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Myanmar: Myanmar Protests U.N. Official’s Comments on ‘Ethnic Cleansing’ in Rakhine

29 November 2016 - 2:12am
Source: Radio Free Asia Country: Myanmar

The Myanmar government lodged a protest on Monday over remarks by a United Nations human rights official that the country is conducting a genocide campaign on stateless Rohingya Muslims in the northern part of volatile Rakhine state.

Htin Linn, Myanmar’s permanent representative to the U.N. in Geneva, Switzerland, lodged a protest against John McKissick, head of the United Nations refugee agency (UNHCR) in the nearby Bangladeshi border town of Cox’s Bazar, for allegations he made against the Myanmar military in an interview that aired Nov. 24.

McKissick accused Myanmar army soldiers and border guard police of killing villagers, raping women and girls, and burning down homes in Rohingya communities during a security crackdown and search of Maungdaw and Buithidaung townships for armed militants following deadly attacks on border guard posts on Oct. 9.

The military has denied the accusations and blamed the Rohingya for burning down their own homes.

The security forces had “engaged in collective punishment of the Rohingya minority” after the attacks, which some locals and Myanmar officials blamed on a Rohingya militant group, the BBC reported.

“Now it’s very difficult for the Bangladeshi government to say the border is open because this would further encourage the government of Myanmar to continue the atrocities and push them out until they have achieved their ultimate goal of ethnic cleansing of the Muslim minority in Myanmar,” McKissick told the BBC.

Security forces have locked down the area and restricted access so that independent journalists and international aid organizations have been unable to evaluate the abuse allegations.

Htin Linn said he requested a meeting with UNHCR High Commissioner Filippo Grande who was out of town, so he met instead with assistant high commissioner Volker Türk on Nov. 25 to lodge the protest.

“If such allegations were indeed made by the UNHCR, then Myanmar lodges strong objection against the UNHCR for unjust allegations made without substantiating evidence [against] the Myanmar government which is also tantamount to a breach of the code of conduct of the U.N.,” said a statement posted on Nov. 26 on the Facebook page of Myanmar’s State Counselor’s Office.

The statement went on to say that the allegations “had a damaging effect on the Myanmar government” and “corroded the integrity of the UNHCR.” It added that if necessary, Myanmar would also lodge an official written complaint.

Türk responded that officials at the UNHCR were surprised by McKissick’s comments, and that they did not represent the agency’s official position, according to the statement. He also said the UNHCR would look into the matter and issue an appropriate response to Htin Linn’s request.

Complaint against BBC

The Myanmar embassy in the United Kingdom sent a complaint letter to the BBC on Friday about its Nov. 22 report on the Rohingya, which it said was one-sided and based on hearsay.

The violence that has occurred in Maungdaw township has forced thousands of Rohingya, viewed by Myanmar’s Buddhist majority as illegal immigrants from Bangladesh, to flee on foot and in boats to the Bangladeshi border. Guards have turned many away, while others have made it across and are staying in makeshift refugee camps.

Nearly 90 people have been reported killed, and about 30,000 have been displaced by the recent violence in northern Rakhine.

State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi, Myanmar’s de facto leader, delayed a three-day visit to Indonesia on Monday following protests in the predominantly Muslim country over Myanmar’s crackdown on the Rohingya.

Indonesian police on Sunday said they arrested an Islamic State-linked militant for planning to bomb Myanmar’s embassy in the capital Jakarta.

A government spokesman, however, said Aung San Suu Kyi decided to postpone the trip so she could devote her attention to the situation in Rakhine and the conflict between ethnic armed groups and the army in northern Shan state.

Hundreds of Rohingya protested on Nov. 25 against the crackdown in Kuala Lumpur, the capital of predominantly Muslim Malaysia.

That same day, Malaysia’s foreign ministry called on the Myanmar government to address the alleged ethnic cleansing and said it would summon the country’s ambassador to convey its concerns about the matter, Reuters reported.

Also on Nov. 25, members of Islamic groups marched in a rally in Dhaka, Bangladesh, to protest what they called the persecution of the Rohingya in Myanmar.

The Myanmar government created a Rakhine Advisory Commission three months ago to examine conflict resolution, humanitarian assistance, and development issues in the impoverished and restive western state.

Former U.N. chief Kofi Annan, who leads the nine-member commission, will visit Maungdaw township on Friday, the online journal The Irrawaddy reported, citing Tin Maung Swe, secretary of the Rakhine state government. The two-day trip will be Annan’s second visit to Rakhine since his appointment.

Seven other commission members canceled a visit to Maungdaw in October because of security concerns.

Reported by RFA’s Myanmar Service. Translated by Khin Maung Nyane. Written in English by Roseanne Gerin.

Myanmar: Myanmar: Dooplaya Interview: Saw B---, March 2015

29 November 2016 - 1:56am
Source: Karen Human Rights Group Country: Myanmar

This Interview with Saw B--- describes events occurring in Kyainseikgyi Township, Dooplaya District, in March 2015, including killing, conflict between the local and the non-local people, military activities and the situation of villagers’ livelihoods.

  • On March 15th 2015, K--- villager Saw Thaung Nyein who was suspected of practicing witchcraft was killed by Saw Heh Thaw in K--- village, Noh Ta Kaw Township, Dooplaya District.The murder was committed using an AK-47 gun obtained by Saw Heh Thaw which is thought to belong to an armed group.Two suspects were arrested by the local KNLA soldiers and were detained and investigated at a KNLA’s camp.

  • The interviewee, Saw B---, also raises about the need for clarification of responsibilities by the local KNU in general and about what level of local leader should take responsibility for village and village tract problems.

  • Saw B--- also discusses the problems that village leaders and villagers’ face with non-Karen ethnic people who come and work in Karen village areas. 

  • This interview with Saw B--- also raises about the lack of healthcare provision in his area and also how the Burma/Myanmar government took advantage of taking over a village school only after it was built and paid for by the local villagers.

Myanmar: Myanmar: Toungoo Interview: Saw A---, October 2016

29 November 2016 - 1:53am
Source: Karen Human Rights Group Country: Myanmar

This Interview with Saw A--- describes the situation in Htaw Ta Htoo (Htantabin) Township, Toungoo District, in October 2016, including education, healthcare, NCA (Nation Wide Ceasefire) impact and IDP (Internally Displaced Person) return.   

  • Saw A---, who is an IDP, describes his perspectives on the return of IDPs in Toungoo district and the marginal problems that he would face when he goes back to B--- village where he originally came from.  
  • Saw A--- also stated about how the new NLD (National League for Democracy) government’s education department is sending teachers to Karen areas controlled by the country government, and that he thinks these government teachers are extinguishing the Karen written language, culture and history.    

Myanmar: Myanmar: Toungoo Interview: Saw A---, December 2015

29 November 2016 - 1:51am
Source: Karen Human Rights Group Country: Myanmar

This Interview with Saw A--- describes events occurring in Htantabin Township, Toungoo District, during December 2015. It covers taxation and education.

  • A villager from B--- village reported that the Karen National Union (KNU) taxed each motorbike owner 5000 kyat [US $3.81] and 35000 kyat [US $26.73] from each carrier They also taxed the villagers who work on the cardamom plantations 1000 kyat [US $1.30] per viss of cardamom.

  • The villagers in Htantabin Township requested the KNU to give a clear picture of the KNU taxation policy.    

Myanmar: Myanmar: Hpa-an Interview: Saw A---, August 2015

29 November 2016 - 1:48am
Source: Karen Human Rights Group Country: Myanmar

This Interview with Saw A--- describes land confiscation and its impact in Hlaingbwe Township, Hpa-an District, during August 2015.

  • Tatmadaw Light Infantry Battalion (LIB) #339 confiscated 500 acres of residential and farm land in 1991 and 1992 in Hlaingbwe Township, Section ---, Hpa-an District.
  • Tatmadaw LIB #338, LIB #339 and Infantry Battalion (IB) #28 held a meeting in 2014 asking villagers to sign a document requesting their land back but this did not result in their land being returned.
  • As of August 2015, the villagers have been active in requesting their land back but it has not yet been returned.

Myanmar: Myanmar: Kachin & Northern Shan CCCM Dashboard (1/Oct/2016)

29 November 2016 - 1:17am
Source: UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Myanmar Information Management Unit, CCCM Cluster, Shelter Cluster Country: Myanmar

# of IDP Locations (host families & Camps) 176

Estimated number of IDPs 97,679

The majority of IDP locations are in or near (less than 5km) urban areas.

Displacement started in June 2011 due to the fighting between the Government and the Kachin Independence Organization. The majority of IDPs live in camps along the Myanmar-China Border. Approximately 44% of IDPs live in camps in non-Government Controlled areas (NGCA).

Myanmar: UNHCR South East Asia 2016 Funding Update as of 17 November 2016

29 November 2016 - 12:54am
Source: UN High Commissioner for Refugees Country: Bangladesh, Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Thailand
  • 139.7 M required for 2016
  • 44.1 M contributions received, representing 32% of requirements
  • 95.6 M funding gap for South East Asia

All figures are displayed in USD

Myanmar: UNHCR Myanmar Situation 2016 Funding Update as of 17 November 2016

29 November 2016 - 12:50am
Source: UN High Commissioner for Refugees Country: Myanmar, Thailand
  • 71.9 M required for 2016 
  • 16.7 M contributions received, representing 23% of requirements 
  • 55.2 M funding gap for the Myanmar Situation 

All figures are displayed in USD

Myanmar: UNHCR Bay Of Bengal Situation 2016 Funding Update as of 17 November 2016

28 November 2016 - 10:31pm
Source: UN High Commissioner for Refugees Country: Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar, Thailand
  • 4.2 M required for 2016
  • 809,938 contributions received, representing 19% of requirements
  • 3.4 M funding gap for the Bay Of Bengal Situation

All figures are displayed in USD

World: Closing the HIV prevention investment gap

28 November 2016 - 7:13am
Source: UNAIDS Country: Brazil, Cameroon, Myanmar, Namibia, South Africa, World

Despite the progress made against HIV over the past 15 years and the availability of proven prevention and treatment methods, the annual number of new HIV infections among adults has remained static, at an estimated 1.9 million a year since 2010. Moreover, there has been resurgence of new HIV infections among key populations in some parts of the world.

Inadequate investments in prevention and unfocused investments that do not reach the most affected populations and locations are among the reasons for the prevention gap. An analysis of four countries in different regions and with different types of epidemic found that the funding of effective and focused primary HIV prevention programmes was low—6% of total HIV investments in Brazil, 4% in Cameroon, 15% in Myanmar and 10% in South Africa. Country allocations for HIV primary prevention (excluding mother-to-child transmission of HIV and voluntary HIV testing and counselling) by the United States President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief and the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria have accounted for roughly 15% of total HIV expenditure.

With funding for prevention falling behind funding for treatment, fewer than one in five people at higher risk of HIV infection today have access to prevention programmes. UNAIDS modelling has shown that investing around a quarter of all the resources required for the AIDS response in HIV prevention services would be sufficient to make possible a range of prevention programmes, including condom programmes, pre-exposure prophylaxis, voluntary medical male circumcision, harm reduction, programmes to empower young women and girls, and mobilizing and providing essential service packages for and with key populations.

Investing more in prevention will also support treatment programmes to achieve their targets. Prevention programmes—including providing HIV information, condom distribution and outreach to young people and key populations—are often the first entry point for individuals to HIV testing and treatment. Community peer-led prevention programmes are also critical for reducing stigma and discrimination. Meanwhile, expanded access to treatment gives people at higher risk choices and encourages them to find out their HIV status; this, in turn, provides the opportunity to retain people who test negative in ongoing prevention programmes. Reducing the number of people who acquire HIV and will need treatment makes antiretroviral therapy programmes more sustainable.

In December 2015, the UNAIDS Executive Director, Michel Sidibé, called for investing a quarter for HIV prevention. In June 2016, United Nations Member States committed in the 2016 Political Declaration on Ending AIDS to ensuring that financial resources for prevention are adequate and constitute no less than a quarter of AIDS spending globally on average.

A number of countries have already taken action to increase their domestic funding for HIV prevention, including Namibia, which has committed to investing 30% of its HIV budget in preventing HIV among adults and children.

Myanmar: Asia and the Pacific: Weekly Regional Humanitarian Snapshot (22 - 28 November 2016)

28 November 2016 - 4:16am
Source: UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs Country: Japan, Myanmar, Philippines

MYANMAR

Since the 9 October attacks in Rakhine State, more than 30,000 people are estimated to be internally displaced. Humanitarian agencies have not been able to verify the number of IDPs or assess their needs due to lack of access. Thousands of people are also reportedly crossing the border into Bangladesh. Some pre-existing humanitarian services have resumed for more than 19,000 people, however, around 130,000 people are still unable to access regular food, cash and nutrition assistance. Some 300 ethnic Rakhine and Mro people remain displaced in Buthidaung and Maungdaw, of which 120 people received food and other relief items from UN agencies last week.

30,000 people displaced

Intense fighting between ethnic armed groups and the Myanmar military in northern Shan State has displaced some 6,500 people since 20 November. Around 3,500 people have been internally displaced to various locations around Muse. Humanitarian travel to displacement sites is limited due to the security situation. According to the Chinese Foreign Ministry, an additional 3,000 people have crossed the border into Yunnan Province (China).

6,500 people displaced

JAPAN

On 22 November, a 7.4 magnitude earthquake struck off the coast of Fukushima Prefecture at a depth of 25 km. The quake triggered 1.4 metre tsunami waves which hit Sendai Port.

Tsunami warnings and evacuation orders issued by authorities following the quake were lifted several hours after the event.

As of 24 November, all evacuation centres were closed and people who temporarily relocated returned to their homes. While the quake caused 20 injuries across Miyagi, Fukushima, Chiba and Tokyo, no fatalities were reported.

Transport networks are fully operational and roads are accessible.

PHILIPPINES

As of 27 November, Tropical Storm Tokage (locally known as Marce), has affected about 3,000 families (14,300 people) in Western Visayas, MIMAROPA and CARAGA regions.

Around 3,350 people were hosted in 45 evacuation centres and 12,460 people were pre-emptively evacuated. To date, no fatalities have been reported.

Regional offices of the Department of Social Welfare and Development have distributed food packs in support of the local response. No international assistance has been requested.

3,000 families affected

Myanmar: Myanmar: Nyaunglebin Situation Update: Mone Township, February to August 2016

28 November 2016 - 4:03am
Source: Karen Human Rights Group Country: Myanmar

This Situation Update describes events occurring in Mone [Moo] Township, Nyaunglebin District during the period between February and August 2016, including civilians’ livelihood, health, education, logging, support for civilians, and Tatmadaw activity.

  • In 2015 and 2016, there were increases in the use and trade of ‘yaba’ in Maw Hko village tract, Mone Township, Nyaunglebin District, even though area leaders prohibited it.

  • Between February and August 2016, civilians in Mone Township, Nyaunglebin District received support from non-governmental organisations (NGOs), the Burma/Myanmar government and Karen National Union (KNU).

  • Between February and August 2016, Karen National Liberation Army (KNLA) as well as civilians conducted logging in Maw Hko village tract, and the Tatmadaw collected taxes for this.

  • The Tatmadaw based nearer A--- village and B--- village, Maw Hkoh village tract rotated their troops very often but the villagers are not sure about the reason for their activities.

Situation Update | Mone Township, Nyaunglebin District (February to August 2016)

The following Situation Update was received by KHRG in August 2016. It was written by a community member in Nyaunglebin District who has been trained by KHRG to monitor human rights conditions. It is presented below translated exactly as originally written, save for minor edits for clarity and security.[1] This report was received along with other information from Nyaunglebin District, including 13 photographs.[2]

Livelihoods

In terms of livelihoods, civilians [in Mone/Moo Township] mainly work on hill farms, betel nut[3] plantations, betel nut leaf plantations, durian plantations and dog fruit plantations. In the villages, [villagers] also buy, sell and carry food between villages, such as rice, salt, fish paste, snacks and many oter types of food. Betel nut plantations, durian plantations, dog fruit plantations and betel nut leaf plantations are far from the villages so villagers have to go to their plantations on foot for between one and a half hours and two hours. Villagers carry [supplies] in baskets when they walk there.

Health

There is also a hospital in Maw Keh Tha Per Khoh village, Maw Khoh village tract, Moo Township that was constructed by the Burma/Myanmar government and an NGO [non-governmental organisation], and the Burma/Myanmar government provides one health worker for the hospital. This nurse is given free accommodation beside the hospital, which was constructed by villagers. She also has one female colleague to help her providing healthcare services. Adult and elderly villagers face common illnesses, such as high blood pressure, low blood pressure, gastric illness and TB. There has been a lot of rain so many children have been ill with fever and malaria.

There is also a volunteer health programme run by an NGO and the Burma/Myanmar government.

Education

Before 2010, there was a primary school [up to Standard[4] in Maw Keh Tha Per Khoh village. Since 2010, one [more] school [building] for a nursery school was constructed by the Burma/Myanmar government. Since 2015, the school runs [from Standard 5] to Standard 8. Construction of this new school building began in March 2014 and it opened in 2015. There are three classrooms in this new school building; they are a nursery classroom, a Standard 1 classroom and another room which is a temporary school office because there is no [school] office building yet. There are two other temporary bamboo school buildings for the other standards for each year [because they have to repair these buildings every year]. Standards 2, 3, 4 and 5 are taught in the first bamboo school building and Standards 6, 7 and 8 classrooms are taught in the second one. There are four male teachers from the Burma/Myanmar government, and sixteen female teachers. Nine female teachers are from the village [where the school is] but the other eleven teachers are from other villages. The teachers’ accommodation building is constructed inside the school campus. There are eighteen teachers who get a salary from the Burma/Myanmar government but ten teachers are village teachers [funded by the villagers]. Villagers also pay the salary for the other two nursery teachers.

This school gives the students an opportunity to study Karen language and culture so one [Karen subject] teacher was chosen from the village. This Karen subject teacher gets a salary from Myanmar/Burma government as well. The [students] study Karen language and culture from 08:30 AM to 09:00 AM in the morning before school starts and then from 14:30 PM to 15:15 PM in the afternoon [each day]. They [students] are given an opportunity to study Karen languageand culture in the morning and in the afternoon every day of the week.

KNLA [Karen National Liberation Army] activity

Between 2015 and May 2016, [ethnic] Bamar people asked permission to do logging from KNLA Battalion #8 led by Bo[5] S’Tee, which patrols in Maw Hkoh village tract, Brigade 3 [Nyaunglebin District]. They reached an understanding with [KNLA] company staff and paid a week tax [to allow logging for one week] or ten days tax [to allow logging for ten days] to the [KNLA] company staff and they also had to pay a tax for each log carrying cart. The KNLA staff gave permission to Bamar people so they could conduct logging together with [KNLA)] company staff and villagers. The village tract has a rule against logging or burning logs for charcoal but lots of the [KNLA] company staff conduct logging.

Tatmadaw activity

Tatmadaw [camps] are based on the hill of A--- [village] and B--- village, Maw Hkoh village tract and they are located on the villagers’ land. Some Tatmadaw soldiers are rotated once every four months but some Tatmadaw soldiers are rotated once every two or three weeks. We do not know why they rotate like this. The Tatmadaw who are based in B--- village [army camp] set up their army to patrol [other places]. When [KNLA] gave permission to the Bamar people to conduct logging, they [Tatmadaw] patrolled at Hsaw Wah Der [village], B--- Bridge and built their checkpoint there. All carts [drivers] had to pay five thousand kyat [US $3.83][6] for each cart when they passed this checkpoint. Villagers had to drive the Tatmadaw soldiers on their carts when they were rotating [to other places] or if anything happened and they had to go somewhere, they asked to borrow villagers’ motorcycles or villagers had to drive them [to wherever they wanted to go].

Support for the villagers

Support [for the civilians in Mone Township] was provided by the Nippon Foundation,[7] Mya Sein Yaung Project[8] and Karen National Union [KNU] Animal Husbandry Department. Nippon Foundation provided five bowls of rice per person once. Mya Sein Yaung Project loaned money

[to villagers] and [villagers had to pay] the interest of 1.5%. KNU Animal Husbandry Department distributed animals; fifty pigs and fifty goats [across the township]. These fifty pigs were bred by the Cooperated Husbandry System; villagers breed a pig for one year and then they have to give one piglet back. KNU Husbandry Department distributed fifty pigs to fifty families to breed and they do not give each family more than one pig to breed. Regarding goat husbandry, they were bred together in the places far away from the villages.

The trade and use of yaba[9] against the law of the [Burma/Myanmar] country and it was forbidden by area leaders in village tract. Between 2015 and 2016, because the number of [people] using yaba has increased, lots of people are worried about the young people.

Myanmar: DS intensively exploring HLP restitution prospects in Myanmar

27 November 2016 - 11:54pm
Source: Displacement Solutions Country: Myanmar

DS carried out its latest mission to Myanmar with a focus this time on the question of housing, land and property restitution rights and how best to ensure these rights for everyone with an HLP loss and valid restitution claim in need of remedy. DS and the Norwegian Refugee Council will shortly be reducing a major new study on restitution, which it plans to publicly launch in Yangon in January 2017. A range of restitution measures are already in place in Myanmar, signalling a major concrete outcome of the political reform process. The new study proposes a series of specific recommendations on how to move to the next level of the quest of restitution for all. These efforts build on DS’ extensive global experience on designing restitution laws and systems throughout the history of the organisation.

Myanmar: Burma: End Prosecutions for Critical Speech

27 November 2016 - 9:43pm
Source: Human Rights Watch Country: Myanmar

Ruling Party Member Latest Charged Under Overly Broad Law

(Rangoon, November 28, 2016) – Burmese authorities continue to arrest and charge individuals, including members of the ruling party, for criticizing the military and government, Human Rights Watch said today.

On November 18, 2016, National League for Democracy (NLD) member Myo Yan Naung Thein was charged with defamation for a Facebook post criticizing the military for “failing to defend the country” against attacks in Rakhine State and calling for the commander-in-chief of the armed forces to resign. He is being held without bail, and faces up to three years in prison under Burma’s Telecommunications Law.

“No one seems safe from prosecution under Burma’s overly broad laws criminalizing free speech,” said Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “It’s crucial that the NLD, many of whose members spent long years in prison for their political views, act to end these prosecutions and amend the law.”

Section 66(d) of the Telecommunications Law is a vaguely worded provision that criminalizes “extorting, coercing, restraining wrongfully, defaming, disturbing, causing undue influence or threatening any person by using any telecommunications network.” A member of parliament who serves on the Parliamentary Commission for the Assessment of Legal Affairs and Special Issues recently announced that the commission was preparing to review the law in light of criticism of its continued use.

In recent months, the authorities have used section 66(d) to arrest individuals who allegedly insulted or defamed NLD leader Aung San Suu Kyi, President U Htin Kyaw, or the military. In September, Aung Win Hlaing was sentenced to nine months in prison for calling the president an “idiot” and “crazy” on Facebook. On November 11, Ko Hla Phone was sentenced to two years in prison for allegedly posting digitally altered images of former president Thein Sein and Commander-in-Chief Min Aung Hlaing on social media. Section 66(d) is also now being used to prosecute the chief executive officer and chief editor of Eleven Media, Than Htut Aung and Wai Phyo, for an article that suggested that Rangoon Region Chief Minister U Phyo Min Thein had accepted an expensive watch from a prominent businessman.

Human Rights Watch takes the position that defamation – a false statement of fact that harms someone’s reputation – should not be a criminal offense, as criminal penalties are always a disproportionate punishment for harm to someone’s reputation. Defamation cases involving public figures are particularly problematic, allowing those in power to penalize their critics or those who seek to expose official wrongdoing. The United Nations Human Rights Committee has made clear that speech that is considered insulting, even speech that insults those in a position of power, should never be the basis of a criminal prosecution.

"Exposure of corruption and criticism of the government, however crudely worded, are essential elements of a rights-respecting democracy, and should not be the basis of criminal prosecutions,” Robertson said. “The Burmese parliament should move quickly to amend section 66(d) to bring it in line with international standards for the protection of free expression.”

Myanmar: Expert Views - How to solve the escalating violence in Myanmar?

25 November 2016 - 7:09pm
Source: Thomson Reuters Foundation Country: Myanmar

by Beh Lih Yi | @BehLihYi | Thomson Reuters Foundation
Friday, 25 November 2016 12:06 GMT

Rohingya residents and human rights groups accuse the military and border guard forces of raping Rohingya women, torching houses and killing civilians

By Beh Lih Yi

KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 25 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - The conflict in Myanmar's northwestern state of Rakhine has sent hundreds of Rohingya Muslims fleeing across the border to Bangladesh, and has killed at least 86 people and displaced some 30,000 so far.

Soldiers have poured into the area along Myanmar's frontier with Bangladesh, responding to coordinated attacks on three border posts on Oct. 9 that killed nine police officers.

Rohingya residents and human rights groups accuse the military and border guard forces of raping Rohingya women, torching houses and killing civilians during operations there. The Myanmar government and military deny the accusations.

It is the most serious bloodshed in Rakhine since hundreds were killed in communal clashes in 2012.

The violence has renewed pressure on Myanmar and Nobel Peace Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi's administration to address the plight of the 1.1 million Rohingya, who are denied citizenship and access to basic services.

How can Myanmar put an end to the violence? Here are what experts said:

Sam Zarifi, Asia-Pacific regional director at the International Commission of Jurists:

The NLD (the National League for Democracy government) should publicly call for an investigation and for the protection of the human rights of all people in Myanmar. Unless it uses its mandate to call for the equal treatment of Rohingya people, human rights violations could escalate, further tarnishing the NLD's image and engraining discrimination.

In the long term, all people who live in Rakhine state - both the (Buddhist) Rakhine and Muslim populations - must enjoy human rights, including citizenship, access to education, healthcare and justice. The NLD must be the voice of reason rather than of discrimination.

Lilianne Fan, humanitarian and conflict expert on Myanmar and Asia:

While the Myanmar government has a right, of course, to react with force to insurgent attacks, the brutal way in which this operation is being conducted has generated scathing condemnations from the international community and has called into questions the extent to which Daw Aung San Syu Kyi and her NLD government can control the military.

This unwillingness by the NLD government to critique the conduct of the military is exceedingly dangerous and will lead to thousands more falling victim to military violence and to a deepening humanitarian crisis. While the areas under military operation have been under lockdown since October 9 over the past few days hundreds of refugees finally made it to Bangladesh. Unfortunately, Bangladesh is not welcoming them and has even pushed hundreds back across the border to Myanmar. It is highly likely that we will soon see another outflow of Rohingya refugees to other countries in the region.

Daniel Sullivan, senior advocate at Refugees International:

The escalating violence in Rakhine State can best be solved by allowing access to international observers and humanitarian aid. An independent international investigation is needed to address the grave abuses being reported out of the country and to deter further abuses. The current violence is occurring in a vacuum of impunity in which neutral reporting and, more importantly, life-saving aid are being denied.

Punishing the general Rohingya population by cutting off aid and denying credible neutral reporting only sets the stage for further death and suffering.

Charles Santiago, Chair of ASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights:

The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) needs to abandon its consensus and non-interference approach and perceive the ongoing problem as a regional problem. It would require some ASEAN disciplining of Myanmar ... the time for that has arrived.

Julia Mayerhofer, deputy secretary-general of Asia Pacific Refugee Rights Network

We have been looking at the role of regional players such as ASEAN and the Bali Process on People Smuggling, Trafficking in Persons and Transnational Crime. ASEAN, which is crippled by its principle of non-interference, must wake up and engage in humanitarian advocacy as well as provide constructive support.

Champa Patel, Amnesty International's South Asia Director:

Accounts of human rights violations must immediately be investigated in a genuinely independent impartial and efficient way. The only real solution, both in the short and long terms, lies in respect for the human rights of Rohingyas in Myanmar. Long-term, entrenched and systemic discrimination against Rohingya must end.

(Reporting by Beh Lih Yi @behlihyi, Editing by Ros Russell; Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women's rights, trafficking, property rights and climate change. Visit http://news.trust.org)

Myanmar: Malaysia to summon Myanmar envoy on Rohingya as protests mount

25 November 2016 - 6:05pm
Source: Reuters - Thomson Reuters Foundation Country: Bangladesh, Malaysia, Myanmar, Thailand

At least 86 people are reported to have been killed in escalating violence that has displaced about 30,000 in the region's most serious bloodshed since 2012

By Joseph Sipalan and Ruma Paul

KUALA LUMPUR/DHAKA, Nov 25 (Reuters) - Malaysia will summon Myanmar's ambassador over the crackdown on Rohingya Muslims in northwestern Rakhine state, it said on Friday, as protesters across Southeast Asia demonstrated against the rising violence.

Read more on the Thomson Reuters Foundation

World: Strengthening Capacities: CAFOD's vision to promote locally-led humanitarian response

25 November 2016 - 12:56pm
Source: Catholic Agency for Overseas Development Country: Cambodia, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Kenya, Malawi, Mozambique, Myanmar, Niger, World, Zimbabwe

By Rhea Bhardwaj (Humanitarian Capacity Development Manager) and Timothy Cohen (Emergency Support Officer). November, 2016

The number, scale and severity of humanitarian crises is posing a big challenge to the international humanitarian system’s capacity to respond. The number of crisis-affected people dependant on humanitarian aid is growing as is the funding gap. At the forefront of the response are local organisations who are amongst the first ones to respond, have better knowledge of the context and better acceptance from the crisis affected communities.

However, this local capacity is often undermined, ignored or overwhelmed by international humanitarian actors who fail to recognise their critical role, particularly in responding to large scale disasters.
CAFOD is committed to empower local partners and communities to be at the forefront of humanitarian response. This has always been the guiding tenet of CAFOD’s partnership principles - that promote an increased and more prominent role for local and national actors.

CAFOD has been actively engaged to influence the humanitarian system to enable more effective, efficient and locally-led humanitarian response through various advocacy initiatives like Charter4Change, Missed Opportunities research –supporting the case for localisation of aid besides establishment of NEAR network – a global network for local and national organisations.

World: Surveillance of birth defects: a key strategy for reducing newborn and child mortality

25 November 2016 - 7:03am
Source: World Health Organization Country: Myanmar, World

Despite significant progress in Millennium Development Goals over the past decade, ending preventable maternal newborn and child mortality remains an unfinished agenda and one of the world’s most critical challenges. At the same time, birth defects have been recognized as a global public health concern since they are progressively contributing to a greater proportion of infant and childhood mortality. WHO estimates that, globally, about 7% of all neonatal deaths are caused by birth defects.

Birth Defect Surveillance is one of the most important strategies to reduce newborn and child morbidity and mortality. Surveillance and prevention of birth defects will contribute to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals targets of 2030. Furthermore, in the context of the worldwide spread of Zika virus and associated neonatal malformations, birth defect surveillance acquires a particular importance for the planning and response to the Zika virus disease. Strengthening birth defect surveillance and integrating microcephaly into the existing surveillance system is essential to prevent further deaths and morbidity.

Since 2011, the WHO Regional Office from South East Asia, in collaboration with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has been supporting the development of national programmes for Prevention and Control of birth defects in South East Asian countries. In response to those regional efforts, a national planning meeting for the prevention and control of birth defect was conducted in Myanmar during 2014, and the resulting National strategic Plan for Prevention and Control Birth Defects (2014-2018) was developed and disseminated. A Training of Trainers on Surveillance of Prevention and Control of Birth Defects was then held in 2015, targeting tertiary hospitals and hospitals at State/Regional level in order to initiate the surveillance system.

In November 2016, the National Nutrition Center (NNC), the focal point for Prevention and Control of Birth Defect, from the Ministry of Health and Sports with the support of WHO conducted a hands-on training on birth defect surveillance, in order to refresh the current knowledge of the system and update practices with the latest web-based surveillance tools. Two international experts from the Neonatal Health and Delhi Newborn Network and from the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), WHO Collaboration Centers in India, facilitated the training, which was financially supported from the WHO Regional Office from South East Asia.

Under the moderation of the Director, NNC, of the Department of Public Health and WHO Myanmar, around 100 participants among Medical Superintendents, Obstetricians-Gyneacologists and Pediatricians from 22 States/Regional hospitals attended the training. At the end of the workshop, the participants were able to initiate birth defect surveillance within the WHO-SEARO web-based Newborn and Birth Defect Database (NBBD), and understand the global, regional and country frameworks of public health strategies. They were able to refresh their knowledge on birth defect data collection, reporting and analysis at hospital level, and gained hands-on experience on methodology tools for maintaining data quality.

Lastly, coordination amongst health authorities and health care providers was improved through the identification of focal points responsible for the NBBD database in Myanmar. Each participating institution also had the opportunity to develop institutional plans to implement this birth defect surveillance at their hospitals.

Thanks to the continued collaboration between the Ministry of Health and Sports and WHO, hospitals and other health institutions in Myanmar will be able to step up and improve their current birth defect surveillance systems, thus contributing to the strengthening of the overall health system for newborns and their mothers.

Myanmar: Border Affairs Ministry provides food to IDPs in camps in Muse

25 November 2016 - 6:02am
Source: Government of Myanmar Country: Myanmar

The Ministry of Border Affairs provided aid to internally displaced persons in camps in Muse in the northern Shan State on November 24.
The administrator of Muse district and officials from the Ministry delivered 284 bags of rice, 545 visses of cooking oil, 1,211 visses of pulses and beans, 122 visses of salt and 1,000 blankets to a total of 3,460 people from 1,000 families.
Due to the current fightings, the displaced people are taking refuge at Mahawun (North) Monastery, Zetawun Meditation Monastery, Aung Mingalar Monastery, Namkhun Monastery, Homon Baptist Church, Saint Peter’s Church, Gurkha Youth Welfare Association, BEHS (2)and BEMS (4).

World: Countries of the South-East Asia Region Launch Path-breaking Initiative to Guarantee High-Quality Medical Products

25 November 2016 - 12:11am
Source: World Health Organization Country: Bangladesh, Bhutan, Democratic People's Republic of Korea, India, Indonesia, Maldives, Myanmar, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Timor-Leste, World

New Delhi, 25 November 2016 – In a move to guarantee access to high-quality medical products that can protect, diagnose and treat illness and disease in the WHO South-East Asia Region Member countries today launched a path-breaking initiative that will enhance information sharing, collaboration and convergence of regulatory practices across the Region.

“Access to high-quality medical products is a matter of life and death for everyone. The coming together of the Region’s regulatory agencies marks a watershed moment that will ensure medical products produced and sold in the Region do exactly what they are supposed to. This will benefit the vulnerable in particular, who are often pushed into poverty when paying for low-quality or unsafe products. It will also enhance our ability to effectively tackle health security threats such as antimicrobial resistance and tuberculosis, which are exacerbated by ineffective drugs that breed resistance,” Dr Poonam Khetrapal Singh, Regional Director for WHO South-East Asia said.

The presence of poor quality medical products on the market is the result of limited regulatory capacity to enforce best practices needed to develop, produce and distribute them. While many regulatory authorities in the Region lack sufficient technical capacity, staff and resources to perform effectively, even well-resourced authorities are hard-pressed to thoroughly evaluate all new products and enforce existing regulations. The new South-East Asia Regulatory Network (SEARN) aims to change that.

“The network, which connects every one of the Region’s national regulatory authorities, will help harmonize existing regulations and streamline work-sharing arrangements in order to get the most out of our collective strengths,” Dr Boonchai Somboonsok, Secretary General of Thailand’s Food and Drug Administration said. “By collaborating and working together we can learn from one another while effectively regulating the vast number of products available in our countries.”

For the Region’s smaller countries – such as Bhutan and Maldives – SEARN will significantly expand the ability for national regulators to ensure medical products are safe and of adequate quality.

“Greater information sharing, collaboration and alignment of regulatory standards in the Region will be of great use to Bhutan. As a smaller country it is important for us to work with national regulators in other countries and have rapid access to regulatory information about products we import to Bhutan to ensure their quality and safety. We’re immensely pleased to be a part of this initiative and look forward to its implementation,” Sonam Dorji, the former head of Bhutan’s Drug Regulatory Authority said.

At the same time as protecting consumers, SEARN will have a substantial impact on how the medical product market’s supply side functions.

“As a major producer of medical products India is very much looking forward to SEARN’s full implementation of planned activities. By working together to increase regulatory capacity SEARN will ensure that only products that are of a high standard can get to the markets we are supplying. SEARN will also help to improve convergence towards good regulatory practices in the Region,” Dr G N Singh, the Drugs Controller General of India, Central Drugs Standard Control Organization, said.

Dr Khetrapal Singh further emphasized how the new initiative would accelerate progress towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goals via the attainment of universal health coverage. “By ensuring medical products are of a high quality we will expand health coverage and ensure every member of society can get the care they need,” Dr Khetrapal Singh said. “SEARN will strengthen health systems across South-East Asia and help fulfill each person’s right to the highest attainable standard of health.”

SEARN was established as an outcome of regional meetings in 2015 and 2016. It exists on a voluntary basis and will meet annually in addition to carrying out ongoing joint activities.

The WHO South-East Asia Region is comprised of 11 countries, all of whom are now SEARN members. These countries are Bangladesh, Bhutan, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, India, Indonesia, Maldives, Myanmar, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Thailand and Timor-Leste.

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WHO Regional Office for South-East Asia
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