Myanmar - ReliefWeb News
With a multitude of conflicts and crises causing record displacement around the world, resettlement has become an increasingly vital part of UNHCR’s efforts to find solutions and advocate for fairer responsibility-sharing for refugees, a UNHCR report released today at an annual meeting in Geneva says.
While the UNHCR Projected Global Resettlement Needs 2017 report says that more than 1 million refugees were submitted by UNHCR to over 30 resettlement countries in the past decade, the number of people in need of resettlement far surpasses the opportunities for placement in a third country.
The report says that despite increased resettlement quotas from some countries, expansion in global resettlement capacity, and increases in submissions, the projected number of people in need of resettlement in 2017 will pass 1.19 million.
In response, UNHCR expects to submit 170,000 refugees for resettlement next year, based on the expected global quotas from resettlement states. This compares to a current target of some 143,000 in 2016 and more than 100,000 in each of 2015 and 2014 respectively. Despite the increase in quotas from states and submissions made, the gap in terms of needs remains great.
The 1.19 million forecast is up 72 per cent on the projected needs of 691,000 in 2014, before large-scale resettlement of Syrians began. In 2017, Syrians are projected to account for 40 per cent of needs, followed by Sudan (11 per cent), Afghanistan (10 per cent) and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (9 per cent).
Projected Global Resettlement Needs also reports that 2015 was a record year for submissions with 134,044, up 29 percent from the 103,890 recorded in 2014.
“We are seeing resettlement taken to a new level and that enhanced resettlement can be an effective means of sharing the responsibility for refugee protection,” High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi said. “But much more needs to be done to keep pace with the growing numbers of acutely vulnerable.
“Resettlement is now more important than ever as a solution, and we must grasp this opportunity to increase the number of refugees benefitting from it, as well as other avenues for admission,” he added. UNHCR estimates more than 1 million, are in need of resettlement because they are unable to return home or integrate in host countries for a variety of reasons.
The Syrian crisis marked a major shift in the focus of resettlement, which continues to resonate. By 2014, Syrians were the largest group referred for resettlement and by 2015 an average two out of every five submissions were Syrians compared to one out of five in 2014. Other top countries of origin in 2015 included Democratic Republic of the Congo (20,527), Iraq (11,161), Somalia (10,193) and Myanmar (9,738). These four countries and Syria, with 53,305, made up almost 80 per cent of submissions that year.
Resettlement remains an effective measure for people in need such as survivors of violence or torture, who last year accounted for 24 per cent of submissions – a quadrupling since 2005 – and women and girls at risk of abuse (about 12 per cent).
The United States in 2015 accepted 82,491 resettlement submissions from UNHCR in 2015 (62 per cent of all submissions), followed by Canada (22,886), Australia (9,321), Norway (3,806) and the United Kingdom (3,622).
In Africa, the number of submissions rose from 35,079 in 2014 to 38,870. A total 21,620 submissions came from Asia-Pacific countries in 2015, some 16 per cent of global submissions. This was a fall from previous years due in part to the pursuit of other solutions in the region.
In the America’s just 1,390 submissions were made in 2015, down from 1,800 in 2014 and reflecting efforts in Ecuador to focus on integration for Colombian refugees.
A total 53,331 referrals originated from UNHCR’s operations in the Middle East and North Africa region, up 130 percent from 2014 and some 40 per cent of the global total. UNHCR offices in Europe recorded the highest number of submissions this decade at 18,833, mostly from Turkey.
To tackle growing needs UNHCR is also focusing on how complementary paths such as humanitarian visas, family reunion and scholarships could help bridge the gaps in terms of needs. At a high-level conference in Geneva last March, UNHCR called on countries around the world to provide admission through resettlement and other channels to 10 per cent of Syrian refugees, or 480,000.
UNHCR Projected Global Resettlement Needs 2017 was released on the first day of the Annual Tripartite Consultations for Resettlement, gathering representatives from UNHCR, resettlement countries and NGOs. Co-chaired by the Dutch government and the Dutch Council for Refugees in partnership with UNHCR, it is the most important multilateral forum to advance the resettlement agenda to the benefit of refugees and receiving communities.
Some 300 local villagers displaced by fighting between Burmese government forces and the Shan State Army-North (SSA-North) began returning to their homes in Hsipaw Township on Monday.
Nang San San Aye, an MP in the Shan regional parliament, said the internally displaced persons, or IDPs, were being repatriated under arrangements made by the Shan Nationalities League for Democracy (SNLD) and local civil society organisations (CSOs) following an easing of armed conflict in the Hsipaw area.
“The IDPs are being repatriated as calm gradually returns to the area,” she told DVB on Monday. “However it is very late for local farmers to plant their monsoon-season crops.
“They have been longing to go home, but could not due to the hostilities between the Tatmadaw [Burmese army] and the SSA-North,” the Shan nationalist MP continued. “But now it’s been a while since the Shan troops withdrew. Only one group, the Tatmadaw, remains active in the area, so it is far less likely that we will see further clashes. That’s why we decided that this was a good time for repatriation.”
She said the SNLD and local CSOs are providing the returning villagers and farmers with transportation and relief assistance, including vital household items such as cooking utensils and blankets.
“We are providing each family with cooking utensils and blankets, as well as 18,000 kyat [US$15] for each individual,” she said. “We would like to urge other organisations to help in the rehabilitation efforts for these people.”
She said around 100 IDPs were sent back to their villages on Monday, and more will follow later in the week.
However, she said, the villagers’ safety could not be guaranteed in terms of landmines and other hazards.
“As for landmines, although we don’t know for sure, we assume the [warring factions] did not plant landmines around the villages,” she said. “Nonetheless, we have warned them not to wander outside the perimeters of their villages or touch anything strange looking.”
Residents from the Hsipaw villages of Naton and Teinhai fled their homes on 19 May when fighting broke out nearby between the Burmese army and SSA-North forces, with the former reportedly employing aircraft strikes against the rebel units.
The main town of Hsipaw, or Thibaw, lies approximately 200 km northeast of Mandalay. It is a verdant area, lush with tea plantations. Many visitors, both domestic and international, travel by train to the town every year to experience the famous British colonial railroad across the Gokteik Gorge, often referred to as one of the world’s great railway journeys.
According to the Relief and Resettlement Department (RRD), heavy rains triggered flash floods in Kawlin, Wuntho and Pinlebu townships in Sagaing Region on 9 June.
More than 25,000 people were affected in Kawlin and two people killed in Wutho.
The floods damaged bridges and farmlands. The Sagaing Regional Government is responding to urgent needs while RRD is providing cash assistance.
Localized floods were also reported in other parts of the country on 10 and 11 June. The full extent of the damage is still being analyzed by authorities. The regional governments are leading the response with the support from the President’s Emergency Reserve Fund.
25,000 people affected
On 7 June, the Province of Davao del Norte, in Mindanao, declared a state of calamity due to El Niño-induced drought. An estimated 57,240 families (229,000 people) are affected. Agricultural damage in the province is estimated at US$19.2 million.
A total of 17 provinces across the Philippines remain under a state of calamity.
229,000 people affected in Davao del Norte
From 5 to 9 June, flooding triggered by high tides and heavy rainfall occurred across 12 provinces in Sumatra, Java, Bali and Nusa Tenggara. At least 5,900 houses and temporary stalls were damaged and more than 30,000 houses were flooded.
Local authorities provided assistance to the affected communities.
On 8 June, a 6.6 magnitude earthquake struck 126 km off the west coast of Ternate City damaging 18 houses and a church.
Another earthquake measuring 6.2 in magnitude hit 286 km southwest of West Sumbawa district, West Nusa Tenggara province, on 9 June, at a depth of 10 km.
No damages or casualties were reported.
30,000 houses flooded
On 8 June, the India Meteorological Department officially announced the onset of the southwest monsoon season as heavy rainfall was recorded in the southern states particularly Kerala and Tamil Nadu, where at least two people were killed by floods.
Earlier outlook models have indicated above average rainfall is expected during this year’s monsoon season. Local authorities in landslide prone areas have initiated preparedness activities.4
Seventy-four year old Myitkyina resident Ban Li Hawng Day has a lifetime of experience with Kachin traditions and customary practices. While the quiet man claims that he is not well-educated, he is highly respected by his peers and his community, and has been elected to the central committee of the Kachin Literature and Cultural Association. The Association promotes Kachin culture, language and dance and plays a role in helping people settle disputes through its judicial committee, of which Ban Li Hawng Day is the chairperson.
Sitting in the shadow of the great totem poles in the Manau compound in Myitkyina, Ban Li Hawng Day explained how the Kachin Literature and Cultural Association serves as a pathway for dispute resolution.
“When the three of us on the judicial committee receive a complaint letter, we sit together and make an inquiry. We conduct an investigation, and then we convene the parties together for a hearing. After listening to witness testimonies from both sides, we sit as a committee and analyze the case. We make recommendations and comments, and then we present our decision to the parties.” The most common cases settled by the Association include divorce and disputes over land possession. “We try our best to be fair to everyone,” Ban Li Hawng Day noted.
The role of Ban Li Hawng Day and his fellow committee members in solving disputes is just one of the justice pathways explored in UNDP’s 2015-2016 Study on Access to Justice and Informal Justice Systems. The research study explores how people seek access to justice; what their perceptions are of the formal justice system; and what range of informal justice processes exist and how they operate. The research also seeks to understand the issues that most concern local communities.
The research is conducted by a team that meets communities, holds focus group discussions, speaks with community members and administers household surveys. Another team speaks with judges, police, law officers, and General Administration Department administrators to understand the perspective of justice sector officials. The research was carried out in 5 townships in Rakhine state last October and November, and in 4 townships in Kachin state in January and February. The research team is in Shan state currently to conclude the research in 7 townships that span northern, southern, and eastern Shan. The findings from this study will help identify ways for UNDP to support the reform of the justice sector and help improve justice service delivery at the local level, particularly for women, children and minority groups.
Early findings from the research in Kachin state reveal a wide spectrum of socially-acceptable pathways for solving private disputes outside of the formal court system. Some pathways, such as settling disputes through the Literature and Cultural Associations like the one that Ban Li Hawng Day sits on, are rather formal and more likely to adhere to procedures and traditional rules. On the other hand, many people prefer negotiating directly with the opposing party or seeking help from an influential individual in their community such as a traditional elder, a local administrator or a religious leader. Underlying these informal ways of problem solving is the importance of reaching a common understanding among parties. The processes tend to seek an outcome that preserves communal harmony and is satisfactory towards all.
In some countries, over 80% of disputes are resolved through informal justice mechanisms. Although no figure exists for Myanmar, it is clear that many people in Myanmar currently prefer to settle disputes through informal, socially-acceptable pathways instead of utilizing the formal system. Consequently, a comprehensive approach to improving access to justice at the local level must also engage with customary and informal ways of solving problems. The UN has formally acknowledged the importance of understanding and engaging informal justice mechanisms; this study is a first step in better understanding the ways people seek to access justice, both through the formal and informal systems that exist in Myanmar, and the challenges and opportunities for increasing access to justice.
[Nay Pyi Taw – 2nd June, 2016] The Country Director of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), Mr. Toily Kurbanov, and the Ambassador of Japan to Myanmar Mr. Tateshi Higuchi, signed a ¥113m (US$1m) funding agreement to support UNDP’s work in Myanmar in the area of rule of law.
Four Rule of Law Centres, established by UNDP in Yangon, Mandalay, as well as Myitkyina (Kachin State) and Taunggyi (Shan State) enable legal professionals, community leaders and civil society organizations to access knowledge and to nurture skills and general awareness of the law.
The Centres have grown into vital community hubs where government and people come together to exchange insights and to discuss necessary measures on issues of mutual concern such as drug issues, impact of drug use on communities and prevention strategies, labor laws, squatters’ rights and land-related issues, violence against women and children, and the new legal aid law.
Established under the auspices of the Union Parliament of Myanmar and the guidance from Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, the Centres are an integral part of UNDP’s support to democratic governance in Myanmar.
“The funding from Japan comes at a critical time when we are expanding our work in terms of community outreach in various parts of Myanmar. Ultimately, this generous contribution from the government and people of Japan will help to increase trust in the justice system,” said Mr. Kurbanov.
“A correct understanding of the concept of Rule of Law is needed in both judicial professions and ordinary people in society for the establishment of true democratization,” said H.E. Tateshi Higuchi.
The Rule of Law Centres project is implemented by UNDP, through the International Development Law Organization (IDLO), with support from the governments of, Finland, Sweden, the United Kingdom, the United States and UNDP, and now Japan.
AN agreement has been reached on the revision of the framework for political dialogue at the meeting of Preparatory Subcommittee-1 for the Union Peace Conference, also known as the the 21st Century Panglong Conference. The meeting was held at the National Reconciliation and Peace Centre (NRPC) in Yangon at 10am yesterday.
The meeting included discussions on the points in chapters 7 and 8 of the political dialogue framework as well as miscellaneous chapters to be discussed by the ethnic armed organisations that have signed the nationwide ceasefire agreement (NCA).
After the meeting, the Preparatory Committee for the Union Peace Conference chairperson Dr Tin Myo Win said he was proud of the successful convention of the four-day meeting from 9 to 12 June. He said the success of the convention can be attributed to the well-preparedness for the framework review and the patience of the members of Subcommittee-1, Lieutenant-General Yar Pyay and the leader of ethnic armed organisations.
He also said the non-signatories to NCA would be invited again to participate in the framework review meeting to allow them to participate in the Union Peace Conference.
“I believe that if the meeting can yield a positive result, Myanmar will reach the goal of peace, which the entire world is hoping for,” he said.
Next, the vice chairperson of the Union Peace Conference Preparatory Subcommittee, Padoh Saw Kwe Htoo Win from Karen National Union (KNU), said the meeting was successful, that the framework is important to make political dialogue a success and that the framework focuses on peacebuilding, which is a national objective. He said ceasefire is fundamental to peacebuilding.
“This sort of political issue is not just a problem taking place between the government and the ethnic minorities. It is a national concern, and it also concerns other groups,” he said.
The meeting came to an end at 1pm, and the attendees responded to the queries raised by local and foreign reporters.
Ye Khaung Nyunt
By SU MYAT MON / THE IRRAWADDY| Monday, June 13, 2016
RANGOON — Heavy rain and severe flooding continue to devastate parts of Arakan State, a spokesperson for the Arakan State Government, told The Irrawaddy on Monday.
Four women in Taungup Township, a man in Thandwe Township and a student in Ann Township were killed by deadly deluges on Sunday, according to spokesperson Min Aung. However, the Ministry of Social Welfare, Relief and Resettlement has reported a different figure of four total deaths in the region for the month of June.
In terms of damage, 155 households were destroyed in Ann Township, while in Thandwe Township the heavy downpours have caused water levels to rise seven feet, Min Aung added.
Arakan State’s Ministry of Social Welfare and Ministry of Electric Power, Industry, and Roads and Communications reportedly intend to visit flood-affected townships to deliver aid, including food and material for building houses.
Since the beginning of June, several other parts of Burma have also been struck by severe rainfall. The Ministry of Social Welfare, Relief and Resettlement has reported that natural disasters have claimed the lives of two people in Pegu Division, two people in Sagaing Division, one person each in Magwe and Irrawaddy divisions and one person in Kachin State.
More than 5,000 households in total have also been affected by flooding, with some homes having been completely submerged and others rendered essentially unlivable.
With the La Niña weather pattern looming, it is likely that Burma will continue to be hit by extreme weather in the coming months.
Nearly 170 people were left homeless when a whirlwind wreaked havoc in their village in Arakan State’s Minbya Township on Thursday.
Maung Phyu, the administrator of Minbya’s Kyaukhoke village, said the whirlwind struck the village yesterday afternoon, destroying 36 homes.
“The whirlwind struck around 12:30pm – it was very scary,” he said. “In total, 169 people were left homeless.”
He said an 11-year-old girl was seriously injured in the storm, and that victims are currently being provided shelter in the village’s high school and monastery. He added that fellow villagers had banded together to provide food for those affected.
Thein Zan, an influential figure in Minbya, said, “The village suffered extensive damage. We have informed the government authorities. At the moment, we are working with relief groups and civil society organisations in Minbya to provide relief to the victims.”
Hla Thein Aung, the lower house MP for Minbya, said he had reached out to government authorities urging disaster relief. He confirmed that Minbya’s Health Department staff are at the scene providing medical assistance.
Nicaragua - Earthquake
• An earthquake of magnitude 6.1 M at a depth of 10 km occurred in the department of Chinandega (north-western Nicaragua) on 10 June at 3.25 UTC. The epicentre was located approx. 17 km east of Puerto Morazan and 114 km north-west of the capital city Managua. USGS PAGER estimated that 19 000 people were exposed to "Very Strong" and 268 000 to "Strong" shaking.
• As of 10 June, there have been no reports of damage or casualties.
Myanmar/Burma - Severe weather
• Heavy rain affected Sagaing region causing floods and casualties
• Local media reported two people dead due to a landslide, 4 000 homes damaged, several bridges damaged and traffic disruptions in the district of Katha, as of 10 June.
Solomon Islands - Earthquake
• An earthquake of magnitude 5.9 M at a depth of 52 km hit off the coasts of north-western Malaita island on 10 June at 4.17 UTC. The epicentre was located approx. 20 km west-northwe of Auki and 104 km north-east of the capital city Honiara. USGS PAGER estimated a shaking up to "Light" for 257 000 people.
• As of 10 June, there have been no reports of damage or casualties.
Syria - Conflict/humanitarian access
• The UN in Syria confirmed that the Syrian government has approved the delivery of humanitarian assistance to besieged areas in the country. In the evening of 9 June, a convoy carrying food and medical aid entered the town of Darayya, after a number of attempts in the recent months to reach the town that has been under besiegement since 2012.
• Meanwhile, airstrikes and combats continue heavily affecting several parts of northern Syria.
Liberia - End of Ebola outbreak
• On 9 June World Health Organization (WHO) declared the end of the most recent outbreak of Ebola virus disease in Liberia.
• This announcement comes 42 days (two 21-day incubation cycles of the virus) after the last confirmed Ebola patient in Liberia tested negative for the disease for the second time.
Mali - Food insecurity, Violence
• The situation in Northern Mali remains very difficult. On 6 June, 122 tons of food were looted from WFP warehouses in Kidal. The aid was to be distributed to 11 000 vulnerable people as emergency food assistance at the beginning of the lean season.
• More than 3 million Malians are estimated to be food insecure during the lean season, and more than 400 000 of them require emergency assistance.
Italy - Severe weather
• Severe weather including heavy rain and hail affected the region of Tuscany on 9 June causing floods and landslides • As of 10 June, local media reported several buildings damaged and schools closed in the province of Grosseto, as well as traffic disruptions in the provinces of Siena and Grosseto.
Greece - Severe weather
• Heavy rain affected the region of Attica on 7 June causing floods.
• As of 8 June, local media reported several homes flooded and traffic disruptions in the northern areas of the region.
By Man Zar Myay Mon
The local residents from Kawlin said that the rising water level in Daungmyu creek flooded Kawlin town and inundated over 4,000 houses and later receded in the morning of June 10.
Heavy rainstorms in the town caused flood starting in the evening of June 8 and the entire town was inundated for the whole day of June 9.
Local resident in Kawlin, Aung Myo, said: “There are about 5,000 houses in the whole town and of which over 4,300 houses were inundated. But no one had to be evacuated. The flood inundated the ground floor and the people had to move to upper floors. That’s all. The flood water has receded this morning.”
Kawlin Township General Administration Department Administrator Ye Myat Tint said that they were doing clean up work in the town and they had to clean the wells which were filled with floodwater and mud.
“We are holding a meeting this morning for rehabilitation works as the floodwater has receded. The local people are familiar with this situation and they are much aware of this disaster and stay on full alert. The town did not have much damage as the houses in the city are built high,” he added.
Floodwaters of four to five feet are normal at this time of year.
Heavy rains flooded Kawlin and Wuntho on the evening of June 8. Two people in Wuntho town were washed away and killed by the floodwaters.
The Humanitarian News Digest is a monthly compilation of links to reports, web stories, press releases, and other public products published online by international organizations with humanitarian operations in Myanmar. The content and views expressed in these publications do not necessarily reflect the views of OCHA.
By Guy Dinmore
YANGON, Jun 9 2016 (IPS) - International aid agencies, big and small, are beating a path to Myanmar, relishing the prospect of launching projects in a nation of 51 million people tentatively emerging from more than five decades of military rule.
Nay Pyi Taw, the grandiose but forlorn capital built in the dry-zone interior by the military junta 10 years ago, is starting to see flights filled with prospective aid workers, diplomats and businesses coming to lobby newly appointed ministers. Predictably, the elected civilian government, which took office in late March, is already under strain. Some ministries are still in the throes of reorganising following major reshuffles and mergers aimed at cutting costs.
Aung San Suu Kyi, the Nobel Peace laureate who is de facto head of government while barred by the constitution from holding the presidency, has a reputation among established aid workers in Yangon for harbouring considerable scepticism towards the development world. But a recent meeting with heads of UN agencies went well, with participants saying they were pleasantly surprised to be listened to and not receive a lecture.
Her scepticism is justified on some fronts. The aid effort during the past five years of quasi civilian rule was disjointed and often wasteful. Rents were driven up in Yangon and the private sector lost qualified staff to higher paying NGOs, even if it was good news for the bars and restaurants that open weekly.
Not all blame can be laid at the foot of the aid world, however. For example, international de-mining organisations have not been able to clear a single landmine over the past four years, despite Myanmar being one of the world’s most mined countries. But this is because the military and the ethnic armed groups locked in decades-long civil wars have failed to reach necessary agreements.
However, the military, known as the Tatmadaw, still holds powerful levers, including control of three key ministries. This poses a risk to prospective development partners as not all aid projects will be able to go ahead, even if the civilian side of the government agrees.
Still, enthusiasm is running high.
“A new era is starting with a lot of economic development and a new government that puts environment on the agenda, opening up a lot of opportunities,” Marion van Schaik, senior policy advisor for water and environment for the Dutch foreign ministry, told a workshop in Yangon this week held by the Netherlands Committee of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).
“We need to help Myanmar get on the road of sustainable development,” she said.
Rather than following the top-down approach of bigger agencies, IUCN Netherlands held the three-day workshop with Myanmar Environmental Rehabilitation-Conservation Network (MERN), an alliance of 21 local NGOs, to analyse development needs. The primary aim was to identify one or two “landscapes” where projects would focus on strengthening the capacity of civil society organisations in public advocacy and lobbying.
This would include training for CSOs in dealing with the private sector, understanding financial flows and making such decisions as whether to “dialogue” with concerned businesses or resort to the courts – a risky undertaking in Myanmar where corruption in the judiciary is widespread.
Professor Kyaw Tint, chairman of MERN and a former director general of the Myanmar Forest Department, said in his opening address that the network aimed to be a strong voice on environmental issues promoting public awareness.
Speaking to IPS, the retired civil servant who worked under the former military junta said he was confident the new government would be staffed with more competent experts rather than being packed with military personnel as in the past. He particularly welcomed the commitment to tackling widespread corruption.
Carl Koenigel, senior expert on ecosystems and climate for IUCN Netherlands, said the Myanmar program known as “Shared Resources, Joint Solutions” in partnership with WWF Netherlands, was financed under the Dialogue and Dissent program of the Dutch foreign ministry, with funding of one million euros over five years. The aim is to safeguard “international public goods” in food security, water provisioning and climate change resilience.
IUCN Netherlands has similar projects in 16 countries, including the Philippines, Indonesia and Cambodia.
Mining, dams and agri-business were a focus of the first day of discussions as participants sought to identify geographical areas and issues where projects could have the best chance of success. A points-based ranking system was used with groups allocating marks under various headings, including climate change impact, biodiversity loss, risks to water and food supplies, and the consequences of such sectors as mining, infrastructure and agri-business.
Given conflicts between the Myanmar military and ethnic armed groups around the country’s diverse frontier regions, part of the conversation focused on whether goals were achievable in such a context, and at what risk.
Kachin State in Myanmar’s far north is home to some 100,000 civilians living in IDP camps since renewed fighting between the military and the Kachin Independence Army erupted in 2011. The stakes are high in the resource-rich state. The township of Hpakant boasts the most valuable jade mines in Asia that have devastated the environment while producing revenues worth billions of dollars a year, although a relatively small proportion reaches government coffers.
China’s multi-billion-dollar project to build the giant Myitsone hydro-power project, suspended by the previous military-backed government, hangs over the future of Kachin, with the new government under Chinese pressure to restart work, despite concerns to the environment and the danger of further fuelling ethnic conflict. Pollution of waterways through gold mining, deforestation due to illegal logging, opium poppy cultivation and rampant drug abuse, plus expanding agribusiness complete the picture.
With the KIA regarded as an illegal armed group, formal dealings under areas it controls could result in prosecution under Myanmar’s “unlawful association” law. This means in effect that many foreign aid agencies may find themselves confined to working in government-controlled territory.
Similar concerns were expressed over the difficulties of working in the western state of Rakhine, where the minority Muslim community of some one million people lives under government-enforced segregation from the Buddhist majority, with limited freedom of movement and access to public services.
The first day of discussions narrowed a shortlist of possible “landscapes” to working within Kachin State, the southern delta area of Ayeyarwady (linked to Kachin by the Irrawaddy river), and the far southern region of Thanintharyi. The latter is one of the most bio-diverse areas in southeast Asia, but threatened by mining and major infrastructure projects, including a planned Chinese oil refinery, a deep-sea port backed by Japan and the development of trans-Asian highways linking to Thailand and beyond. The expansion of agribusiness through companies linked to the former military regime, particularly in rubber and palm oil, has also resulted in extensive deforestation.
Despite its relatively small budget, IUCN Netherlands points to the possibility of bringing about meaningful change through well targeted advocacy, citing the example of a project in Cambodia linked to the drafting of a new forestry law with nationwide implications. Projects in Myanmar should avoid being a “drop in the ocean”, Koenigel said.
Two people are reported dead following flooding in Sagaing Region yesterday as incessant rain battered Katha, Wuntho and Kawlin townships.
In Katha, creeks swelled and flooded nearby villages, causing landslides that killed two people, according to the township’s Information and Public Relations Department.
In Wuntho, floods destroyed crops and killed farm animals across the township, damaging bridges and disrupting the area’s transportation system. Local officials coordinated rescue operations in concert with civil society organisations.
Kawlin Township also experienced severe flooding, which affected 4,000 homes.
“The water levels reached four feet in a matter of 30 minutes, but the floods subsided quickly,” said Ko Maung Maung, a resident of Kawlin.
Local officials said the rainfall reached six inches in Kawlin and 10.37 inches in Wuntho. The extent of the damage remains unknown. Sagaing Region Chief Minister Dr Myint Hlaing visited the area to help with rescue operations, a resident said, blaming the disaster on the reckless disposal of soil from gold mining.
The chief minister pledged full cooperation by members of parliament and departmental officials with rescue workers in addressing the effects of environmental degradation in the region.
The regional government contributed K20 million and emergency relief to victims of the disaster and urged officials to help with recovery and resettlement.
The region was the worst-hit by severe flooding in August 2015, suffering numerous losses of life and damage to property. The unprecedented flooding left behind a trail of devastation and across the region. — Aung Thant Khaing with local IPRDs
Why a regional focus model?
A key challenge faced by humanitarian agencies is how to ensure that limited available resources are allocated where they are most needed and are efficiently delivered in a principled manner. Decisions to allocate resources must strike a balance between meeting the immediate needs of crisis affected communities and supporting efforts to strengthen resilience and response preparedness to future emergencies.
To support humanitarian partners address some of these challenges, the OCHA Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific (ROAP) developed a risk model, in 2007, to analyze hazards, vulnerabilities and response capacity at the country level using a range of quantitative indicators.
The model identifies hazard-prone countries that combine high vulnerability to hazards and low capacity to respond and are therefore more likely to request or accept support from the international community. The model also includes a "Humanitarian" component reflecting issues more directly related to OCHA's coordinating work. It is designed to be a practical tool to inform and guide disaster managers. The tool is also used by OCHA to guide its regional strategic framework and annual work plan.
In 2016, the Regional Focus Model (RFM) covers analysis of 36 countries in the Asia-Pacific region under ROAP in Bangkok, Thailand and the Regional Office for the Pacific in Suva, Fiji. Similar to previous RFM analyses in 2014 and 2015, the model is based on INFORM (http://www.inform-index.org/) a global risk index that identifies and analyze where crises requiring international assistance may occur. It can be used to support decisions about prevention, preparedness and response.
The Conference on Inter-regional Comparisons of Humanitarian Action was held alongside the Re-launch of the NTS-Asia Consortium. The conference was organised by the Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief Programme at the RSIS Centre for Non-Traditional Security (NTS) Studies.
The Asia-Pacific was again the world’s most disaster prone region in 2015 with a total of 160 disasters reported, accounting for 47% of the world’s 344 disasters. Disasters in 2015 continued to shape life across the region with the Nepal earthquake and extreme weather events in Bangladesh, India, Myanmar, Nepal, Philippines, Vanuatu, and Micronesia affecting the lives of many people. Beyond natural hazards, the Asia-Pacific is also home to low-intensity and intractable conflicts. These conflicts often result in loss of life, persecution, and in some cases, mass forced migration. In 2015, the Asia-Pacific saw mass migration of Rohingya refugees and Bangladeshi migrants by sea out of the Bay of Bengal from Myanmar and Bangladesh. These migrants attempted to reach Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, and Australia only to face ‘forced pushbacks,’ which created a humanitarian crisis in the region. It is essential that in order to adequately provide for the needs of disaster-affected populations humanitarian principles are upheld.
In this region the consequences of natural hazards and conflict crises put pressure on local communities, governments, as well as regional and international organisations. As a result of the different actors involved, their diverse mandates and political will, there are significant challenges to humanitarian response and disaster management. It is therefore important to foster greater cooperation between the actors involved to build stronger disaster management capabilities as well as deliver aid effectively and efficiently to those most in need. Trust building takes time and requires cooperation amongst stakeholders prior to a crisis situation. In an effort to begin such collaboration amongst actors, the Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief (HADR) Programme at the Centre for Non-Tradtiodational Security Studies, S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS) Nanyang Technological University (NTU), hosted and facilitated the conference on Inter-regional Comparisons of Humanitarian Action on February 22nd 2016 alongside the re-launch of the Consortium of Non-Traditional Security Studies in Asia (NTS-Asia Consortium) at the Grand Park City Hall Hotel, Singapore. This event brought together key stakeholders including academics, practitioners, and military personnel from across Asia involved in humanitarian affairs. The conference covered Northeast Asia, South Asia, Southeast Asia, and the wider Asia-Pacific.
In Northeast Asia, China, Japan and the Republic of Korea are emerging international humanitarian actors. However, domestically humanitarian action is not new or non-traditional for their militaries, which are the first-responders during disasters. Humanitarian action is often seen as a means to maintain national security and generate popular legitimacy. Internationally, humanitarian action is dependent on domestic security conditions particularly for the Republic of Korea. In the Republic of Korea, humanitarian action is contingent upon the stability of the Korean Peninsula – a core national security concern. When peninsula relations are particularly unstable between the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and the Republic of Korea, there is little appetite for humanitarian action elsewhere. That said the amount of money allocated to humanitarian affairs in the Republic of Korea and Northeast Asia overall are increasing.
Over the past year in Southeast Asia, the region has experienced humanitarian disasters as a result of both conflict and natural hazards. In Myanmar the flight of Rohingya out of Rakhine State into neighbouring countries caused a humanitarian crisis that highlighted the precarious nature of the conflict there and its impact on the region. In Aceh, customary law ensured the Rohingya were openly welcomed to the province, which was at odds with the position of the central government in Jakarta. In Malaysia, most assistance to the Rohingya was through informal means via non-governmental organizations, corporations and individuals. In a similar light, adequate humanitarian responses to natural hazards depended on a whole-of-society approach. However, challenges remained across the region like inadequate access to villages, communication barriers, and low levels of disaster prevention and preparedness amongst the affected population. Likewise in South Asia, Bangladesh, India, and Nepal were susceptible to numerous natural hazards, such as flooding, tsunamis, earthquake, typhoons, and landslides. In both Bangladesh and Nepal, there remains a need to also invest in disaster preparedness and prevention mechanisms to increase capacity and minimize relief costs.
Throughout the conference it became clear that there are two emerging trends in humanitarian action across the Asia–Pacific. The first is the increasing activity of selected Asia-Pacific states engaged in international humanitarian action across the region. The second is the divergence between local conditions and national action. This divergence was identified as customary approaches to humanitarian action diverging from national policy to become an important promoter of international humanitarianism on the one hand, to the severe local capacity issues facing national disaster management to implement strategy on the other hand. The conference highlighted the importance of greater dialogue to share experiences, as well as forms of cooperation, coexistence and collaboration amongst actors across and between these different levels of governance in humanitarian affairs. It became clear that no single stakeholder can address the multitude of needs that emerge in humanitarian crises. It is therefore vital that stakeholders work together where possible in the preparation for and implementation of humanitarian action both as a result of conflicts and natural hazards.
By MAHER SATTAR
COX’S BAZAR, Bangladesh — Bangladesh’s government began its first census of undocumented Rohingya refugees on Thursday, setting off fears that it might lead to a mass relocation or forcible repatriation of the refugees to Myanmar.
The Rohingya, a Muslim ethnic group in western Myanmar described by the United Nations as the most persecuted minority in the world, have crossed the border in waves over several decades.
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Further mass migration inevitable as persecution is ignored in states where peoples are under threat, says MRG New global ranking of countries where civilians most at risk of mass killing
With the refugee crisis far from over, the failure to address persecution in states where peoples are under severe threat makes further mass population movements inevitable, says Minority Rights Group International (MRG).
The international human rights organisation launches today the 2016 Peoples under Threat index and online map , which seeks to identify those countries around the world that are most at risk of genocide, mass political killing or systematic violent repression.
‘Peoples under Threat demonstrates that although the prediction of mass killing has improved substantially since the 1990s, prevention mechanisms are still woefully inadequate. In particular in 2016, there is a global failure to address the needs of highly vulnerable internally displaced populations, making new refugee flight only a matter of time,’ says Mark Lattimer, MRG’s Executive Director.
The global refugee crisis in 2015 was a direct manifestation of the abuses faced by communities in those states now at the top of the index. That the crisis is ongoing is indicated by rising threats in an expanding range of countries in 2016, says MRG.
The Middle East and Africa dominate the 2016 rankings, with Syria topping the table for the second year. Iraq, South Sudan, Libya, Turkey, Ukraine and Azerbaijan are among the most significant risers.
‘Just in South Sudan and Iraq, for example, there are 5 million internally displaced victims of ethnic or sectarian persecution, but the UN's crisis response plans are barely one-quarter funded. Meanwhile, the situation in the two most significant refugee embarkation points for Europe, Libya and Turkey, is rapidly deteriorating,’ adds Lattimer.
The agony of Syria goes on as a partial ‘cessation of hostilities’ agreed in February continues to break down and the formal entry into the conflict of the US and Russia fails to bring a resolution any closer. Over a quarter of a million people had been killed by August 2015, with the vast majority of civilian casualties caused not by ISIS, but through indiscriminate bombardment by Syrian and Russian aircraft. Over four million people have fled to neighbouring countries.
Christians and other minorities, historically subject to repression under the Syrian government, now find themselves largely confined to government-held areas. Meanwhile, the Kurdish-held cantons in northern Syria, the closest to a functioning democracy the country possesses, are threatened by ISIS to the south and to the north by Turkey.
Ukraine has jumped another six places up the Peoples under Threat index this year. Despite Vladimir Putin’s professed respect for people of all ethnic groups living in Crimea following the annexation of the peninsula in 2014, just two years later Russian government suspended the Crimean Tatars’ representative council on trumped up charges of extremism. In east Ukraine, Russian-backed separatists are waging a war against Ukrainian government forces and paramilitaries, resulting in over 2,500 civilian deaths and 2.5 million people forced to flee their homes.
Political intimidation and tight controls on freedom of expression continue in Azerbaijan, which rose seven places in the index. The biggest risk for mass killing is the rising tension over the disputed region of Nagorno-Karabakh. The intensification of hostilities between Azerbaijani forces and Armenian-backed separatists in April 2016 led to the worst violence for 20 years.
While a significant rise in the Peoples under Threat index provides early indication of risk in the future, the mass killing of civilians is already under way in the 13 states at the top of the index. Somalia, Sudan, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Democratic Republic of Congo, Burma and Iraq consistently dominate the top ten.
Authorities conducting a census of Muslim residents in three townships in western Myanmar’s Rakhine state have encountered opposition from the inhabitants of one village who refuse to provide information because they are not allowed to mention their race and religion in order to qualify for national identification cards, a local official said.
Colonel Htein Lin, Rakhine’s border affairs and security minister, and a state immigration officer told the Muslim residents of Kadi village in Ponenakyune township about the census, but the residents refused to provide the necessary information unless the cards listed their race and religion, said village administrator Maung Ni.
“We will not accept this census because our nationality and religion will not be shown on the card they are giving us,” Maung Ni said.
The villagers will participate in the census once the cards include such information, he said.
Previously issued cards, which are referred to as “green cards” but are light blue in color, have contained an identification number, the name of the holder, their gender, date of birth, place of birth, marital status, and father’s name, with visible identification marks in Burmese and English.
Those who possess green cards can apply for full Myanmar citizenship, but must first undergo a citizenship verification process.
Authorities are issuing Muslim residents older than 10 the cards while they conduct checks to see if they are eligible to become citizens.
Officials said that they have collected census data from about 90 Muslims in the town of Kyaukpyu and more than 120 in Myaypon township and will try again to collect information from those in Ponenakyune next week.
About 1.1 million stateless Muslims, also called Rohingya, live in Rakhine, with about 120,000 residing in internally displaced persons camps following communal violence with the majority Buddhists in 2012.
The government refers to the Rohingya as “Bengalis” and considers them illegal immigrants from neighboring Bangladesh, though many have lived in Rakhine for generations.
Myanmar’s President Htin Kyaw last week created a Central Committee for Implementation of Peace and Development in Rakhine State to put the impoverished, strife-torn region on a path to peace and development.
State Counselor and de facto national leader Aung San Suu Kyi, who chairs the new committee, recently met with Rakhine Chief Minister Nyi Pu and various national government ministers to discuss the controversial process of registering internally displaced persons that reportedly resumed in June, the online journal The Irrawaddy reported.
Lieutenant General Ye Aung, Myanmar’s minister of border affairs and member of the committee, said last week that the citizenship verification process will be carried out transparently and in accordance with the country’s 1982 Citizenship Law.
The government began issuing green cards to Muslims in 13 townships in Rakhine state a year ago to verify their identities, bringing them a step closer to applying for citizenship.
Myanmar’s former military junta had issued temporary identification cards known as “white cards” to Muslims in Rakhine for the 2010 elections, which saw Thein Sein’s quasi-civilian government take power from the army regime.
But in 2015, authorities began collecting the white cards and distributing green cards in their place so that holders could apply for citizenship.
By Min Thein Aung and Nay Rein Kyaw for RFA’s Myanmar Service. Translated by Khet Mar. Written in English by Roseanne Gerin.
Two armed ethnic groups from Myanmar’s Shan state that did not sign a nationwide peace agreement with the Myanmar government last year agreed on Monday to meet a government committee working on an upcoming peace conference, an official involved in the process said.
The United Wa State Party (UWSP) and its political wing the United Wa State Army (UWSA), and the Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA) have agreed to talk with the convening committee of the 21st-century Panglong Conference, said committee secretary Hla Maung Shwe.
Under the previous government, the two rebel groups, who are not members of the United Nationalities Federal Council (UNFC)—an alliance of armed ethnic groups that did not sign the nationwide cease-fire agreement (NCA) last October—had called for separate autonomous states. The MNDAA, which had been fighting the Myanmar army in Shan state’s Kokang self-administered zone, was excluded from the NCA talks.
Tin Myo Win, the new peace envoy of the National League for Democracy (NLD) government, met with leaders from the UWSA and MNDAA to get them to agree to a sit-down meeting in the run-up to the peace conference scheduled for late July.
“Our Chairman Tin Myo Win himself contacted them on the phone and made an agreement to sit down with them for a meeting,” Hla Maung Shwe told RFA’s Myanmar Service. “It’s likely we will have it in a few days; we just need to find a suitable venue.”
Tin Myo Win, who was appointed to his position by State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi, also plans to contact the Ta’ang National Liberation Army (TNLA), which was also excluded from the NCA.
But Hla Maung Shwe said representatives from the government’s peace team had yet to meet TNLA leaders to clarify the government’s position.
Committee members attempted last weekend to meet the armed ethnic groups that had not signed the NCA in Chiang Mai, Thailand, but the TNLA did not respond to a request for a sit-down.
Nevertheless, the TNLA has been invited to the commercial capital Yangon for further talks this month.
Last week, Tin Myo Win met in Thailand with representatives from the UNFC to invite them to the Panglong Conference.
Aung San Suu Kyi, Myanmar’s de facto leader, has opened the door for all rebel groups to participate in what she has termed a 21st-century Panglong Conference, modeled on a similar meeting that her father, late General Aung San, held with ethnic groups in 1947.
Unity among Shan groups
Also on Monday, Khun Tun Oo, chairman of the Shan Nationalities League for Democracy (SNLD), called for unity among all ethnic groups at the Panglong Conference.
“This conference can only be a success if all individuals, groups and parties representing the Shan people, who deserve to be among the participants, are invited to take part in it with the spirit of preserving the Union and all work together,” he said during a speech marking the 20th anniversary of the founding of the Shan State Joint Action Committee (SSJAC) in Lashio.
Members of the SNLD attended the anniversary celebration along with leaders from the Shan State Progress Party/Shan State Army (SSPP/SSA), Hsinkyaut militia leaders, and 400 members from various local groups.
The SSJAC was formed jointly in 1996 by the SNLD and the two Shan armed groups in a bid to resolve the war-torn region’s problems through political means.
The meeting participants also discussed the latest round of fighting between the Ta’ang and Shan groups in northern Shan state.
Support from former activists
Students and worker activists who participated in various demonstrations in the mid-1970s pledged on Monday to support the government’s efforts to hold the new Panglong Conference.
The activists held a gathering in South Okkalapa township in Yangon to commemorate riots that took place during that time.
“We have new hope after seeing a new political scenario and the encouraging efforts of the new government, including the plan for a 21st-century Panglong Conference,” said Kyaw Aung, a former student leader of the 1975 demonstrations.
“And so, to continue carrying out our historic tasks, we have decided to join hands with all political forces, ethnic forces and new student generations to support Aung San Suu Kyi’s new government.”
Authorities under former military commander and president Ne Win violently attacked laborers who demonstrated in mid-1974 for adequate rice supplies and workplace guarantees, shooting dead about 100 of them. Authorities also violently attacked student demonstrators in December 1974 and June 1976.
Reported by Tin Aung Khine, Kan Tha, Thiha Tun and Htet Arkar for RFA’s Myanmar Service. Translated by Khin Maung Nyane. Written in English by Roseanne Gerin.
A new village for people displaced by landslides in Mawchi, Kayah State, in 2015, was opened yesterday to house more than 360 people.
The village, which was named “Brighter Future Myanmar” by the local people after the KBZ Brighter Future Myanmar Foundation, which funded the construction of the village, includes 60 houses, one school and one library.
The village is also equipped with two water tanks with a total storage capacity of 8,000 gallons and a pipe system to supply water to each home and one 100 KVA transformer for electrification.
The village was opened by Daw Nang Kham Naung and Daw Nang Mo Hom, the two vice chairpersons of BFM.
Around 60 houses were destroyed and more than 360 people were displaced by the landslide, which occurred in a mountainous area between Mawchi Taung Paw Village and Lokharlo Village on 10 and 11 October last year.
The official death toll following the landslide was 17.
The foundation, since its establishment in 2007, provides relief aids to victims of disasters and has been carrying out a nationwide water supply project, spending more than K100 billion so far. As part of its water supply project, BFM has successfully drilled 76 tube wells, dug and maintained 98 lakes and established 262 water distribution taps in water-scarce areas in southern and eastern Shan State, Kayah State, Mandalay Region and Nay Pyi Taw, while supplying water with 43 tankers to more than 60 monasteries, 49 schools, 11 hospitals and 12 fire services centres.—GNLM