem could be the most visible impact of changing climates, but according to experts, extreme weather events have also caused major disruptions in the island’s agriculture and food sectors.
According to the World Food Programme (WFP) Sri Lanka’s rapid development has been scuttled by fickle weather events. Though the country has been classified as a lower middle income country since 2010, “improvements in human development, and the nutritional status of children, women and adolescents have remained stagnant. The increased frequency of natural disasters such as drought and flash floods further compounds food and nutrition insecurity.”
Nearly 4.7 million (23 percent of the population) people are undernourished, according to the State of Food Insecurity in the World 2015, and underweight and anaemia affect nearly a quarter of children and women. According to WFP’s most recent Cost of Diet Analysis, 6.8 million people (33 percent) cannot afford the minimum cost of a nutritious diet.
Experts say that despite cyclic harvest losses due to erratic weather patterns in the past decade, Sri Lanka is yet to learn from them. “People are yet to fathom the extent of extreme weather events,” Kusum Athukorala, Co-chair of the UNESCO Gender Panel on the World Water Development Report, told IPS.
Athukorala, who is an expert in community water management, said that Sri Lanka needs a national water management plan that links all relevant national stake-holders and a robust community awareness building programme.
In a classic example of lack of such national coordination, the Irrigation Department is currently reluctant to release waters kept in storage for the upcoming paddy season for domestic use in the drought-hit areas. Department officials say that they can not risk forcing a water shortage for cultivation.
Experts like Athukorala contend that if there was active coordination between national agencies dealing with water, such situations would not arise. She also stresses the need for community level water management. “The solutions have to come across the board.”
Officials in South Asia do understand the gravity of the impact but say that their governments are faced with a delicate balancing act between development and climate resilience.
“Right now, the priority is to provide food for 160 million (in Bangladesh),” said Kamal Uddin Ahmed, secretary of the Bangladesh Ministry of Forest and Environment. “We have to make sure we get our climate policies right while not slowing down growth.”
Myanmar is in rapid political and economic transition, with a triple-reform agenda focused on democratic governance and rule of law; national unity and peace via reconciliation with political parties and ethnic armed organizations; market-oriented economic adjustments, inclusive growth, bottom-up planning and decentralization; improved management of government institutions; collaboration with the international community and Myanmar’s diaspora; and removal of media censorship.
Notable advances include (i) a new Constitution, general elections, fair Parliament by-elections in 2012 and in the national general elections of November 2015; and a convening Parliament; (ii) releasing of political prisoners; (iii) legal reforms; (iv) establishing institutions to protect constitutionally guaranteed fundamental human rights;
(v) a pluralistic media; (vi) abolishing prepublication and most internet censorship;
(vii) restoration of the census; (viii) bilateral ceasefire agreements with 14 ethnic groups and a prospective nationwide ceasefire agreement; (ix) increased private sector investment, economic diversification, investments in agriculture, rural development, and high valueadded sectors; and (x) financial infrastructure reforms.
But the pace of change needs to match institutional absorptive capacity. Challenges include developing a culture of human rights and democratic governance; navigating plural legal systems; addressing issues related to federalism, constitutional reform, and the upcoming elections; appreciating diversity and addressing the aspirations of ethnic nationalities; ensuring equitable development; and reducing inequalities generated by market reform. Despite the challenges, Myanmar’s reforms provide cause for balanced optimism and are a game changer of sorts.
And despite the progress, greater investment is needed to ensure that women and girls benefit equally with men and boys from the socioeconomic reforms. This would fulfill state commitments to gender equality and women’s rights, which are also critical for sustainable human development and the sustainability of Myanmar’s reform process.
The government’s reform agenda is framed generically, with little to suggest that it addresses gender equality and women’s rights comprehensively and that it responds to gender and other interfacing inequalities. However, the National Strategic Plan for the Advancement of Women (2013–2022), based on the 12 priority areas of the Beijing Platform for Action, 1995, is an opportunity to instill a gender equality agenda.
Implementation of the Plan for the Advancement of Women can occur through interministerial collaboration and gender mainstreaming into sectoral policies, plans, and programs. Implementation can build on the progress to date, with emphasis on resolving the continuing gaps and including gender equality perspectives more robustly into the Framework for Economic and Social Reforms and the National Comprehensive Development Plan (2011-2030).
This situation analysis consolidates existing data (limited in some areas) on gender equality and women’s rights in critical areas of women’s lives, which are the basis of the National Strategic Plan for the Advancement of Women: livelihoods, participation in the economy, education, health care, violence, women’s leadership, political participation, and the peace processes. Making the best of the data challenges, this analytical profile serves to inform policy processes and implementation of the Plan for the Advancement of Women to benefit all dimensions of women’s lives.
Myanmar: Where there is police, there is persecution - Government security forces and human rights abuses in Myanmar’s northern Rakhine State
Minority groups living in Myanmar have faced profound and pervasive human rights violations for decades. This report documents widespread abuse by military and security forces in Myanmar’s Rakhine State, including detentions, extortion, beatings, raids, and restrictions on movement targeting the mostly Muslim Rohingya minority. It concludes that the Rohingya face such a systematic denial of rights that it pervades nearly every aspect of daily life.
Rakhine State, in western Myanmar, is among the country’s poorest regions, and PHR found that systematic abuse of the Rohingya – as well as of the minority Buddhist Rakhine people – is only serving to exacerbate poverty and deprivation. As part of the report, PHR’s investigators documented and mapped a network of 86 security checkpoints scattered across northern Rakhine State, where Rohingyas are routinely forced to pay bribes or face jail time and other types of brutality at the hands of security forces. Many Rohingyas told PHR that they often avoided seeking advanced medical care because of their fear of passing through checkpoints and suffering the consequent abuse and humiliation.
In addition to the system of checkpoints, PHR gathered evidence of raids and a pervasive surveillance system in Rohingya-populated areas, as well as instances of forced labor and arbitrary detention and fines. These include onerous fees that Rohingyas must pay to leave their villages, register fishing nets, fix their homes – even slaughter their own animals.
While Myanmar has made major strides toward democratization, until changes are made to the country’s Citizenship Law – which denies more than a million Rohingyas the right to a nationality – and military forces end their campaign of subjugation, there will be little hope for peace and development in northern Rakhine State and elsewhere in Myanmar.
Stateless Rohingya in Burma/Myanmar face systematic persecution that poses an existential threat to their community. Human rights violations against the Rohingya amount to crimes against humanity.
Discriminatory state policies and systematic persecution in Burma/Myanmar threaten the existence of the more than 1 million stateless Rohingya, a distinct Muslim ethnic minority group. On 20 June the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra'ad al Hussein, released a report on the human rights situation of the Rohingya in Burma/Myanmar, detailing a "pattern of gross human rights violations," including discriminatory practices targeting Rohingya on the basis of their identity. These "widespread and systematic" abuses amount to crimes against humanity.
Despite the historic 8 November 2015 democratic elections, Rohingyas were largely disenfranchised in advance of the vote and continue to be denied citizenship and other fundamental human rights. While the National League for Democracy (NLD) won the elections, it did so while excluding all Muslims as candidates. NLD leader Aung San Suu Kyi has publicly stated that the new government will not use the term "Rohingya," cautioning against "emotive" and "controversial" terms.
An estimated 120,000 people, mostly Rohingyas, remain segregated in internally displaced persons (IDP) camps as a result of 2012 inter-communal violence. After visiting Rohingya displacement camps during February 2016, the Director of Operations for the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), John Ging, described the "appalling" conditions and appealed for an end to the "discriminatory and repugnant policies" of segregation and disenfranchisement. 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. The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) reported that at least 32,600 people, mostly Rohingyas, fled Burma/Myanmar during 2015.
On 29 March 2016 the former government lifted the state of emergency in Arakan/Rakhine state, but the new government has done little to ensure access to vital humanitarian assistance or freedom of movement, with several townships remaining under curfew. 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.
On 31 March 2015 the former government invalidated the identification cards held by many Rohingyas, forcing them to apply for citizenship as "Bengalis," suggesting 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. On 21 July 2016 the government finally released census figures on ethnicity and religion, which showed that Buddhists make up 90 percent of the population of 51 million. The UN Population Fund acknowledged that the exclusion of the Rohingya represented "a serious shortcoming of the census and a grave human rights concern." The UN Special Rapporteur on the human rights situation in Myanmar, Yanghee Lee, has previously highlighted the "right of the Rohingya to self-identification according to international human rights law."
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. The laws were supported by a radical Buddhist chauvinist organization Ma Ba Tha, which has been accused of anti-Muslim and anti-Rohingya hate speech. Several government officials, including the Union Religious Affairs Minister, Thura U Aung Ko, have recently spoken out against Ma Ba Tha, threatening to sanction the group.
On 23 August the office of State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi announced the establishment of a high-level advisory commission, headed by former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, to find solutions to "the complex and delicate issues in the Rakhine state." The commission convened its first meeting on 5 September in Yangon.
The country's military forces (Tatmadaw) pose an ongoing threat to other ethnic groups in Burma/Myanmar. While the previous government signed a ceasefire agreement on 15 October with eight ethnic armed groups, conflict between the Tatmadaw and several other groups continues. Fighting between the Tatmadaw and Kachin Independence Army over the past five years has displaced nearly 100,000 civilians.
The new government held a peace conference - the 21st Century Panglong - with ethnic armed groups from 31 August to 4 September. The Panglong conference could be a significant symbolic step towards more formal negotiations between the new government and ethnic armed groups.
On 14 September Aung San Suu Kyi met with United States President Barack Obama in Washington. Following the meeting President Obama indicated that the United States would soon lift its remaining sanctions on Burma/Myanmar.
The previous government's refusal to grant the Rohingya access to citizenship or end discriminatory state policies 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.
While the NLD government inherited these discriminatory laws and anti-Rohingya policies, it has yet to demonstrate willingness to repeal them. Disenfranchisement, combined with years of persecution, exclusion and poverty, is causing Rohingyas to flee from Burma/Myanmar, despite the refusal of several countries in the region to offer asylum. The NLD government has a historic opportunity to end discriminatory policies and drastically improve the plight of the Rohingya, including by utilizing the recently established high-level advisory commission.
With a pervasive culture of impunity, the military has not been held accountable for previous mass atrocity crimes.
Despite some positive signs, the government of Burma/Myanmar is still failing to uphold its primary Responsibility to Protect with regard to the Rohingya.
INTERNATIONAL RESPONSE: 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. [For responses prior to March 2016, see GCR2P's Timeline of International Response to the Situation of the Rohingya and Anti-Muslim Violence in Burma/Myanmar.]
On 23 March the UN Human Rights Council adopted a resolution expressing serious concern over human rights violations, particularly against the Rohingya, and urged the government to repeal discriminatory legislation.
On 20 June High Commissioner Zeid urged the NLD to end systemic discrimination and ongoing human rights violations against the Rohingya and other minorities.
Special Rapporteur Lee concluded a 12-day visit to the country on 1 July, calling upon the government to "demonstrate that instigating and committing violence against an ethnic or religious minority community has no place in Myanmar."
On 7 July the European Union (EU) Parliament passed a resolution calling upon the government to abolish discriminatory policies and restore the Rohingya's citizenship.
The high-level advisory commission should investigate the systematic persecution of the Rohingya in Arakan/Rakhine state. 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. It must prohibit hate speech and hold accountable all those who commit human rights abuses, including Ma Ba Tha.
In Arakan/Rakhine state the government must facilitate the safe, voluntary return of IDPs to their communities. Neighboring countries should offer protection and assistance to Rohingya asylum seekers.
A central component of the NLD government's reform process must include constitutional reform that addresses the needs of ethnic minorities, as well as the development of an independent judiciary as a means of safeguarding human rights and tackling the culture of impunity regarding past mass atrocity crimes.
Geological hazards—including earthquakes, landslides, and volcanoes—threaten millions of people worldwide and can devastate communities in a matter of seconds by destroying homes, causing food and water shortages, and disrupting livelihoods.
Although geological hazards cannot be prevented, proper mitigation and preparedness efforts can minimize the effects of disasters by saving lives, promoting resilience, and reducing the negative economic effects of geological events.
In FY 2016, USAID’s Office of U.S. Foreign Disaster Assistance (USAID/OFDA) provided nearly $5.3 million for geological hazards activities, including geological disaster risk reduction (DRR) programs that emphasize a comprehensive approach that ranges from identifying potential hazards in advance of events to helping communities and households reduce the impact of geological disasters. USAID/OFDAsupported geological DRR activities include monitoring events such as volcanic eruptions and earthquakes, supporting early warning systems, and educating at-risk populations and community leaders on effective response procedures.
VDAP Responds to Volcanic Crises Worldwide
For the past 30 years, the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) has implemented the USAID/OFDA-funded Volcano Disaster Assistance Program (VDAP), one of the world’s only volcano crisis response teams. USAID/OFDA and USGS established VDAP following the 1985 eruption of Nevado del Ruiz Volcano in Colombia, which resulted in an estimated 23,000 deaths. Since 1986, USAID/OFDA has provided more than $33 million to support VDAP, including more than $4 million in Fiscal Year (FY) 2016. To date, VDAP teams have responded to 30 major crises and strengthened response capacity in 12 countries. VDAP scientific teams travel to volcanoes throughout the world at the request of host governments and, using volcano-monitoring equipment, work with local and national counterparts to quickly assess hazards and generate eruption forecasts.
Activity at Turrialba Volcano, located 40 miles east of Costa Rica’s capital city of San José, increased significantly in mid-May of 2016. A series of explosions sent plumes of ash and gas nearly two miles above the main crater, creating a significant hazard for air traffic into San José. In response to a request from the Government of Costa Rica, VDAP deployed two USGS scientists to support Costa Rica’s Volcanological and Seismological Observatory (OVISCORI) in late May. Working with OVISCORI, the VDAP team helped determine that there was a low risk of harm to residents of San José, suggested procedural and policy recommendations, and supported OVISCORI to use infrared and radar tools to better detect ashproducing eruptions. A VDAP team returned to Costa Rica in July to install two infrasound sensors near Turrialba. As of August 2016, VDAP continued to assist OVISCORI as it monitored activity at Turrialba. More information about VDAP is available at: http://volcanoes.usgs.gov/vdap.
Researcher and Author: Dr. Laurens J. Visser
Kachin State is Myanmar’s northernmost and second largest state after Shan State, and it is the only state to share a border with both India and China. Given the size and strategic importance of Kachin State, renewed and ongoing conflict represents the risks and consequences of violent conflict elsewhere in Myanmar.
In 2016, fighting between the Kachin Independence Army (KIA), the armed wing of the Kachin Independence Organisation (KIO), and Tatmadaw, Myanmar’s armed forces, is ongoing though sporadic, and almost 100,000 people remain in limbo within IDP camps across the state. At the same time, the Central Government continues to push for the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement (NCA) and a political dialogue with Ethnic Armed Groups (EAGs) to resolve ethnic concerns.
Fighting had resumed in 2011, despite a ceasefire that had been signed between the KIO and Central Government in 1994, after the KIO refused to agree to transition the KIA into a Border Guard Force (BGF) under the command of the Tatmadaw as part of the renewed peace process. Unlike previous confrontations, the conflict quickly escalated as the Tatmadaw used aircraft and heavy artillery to launch offensives against KIA positions. The purpose of this conflict analysis is emphasise the relationships between different dynamics of the Kachin State conflict, and to encourage intervention that is meaningful, sustainable, amplifies factors for peace, and renews relationships and trust between those involved and affected by conflict in Kachin State.
This analysis applies systems thinking to the conflict and is, importantly, based on and informed by a series of recent conversations with community leaders as representatives of communities who suffer the most from the effects of violent conflict, and have the most to gain from a successful peace process. The community leaders represent religious, civil society and political organisations in Kachin State and the conversations took place in Myitkyina, the state capital, in February 2016. In each conversation, the community leaders were asked to share their thoughts and experiences regarding the conflict, what they believe to be the greatest threat to the peace process, and what the future is for Kachin State. As a result, this analysis is a reflection of community perspectives of the conflict in Kachin State.
From these conversations, nine key driving factors of the conflict have been identified:
(1) Militarisation of Communities;
(2) Prevalence of Drugs;
(3) Self-Perception of Kachin Identity;
(4) Changing National Governance;
(5) Legitimacy of the NCA;
(6) Unity of Ethnic Armed Groups;
(7) Unequal Access and Rights to Natural Resources; (8) Displacement of People;
(9) Mobilising Ethnic Politics.
In addressing and reflecting on these key driving factors, several leverage points to help transform the conflict away from violence emerged. Each leverage point helps to inform programming in relation to the Kachin Conflict, and should be guided by three principles:
1. To build trust and relationships between and within ethnic groups at every level
2. To engage the community and build political capacity
3. To sustain meaningful outcomes from structural changes
These leverage points are as follows:
1. Engage in building political capacity in Kachin State
2. Recognise the political capacity of the KIO
3. Support community-led initiatives away from violent outcomes
4. Promote dialogue, whether at a community, state, or a national level, as a sign of progress
5. Encourage immediate resolution of the IDP situation
6. Identify opportunities for trust and relationship building between community, state, and national actors in the Kachin State conflict
7. Encourage more equitable and more inclusive investment and trade in natural resources in Kachin State.
Large coordinated attacks hit three Myanmar border police posts in the troubled Rakhine State on 9 October. In this Q&A, Crisis Group Myanmar Adviser Richard Horsey warns that it could tip simmering tensions between the beleaguered Rohingya Muslim minority and the government into wider, open conflict.
What’s New in the Rakhine State Attacks?
At least 250 assailants, and perhaps as many as 500-800, launched simultaneous early morning attacks on 9 October on three border police posts in Maungdaw and Rathedaung townships near Myanmar’s north-western border with Bangladesh, according to information released by the government. They were armed mostly with knives and slingshots, as well as about 30 firearms. Nine police officers were killed and the attackers fled with at least 50 guns and 10,000 rounds of ammunition. In subsequent days there have been further deadly clashes between this group and the security forces.
The attacks were carried out by Muslims, according to both government statements and local sources. An unverified video of the attackers, filmed in the wake of the attacks, has been circulating on social networks and seems legitimate. In it, one of the group calls on “all Rohingya around the world to prepare for jihad and join them”. This, the need for local knowledge to carry out the assaults, and the difficulty of moving large numbers of people around this area are all suggestive of local Muslim involvement – possibly organised with some outside support. However, many details of who exactly organised this and how remain unclear.
The attacks mark a major escalation of violence in Rakhine. The number of attackers and their sophisticated tactics – they used a diversionary attack to draw the defenders out of one of the posts before the main assault began – display an unprecedented level of planning in a conflict that has to date seen little sign of organised violent resistance from the oppressed Muslim population.
Who do you think was behind the attacks? Are Rohingya forces to blame?
There is clear evidence that many of the attackers were from the Rohingya community, who make up over 90 per cent of the population in this area of Rakhine State. But it is not clear how they were organised.
Rakhine’s 1.3 million Muslims, most of whom identify as Rohingya, are effectively stateless in Buddhist-majority Myanmar. Years of intercommunal tensions exploded into violence in 2012, leaving some 200 people dead and driving 150,000 into squalid camps where most still languish. There has been a sense of creeping despair among the Rohingya that nothing is going to change, although Aung San Suu Kyi, the de facto leader of Myanmar, recently announced that an advisory commission led by former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan would look at possible solutions for the stand-off in Rakhine.
The Rohingya have not had any organised armed force for many years. Some local government officials are suggesting that an armed group called the Rohingya Solidarity Organisation (RSO) is responsible, but this group is not known to have been active since the 1990s. Rakhine nationalists and state officials, and sometimes Bangladesh, have blamed this group in the past for such security incidents, usually without detailed evidence being provided.
There was a series of deadly attacks on Myanmar Border Guard Police patrols in northern Maungdaw in February and May 2014, including one on 17 May that left four officers dead. In the tense period that followed, there were firefights between Myanmar and Bangladesh border forces, including one in which a Bangladeshi soldier was killed. In mid-July 2014, a senior humanitarian official told Crisis Group that the authorities restricted humanitarian access to parts of northern Rakhine State on the grounds of unspecified “RSO activity” in that area.
In May 2016, some 35 armed attackers stormed a security post at a camp for Rohingya refugees in southern Bangladesh just across the border from Maungdaw, killing one camp commander and capturing eleven weapons. The attackers were allegedly led by a Pakistani national, along with others from Myanmar and Bangladesh, with the RSO being implicated, according to the Bangladeshi police.
Given the lack of clear evidence in all these cases, new claims as to the identity of any organisation behind the recent attacks should be treated with caution until further information becomes available.
Does the Rohingya Solidarity Organisation really exist?
The RSO is considered by most regional security analysts to have been long defunct as an armed organisation. The question is whether it has been reconstituted, or whether a new grouping with similar aims has now emerged. The RSO was established in 1982, along the lines of Myanmar’s many other ethnic insurgent organisations engaging in conventional attacks on military and strategic targets. The RSO never gained much traction and did not pose a serious military threat. In the 1980s and 1990s it had some small bases in remote parts of Bangladesh near the border with Myanmar; at least in recent decades it had none on Myanmar soil.
There may have been efforts, in the wake of the 2012 violence, to rehabilitate the RSO as an armed organisation, driven by a new generation of local-level leaders. According to a local Rohingya leader who claimed to be one of the leaders of this effort, whom Crisis Group met with in 2014, their aim was not separatist, anti-Buddhist or jihadi in nature; rather, it was for their community to live as citizens of Myanmar with their rights respected by the state. The objective was to reconstitute the RSO as an insurgent force focused on attacking the state security apparatus (police, border police and military). Crisis Group interviews at the time suggested there was a modicum of support for this among some members of the population, who saw it as the only path left open to them. But most of the population was and still is opposed to violent resistance.
At the same time, security forces and political actors in both Myanmar and Bangladesh may have their own reasons for invoking the RSO, including to raise the spectre of an organised radical Islamic group to justify crackdowns or restrictions on the Rohingya population.
It is not yet clear whether the RSO has been reactivated, or a new mujahidin group has emerged with similar aims, or the recent attacks are a local uprising without a permanent institutional structure. However, what is extremely worrying is that a new threshold of violence has been passed.
Is Myanmar about to see new levels of violence related to the Rohingya issue?
The fact that influential individuals have considered violence as a strategy for regaining Rohingya rights and citizenship does not mean that such a strategy can successfully take root. There remain serious obstacles to establishing and sustaining a militant Rohingya organisation capable of targeting the security forces, including the extremely restrictive environment in northern Rakhine State and a longstanding sense among much of the Rohingya population and many religious leaders that violence would be counterproductive.
The environment in Bangladesh is also not very conducive to cross-border operations of the kind the RSO used to mount in decades past, sometimes with the support of Bangladeshi militant groups. Bangladesh is cracking down on its own extremist organisations as part of a broader perceived terrorist threat against the country.
As for transnational terrorist networks, these have often expressed concern for and solidarity with the Rohingya, and made some general threats – including Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan, Islamic State, and al-Qaeda in the Indian subcontinent. However, there have so far been no indications that Myanmar has been an operational priority for these networks.
How will these attacks change the situation in Rakhine State?
Regardless of who was behind the recent attacks, they are likely to have a serious impact on the political, human rights and humanitarian situation in Rakhine State. These impacts will be both short-term and longer-term.
A major security operation was launched following the attacks, to lock down the area in an effort to capture the attackers and recover the looted weapons and ammunition. There are already reports of multiple casualties over the past 48 hours as a result of that operation.
For the foreseeable future, increased security operations in northern Rakhine will attempt to prevent any further incident of this kind. Given the security forces’ history of bad treatment of the local Muslim population, this risks creating further tension, abuses and negative impact on livelihoods.
Violent incidents – or the possibility of them – have been used to temporarily restrict humanitarian access to parts of Rakhine State in the past, and temporary movement restrictions on international agencies have been imposed by the authorities in response to the 9 October incident; it remains to be seen how long these will remain in effect.
Security fears are part of the reason for the continued imposition of a curfew in Maungdaw and Buthidaung townships under section 144 of the Myanmar Code of Criminal Procedure. The 11pm to 4am curfew order was most recently renewed on 8 August 2016 for two months and includes restrictions on gatherings of five or more people in public areas or at mosques. As a result of the latest incident, the curfew has been extended, and now runs from 7pm to 6am. This impacts people’s livelihoods and means that in practice attending Friday prayers is prohibited – a much-resented religious and social restriction.
Government worries about security are among justifications for tightened checkpoints and severe restrictions on the movement of Muslims in northern Rakhine State. These are a major source of vulnerability, limiting access to health and education services, jobs and livelihoods. Any possibility that these restrictions might be eased has now receded.
Overall, efforts to find solutions to the situation in Rakhine state, including the work of the Annan Commission, will now be very much more difficult.
Will there be any broader impacts on Myanmar?
The 9 October incident will have major ramifications across Myanmar.
It will amplify the general sense of insecurity about Islam and about an Islamic extremist threat in Myanmar; the radical nationalist monk U Wirathu has already taken to social media calling for the security forces to take all necessary steps to “protect the sovereignty of the nation and its citizens”. These events risk strengthening radical Buddhist nationalist groups that had been on the back foot since the elections. They can exacerbate intercommunal tensions across the country, and make it harder for moderate voices to be heard – with a potential spillover effect to other parts of Myanmar with a large Muslim presence.
This all represents a significant new challenge for Aung San Suu Kyi’s attempts to steer Myanmar in a more tolerant direction.
Of the 1.35 million people killed by natural hazards over the past 20 years, more than half died in earthquakes, with the remainder due to weather- and climate related hazards. The overwhelming majority of these deaths occurred in low- and middle-income countries. The poorest nations paid the highest price in terms of the numbers killed per disaster and per 100,000 population.
The period 1996 to 2015 saw 7,056 disasters recorded worldwide by EM-DAT, the Emergency Events Database. The frequency of geophysical disasters (primarily earthquakes, including tsunamis, and volcanic eruptions) remained broadly constant throughout this period but there was a sustained rise in climate- and weather-related events (ﬂoods, storms and heatwaves in particular) which accounted for the majority of disaster deaths in most years.
In total, the number of weather- and climate-related disasters more than doubled over the past forty years, accounting for 6,392 events in the 20-year period 1996-2015, up from 3,017 in 1976-1995. In 2015, the hottest year on record, almost as many people died in heatwaves as were killed in the Nepalese earthquake. There was also a doubling of major reported droughts (32) by comparison with the annual average of 16 over the decade 2006-2015.
In terms of disaster mortality, EM-DAT recorded 749,000 earthquake deaths in the past 20 years, with 357,000 lives lost between 2006 and 2015, the majority in the devastating earthquake in Haiti in 2010. In the previous decade (1996-2005) earthquakes claimed 392,000 lives, a fgure inﬂated by another megadisaster, the 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami. Analysis of EM-DAT data shows that tsunamis were 16 times more deadly than ground movements in terms of the proportion of victims killed. That makes tsunamis (a sub-type of earthquake) the most deadly major hazard on the planet.
The global plan for reducing disaster losses, the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction, adopted by all UN member States in March 2015, sets a target for a substantial reduction in global disaster mortality; the statistics in this report point towards several major conclusions with implications for achieving this target:
The high death tolls from earthquakes, including tsunamis, over the last 20 years is a deeply troubling trend given the pace of urbanization around the world in many seismic zones. This underlines the need to promote the mainstreaming of disaster risk assessments into land-use policy development and implementation, including urban planning, building codes and investing in earthquake-resistant infrastructure, notably housing, schools, health facilities and work places. The private sector, and the construction industry in particular, need to be partners in this endeavour;
While better data is needed on overall disaster mortality, particularly in relation to weather- and climate-related hazards in low-income and lowermiddle-income countries, it is clear that there needs to be more focus on alleviating the impact of climate change on countries which contribute least to greenhouse gas emissions but which suffer disproportionate losses of life because of extreme weather events exacerbated by rising sea levels and the warming of the land and sea;
Overall, there is much higher exposure to disasters and the risk of death in lowand middle-income countries which needs to be addressed through improved early warning systems, better preparedness, weather forecasting and greater investment in resilient infrastructure;
The continuing loss of life in high-income countries underlines how, even in the absence of a megadisaster, countries continue to be vulnerable to new emerging risk scenarios as evidenced by the triple nuclear, earthquake and tsunami disaster which overtook Japan in 2011, also Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans in 2005, and the 2003 heatwaves which claimed 70,000 lives in Europe. Policies and practices for disaster risk management should be based on an understanding of disaster risk in all its dimensions and must be factored into both public and private sector investment decisions. Particular attention must be paid to vulnerable groups. A disproportionately high number of older people died in Hurricane Katrina and the 2003 heatwaves, for example;
The three megadisasters (more than 100,000 fatalities) which marked the last 20 years demonstrate the truth of the statement that the worst disasters which could happen have not happened yet. The Indian Ocean Tsunami, Cyclone Nargis and the Haitian earthquake all underline the importance of preparing for worst-case scenarios where the evidence demonstrates that such events are predictable, and require strong disaster risk governance at the local, national, regional and global level.
WFP, together with UNICEF, is responding to significant monsoon flooding in the north-west of Bangladesh. Food Security, Nutrition and WASH assistance will be provided to 150,000 people following confirmation of funding from the United Kingdom. The joint response has been informed by a Multi-sector Rapid Needs Analysis undertaken in August. WFP will provide food assistance to 42,500 people in the four most affected districts with unconditional cash transfers for three months beginning in November.
The Government has formally endorsed the Emergency Preparedness programme, including the concept note for the establishment of a Humanitarian Staging Area proposed at the Dhaka international airport. An assessment will be undertaken in October to further define the costs and feasibility.
In response to the impact of Cyclone Roanu in May, 20,000 flood-affected people in Southern Bangladesh have received their second and final cash transfer. The senior woman in each of the 4,000 households received a total of 8,000 taka (USD 100) to purchase food and meet other needs. The funding was provided by the United Nations Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF) following a joint needs assessment imitated by the Humanitarian Coordination Task Team (HCTT).
The WFP Bangladesh nutrition unit presented the best practices from the Behavioural Change Communication (BCC) approach under the Transfer Modality Research Initiative to the Global Nutrition BCC brainstorming meeting in Nairobi as one of the seven selected countries. The workshop aims for the formulation of a global strategy and guidelines on BCC. Based on the outcomes of this workshop, WFP will strengthen BCC integration into overall programming in Bangladesh.
Under the Scaling up of Fortified Rice in Bangladesh initiative the Ministry of Women and Children Affairs has agreed to expand the provision of fortified rice to the women participants in the Vulnerable Group Development (VGD) programme from January 2017, absorbing 13 upazilas currently supported by WFP, and totalling 49,000 households in 23 upazilas, while WFP will introduce fortified rice for a further 29,400 VGD households in 12 new upazilas.
A mission from Bangladesh visited The Republic of Korea, including participants from the Local Government Engineering Department (LGED), implementing agencies, community leaders, and WFP Country Office to take lessons from the successful ‘Saemaul Undong’ approach (new community movement) which reflects a cooperative, community led approach to addressing food insecurity in rural areas.
Myanmar: Note to Correspondents: Statement on fighting in ethnic areas in Myanmar by the Special Adviser to the Secretary-General
The Special Adviser to the Secretary-General on Myanmar, Vijay Nambiar, is deeply concerned at the escalation of tensions and resumed fighting between government forces and ethnic armed organizations in several sectors, including in northern Shan, Kachin and Karen States. Coming in the wake of recent positive moves for dialogue by the government as well as the constructive engagement shown by the ethnic armed organizations at the recently convened “Twenty First Century Panglong Conference” this is both unsettling and disappointing.
The recent clashes have not only caused grievous deaths and injuries including to infants and children, but also displaced tens of thousands of people across the three states. This is unconscionable and seriously risks placing the entire peace process in jeopardy. There is no military solution to the conflicts in Myanmar. Negotiating across the fault lines of majority and minorities represents Myanmar’s biggest challenge requiring patience, magnanimity and understanding. Any escalation in tension will only undermine the hard won trust between the parties and make peace an even harder undertaking. The high expectations of the peoples of Myanmar as well as the confidence of the international community in the national reconciliation process will only be fulfilled if all parties work together to consolidate the nationwide ceasefire and persist in a sustained political dialogue.
The Special Adviser calls on all sides to meet and negotiate ways to deescalate the conflicts without delay. Pending agreements and solutions, he urges all parties to cease hostile actions, protect civilians, allow unhindered access for humanitarian assistance to affected communities and avoid disproportionate responses to perceived aggressive postures. In his direct communication with the stakeholders, the Special Adviser has encouraged them to move forward constructively to overcome current hurdles and move purposively to realize the legitimate expectations of a stable, peaceful and secure future for all Myanmar’s peoples.
The United Nations is committed to working with all stakeholders to consolidate the peace process, address urgent humanitarian and other problems and bring peace and tranquillity to the areas currently experiencing tension and conflict.
Myanmar’s government on Tuesday sent a mission to the country’s turbulent western Rakhine state in a bid to restore peace and stability following raids on three border posts that left more than 20 people dead and prompted searches of homes of Muslim residents near the border with Bangladesh.
Nine border officers and eight assailants died in the attacks early Sunday in Maungdaw, Buthidaung, and Rathedaung townships where many of the country’s stateless Rohingya Muslim minority group live.
Two men who were captured during the raids confessed to having planned the attacks for more than three months with the help of local Muslims in Maungdaw, authorities said.
Some believe the attacks were carried out in response to state government plans to demolish mosques and other religious buildings constructed without permission in Maungdaw and Buthidaung townships.
The group of government officials, including Information Minister Pe Myint, Labor, Immigration and Population Minister Thein Swe, deputy minister for the Office of the State Counselor Khin Maung Tin, permanent secretary of the Ministry of Social Welfare, Relief and Resettlement Soe Aung, and deputy chief of the Myanmar Police Force Brig. Gen. Aung Win Oo, briefed residents in the Rakhine capital Sittwe on the current security situation following the attacks.
Nyi Pu, chief minister of Rakhine state, and other state government officials also participated in the conference.
“Rakhine state’s problem is Myanmar’s problem,” Pe Myint said.
“We aren’t dealing with this only as Rakhine’s problem, especially because the Rakhine problem is related to some neighboring countries and the international community,” he said. “We consider this problem a very important one.”
The government officials will spend four days meeting with local people and others in Maungdaw, Buthidaung, and Rathedaung townships to clarify the situation so as to avoid public worry and panic, state-run Global New Light of Myanmar reported.
Kyaw Zeya, director general of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs met on Tuesday with Mohammad Sufiur Rahman, Bangladesh’s ambassador to Myanmar, to discuss border security cooperation and joint efforts to find the attackers.‘Depressed and worried’
But residents in the three townships continue to live in fear.
Four Myanmar army soldiers were killed in Maungdaw on Tuesday during clashes with local forces who were presumably involved in the raids on the border posts, the online journal The Irrawaddy reported citing an anonymous high-ranking government official. RFA was unable to independently verify the report.
“Local residents from Buthidaung, Maungdaw, and Rathedaung are getting depressed and worried,” Maung Tha Sein, a community leader in Sittwe, told RFA’s Myanmar Service.
“We have heard they are not able to sleep at night because of fear and have planned to move out of their towns and into the Sittwe area,” he said. “It is important that they heal their mental wounds.”
In the meantime, Nyi Pu said that authorities would take legal action against those involved in the attacks.
Five military helicopters with more security forces have been deployed in the area, and security forces in Myanmar and Bangladesh are looking to apprehend the insurgents who attacked border guards and stole guns and bullets, said Brigadier Gen. Hla Mying Soe of the Sittwe region military headquarters.
Soldiers were deployed in the area after the attacks occurred, and some streets were closed off as both soldiers and police searched Muslim villages for weapons and ammunition taken during the first border guard post raid.
Four Muslims were killed on Monday during a police search of a Muslim quarter in Maungdaw, residents had told RFA.
Fourteen Rohingya organizations in exile issued a statement the same day accusing government soldiers of killing not four, but seven unarmed residents of Myothugyi village, The Irrawaddy reported.
That same day, authorities closed 400 government-run schools in Maungdaw district, which comprises Maungdaw and Buthidaung townships, and extended curfews there as well as in Rathedaung township.E.U. statement
The European Union issued a statement on Tuesday expressing sympathy to the families of those killed in the attacks.
The E.U. has called for a formal police investigation into the incident and for the perpetrators to be brought to justice according to the rule of law.
“In the meantime, we call on all parties to act responsibly, exercise restraint and let the investigation run its course,” the statement said. “The EU stands with Myanmar in these difficult moments.”
Religious and ethnic tensions run high in Rakhine where 1.1 million stateless Rohingya suffer persecution because they are considered illegal immigrants from neighboring Bangladesh.
Communal violence with Rakhine Buddhists in 2012 left 200 people dead and forced others into squalid internally displaced persons camps where they are denied basic rights, including that of citizenship.
Some authorities in Rakhine state believe local Muslims involved in the border post attacks have links to the Rohingya Solidarity Organization (RSO), a militant group active in the 1980s and the 1990s, but which is believed to now be defunct.
But Border Guards Bangladesh (BGB), a paramilitary force under the Ministry of Home Affairs, said on Monday that no members of the RSO or another extremist groups from Myanmar were inside Bangladesh.
In late August, State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi, Myanmar’s de facto leader, appointed former United Nations chief Kofi Annan to chair an advisory panel on Rakhine state to review conflict resolution between Buddhists and Rohingya, humanitarian assistance, and development issues in the impoverished and divided state.
Reported by Kyaw Zaw Win for RFA’s Myanmar Service. Translated by Khet Mar. Written in English by Roseanne Gerin.
Yangon, Myanmar | AFP | Wednesday 10/12/2016 - 13:00 GMT
by Caroline HENSHAW
Teachers and government workers fled northern border districts of Myanmar on Wednesday after clashes in Rakhine state left a dozen dead, fearing worsening violence in a region long-scarred by sectarian unrest.
Crowds huddled on the jetty in the state capital of Sittwe after arriving by boat from near the Bangladesh border, an area home to the persecuted Muslim Rohingya minority that has been locked down by the military after attacks on border guards.
Twelve people have died in clashes between armed men and troops in recent days, state media said, including four soldiers killed when they were set upon by hundreds of men wielding pistols and swords.
One attacker was also found dead after the clashes in Pyaungpit, a village near Maungdaw -- the town at the epicentre of the recent unrest.
Troops also found seven dead after fighting in the nearby village of Taung Paing Nyar, the Global New Light of Myanmar reported, raising the toll from Tuesday.
"After the incident, troops found seven dead bodies," it said. "Swords and sticks were found with the bodies."
The military has locked down the area around Maungdaw after nine police officers were killed on Sunday in attacks on three border posts which authorities blamed on mobs wielding swords and homemade weapons.
More than 400 schools have been closed in Maungdaw and the surrounding area and a curfew has been enforced between 7pm and 6am.
Most people in the impoverished area are Muslim Rohingya, a stateless minority whom Myanmar's Buddhist hardliners vilify as illegal immigrants -- even though many trace their ancestry in Myanmar back for generations.
The recent unrest has raised the spectre of a repeat of 2012, when violence in Rakhine left more than 100 people dead and drove tens of thousands of Rohingya into displacement camps.
Activists claim the military is using the search for the attackers as a pretext for a crackdown on the Rohingya, whom rights groups describe as one of the world's most persecuted peoples.
Rumours of killings and mass arrests have spread like wildfire on social media, stoking fear. But details have proved difficult to confirm in the remote and tightly controlled area.
- 'Delicate juncture' -
A total of 29 people have died in the recent clashes, according to state media, police and government sources, including troops, attackers and the border guards killed in Sunday's raids.
Four suspects in the border attacks -- including two who were captured on Tuesday -- are being held by law enforcement, according to state media.
The escalating violence in the region poses a major challenge for the country's new democratic leadership.
Myanmar's de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi is facing international pressure to reach a solution for the Rohingya, whose plight has tarnished the country's major democratic gains.
She recently appointed a commission, headed by former UN chief Kofi Annan, to find ways to heal wounds in the bitterly divided and poor state.
On Wednesday the Nobel laureate vowed to follow the rule of law when investigating the border guard attacks.
"Until we know clearly what is happening, we will not accuse anyone," she said at the foreign ministry in Naypyidaw.
"We will only bring charges when we have concrete and firm evidence."
Authorities have released few details about the attackers or their motives, with some blaming the Rohingya and others pointing the finger at Bangladeshi groups.
The UN's special adviser to the secretary-general on Myanmar, Vijay Nambiar, urged troops and residents to exercise restraint at what he termed a "delicate juncture" for the state.
He also called on civilians to "not be provoked into any kind of response by targeting other communities or religious groups".
The European Union also called for an investigation to be carried out "in line with the rule of law".
© 1994-2016 Agence France-Presse
Yangon, Myanmar | AFP | Wednesday 10/12/2016 - 03:50 GMT | 474 words
by Caroline HENSHAW
Twelve people have died in the north of Myanmar's Rakhine state in clashes between armed men and troops, state media reported Wednesday, in a sharp escalation of violence in the restive region.
Four soldiers and one attacker were killed on Tuesday when hundreds of men wielding pistols and swords assailed troops in Pyaungpit, Maungdaw township, an area populated mainly by Muslim Rohingya.
Troops also gave a toll of seven dead after fighting in the nearby village of Taung Paing Nyar, updating an earlier figure.
"After the incident, troops found seven dead bodies," the state-run Global New Light of Myanmar reported.
"Swords and sticks were found with the bodies."
The military has been scouring the region, not far from the border with Bangladesh, after nine police officers were killed on Sunday in coordinated attacks on three border posts.
The unrest has raised the spectre of a repeat of 2012, when sectarian violence ripped through Rakhine, killing more than 100 people and driving tens of thousands of Rohingya into displacement camps.
Rohingya both in and outside the squalid camps face severe restrictions on their movement and access to basic services, with rights groups calling them one of the world's most persecuted peoples.
Buddhist nationalists have sought to brand the group as illegal immigrants from Bangladesh, despite many tracing their lineage in Myanmar back generations.
A total of six suspects behind the border attacks -- including four who were captured on Tuesday -- are being held by authorities, according to state media.
Authorities have released few details about the attackers or their motives, with some blaming the Rohingya, while others have pointed the finger at Bangladeshi groups.
The clashes mark a dramatic escalation of violence in the region, which has simmered with tension ever since the 2012 unrest that effectively left the state divided along religious lines.
The UN's special advisor on Myanmar, Vijay Nambiar, urged troops and residents to exercise restraint at what he termed a "delicate juncture" for the state.
He also called on civilians to "not be provoked into any kind of response by targeting other communities or religious groups".
Rumours of killings and mass arrests around Maungdaw have spread like wildfire on social media, stoking fear, but details have proved difficult to confirm in the remote and tightly controlled area.
Locals told AFP they were too scared to leave their houses as troops patrolled the streets.
Activists have warned the search for the attackers is being used as a pretext for a crackdown on the Rohingya.
Myanmar's de facto leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, has come under heavy international pressure to carve out a solution for the Rohingya, whose plight has left a dark stain on the country's promising democratic gains.
She recently appointed a commission, headed by former UN chief Kofi Annan, to find ways to heal wounds in the bitterly divided and poor state.
© 1994-2016 Agence France-Presse