Myanmar - ReliefWeb News
Natural disasters can have profound impacts on the social and economic fabric of affected communities. These evolve over time, as a function of the strength of community coping mechanisms, the effectiveness of the aid effort, subsequent external events, and changes in the wider social and economic environment. As time goes on, the needs and priorities of affected communities change accordingly. Understanding these evolving impacts and needs is vital for effective delivery of postdisaster and development assistance in the context of longer-term recovery.
Cyclone Nargis hit the Ayeyarwady Delta on May 2, 2008, and killed an estimated 140,000 people. Three rounds of Post-Nargis Social Impacts Monitoring (SIM) accompanied the post-disaster recovery period from 2008-10. By focusing on a limited set of villages, SIM provided in-depth information on how village life was changing post-Nargis and insights into how aid responses could best help Delta communities. This fourth round of SIM (SIM 4) provides a snapshot of village economic and social life five years after Cyclone Nargis struck. It assessed two areas:
1 . Socioeconomic conditions:
This examined the compound effects of Nargis and subsequent natural events on the key occupational groups of farmers, fishermen, and casual laborers. It looked at issues of livelihoods, debt and credit, and coping mechanisms.
2 . Social relations and institutions:
This explored how Nargis, the subsequent aid effort, and the evolving economic conditions affected social capital, the capacity for collective action, intraand inter-village relations, and relations between villagers and their leaders.
SIM 4 placed particular emphasis on identifying external stresses subsequent to Nargis and understanding how these played out at the village level, especially with regard to other natural events with adverse impact. It also traced how some of the broader political changes since 2010 have projected down to the village level. SIM 4 was carried out in April–May 2013 and used the same methodology as the previous three rounds of SIM, involving in-depth qualitative interviews, focus group discussions, and key informant interviews with 895 villagers in 40 villages in the 8 townships across the Delta that had been most affected by the cyclone.
We do not currently have access to this remote village but as always when there is a problem with access we try to overcome it. The village has approximately 70 people still and they are our most displaced and most vulnerable group we support. Our volunteers met as usual at 7am with 2 trucks loaded with over 500kg of rice, many clothes, flip flops, mosquito nets and toothbrushes. Our volunteers included two new doctors, our nurse and our fantastic translators without which no trip would be possible.
After a 3 hour drive south of Hua Hin we arrived at the army check point where they usually have 4 or 5 patients needing to be seen. Our ID is also submitted to allow us to go on to the shelter. We continued our journey and drove to the shelter once everything was completed with the army checkpoint. The shelter is a simple house that is rented in a small Thai village. There are 14 children and 6 adults. The children have Thai ID and are able to attend the local Thai school for free. They currently eat rice and salt/or oil every day, no vegetables or fruit is affordable. The 6 adults are able to work in the dry season in the local rubber plantations but it is poorly paid and sporadic.
The assessment team was able to obtain a lot of information and was able to discuss their current needs:
- 150kg of rice per month
- To discuss a vegetable garden to provide fruit and veg (needs further discussion)
- Roof of another house near Thai Yai village, 1 hour away, needs repairing in time for the rainy season
- Snacks for the children while at school
- Rent and electric for the shelter, approximately 1800b per month
During the assessment, the medical clinic continued. All 14 children received a health check and there were many parents that had come from the village to see the doctors and our nurse. There were several follow up cases that will need to be reviewed but this village is fortunate as they have a dedicated nurse who voluntarily sees anyone from the village and shelter. Each time we visit, Jungle Aid provides her with a box of medical supplies worth 10,000b supported by our amazing sponsors.
We distributed the much-needed rice, mosquito nets and clothes and flip flops to the villagers, particularly needed during the rainy season.
Without your support we cannot offer the help that is needed. After an amazing day with the incredible volunteers and incredible people we work with we headed home.
Government soldiers fighting ethnic Kokang rebel forces in northern Myanmar are holding at least 14 civilians and forcing them to work as porters and human shields, sources in the region said on Wednesday.
The men were conscripted after government forces detained a group of more than 20 ethnic Kokang families who were en route back to their homes from the Maidihe refugee camp that straddles the border with China's Yunnan province, Kokang aid workers said.
The soldiers later released the women and children, but kept the men, they said.
"They said they were going back home to pick up some of their belongings, but that the men were taken, and the women were later released," an aid worker who declined to be named said.
"People here in the camps said there were 14 men, and that they would be pressed into service as porters to carry supplies for government troops," he said.
"When there is no fighting, they carry stuff, and when there is fighting they are used as a human shield," the aid worker said.
"This has already happened many times."
An aid worker surnamed Li at the Maidihe camp said Chinese authorities in Yunnan appeared to have relaxed their border controls in recent days after forcing thousands to leave camps last week.
"We heard shelling today ... things are pretty tense here, and they are telling us to hurry across to China to take refuge there, as the military situation is escalating and will probably affect the camps [on the Myanmar side]," Li said.
"The Chinese side told us this, and the youngest and oldest have all gone across to China," he said, adding: "We are staying here to guard the tents ... but we are moving."
Attempt to retake zone
Fighting began on Feb. 9 in Laukkai between Myanmar government troops and Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA) rebel forces.
The MNDAA under ethnic Chinese commander Peng Jiasheng is trying to retake the Kokang self-administered zone, which it had controlled until 2009, forcing an estimated 100,000 refugees away from the conflict zone and across the border into China.
Li also confirmed earlier reports that the Myanmar army is conscripting civilians.
"About 20 families were heading back to their homes in Kokang, when they came upon some Myanmar soldiers, who took all of their husbands away," Li said.
"The women came back to the refugee camp [at Maidihe]," he added.
Some 800 people have already crossed the small river that demarcates the border with China at Maidihe, and are now on the Yunnan side, Li said.
Myanmar's defense ministry reported two death and seven injuries following fighting in the hills around Laukkai on Tuesday, close to the No. 119 border marker and near Shiguolin.
China opens border
A Kokang aid worker based near Laukkai surnamed Zhao said fighting had continued into the night, including in the regional capital itself.
"It seemed to go on until about 1.00 or 2.00 a.m., and we helped more than 100 civilians caught up in it," Zhao said.
"They came down from the mountains, and we met them halfway up."
He said the Chinese authorities had also opened the border next to the No. 125 border marker.
"You can [get through]," Zhao said.
China's Red Cross has also been building tented accommodations from bamboo and sugar cane leaves to offer humanitarian shelter to thousands of refugees currently at Maidihe, the Global Times newspaper, which has close ties to the ruling Chinese Communist Party, reported on Wednesday.
Beijing on Tuesday called on the Myanmar government to investigate an incident in which four bombs exploded in villages on China's side of the border on March 8.
No one was killed or injured, but there was some damage, foreign ministry spokesman Hong Lei told a regular news briefing in Beijing.
"It is to our knowledge that amid conflicts between Myanmar's government forces and local ethnic militias on March 8, stray bombs hit the Chinese side and damaged a civilian residence," Hong said.
"Luckily, no one was injured or killed. The Chinese side has expressed grave concerns to the Myanmar side, asking them to get to the bottom of this incident as soon as possible and take effective measures to ensure that such incidents will never happen again," Hong said.
The Kokang conflict has disturbed the stability and normal order of the China-Myanmar border areas, he said.
Farm, charity projects
Farther south, in the Shan town of Lashio, at a Buddhist center founded by a veteran of earlier wars in the region, followers continued their work on an organic farm and charity projects begun by a former Kuomintang Nationalist soldier-turned-Buddhist monk.
Master Hsin Tao founded the Lingjiushan Buddhist group in 1948 after fighting with KMT troops along the border region during World War II after losing his mother in the war at the age of four.
The Lingjiushan group now owns the organic Nongman Farm off the Lashio-to-Muse highway, south of the current fighting in Shan, he said.
It uses principles of sustainable farming to produce lemon-grass prized in southeast Asian cuisine.
"Master Hsin Tao put all of his energy into the design and running of Nongman Farm," Buddhist disciple and farm-worker Lei Xueren told RFA.
"But as well as his agricultural work, Hsin Tao is also taking in large numbers of orphans and will offer them a safe place to stay, accommodation, and education," he said.
"The next step is that we want to develop our medical services, an ethnic minority community center, and an international Buddhist center," Lei said.
Reported by Qiao Long and Lee Tung for RFA's Mandarin Service. Translated and written in English by Luisetta Mudie.
Yesterday in Naypyidaw the European Investment Bank (EIB), the European Union’s long-term financing institution, and the Republic of the Union of Myanmar signed a Framework Agreement under which the Bank will be able to start financing capital investments in the country.
EIB Vice-President Román Escolano, who is in charge of EIB operations in Asia, underlined “the importance of the signature of this Framework Agreement at this very significant moment" and stated: "I am confident that this first milestone in the cooperation between Myanmar and the EIB will soon result in the implementation of projects that will help improve Myanmar’s economic prosperity and the quality of life of its people”.
His Excellency Roland Kobia, Head of the EU Delegation in Myanmar, added: “The signature of an Agreement between Myanmar and the European Investment Bank marks yet another step in supporting the transition and socioeconomic development of Myanmar. The EIB will be able to contribute to projects that will promote the development of the country and make people's lives better in practical terms. The Agreement is a critical milestone on the road of EU-Myanmar cooperation. It unlocks the opportunity of blending the important grants provided by the European Union with loans from the EIB, maximising the impact of public EU money and reducing Myanmar’s borrowing costs.”
The EIB is the long-term lending institution of the European Union and its shareholders are the EU Member States. Its remit is to make long-term finance available for viable projects in order to contribute towards EU policy objectives. Outside the EU, the Bank support projects that contribute to economic development in countries that have signed association or cooperation agreements with the EU or its Member States.
In Asia, the European Investment Bank has so far signed Framework Agreements with Bangladesh, Bhutan, Cambodia, China, India, Indonesia, Laos, Maldives, Mongolia, Nepal, Pakistan, the Philippines, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Vietnam and Yemen.
The signing of the Framework Agreement marks the EIB’s first step towards supporting development projects in Myanmar. The EIB is cooperating closely with the European Commission and the EEAS in furthering the EU’s policy objectives in the country.
The EIB has been active in Asia since 1993 under mandates granted by the EU Council and the European Parliament. During this period the EU bank has signed contracts in the region totalling EUR 5.8 billion. On 1 July 2014 the EU’s new External Lending Mandate, covering the period 2014-2020, entered into force. Part of the current mandate is dedicated to Asia, enabling the EIB to finance operations that contribute to climate change mitigation and adaptation or the development of sustainable economic infrastructure. Additionally, the EIB can also draw on its own resources under the Climate Action and Environment Facility or the Strategic Projects Facility to finance relevant projects on a selective basis.
Matilde Del Valle Serrano
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During the course of more than six decades of armed conflict in southeast Myanmar, hundreds of thousands of people have been displaced. The precise number of currently Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) in the region is unknown. While relatively few civilians (perhaps just over 10,000)1 have been displaced by armed conflict since the emergence of the peace process in 2011, several hundreds of thousands remain displaced, and have yet to find a ‘durable solution’ to their plight. Furthermore, in Thailand there are some 120,000 refugees from southeast Myanmar living in temporary shelters, plus another 2-3 million migrant workers, many of whom are acutely vulnerable and left their homeland for similar reasons to the refugees.
Forced migrants in and from Myanmar demonstrate significant resilience, and often high levels of social and political capital. Nevertheless, refugees and IDPs have been among the principal victims of armed conflict in their homeland. Communities have suffered greatly, with many people dispossessed and traumatised. To some degree, the overall success of the peace process can be measured by the extent to which the country’s most acutely affected populations are able to achieve durable solutions. At the same time, durable solutions for forced migrants will depend on sustainable improvements in the political and security environment and an end to armed conflict, and thus are tied inextricably to the peace process.
Since late 2011, most of the 17 major Ethnic Armed Groups (EAGs) in Myanmar have agreed (or renegotiated) ceasefires with the government. Negotiations are ongoing toward the implementation of a joint Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement (NCA), but have slowed significantly since mid-2014. It is possible that such negotiations will stall almost entirely until after the post-2015 elections, when a new government may even re-frame the process. It remains to be seen whether and how a political settlement can be achieved, addressing the underlying grievances and aspirations of ethnic nationality communities, while at the same time being acceptable to the Myanmar government and army. Furthermore, three years of intense fighting in northern Myanmar and recent bursts of armed conflict in the southeast raise serious questions about the credibility of the peace process. Nevertheless, ceasefires in southeast Myanmar have resulted in major improvements in living conditions for many conflict-affected communities.
This report was commissioned by UNHCR to explore how refugee and IDP issues are featuring in the peace process, and what recent developments might mean for forced migrants' future prospects. The focus is primarily on southeast Myanmar, and armed conflict-induced displacement, with less emphasis on development-induced and other forms of forced migration.
Yangon, Myanmar | | Wednesday 3/11/2015 - 03:59 GMT
Myanmar state media Wednesday announced an inquiry into a Yangon protest crackdown, the first of two recent violent confrontations with student demonstrators which sparked international alarm and raised fears of a return to junta-era repression.
Both protests are demanding for reforms in Myanmar’s controversial education law and are spearheaded by the students, who have long been at the forefront of political action in the former military-run nation’s turbulent history.
The investigation will probe "whether security forces acted properly in dispersing the protesters" who gathered downtown on March 5 in the nation's main city, said the Global New Light of Myanmar.
The official statement comes a day after baton-wielding police beat student activists and arrested 127 people at a second student protest site in the central town of Letpadan.
The United States, European Union and Britain have all raised their concerns over the arrests and the use of force to break up peaceful rallies.
In chaotic scenes on Tuesday, police armed with batons lashed out at students and activists in Letpadan, ending over a week of stalemate at the protest site where some 150 demonstrators -- including several monks -- had been corralled by security forces trying to prevent their planned march south to Yangon.
The crackdowns have sparked outrage among rights groups and activists, who have accused the government of using excessive and aggressive tactics, raising particular fears over the involvement of men in plain clothes in Yangon on March 5.
The men, wearing red armbands and thought to have been deputised civilians, were seen beating protesters alongside police, according to witnesses.
Civilians working alongside security forces to break up protests were a feared feature of life under military rule.
The inquiry into the recent violence will assess "whether the authorities responsible acted in line with legal procedures, while also seeking measures to prevent such cases in the future," state media said Wednesday. Its findings will be submitted to the president by March 31.
Myanmar's quasi-civilian government, which replaced outright military rule in 2011, has ushered in a number of major reforms that have lured foreign investment back into the isolated nation.
But observers fear democratic reforms are stalling as the country lurches towards a landmark election later this year.
© 1994-2015 Agence France-Presse
Stop Using Excessive Force, Abusive Police Auxiliaries
(New York, March 11, 2015) – The Burmese police should end their crackdown on student protests and investigate officers responsible for the use of excessive force against protesters, Human Rights Watch said today.
On March 10, 2015, police backed by local plainclothes police auxiliaries with batons violently dispersed an estimated 200 student demonstrators near the town of Letpadan in Pegu region, north of the commercial capital, Rangoon. The media reported that violence broke out between the students and police involving student demonstrators who attempted to breach a police barricade blocking their way towards Rangoon. Police arrested a large number of students, Buddhist monks, and local residents deemed to be supporting the students.
“The savage beating of students by police and plainclothes thugs marks an ugly return to the street violence of military rule,” said Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “The government needs to rein in abusive police, disband unaccountable auxiliaries, and permit peaceful demonstrations.”
The manner in which the police cracked down on student demonstrators, and use of local police auxiliaries to search for and apprehend students suggests a disturbing return to past unlawful tactics of Burma’s military governments, Human Rights Watch said.
The protests arose after months of escalating tensions between student unions across the country and the Ministry of Education over a draft national education bill. Student leaders contend that students were insufficiently consulted about the content of the bill and that officials have disregarded their suggestions for a more equitable and inclusive education system. Despite efforts by some government officials to mediate, the lack of a resolution of the disagreements led a number of student groups throughout Burma to stage marches from regional centers towards Rangoon.
During the first week of March, police stopped the Letpadan group from advancing further south towards Rangoon. However, authorities gave students assurances that on March 10 at 11a.m. they would be permitted to proceed to Rangoon in small groups. The media reported that students were granted passage from the area and that they believe police and auxiliaries lay in wait for them as they traveled south towards Rangoon where most of the arrests occurred.
The police had recently used unnecessary force against student protesters, Human Rights Watch said. On March 5, police backed by alleged members of the infamous Swan Arr Shin (“Masters of Force”) auxiliary, many wearing red armbands stenciled with the Burmese word for “duty,” violently assaulted students and activists who had assembled outside Rangoon’s city hall to express solidarity with the Letpadan student group. Police arrested eight people, including students and members of the prominent 88 Generation Peace and Open Society group of former political prisoners. All were freed early next morning, but were informed by police that they could face charges for violating the Peaceful Assembly Law. The use of police auxiliaries to disperse demonstrators last occurred during the violent crackdown on a Buddhist monk-led protest in Rangoon in 2007.
The authorities have used Burma’s seriously flawed Peaceful Assembly Law, which requires local government approval for any gathering, to intimidate student protests, many of which occur without prior approval.
Human Rights Watch said the government should investigate and prosecute as appropriate anyone responsible for the excessive use of force. The United Nations Basic Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms by Law Enforcement Officials provides that officials acting in a law enforcement capacity “shall, as far as possible, apply non-violent means before resorting to the use of force.” Whenever the use of force is unavoidable, security forces shall “[e]xercise restraint in such use and act in proportion to the seriousness of the offence and the legitimate objective to be achieved.”
The Burmese police force has long been implicated in serious human rights violations and the failure to protect populations at risk. The 2012 violence in Arakan State against the Rohingya Muslim community displaced over 130,000 mostly Rohingya residents. During anti-Muslim violence throughout Burma since then, the police have not effectively intervened and at times have actively participated in the violence. In 2013, the European Union funded a project to assist in the transformation of the Burmese police to ensure more rights-respecting crowd control and community policing.
“The European Union and others should roundly condemn this police violence and recalibrate their support for the Burmese government if it fails to protect the right to peaceful protest,” Adams said. “Burma’s reforms are looking increasingly shaky day by day.”
Letpadan, Myanmar | | Tuesday 3/10/2015 - 20:24 GMT
by Phyo Hein KYAW
Myanmar arrested 127 protesters when baton-wielding police dispersed a student rally Tuesday, as the second crackdown in recent days sparked Western condemnation and fears of a return to the repressive reflexes of the junta era.
Two large truckloads of protesters were taken away after riot police violently broke up the rally in the central town of Letpadan, according to an AFP reporter at the scene, ending over a week of stalemate between the authorities and students calling for education reforms.
Government spokesman Ye Htut defended the police after Tuesday's violence, saying they were forced to react to provocation by the protesters.
"After many warnings that were not followed, police had to use force to disperse the protest because (protesters) attacked them and tried to destroy barricades," he said in a post on his Facebook page.
He said 127 people were arrested, including 65 students, while some 16 police and eight protesters were injured in the clashes.
The crackdown has intensified concerns that authorities are resorting to the repressive tactics of the previous authoritarian regime, as the nation stumbles towards a general election scheduled for the end of this year that many see as the measure of its democratic progress.
It also comes just days after authorities used violence to end a supporting rally in the commercial hub of Yangon, prompting condemnation from rights campaigners.
Criticising the use of "excessive force" in Letpadan, Phil Robertson of Human Rights Watch said the "disguise has come off and we are back to the bad old Burma of yesteryear," referring to the country by its previous name.
In Washington, US State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said: "We condemn the use of force taken against peaceful protesters. We are deeply concerned by reports of violence by police and other individuals against protesters. We are deeply concerned by the reports of arrests."
The United States embassy in Yangon also took to Twitter urging "patience, compromise and restraint" on Myanmar's path to democracy.
The European Union, which has run several training programmes with the Myanmar police, issued a statement saying it was "deeply concerned" about the use of force and called for a swift investigation.
And in an email to AFP a spokeswoman said the clashes showed the need for further government reforms but insisted that it was right to launch the training programme for riot police.
The EU "remains committed to supporting positive change in Myanmar in general –- and the important process of reforming the police in particular", the spokeswoman said.
- Students beaten -
Myanmar's quasi-civilian government, which replaced outright military rule in 2011, has ushered in a number of major reforms that have lured foreign investment back into the isolated nation. But observers fear democratic reforms are stalling.
The students have for months been demonstrating for reform in Letpadan, but plans by a core group to march to Yangon were halted on March 2 when police surrounded some 150 activists near a monastery in the dusty central town.
Tempers frayed early Tuesday when demonstrators tried to push through the security blockade after authorities apparently reneged on an agreement to allow them to continue their march.
"The police beat us," one student protester, requesting anonymity, told AFP by telephone as he took shelter with some 70 other demonstrators in a monastery.
Student campaigners have been at the forefront of several of Myanmar's major uprisings, including a huge 1988 demonstration that prompted a bloody military assault under the former junta.
The government has also defended its crackdown Friday on an unauthorised rally in Yangon from accusations that police and men in civilian clothes beat unarmed protesters with batons.
Police swiftly descended on a fresh rally in central Yangon on Tuesday, but there were no reports of violence.
Students have demonstrated sporadically since November 2014 against a new education law, demanding changes to the legislation to decentralise the school system, teach in ethnic languages and allow the formation of student unions.
The government, which has held several rounds of talks with student representatives, has agreed to rethink the controversial law.
A special parliamentary committee is currently debating the proposed changes, with input from experts.
But the students themselves pulled out of the discussions last week in response to the police blockade of their main protest group in Letpadan.
© 1994-2015 Agence France-Presse
Sri Lanka: ‘Historic opportunity’ at hand for reconciliation, cooperation in Sri Lanka, says UN political chief
10 March 2015 – Following elections, peaceful transition, a historic opportunity has now presented itself for Sri Lanka to set up a domestic process that is credible, accountable and up to par with international norms and standards for the benefit of the country’s people, with the help of the wider international community, the United Nations political chief said today.
Back from his visit to the nation, UN Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs, Jeffrey Feltman spoke to reporters at a Headquarters press briefing this afternoon and expressed confidence over efforts towards reconciliation and cooperation. He said that the 8 January national elections demonstrated the people’s resolve to share in the future of their country.
“The meetings and talks with the Government of Sri Lanka are so different than they used to be, so that leads us to greater expectations…There was suffering across all Sri Lanka, every community suffered and accountability must address the grievances in the North, but also allow that all [people] in Sri Lanka feel like all their concerns are being addressed,” he said.
During those meetings, Mr. Feltman said he expressed Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s support to the country and pledged continuous UN cooperation in mending relations and building trust between the Government and the people in line with the 2009 Joint Communiqué of the UN and Sri Lanka.
“I encourage the Government to take some immediate steps that are feasible – things like the release of army-held land in the North to demonstrate the commitment of governments to follow through,” the Under-Secretary General emphasized, noting that “Sri Lankans have suffered a great deal” and despite the efforts of commissions of inquiry, “the list of suffering remains long.”
The Government was vocal with Mr. Feltman about its plans to conform this process to international norms but has also pledged its commitment to reconciliation before the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva. By doing so, the Government has “put itself under a spotlight” but clearly more will be needed than just words. In terms of accountability, Sri Lanka’s Government will report back to [the Council] on steps taken to establish this domestic process.
Mr. Feltman said “without question” there still is distrust between groups, but all stakeholders must work together. He noted that he had heard scepticism, especially in the North of the country, on whether the Government will live up to its commitment. But nevertheless, he said, “I left with the confidence that the intention to do this is real. The UN stands ready to provide technical assistance, if it is needed. “This is important for the people of Sri Lanka,” Mr. Feltman added.
When the floor was opened for questions, he said on the persecution of Muslims in Myanmar that he had been in that country recently for a seminar for Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN). The discussions were mostly focused on peace and security but the question of the Muslims in the country came up in all of his meetings, during which he expressed UN concern and the Secretary-General’s strong commitment to seeing the issue addressed.
On Yemen, Mr. Feltman said that a military solution is not the “right approach,” emphasizing that it would be “catastrophic” for civilians who have already endured a great deal of suffering. The only way to reunite the country is through due process. The Security Council has spoken out in favour of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) talks moving forward.
Answering a question on the Israel and Palestinian situation, Mr. Feltman said that the ongoing tension stems from “really deep frustration” of how long people have been talking about a two-State solution without the realization of such an agreement. The Secretary-General still believes in a two-State solution because when you look at the alternatives, everything looks worse, Mr. Feltman said.
On trying to restore and help reverse the position of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) on security cooperation with Israel, he called it an example of a “very disturbing trend” where one side takes unilateral measures provoking the other side to do something else. Rather, Israelis and Palestinians should take steps to move forward, he said, calling on parties to rethink these sorts of unilateral decisions that risk the unravelling of Palestinian Authority. The UN support aims to try to unite the Palestinian Government in a way that is helpful to get back to a two-state solution negotiations.
When asked whether a UN peacekeeping mission to Ukraine would be useful, Mr. Feltman said that decision is within purview of the Security Council. Implementation of the Minsk Accord gives a strong role to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE). Right now, the UN is looking how to best assist OSCE in doing the job it has been mandated to perform by the signatories of the Minsk Agreement. What is promising about that the Minsk accord is that it gets the international community away from concentrating on a military solution and focused more on a reform agenda and decentralization.
On Syria, the UN political chief said that it is to keep in mind the suffering of Syria people who have been subjected to “unspeakable horrors” in the last four years. He highlighted the proposal of UN Special Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura to “freeze” the conflict in Aleppo as a way to alleviate the suffering and pave the way for broader political discussions. This has not been going easily or “swimmingly well,” but it remains the goal.
Two children died, another was left critically ill, and more than 10 other people were injured after a shell exploded at a crowded market in the conflict-torn Kokang region of northern Myanmar on Tuesday, witnesses said.
The shell, believed to have been fired by government forces amid intense fighting with ethnic Kokang rebels, hit the New Agricultural and Trading Goods Market in Laukkai on Tuesday morning as it was thronged with civilians and young families, according to medical staff who saw the aftermath.
Two brothers were killed outright, while their eight-year-old sister was taken to the neighboring Chinese province of Yunnan for emergency treatment, an aid worker told RFA.
"The injured child has already been taken to the county hospital in Nansan," an aid worker surnamed Zhao at the No. 125 Border Post refugee camp said. "No expense will be spared to send her on to the Lincang City Hospital, and if they can't treat her, direct to [the provincial capital] Kunming."
He added: "She was about seven or eight. The injuries were to her head."
Zhao said the girl's two brothers had been killed outright in the blast. "I was just at the scene, and we took their bodies and cremated them," he said, adding: "It was a terrible scene; I could barely look. I was in tears. This is so inhumane."
Photos from the scene seen by RFA showed the dead bodies of the two boys and the girl, apparently unconsciously, being held by her mother.
At least 10 injured
Zhao said at least 10 people had been sent for medical treatment in China for injuries connected to the shelling.
He said he didn't know which side in the conflict, which began in Laukkai on Feb. 9, fired the shell.
"All I know is that it was an artillery shell," he said.
Local sources told RFA the shell was likely fired by government troops, who have engaged Kokang rebel alliance fighters in intense fighting in an area known in Chinese as Nantianmen Mountain.
Heavy shelling resumed on Monday following a temporary cease-fire that lasted less than 24 hours. But according to local residents, the Kokang rebels have no artillery emplacements around Laukkai.
They said the shell had likely come from government artillery located in an area outside Laukkai known in Chinese as Mixiangou, and had likely been aimed at rebel forces and gone astray.
Fighting began on Feb. 9 in Laukkai between Myanmar government troops and Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA) rebel forces.
The MNDAA under ethnic Chinese commander Peng Jiasheng is trying to retake the Kokang self-administered zone, which it had controlled until 2009, forcing an estimated 100,000 refugees away from the conflict zone and across the border into China.
New refugee facility
An aid worker surnamed Li at a refugee camp in Maidihe, which straddles the border, said the authorities in Yunnan appeared to have relented and allowed some 1,000 refugees to re-enter a new facility on the Chinese side after forcing thousands of refugees back to the Myanmar side of the border last week.
"We have some 4,000 people on this side, and another 1,000 elsewhere," Li said. "Some 1,000 people have already moved into a refugee camp on the Chinese side."
"Some of those who didn't want to go to China have returned to their homes."
He said the new camp is called Dayuntang. "They opened up a refugee camp there three days ago," Li said.
"It's probably because the fighting has intensified, and because of international pressure," he said.
Beijing has been at pains to distance itself from involvement in the Kokang conflict following tensions with Myanmar's ruling military junta over the role played by its citizens in supporting the ethnically Chinese Kokang side.
Peng's dangerous gamble
Li said many older refugees had refused to go to China because they weren't allowed to take their livestock with them, and there was no-one to care for them in Kokang.
The MNDAA is allied with three other ethnic minority armies: the Ta'ang National Liberation Army (TNLA), the Kachin Independence Army (KIA), and part of the Shan State Army (SSA), although the KIA has remained in the region it controls, rather than fighting alongside MNDAA troops.
Further south, in the Shan town of Lashio, Chinese-speaking ethnic Kokang residents said Peng may have miscalculated in taking on the army, which has superior fire power and holds the region.
A Lashio resident surnamed Li said much of the online debate over the conflict was being framed as a bid for greater autonomy by Myanmar's ethnic Chinese, making Peng's battle for hearts and minds even trickier.
"This allows the Myanmar government to claim the higher moral ground of maintaining order," Li said.
"It's hard to say that Peng Jiasheng is in the wrong, but he is in the last stage of his life, and he wants to take Laukkai [before he dies]," he said. "He was gambling on other armed ethnic groups taking their cue from him, creating an opportunity in the midst of chaos."
"But this time, he has miscalculated, and the gamble hasn't paid off," Li said.
Reported by Qiao Long for RFA's Mandarin Service and by Lee Tung for the Mandarin Service. Translated and written in English by Luisetta Mudie.
Iraq: 26,000 people have fled fighting between Islamic State and Iraqi security forces in Tikrit for Samarra. Food, shelter, health and WASH needs are priorities. More than 100 families have arrived in Al Dour, located between Tikrit and Samarra, and thousands have fled to central and southern governorates.
South Sudan: Heavy fighting between government and opposition was reported in Upper Nile state, and government troops took control of Wadakona town. Many civilians are reported trapped. Peace talks have collapsed.
Nigeria: Boko Haram-related violence has caused over 4,000 deaths in Borno state alone since the beginning of 2015. 5.6 million people are in need of humanitarian assistance.
The violent police crackdown on largely peaceful protesters in Myanmar amounts to unnecessary and excessive use of force and must end immediately, Amnesty International said.
Police today forcibly dispersed student protesters who had gathered in Letpadan township in Myanmar’s central Bago Region to protest a new education law. Eyewitnesses told Amnesty International that when protesters tried to dismantle a police blockade, police started beating protesters, including some who had fallen to the ground, with batons.
“The violent response by police in Myanmar against the student protesters in Letpadan was completely disproportionate. Police clearly used excessive force against protesters, and also beat helpless people who had fallen to the ground, which amounts to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment under international law,” said Rupert Abbott, Amnesty International’s Research Director for Southeast Asia and the Pacific.
“Eyewitness accounts and images of police beating fleeing demonstrators with batons are a stark reminder of just how repressive the climate still is for activism in the country.”
“The authorities in Myanmar must immediately instruct the police to refrain from any unnecessary or excessive use of force, and hold to account all officers responsible for human rights violations. Although there are reports of stone throwing by protesters, the police’s actions appear to have gone well beyond an acceptable response.”
According to credible sources, some of the protesters were detained and taken away in police trucks. It is not clear whether they have been charged.
“Anyone who has simply protested peacefully should not have to face reprisals, arrest or criminal charges for doing so. Myanmar’s authorities have a long and troubling history of locking up peaceful demonstrators – this must not be allowed to happen in this case,” said Rupert Abbott.
Students in Myanmar have for months been protesting the newly adopted National Education Law, which they say curtails academic freedom. In January 2015, student groups from across the country began a series of peaceful marches towards Yangon, Myanmar’s largest city.
In February marches were suspended as the authorities and student leaders engaged in talks to amend the law. However, as talks broke down, student leaders attempted to resume the march on 3 March while police tried to prevent it – leading to the current standoff.
For more information please call Amnesty International's press office in London, UK, on
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International Secretariat, Amnesty International, 1 Easton St., London WC1X 0DW, UK
On March 6th, the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and the British Embassy organised an event to celebrate International Women’s Day. The aim was to raise awareness about the issue of domestic violence in Myanmar. As UNFPA Executive Director, Dr. Babatunde Osotimehin, highlighted in his message: “On International Women’s Day, we celebrate the progress we have made. And, we pledge to redouble efforts to complete these unfinished agendas. We will not stop until we cross the finish line and realise equality between girls and boys and women and men.”
British Ambassador H.E. Andrew Patrick opened the event. For the British Embassy, gender issues have been a key priority over the years. Although some progress has been made, including the signing of the 2014 Declaration of Commitment to End Sexual Violence in Conflict, significant problems remain, such as women lacking a voice in society and issues of sexual violence and violence associated with war. UK-sponsored activity from DFID and the Embassy in Yangon continues to focus on these issues.
Janet Jackson, UNFPA Country Representative, said that International Women’s Day was an opportunity to celebrate the advances of human rights as these relate to the full and equal participation of women and girls in society. She, however, added that there is still a great deal to be done and that public awareness of domestic violence is still low; a situation that is compounded by lack of any quantitative data to support policy and programming.
UNFPA has established 6 women and girl’s centres in Rakhine, supported by the Metta Foundation and the International Rescue Committee, which provide a safe space for women survivors of Gender-Based Violence (GBV). To date 4,000 women have visited these 6 centres, 80% of whom are survivors of GBV. In Kachin, a further 8 women and girl’s centres have been established in partnership with the Kachin Women’s Association. Women and girl’s centres are the cornerstone of UNFPA’s response to end GBV in Myanmar, providing life-saving health care and vital psychosocial services for women.
Janet Jackson said: “Prevention and response must go hand in hand in addressing violence against women and gender-based violence”. She continued that it is essential that survivors have access to services and that health and social workers are trained to detect and manage possible signs of GBV.
A preview of an episode from the new series “The Sun, The Moon, The Truth” was shown, which specifically focuses on the issue of domestic violence and the services that women can access for help. Grace Swe Zin Htaik, producer, spoke about why she felt it was important to break the silence and stigma surrounding GBV, which is prevalent in Myanmar – and many other – cultures. Daw Pansy Tun Thein, Co-Chair of the Gender Equality Network, explored this further when outlining their recently released report “Behind the silence: Violence against Women and their Resilience”. She also spoke about the Anti Violence Against Women law which is currently being drafted in Myanmar.
Wrapping up the event, the Myanmar Girls, the first Myanmar girl band, played a selection of their songs, including “Girl Strong”. Kimmy, the lead singer, emphasised that women should be independent and not dependent on their husband’s for their happiness.
By KHIN OO THA / THE IRRAWADDY| Monday, March 9, 2015 |
Authorities in China’s Yunnan Province are urging thousands of ethnic Kokang refugees in their area to return to the conflict-affected Kokang Special Region in northern Shan State, a ruling party lawmaker from the region has said.
Kyaw Ni Naing, a Union Solidarity and Development Party Lower House lawmaker who represents Laukkai Township, the Kokang region’s administrative center, said Chinese authorities on March 4 began encouraging refugees to leave Nansan, a Chinese town located across the border from Laukkai, even though some feared going back.
“Most of the war refugees have arrived at the border as Chinese authorities expelled them. Those who dare not return to their homes [in Laukkai] stay at makeshift tents in the forests along the border. They are lacking in everything, especially shelter,” he said.
According to the lawmaker, the Chinese believe hosting the refugees any longer would strain Burma-China relations.
Tens of thousands of Kokang residents of Laukkai Township fled to China following the outbreak of heavy fighting between the Burma Army and Kokang rebels, known as the Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA), on Feb. 9. According to some estimates, as many as 50,000 crossed into Yunnan Province.
Chinese state media have reported that emergency shelters had been set up for the refugees in Nansan, but little official information has been released about their plight. There have been no recent Chinese media reports indicating that authorities are now asking the refugees to return home.
The Kokang are an ethnic Chinese minority in Burma and the group can count on Chinese public support, but Beijing is concerned about instability along its border and its relationship with Naypyidaw.
Kyaw Ni Naing said the Kokang Youth Association has been providing refugees in China with foods donated by Kokang-based businessmen and well-wishers. The association is also planning to form a rescue and rehabilitation team to resettle the refugees. “Kokang youths went up to refugee camps in China and made donations. We were not allowed [by Chinese authorities] to take photos of the donations and to bring cameras,” he added.
Burmese state media reported in late February that Laukkai had been put under army control and that the region, which is under martial law, is safe for civilians to return to. Rebels, at the time, warned refugees not to return as fighting was ongoing.
Clashes in Laukkai Township have been reported by state media as recently as Saturday.
Army-owned newspaper Myawaddy reported on March 7 that two border gates, one near border post no. 125 and one atNansan, were reopened on Saturday, after which 180 refugees returned from China to Laukkai. In another state media report, a total of 2,746 refugees arrived back in Laukkai Saturday.
Thousands of Burmese migrant workers who use to be employed in the Kokang region have tried to flee southward to Lashio and central Burma, where they were welcomed by the army and local authorities.
Tun Tun Min, a volunteer who has been helping displaced Burmese civilians, said several vehicles were going to a government-controlled border crossing of Chin Shwe Haw in northern Shan State every day to bring back stranded workers.
“We’re driving them from the border to Lashio; we prepared vehicles for those who want to return. Many displaced have arrived in Lashio and only those [taking shelter] in Nansan have not come back,” he said.
BEIJING, March 7 (Xinhua) -- A Chinese city bordering Myanmar has seen more than 60,000 arrivals of refugees since the outbreak of conflicts in the north of the southeast Asian nation, the Party chief of southwest China's Yunnan Province said Saturday.
In a humanitarian spirit, China has provided the Myanmar refugees with some relief, including water and medical services, in Lincang, a city bordering Myanmar, said Li Jiheng, secretary of the Yunnan Provincial Committee of the Communist Party of China.
Strict border management measures have been carried out in Lincang but the border was not closed, Li told journalists after a panel discussion with other Yunnan lawmakers at the ongoing annual session of the National People's Congress, China's top legislature.
"The border area in Yunnan is stable, the supplies are ample and the price is stable," he said. "The traffic is smooth."
Chinese Foreign Ministry has said that the ongoing Kokang conflict in northern Myanmar is an internal affair of the country without any intervention by China. No evidence has pointed to any involvement by the Chinese government in the conflict.
Li said that China and Myanmar are friendly neighbors and the Chinese side always respects Myanmar's sovereignty and territorial integrity.
Editor: Yamei Wang
Western Myanmar’s Rakhine state will repatriate more than 100,000 ethnic Rakhine Buddhists from the country’s Kachin state, where fighting between rebels and government troops have threatened their livelihoods, officials said Monday.
Phyu Thar Che, vice-chairman of the Rakhine Literature and Cultural Association, said the Rakhine state government had pledged to assist in repatriating around half of the more than 200,000 Rakhines living in northern Myanmar’s resource-rich Kachin state.
“During our discussion, Rakhine state chief minister [Major General Maung Maung Ohn] agreed to arrange shelters for them and provide them with job opportunities in the region,” he told RFA’s Myanmar Service.
Last year, the Rakhine Literature and Cultural Association repatriated around 500 Rakhines from Kachin state, where they typically labor in jade and gold mines and work as loggers, Phyu Thar Che said, though some of them returned to the north because of a lack of jobs in Rakhine state.
However, rising tensions between the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) and Myanmar’s military over the past year have made it increasingly difficult for residents of Kachin state to find stable work in safe conditions, prompting the group to call for help from officials in relocating ethnic Rakhines.
Rakhine state government spokesperson Hla Thein confirmed that chief minister Maung Maung Ohn, who was appointed in June last year after former minister Hla Maung Tin resigned amid communal violence in the troubled region, had pledged to assist in the repatriation scheme.
“Some social organizations want to bring them back to Rakhine state—they discussed it with the chief minister and he agreed to do it,” he said, adding that the government would welcome the ethnic Rakhines back to the region.
“They are facing difficulties in Kachin state because of the fighting and they have no hope for bettering their lives. Their lives are also at risk, as they could be made soldiers in ethnic armed groups.”
Hla Thein said the Rakhine state government is planning to build an industrial zone in Ponnagyun township and can provide jobs for the returning Rakhines at the site, as well as through other development programs.
“If they want to come back and work here, it would be great for Rakhine state. We have some plans in Rakhine state, such as development through agriculture,” he said.
Building another Rakhine village in the region would also benefit the Rakhine ethnic group as a whole, he said, noting that “we have fewer Rakhine villages in some parts of Rakhine state.”
Rohingyas in Rakhine
Last month, in its annual report on the state of the world’s human rights, Amnesty International said the situation of the Rakhine state-based ethnic Muslim Rohingyas “deteriorated” in 2014, with ongoing discrimination in law and practice, and authorities failing to hold perpetrators of anti-Muslim violence to account.
An estimated 139,000 people—mostly Rohingya—remained displaced in the region after violence erupted between Rakhine Buddhists and Rohingyas in 2012, Amnesty said, adding that the situation had worsened when some aid organizations were expelled from the country after they were attacked by Rakhine people for allegedly giving preferential treatment to Muslims.
Rohingyas also remained deprived of nationality under Myanmar’s 1982 Citizenship Act, leaving them open to restrictions on freedom of movement that affected their livelihoods, the report said.
The government in October introduced a new Rakhine State Action Plan which, if implemented, would further entrench discrimination and segregation of the Rohingyas, it said, adding that the announcement appeared to trigger a new wave of people fleeing the country in boats to join the 87,000 who have already done so since the violence started in 2012.
Reported by Min Thein Aung and Khet Mar for RFA’s Myanmar Service. Translated by Khet Mar. Written in English by Joshua Lipes
After more than fifty years of military rule, in 2011 Burma/Myanmar embarked upon a historic transition with the new civilian government, led by President Thein Sein, undertaking a series of significant political and economic reforms. Since then, Burma/Myanmar has been lauded by the international community for its attempt to end gross human rights abuses and establish a more tolerant and peaceful society.
However, Burma/Myanmar’s democratic transition has also caused insecurity. Although the government has permitted greater freedom of expression and allowed for political debate, Buddhist chauvinists have also been able to exploit this newly-opened democratic space. In particular, long-standing discrimination against Rohingya Muslims has fuelled prejudice and incitement against them.
During June and October 2012 inter-communal violence in the country’s western Arakan/Rakhine state left at least 200 people dead and 120,000 displaced, most of whom were ethnic Rohingyas. Largely unchecked by the government, anti-Rohingya sentiments continued to spread, and violence affected the broader Muslim community. Following deadly clashes between Buddhists and Muslims in Meikhtila during March 2013, antiMuslim rhetoric and sporadic attacks have persisted.
Today nearly 140,000 people remain segregated in squalid internally displaced person (IDP) camps, where the government has been accused of blocking access to healthcare and other vital assistance.
While the government has continued to insist that it seeks reconciliation between all the country’s ethnic communities, it has undertaken several measures that have systematized the persecution, segregation and disenfranchisement of Rohingyas. During 2014 the human rights situation for the Rohingya dramatically worsened. The then-UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar, Tomás Ojea Quintana, remarked in April that recent developments marked “the latest in a long history of discrimination and persecution against the Rohingya community which could amount to crimes against humanity.”
The government of Burma/Myanmar bears the primary Responsibility to Protect all populations within its borders, regardless of ethnicity or religion, from mass atrocity crimes. Yet, it is failing in this responsibility.
Despite an enduring risk of mass atrocities, the international community has continued to praise the progress made by President Thein Sein’s administration, rewarding the government with renewed diplomatic engagement and direct foreign investment, as well as by lifting decades-long bilateral sanctions. Unless the international community presses the government to take meaningful remedial action, enduring ethnic conflicts and persecution will continue to endanger vulnerable populations and imperil the country’s stability.
Myanmar: Report of the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar, Yanghee Lee (A/HRC/28/72)
Since 2011, Myanmar has undergone far-reaching changes that have affected many aspects of life in the country. However, there continue to be signs of backtracking by the Government and increasing concerns over discrimination and ethnic conflict. The present report sets out the Special Rapporteur’s key areas of focus and recommendations aimed at contributing to Myanmar’s efforts towards respecting, protecting and promoting human rights and achieving democratization, national reconciliation and development.
As of 5 Mar over 82,000 people are displaced due to continuing insecurity in the provinces of North Cotabato and Maguindanao in Central Mindanao. This is an increase of about 12,100 people over the previous three days, according to the authorities of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM). As of 4 Mar, over 64,000 people were staying in 48 evacuation centres across 12 municipalities, while others were hosted by relatives and friends. The situation along the border of the two provinces has stabilised.
82,000 people displaced
48 evacuation centres
On 5 Mar, the Regional Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council of the ARMM led a Rapid Damage Assessment and Needs Analysis in the affected municipalities with the support of the Mindanao Humanitarian Team. Findings of the assessment mission will be shared in due course.
Local and national authorities with support of UN agencies, ICRC and NGO partners continue to assist the displaced families through provision of food, NFIs, WASH and health assistance and are pre-positioning additional relief goods.1
Fighting continues between the Government of Myanmar Army and the Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army and other armed groups in the Kokang self-administered zone, northeast Shan State. Due to insecurity, lack of access and continuing conflict, the number of people displaced to China and within Myanmar is difficult to verify. Chinese media has reported 30,000 people crossing into China, while some 13,000 people are estimated to have fled the Kokang region to other parts of Myanmar, according to local authorities. Those displaced in China or within Myanmar were provided with assistance. Assistance was provided by local authorities to those displaced in China and for internally displaced in Myanmar,
Myanmar Red Cross Society and local civil society organizations.2
PAPUA NEW GUINEA
Heavy rainfall on 3 Mar caused river overflows in the provinces of Western Highlands, Central Highlands, Southern Highlands and Jiwaka.
As of 4 Mar, local authorities and local media report six people killed in the village of Polga in Jiwaka province, while a number of houses were destroyed throughout the affected area. In total, about 100,000 people were affected by the rainfall and floods.3
6 people killed
100,000 people affected
On 9 Mar, the National Weather Service issued strong weather warnings for areas south of Port Moresby. This system is responsible for continuous rain and gale force winds in the southern region from Daru to Samarai.4
SOUTH PACIFIC A severe tropical depression located north of Vanuatu and east of Solomon Islands is rapidly intensifying. Weather models predict it is likely to track southeastward and reach tropical cyclone category by the evening of 9 Mar after which it will be named Tropical Cyclone Pam.
As of 9 Mar, the Solomon Islands are experiencing heavy rains on the outer islands. The National Disaster Operations Centre reports that 38 people were evacuated in Malaita province and several houses and a bridge have also been submerged.
A response preparedness meeting with the Pacific Humanitarian Team was held on 9 Mar and partners are on stand-by to deploy.5
Other ongoing emergencies:
Philippines: Zamboanga crisis
Myanmar: Rakhine crisis
Myanmar: Kachin crisis