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Myanmar: Shan groups pledge common vision at Bangkok meeting

6 October 2014 - 9:53pm
Source: Democratic Voice of Burma Country: Myanmar

By SHWE AUNG

Three Shan armed groups and two major Shan political parties—the Shan Nationalities Democratic Party and the Shan Nationalities League for Democracy (SNLD)—wrapped up a meeting in Bangkok on Friday that was designed to craft a common vision to the peace process and Burma’s 2015 elections.

The event, entitled “Towards a Common Understanding – Shan Leaders Consultation”, was held on 2- 4 October. In addition to the two political parties the following Shan ethnic armed groups attended the conference: Shan State Army-South (SSA-S), Shan State Army-North (SSA-N), and a lesser-known Shan militia group allied with the government which is based in the northern Shan state town of Hsipaw.

The meeting was also attended by Aung Min, who has been leading peace negotiations with armed ethnic groups on behalf of the Union government as deputy head of the Union Peace-making Work Committee (UPWC).

Sai Lek, secretary of the SNLD, said the groups discussed the delays which have bogged down negotiations on the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement (NCA). The Shan groups also agreed that armed conflict can only be resolved through political dialogue, and that certain guarantees should be granted by the government prior to singing a ceasefire.

Sai Lek said one of the main causes of delays in the peace process has been a lack of trust between Burmese government forces and armed ethnic groups.

“One of the main reasons for delays in the peace process has been a breakdown of trust. The government—especially the Burmese army—doesn’t have much confidence in the Nationwide Ceasefire Coordination Team [the delegates negotiating the NCA on behalf of armed ethnic groups]. At the same time, armed ethnic groups have started to seriously doubt the sincerity of the government because its position has become more intransigent ever since Burmese army officersjoined the talks,” said the SNLD secretary.

Sai Lek also expressed doubts regarding the claim that continued fighting between the Burmese army and armed groups in Shan state was due to the absence of a code of conduct regulating the opposing armed forces, and he speculated that the government forces might be taking advantage of the peace process by deliberately launching attacks on armed groups.

“Some people cited the lack of an agreed-upon code of conduct as the reason for the continuation of clashes, but if that is the case then these clashes should only be sporadic. However, from what we are seeing they look more like a planned offensive, intentionally carried out by the Tatmadaw [Burmese army],” he said. “But it may or may not be true.”

On the second day of the meeting, the groups released an open letter to President Thein Sein denouncing an offensive last week in which over 1,000 troops Burmese troops attacked SSA-N positions in Ta Pha Saung Village in Shan state’s Kehsi Mansam Township as a violation of previously-signed tentative ceasefire agreements; and they called on the government to solve political problems via political means.

At the end of the meeting, the Shan groups released a joint statement containing the following a three-point agreement pledging: to join hands in negotiating with the government on matters relating to the future of the Union and Shan State; to cooperate for the purposes of enhancing peace-building efforts in Shan State and across the Union of Burma; and to continue negotiating and using political means to resolve political issues.

Myanmar: Karen delegates hold closed-door talks with government

6 October 2014 - 9:48pm
Source: Democratic Voice of Burma Country: Myanmar

Representatives from the Karen National Union (KNU) and the Karen Unity and Peace Committee (KUPC)—an assorted group of Karen MPs, civil society members and Karen armed groups—held a closed-door meeting with Burmese government officials on Saturday in Taungoo to discuss ways of bringing about unity and peace for the Karen people.

The meeting was attended by: members of the KNU central committee including Mahn Nyein Maung; Karen ethnic affairs ministers from various administrative regions in Burma; members of the Karen People’s Party, including the party’s deputy chairman; and Karen ethnic MPs.

KNU central committee member Saw Hla Tun said that the parties had reached an agreement on several issues by the end of the meeting, including a call by the Karen representatives for greater cooperation in bringing about unity and peace for the Karen people. The Karen attendees also reportedly agreed with the government on the need to end armed conflict and practice patience. Finally, Karen MPs agreed to make endeavours to ensure that basic human rights of Karen people are protected and Karen youths enjoy a bright future.

Meanwhile, the Democratic Karen Buddhist Army’s (DKBA) 5th Battalion—the only DKBA unit that refused to be absorbed into the government’s Border Guard Force, and which subsequently re-branded itself as the Democratic Karen Benevolent Army (also known as DKBA)—is expected to meet with government counterparts on Monday to negotiate the return of firearms the group seized from Burmese troops during a series of skirmishes last week.

Maj. San Aung from the breakaway Karen faction said last week’s gunfire “did not a signal a breakdown of the peace process; rather, it was designed to let the country and the world know about the oppression taking place at ground level in Karen State.”

Myanmar: UEC to discuss eligible voter lists for 2015 general elections

6 October 2014 - 9:42pm
Source: Mizzima News Country: Myanmar

Written by Hein Ko Soe

The Union Election Commission (UEC) will begin discussions with officials of Region and State election commissions about compiling lists of eligible voters in constituencies for the planned 2015 general elections, the UEC’s spokesman U Thaung Hlaing told Mizzima October 3.

The preliminary lists of eligible voters for Ahlone Township (Yangon Region), Myitkyina (Kachin State) and Tedim Township (Chin State) compiled in May are said to be incorrect, hence the need for UEC officials to plan how to re-compile the lists.

“The Commission [UEC] will begin discussions with the chairmen of the Region election committees on re-making the lists. We will begin the process [of compiling the lists] only after the discussions. We have yet to compile the lists,” said U Thaung Hlaing, who is also the director of the Electoral Department of the UEC.

Some civil organizations involved in compiling the preliminary lists of eligible voters said that the names of dead people and the names of many people who don’t have national ID cards are in the preliminary lists.

“Among the 49,000 eligible voters [in the preliminary list] in Tedim, about 12,000 people don’t have national ID cards. How can they vote? So we made suggestions and told the Commission to make changes,” said U Thant Zin Aung, the coordinator of New Myanmar Foundation that was involved in compiling the preliminary lists of eligible voters.

Yangon Region Election Commission chairman U Ko Ko said that the discussion on the process of compiling the lists of all eligible voters would begin in the second week of October.

Myanmar: World Bank Group Systematic Country Diagnostic and Country Partnership Framework for Myanmar

5 October 2014 - 8:14pm
Source: Human Rights Watch Country: Myanmar preview

World Bank Group: Tackle Burma Rights Concerns

Ongoing Abuses Against Minorities, Land Grabs, Corruption

(Washington, DC, October 6, 2014) – The World Bank Group should act to overcome Burma’s major human rights problems in its new strategy for the country, Human Rights Watch said in a submission to the bank released today. Key issues include rights violations against ethnic minorities, widespread land grabs, and systematic corruption.

Despite significant human rights improvements in Burma, the reform process remains tenuous, and serious problems remain, particularly as the 2015 elections approach. The World Bank Group cautiously re-engaged with the Burmese government in 2012 and is developing a more comprehensive partnership framework for the next five years. The World Bank Group consists of four organizations tasked with reducing global poverty and achieving sustainable development, and an arbitration body.

“The World Bank should be taking stock of the human rights situation in Burma as the 2015 elections approach,” said Jessica Evans, senior international financial institutions researcher at Human Rights Watch. “The elections could be a milestone in Burma’s reform efforts or a major setback, and the bank will need to set the best path for engagement.”

World Bank Group President Jim Kim should highlight ongoing problems of discrimination and abuses against ethnic minorities, land and labor rights, access to justice, and corruption when he meets with Burmese finance officials during the World Bank/International Monetary Fund annual meetings in Washington, DC, on October 10-12, 2014.

Before it re-engaged with Burma in 2012, the World Bank had not provided financial aid to the country since 1987, when it was ruled by an abusive military junta. While there has been an increase in development aid in the past two years, Burma remains one of the poorest countries in the region.

The World Bank Group is piloting a new process for country engagement in Burma, first identifying major challenges to sustainable, inclusive development. The next step is to work with the government on a strategy to address the challenges. For this new process to be meaningful, the bank should not ignore controversial issues such as human rights, Human Rights Watch said.

Human Rights Watch urged the World Bank to fully analyze Burma’s positive developments and the myriad issues that remain, and work with the government to address these issues, in close consultation with independent groups.

The decades-long government repression of the Rohingya Muslim minority continues on a massive scale. Since sectarian violence flared in June 2012, an estimated 140,000 mostly Rohingya displaced people have been relocated into camps around Burma’s western Arakan State.

Burma’s 1982 Citizenship Law effectively prevents Rohingya, many of whom have lived in the country for generations, from obtaining citizenship. This has left Rohingya stateless, facilitating human rights abuses against them and posing serious obstacles to ending the sectarian violence in Arakan State. The citizenship issue has also played a role in pushing Rohingya into increased poverty and is a barrier to realizing their social and economic rights. A draft of the long-awaited Rakhine (Arakan) Action Plan obtained by Human Rights Watch outlines plans to resettle over 130,000 displaced Rohingya into long-term settlements and stage a nationality verification process. A subsequent citizenship process will be inherently discriminatory because it is based on the 1982 law.

In its 2012 Burma strategy, the World Bank dismissed this entrenched discrimination as “localized instances of communal violence … that indicate the need to address continuing societal fault lines.” The attacks on the Rohingya, which amounted to crimes against humanity in a campaign of ethnic cleansing, and the impact on their social and economic rights have heightened since then, but the bank has remained silent.

Since 2012 there has also been a serious rise in anti-Muslim violence and incitement throughout Burma. Attacks took place in a number of towns in central Burma in 2013 and in Mandalay in June 2014.

“World Bank Group President Jim Kim has highlighted the cost of discrimination not only on society, but on the economy,” Evans said. “Kim should emphasize these costs with Burma’s government and urge them to dismantle entrenched discrimination and take the necessary measures to end the violence against the Rohingya and other Muslim communities.”

The World Bank Group should also do more to ensure that local communities can participate in identifying and shaping development priorities, Human Rights Watch said. The bank should publish country documents and project documents in relevant ethnic languages in addition to Burmese and English; consult with local people who will be directly affected by proposed projects; and ensure that all consultations are accessible for all marginalized groups. It should also address ongoing governmental restrictions on independent groups and the media, both in its diagnostic effort and its high-level dialogue with the government, emphasizing the importance of participation and social accountability for development.

The World Bank Group should assess and address the possible adverse impacts on human rights in all of its projects in Burma, particularly discrimination against minorities, land rights violations, and labor rights violations. In light of the high-risk environment, the International Finance Corporation, the bank’s private-sector lending arm, should require businesses to undertake human rights due diligence. This would involve taking the necessary measures to identify potential human rights problems, mitigate them, and provide an appropriate remedy for any abuses that occur despite the preventive steps taken.

All institutions of the World Bank Group should examine the rights records of government and private sector partners to ensure that they are not implicated in rights abuses or corruption, Human Rights Watch said. And all should rigorously monitor and supervise implementation of projects they fund to ensure that human rights are respected throughout.

“The World Bank has an important role to play in advancing access to education, health, and electricity in Burma,” Evans said. “But for it to really advance development, it needs to have its eyes wide open to Burma’s ongoing rights problems and actively work to address them.”

Myanmar: Finding a just and equitable solution to Rakhine’s citizenship crisis essential for long-term peace and prosperity in Myanmar

3 October 2014 - 11:17pm
Source: UN Development Programme Country: Myanmar

New York City, USA, 3 October 2014 - Senior United Nations Humanitarian and Development officials said today they had seen appalling human suffering but also signs of hope during a recent visit to Rakhine State in Myanmar, where more than 1 million people have been rendered effectively stateless.

UN Assistant Secretary-General and UN Development Programme Regional Director for Asia Haoliang Xu and UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs Director of Operations John Ging met displaced people and government officials during their visit.

United Nations Webcast: webtv.ur.org

Violent clashes in Rakhine in 2012 led to the displacement of 140,000 people into 68 camps and settlements for internally displaced people. More than 1 million people face discrimination and severe restrictions on their freedom of movement, seriously compromising their basic rights to food, health, education and livelihoods, while reinforcing their reliance on international humanitarian assistance.

“We need to scale up poverty eradication across Rakhine, with a particular focus on development solutions which promote peaceful co-existence,” said Mr. Xu. “Stability and peace can be achieved only when the needs of all communities are met.”

“Underdevelopment is a cause of the conflict, but it is clear that development alone is not enough,” said Mr. Ging. “Without a just and equitable solution to the citizenship crisis in Rakhine there will never be lasting peace and prosperity in Myanmar. This is a humanitarian crisis which has the potential to be resolved in a way which will stand as an international success story. We need to engage to ensure that this crucial opportunity is not missed.”

Mr. Xu and Mr. Ging said they had engaged with government officials at the national and local levels who expressed commitment to finding a solution to the crisis. They called on all United Nations agencies to engage in and support this process to help ensure that the outcome was just, equitable and promoted human rights for all.

Contact Information

Stanislav Saling
Media Relations & Public Relations
Regional Bureau for Asia and the Pacific
UNDP New York
Tel: +1 212 906 6575
Mobile: +1 917 346 1955
@StanislavSaling

Myanmar: Burma – Complex Emergency Fact Sheet #4 (FY) 2014

3 October 2014 - 7:25pm
Source: US Agency for International Development Country: Myanmar, United States of America preview

HIGHLIGHTS

· Heavy rainfall and localized floods are affecting populations throughout Burma.

· An estimated 236,000 people remain displaced and in need of humanitarian assistance in Kachin, Rakhine, and Shan states.

· The U.S. Government (USG) provided more than $45 million to address humanitarian needs in FY 2014.

Myanmar: Finding a just and equitable solution to Rakhine’s citizenship crisis essential for long-term peace and prosperity in Myanmar

3 October 2014 - 2:29pm
Source: UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs Country: Democratic People's Republic of Korea, Myanmar preview

(New York, 3 October 2014): Senior United Nations Humanitarian and Development officials said today they had seen appalling human suffering but also signs of hope during a recent visit to Rakhine State in Myanmar, where more than 1 million people have been rendered effectively stateless.

UN Assistant Secretary-General and UN Development Programme Regional Director for Asia Haoliang Xu and UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs Director of Operations John Ging met displaced people and government officials during their visit.

Violent clashes in Rakhine in 2012 led to the displacement of 140,000 people into 68 camps and settlements for internally displaced people. More than 1 million people face discrimination and severe restrictions on their freedom of movement, seriously compromising their basic rights to food, health, education and livelihoods, while reinforcing their reliance on international humanitarian assistance.

“We need to scale up poverty eradication across Rakhine, with a particular focus on development solutions which promote peaceful co-existence,” said Mr. Xu. “Stability and peace can be achieved only when the needs of all communities are met.”

“Underdevelopment is a cause of the conflict, but it is clear that development alone is not enough,” said Mr. Ging. “Without a just and equitable solution to the citizenship crisis in Rakhine there will never be lasting peace and prosperity in Myanmar. This is a humanitarian crisis which has the potential to be resolved in a way which will stand as an international success story. We need to engage to ensure that this crucial opportunity is not missed.”

Mr. Xu and Mr. Ging said they had engaged with government officials at the national and local levels who expressed commitment to finding a solution to the crisis. They called on all United Nations agencies to engage in and support this process to help ensure that the outcome was just, equitable and promoted human rights for all.

Mr. Ging also briefed on his recent visit to DPRK. “This is a context in which real humanitarian need exists and where excellent work is being done by UN and NGO partners to assist the most vulnerable,” said Mr Ging. “It is therefore lamentable that international funding levels continue to decline, with just $26.6 million out of the $116 million needed being received.”

For further information, please call

Clare Doyle, OCHA New York, doylecm@un.org, Tel. +1 212 963 5099 Cell +1 646 288 6331
Jens Laerke, OCHA Geneva, laerke@un.org, Tel. +41 22 917 11 42 Cell +41 (0)79 472 9750

The mission of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) is to mobilize and coordinate effective and principled humanitarian action in partnership with national and international actors