Myanmar - ReliefWeb News
Snapshot 30 July–5 August
OPt: As a 72-hour truce begins, 1,179 civilians have been reported killed since Operation Protective Edge started. A third of the population of the Gaza Strip – 485,000 people – have been displaced, an increase of 270,000 since last week. Most IDPs are staying in schools, which are severely overcrowded. The health system is overwhelmed.
Syria: Attacks on Douma and Kfar Bata, east of Damascus, have killed more than 50 people, while opposition forces have advanced in Hama. Deliveries of humanitarian aid to hard-to-reach areas dropped in July; only 49 of 287 such locations were reached.
Sudan: Further heavy rains and flooding have affected 6,100 households, half in River Nile and North Kordofan states. More than 3,000 homes are reported destroyed, and South Sudanese refugee camps flooded. Khartoum state has declared a high alert.
Updated: 05/08/2014. Next update: 12/08/2014
About 1,000 homes have been inundated in Hlegu, Rangoon Division, after heavy rains flooded the Ngamoeyeik creek and the Pegu River.
“The water is about waist-deep in some areas,” said Phyo Min Thu, a lower house parliamentarian representing Hlegu Township. He said that about 3,000 people were affected in five villages: Ngwenanthar, Malit, Sinhpon, Sitpinmyauk and Yaekyaw.
While seasonal floods are common in the low-lying region just north of Rangoon, Phyo Min Thu said that abnormally heavy rainfall in recent weeks has caused extreme, protracted flood levels, with excess water sometimes remaining stagnant for up to ten days.
Emergency response measures for the thousands affected remain unclear.
More flooding is expected to hit Arakan State, Irrawaddy, Pegu and Rangoon Divisions as the monsoon season nears its peak, according to Tun Lwin, head of Burma’s Department of Hydrology and Meteorology.
Tun Lwin told DVB on Sunday that Bassein, Henzada, Maubin, Mingalardon, Pegu and Tharawaddy townships are likely to flood, as well as Kyaukphyu, on the Arakan coast; a prediction that he described as “alarming”.
Last year, about 50,000 people were displaced by flash floods in Pegu Division, according to the United Nations. In addition, some 60,000 acres of farmland were flooded, with about 15,000 severely damaged.
Undeveloped infrastructure, risk prevention and low capacity for efficient relief efforts remain a concern in many parts of the country. In a 2013 situation bulletin on Burma, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs stressed the need to “strengthen disaster risk reduction and preparedness activities to mitigate the impact of natural disasters on vulnerable populations in the coming years”.
Burma is one the most disaster-prone countries in the Asia Pacific, vulnerable to a range of hazards including floods, cyclones, earthquakes, landslides and tsunamis.
The CFSI Annual Report for 2013 gives a sketch of CFSI’s accomplishments and ongoing efforts in rebuilding lives in the Philippines, Myanmar, and Viet Nam. Throughout the succession of emergencies in 2013, CFSI carried out relief, early recovery, and reconstruction, as well as capacity strengthening with local partners and policy advocacy at the regional and global levels.
By LAWI WENG / THE IRRAWADDY
RANGOON — Local authorities are preparing to resettle the first group of people in Meikhtila to be provided new homes after inter-communal violence ripped through the town in central Burma more than a year ago.
Thousands were displaced and at least 40 people were killed when the Mandalay Division town was engulfed by clashes between Buddhists and Muslims for three days in March 2013 before the government declared state of emergency. Some 7,845 people, mostly Muslims, remain homeless and living in camps around the town, of which 220 households will soon be resettled.
Khin Naing, a member of the town’s resettlement committee and the supervisor on the project to build new homes for the displaced, told The Irrawaddy that the first round of resettlement would begin next week.
“The authorities informed our construction committee that the resettlement program will begin between Aug. 4 and 5. This is the first round of resettlement and includes 220 houses,” Khin Naing said.
Families will be given 40-by-30-feet plots of land and a small house in Meikhtila’s Chan Aye Tharyar Quarter, he said. The area was the town’s Muslim quarter, and more than 1,500 houses there were razed to the ground during the violence, according to state media.
Khin Naing added that Mandalay Division Chief Minister San Aung had informed the committee about the start of resettlement on a recent visit.
Authorities have not provided detailed information to the displaced people about how they will be resettled, sparking rumors that a random ballot system will be employed. About 100 people have written to the divisional government with concerns that a ballot system could mean they are not resettled on the sites of their former homes.
“[The displaced people] strongly oppose the authorities using a ballot system because they are worried that they will not get their own land,” said Khin Naing.
Inter-communal violence in the past two years has affected a number of cities and towns in Burma, most notably in Arakan State, where about 140,000 people, mostly Rohingya Muslims, are living in camps following violence there. The Muslim and Buddhist communities in Mandalay clashed earlier this month during riots that led to the deaths of two people.
However, Win Htein, a National League for Democracy member of Parliament for Meikhtila, said he was not concerned that problems would arise again between the two communities in the town.
“It is peaceful already in the area. Both communities in the area can maintain a situation without violence, so there will be no problems,” said Win Htein.
By LAWI WENG / THE IRRAWADDY
RANGOON — Residents of a Shan village in Namkham Township, northern Shan State, have fled their homes after the Burma Army harshly interrogated several villagers about the recent assassination of two military officers on a nearby road, local sources said on Friday.
Sai Aom Mong, a Namkham resident, told The Irrawaddy that he had heard that Noung Madar village was abandoned on Thursday.
“The village has about 120 houses and about 400 people fled from the village,” he said. “They told me that they have to flee from their village as security forces threatened their lives. Almost all people in the village fled, including five community leaders who were detained briefly for interrogation and beaten by the army.”
He said soldiers from 16th Battalion, Infantry Division 88 entered the village to question residents about the murder of two officers on a quiet road near Noung Madar, a village located about 2 km north of Namkham. On Tuesday, a commanding officer and a warrant officer were gunned down by unknown assailants on their way back from Namkham market to their base.
Village leaders were warned during interrogation that “the life of one officer is worth the lives of 100 villagers,” Sai Aom Mong said. He added that some villagers had fled across the nearby border into China, while others went to stay with their relatives or in Buddhist monasteries.
Sai Kyaw Ohn, a Shan Nationalities Democratic Party parliamentarian from Namkham Township, said, “I heard the people fled from their village, but I do not know yet how many families.” He added that he felt sympathy for the villagers who were forced to abandon their homes and farms in the middle of the busy rice-growing season.
No one has claimed responsibility for the assassination with the Ta’ang National Liberation Army (TNLA) saying that the area of the attack is under control of the Shan State Army-North (SSA-North).
Namkham was reportedly the scene of another murder on July 23, when a young man was shot in the head in the town in the evening.
In recent months, northern Shan State has been the scene of frequent, deadly clashes between the TNLA, the SSA-North and the Kachin Independence Army (KIA), as the ethnic conflict spills over from neighboring Kachin State.
Since April, fighting had been escalating in southern Kachin State, which borders Namkham Township, and several thousand civilians were displaced. Last week, some 800 Palaung minority villagers were newly displaced by fresh fighting in Namkham Township.
Increasing Israeli-Palestinian tensions culminated in Israel launching "Operation Protective Edge" in Gaza in early July (see our latest report and commentary). The assault, which started as an aerial campaign and was later extended to include ground operations, reportedly killed more than 1,400 Palestinians throughout the month while 64 Israelis were killed in clashes inside the Gaza Strip and by Hamas rocket fire. Several attempts at reaching a ceasefire agreement failed in July. Israel backed proposals demanding a cessation of hostilities as a prerequisite for negotiating a long-term truce, while Hamas insisted that ceasefire modalities not agreed to during the fighting would never be addressed. As CrisisWatch goes to press there are reports that a three-day humanitarian ceasefire announced 1 August has already collapsed.
Iraq’s army and political leadership has made no tangible progress in responding to June’s territorial gains by jihadi and other rebel groups across the country’s north-west. A poorly-planned 15 July assault to recapture Tikrit failed while the jihadis leading the takeover, the Islamic State (formerly ISIL), moved to consolidate control in captured areas, eliminate Sunni rivals and destroy religious sites. Politicians in Baghdad continued jockeying for positions following April’s parliamentary elections, with Prime Minister Maliki showing no sign of wavering in his demand to retain his post. Unprecedented tensions also arose between Maliki and the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) over Kurdish territorial gains, boycotts of cabinet sessions and increasing calls for independence. (See our latest report and commentary.)
Syria’s northern armed opposition looks increasingly precarious. In the past month, opposition fighters were defeated by rival rebels from the jihadi group the Islamic State (formerly ISIL) in the eastern province Deir al-Zour while regime forces made progress in encircling rebels in Aleppo. Setbacks faced by the increasingly disorganised and poorly armed moderate opposition factions in Aleppo could provide an opportunity for IS to push further west (see our latest commentary). Meanwhile, IS and regime forces were increasingly drawn into direct confrontation as a consequence of their respective gains. IS reportedly seized a gas field east of Homs in mid-July and later took control of regime bases in Raqqa and Hassakeh provinces.
In Libya security units affiliated with Islamist-leaning Libya Revolutionaries’ Operation Room (LROR) clashed with Zintan militias over control of Tripoli airport, leaving scores dead. Many were also reported killed in ongoing violence between various government forces and militias in Benghazi during the second half of the month. The UN and most embassies evacuated their staff throughout the month citing security concerns. A newly-elected parliament faces challenges convening due to the ongoing violence: even if it does convene, its ability to find consensus on a way to tackle the country's escalating insecurity is uncertain.
South Sudan’s conflict escalated further as fighting broke out in new areas of Greater Bahr el Ghazal and both the government and SPLM in Opposition (SPLM-IO) launched offensives that displaced thousands, including a government attack on a World Food Programme distribution site. Tensions grew in the three Equatorian states, taking the form of demands for a federal government structure and frustrations over the perceived Dinka monopoly on state power. The EU imposed its first sanctions and renewed its arms embargo amid calls for the UN Security Council to follow suit. (See our recent Conflict Alert and commentary on civil society.)
Al-Shabaab stepped up its attacks across Somalia during the holy month of Ramadan, killing dozens of government and security officials. The Somali Federal Government fired its police and intelligence chiefs after an attack on the presidential palace in early July. Tribal violence and tensions over the creation of a new federal state continued in south central.
In Afghanistan, Abdullah Abdullah, one of the two candidates in the presidential run-off elections, rejected preliminary results of the second round of voting showing his opponent, former Finance Minister Ashraf Ghani, to be in the lead (see our latest commentary). With tensions rising and Abdullah’s supporters urging him to declare a parallel government, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry intervened in mid-July and brokered an agreement between the candidates requiring an audit of all ballot boxes. The audit began on 17 July but was quickly complicated by delays and procedural disagreements between the two camps, ultimately leading to its postponement until early August. Meanwhile, violence across the country continued to increase, with numerous attacks reported including in the capital Kabul.
Army operations against tribal militants in Pakistan’s North Waziristan region caused mass displacement and left residents without adequate humanitarian assistance. The FATA Disaster Management Authority registered nearly one million IDPs fleeing operations by 22 July. The military restricted the work of foreign aid organisations and local NGOs, leaving people to rely on the charity fronts of jihadi organisations.
World: The Market Monitor - Trends and impacts of staple food prices in vulnerable countries, Issue 24 - July 2014
• During the first quarter of 2014, the global cereal price index decreased by 12% year-on-year, and slightly increased by 2% compared to the previous quarter.
• Real prices of maize were relatively stable and only 2% higher than the previous quarter of 2014.
Compared to the same period of the previous year, maize prices are low (-28%).
• Real prices of wheat increased significantly by 9% from Q1 to Q2-2014. More recently, for June, prices are down due to an increase in global supply and production.
• For rice, real prices are down by 7% since Q1-2014 and firmly below Q2-2013 (-27%) following record projections of global rice production early in the quarter.
• During the second quarter, the cost of the minimum food basket increased severely (>10%) in El Salvador, Honduras and Nicaragua particularly due to price increases for red beans. High changes (5-10%) occurred in 8 monitored countries: Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Myanmar, Palestine, Sudan, Tanzania, the Philippines, and Yemen. In the remaining 56 of 67 monitored countries, the impact of the commodity price changes was low or moderate (<5%).
• Price spikes, as monitored by ALPS (ALert for Price Spikes) are evident in India, Mali, Pakistan,
Palestine, Sudan, and Zambia as highlighted on the map below. The spikes indicate crisis levels for the most important staple sold in the monitored market.
YANGON, 1st August 2014 – Today, 91 children and young people* were released from the armed forces, to rejoin their families, friends and communities, demonstrating the commitment of the Myanmar Government and the Myanmar Armed Forces (known as the Tatmadaw), to end the recruitment and use of children. Their release results from strong collaboration and the joint efforts of the Tatmadaw, the Myanmar Government and the UN Country Taskforce on Monitoring and Reporting (CTFMR) on Grave Violations against children.
The 91 children and young people arrived in Yangon earlier this week where, for many of them, they met their families for the first time after several years of separation. Representatives from Myanmar Government (including the Ministry of Immigration and Population, Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Social Welfare, Relief and Resettlement) worked alongside the CTFMR to ensure the children and young people were provided with new civil documentation, health checks, and one-to-one psycho-social debriefing sessions with trained social workers to identify their immediate and longer-term needs.
The United Nations welcomed the release of the 91 children, one of the largest of such discharges since June 2012, when the Government committed to ending the recruitment and use of children in the Tatmadaw by signing an Action Plan with the United Nations detailing steps to make their army child-free.
“Today’s release of 91 children and young people is an important step in ending the recruitment and use of children in the Myanmar Armed Forces, a practice that takes children away from their families and communities with long lasting, devastating effects on the child” said Ms. Shalini Bahuguna, UNICEF Deputy Representative to Myanmar, on behalf of the CTMFR. “As of today, a total of 364 children and young people have been released since June 2012,” Ms. Bahuguna continued.
Myanmar is one of seven countries whose national security forces are listed by the Secretary-General for recruitment and use of children. In March 2014, the UN Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict and UNICEF launched “Children, not Soldiers”, a campaign to end and prevent the recruitment and use of children by government security forces in conflict by 2016.
“I rely on the Government’s commitment to act on each of the points listed in the Action Plan, including mechanisms to end and prevent the recruitment of children and hold perpetrators accountable” said Ms. Leila Zerrougui, Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict. “The international community should spare no efforts to support Myanmar to make the promise of the Action Plan a reality for the country’s children” Ms. Zerrougui added.
Reintegration of children formerly associated with the Tatmadaw requires long-term efforts and continued funding. Individual, on-going support is essential to ensure these children have a successful restart in life. Such efforts have been enhanced by a recent directive of the Ministry of Education, in May 2014, which ensures that children discharged from the Armed Forces can go back to school immediately after their release and at any point in the school year, without delay. Previously, it took up to two months for children formerly associated with the armed forces to be re-enrolled into State schools. The new directive will simplify the process and the work for all parties, including the Ministry of Social Welfare, Relief and Resettlement and the Ministry of Education.
Similarly, the Ministry of Health has recently issued a directive to relevant Township Medical Officers to give special attention to the medical needs of released children. “Such directives set a precedence and show a Government-wide commitment to improve and accelerate care and reintegration for released children,” Ms. Bahuguna added.
The Joint Action Plan signed two years ago remains a useful framework to accelerate the release and reintegration of children associated with the Armed Forces. The plan sets a timetable and measurable activities for the release and re-integration of children associated with Government armed forces, as well as further recruitment.
“We commend the significant progress made by the Myanmar Armed Forces since the signature of the Joint Action Plan in June 2012. The military is not a place for a child to grow up. Such discharges must be accelerated so that the Tatmadaw can quickly achieve the double objective of zero under-age recruitment, and full discharge of those that are under 18 in the armed forces,” Ms. Bahuguna concluded on behalf of CTMFR. [Ends]
*All young people released were under 18 at the time of the signing of the Joint Action Plan in June 2012.
In addition to the Tatmadaw, there are seven non-state armed groups listed by the UN Secretary-General as also being “persistent perpetrators” in the recruitment and use of children in Myanmar. They are the:
- Democratic Karen Benevolent Army (DKBA)
- Kachin Independence Army (KIA)
- Karen National Liberation Army (KNLA)
- Karen National Liberation Army Peace Council
- Karenni Army (KA)
- Shan State Army South (SSA-S)
- United Wa State Army (UWSA)
ABOUT THE CTFMR
United Nations Security Council (UNSC) Resolution 1612 mandates the UN to establish UN-led CTFMRs in countries where there is verified evidence that Grave Violations against children are being committed by parties to a conflict, either by armed forces and/or by armed groups. The CTFMR is tasked with establishing a Monitoring and Reporting Mechanism (MRM) which documents, verifies and reports to the UNSC on Grave Violations against children. The six Grave Violations monitored and reported are:
• killing or maiming of children
• recruitment and use of children in armed forces and armed groups
• attacks against schools or hospitals
• rape or other grave sexual violence
• abduction of children
• denial of humanitarian access for children.
The CTFMR is also mandated to provide a coordinated response to such grave violations. The CTFMR was established in Myanmar in 2007 and is co-Chaired by the UN Resident Coordinator and the UNICEF Representative in Yangon. The CTFMR in Myanmar includes relevant UN agencies (ILO, UNDP, UNFPA, UNHCR, UNICEF, UN OCHA, the UN RCO and WFP), Save the Children and World Vision.
In November 2013, UNICEF supported the Myanmar Government to launch a nation-wide campaign to raise awareness on its population on its commitment to end use and recruitment of Children by Tatmadaw. As part of this campaign, and on behalf of CTMFR, UNICEF and World Vision are managing 2 hotlines (09-421166701 and 09-421166702) where anyone can alert and report suspected cases of children being recruited by the Tatmadaw.
ILO Complaint Mechanism
The ILO Complaint Mechanism, on the elimination of forced labour, including under-age recruitment, is also in place and working toward supplementing the CTMFR mechanism. To report under this mechanism contact: 01 655538/9 01 9578925, 01 57 9956. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
For more information please contact:
Alison Rhodes, Chief, Advocacy, Partnerships and Communication, UNICEF Myanmar, Tel: (+95) 1 2305960-69 (Ext. 1446) email@example.com
Ye Lwin Oo, Communication Officer, Advocacy, Partnerships and Communication, UNICEF Myanmar, 09 511 3295 (m), firstname.lastname@example.org.
In New York:
Stephanie Tremblay, Communications officer, Office of the Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict, +1 212 963 8285, email@example.com