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Myanmar: Myanmar Military releases more than 100 children from armed forces

25 September 2014 - 2:43pm
Source: UN Children's Fund Country: Myanmar

YANGON, Myanmar 25 September, 2014 – The Myanmar Armed Forces (“Tatmadaw”) released 109 children today, demonstrating its continued commitment to professionalize its security forces, ensuring that they become and remain ‘child free’.

To date a total of 472 children and young people have been discharged since the signing of an Action Plan in June 2012, to end and prevent the recruitment and use of children. Today’s release of 109 children is the largest of such discharges. It was attended by Union Minister for Defense, Lieutenant General Wai Lwin and follows soon after the release of 91 children and young people in August 2014

“The United Nations welcomes today’s release of a further 109 children and young people. We are witnessing an increasing number of children coming out of the Tatmadaw, indicating the accelerated efforts of the Government of Myanmar and the Tatmadaw to put an end to the harmful practice of recruiting and using children,” said Ms. Renata Lok-Dessallien, the United Nations Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator in Myanmar, and co-chair of the Country Task Force on Monitoring and Reporting on grave violations against children (CTFMR).

Since 2007, the Tatmadaw, as well as seven non-state armed groups, have been listed on the UN Secretary-General’s list of parties to conflict who recruit and use children. In response to this listing, the Government developed and signed an Action Plan with the CTFMR in June 2012, setting out measures to end and prevent the use and recruitment of children.

“Today’s discharge is a result of intensified discussions between the Government and the CTFMR on how to speed up efforts to make the Tatmadaw child free. We commend the progress achieved so far including the issuing of a new directive which seeks to prevent enrollment at battalion level, continued CTFMR access to military facilities, and the setting-up of billboards nationwide to raise awareness that the recruitment of children - those under the age of 18 years - is illegal,” said Mr. Bertrand Bainvel, UNICEF Representative to Myanmar and co-chair of the CTFMR.

The release comes ahead of the review of the Action Plan on Friday 26 September where the CTFMR and Government will take stock of progress made and identify remaining steps to end the recruitment and use of children by the Government armed forces. Among the primary issues that the CTFMR is looking for is the strengthening of the legal framework, the strict implementation of age verification procedures, and the reinforcement of accountability mechanisms to prevent further recruitment into the ranks of the Tatmadaw.

“Ending the recruitment and use of children in the armed forces is critical as Myanmar strives to strengthen the broader protection of its children and to guarantee their rights,” Mr. Bainvel concluded.

Background

  • All young people released were children 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 being “persistent perpetrators” in the recruitment and use of children in Myanmar. They are the:

  1. Democratic Karen Benevolent Army (DKBA)
  2. Kachin Independence Army (KIA)
  3. Karen National Liberation Army (KNLA)
  4. Karen National Liberation Army Peace Council
  5. Karenni Army (KA)
  6. Shan State Army South (SSA-S)
  7. United Wa State Army (UWSA)

About the UN Country Taskforce on Monitoring and Reporting on grave violations against children (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 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.

Hotline 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 CTFMR, 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.

About UNICEF

UNICEF promotes the rights and wellbeing of every child, in everything we do. Together with our partners, we work in 190 countries and territories to translate that commitment into practical action, focusing special effort on reaching the most vulnerable and excluded children, to the benefit of all children, everywhere.

Follow us on Twitter and Facebook.

For more information please contact:
Alison Rhodes, Chief, Advocacy, Partnerships and Communication, UNICEF Myanmar, Tel: (+95) 1 2305960-69 (Ext. 1446) arhodes@unicef.org
Ye Lwin Oo, Communication Officer, Advocacy, Partnerships and Communication, UNICEF Myanmar, 09 511 3295 (m), ylwinoo@unicef.org.
Melanie Sharpe, UNICEF New York, +1 917-485-3344, msharpe@unicef.org

Myanmar: Myanmar Military releases more than 100 children from armed forces

25 September 2014 - 7:39am
Source: UN Children's Fund Country: Myanmar

YANGON, Myanmar 25 September, 2014 – The Myanmar Armed Forces (“Tatmadaw”) released 109 children today, demonstrating its continued commitment to professionalize its security forces, ensuring that they become and remain ‘child free’.

To date a total of 472 children and young people have been discharged since the signing of an Action Plan in June 2012, to end and prevent the recruitment and use of children. Today’s release of 109 children is the largest of such discharges. It was attended by Union Minister for Defense, Lieutenant General Wai Lwin and follows soon after the release of 91 children and young people in August 2014

“The United Nations welcomes today’s release of a further 109 children and young people. We are witnessing an increasing number of children coming out of the Tatmadaw, indicating the accelerated efforts of the Government of Myanmar and the Tatmadaw to put an end to the harmful practice of recruiting and using children,” said Ms. Renata Lok-Dessallien, the United Nations Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator in Myanmar, and co-chair of the Country Task Force on Monitoring and Reporting on grave violations against children (CTFMR).

Since 2007, the Tatmadaw, as well as seven non-state armed groups, have been listed on the UN Secretary-General’s list of parties to conflict who recruit and use children. In response to this listing, the Government developed and signed an Action Plan with the CTFMR in June 2012, setting out measures to end and prevent the use and recruitment of children.

“Today’s discharge is a result of intensified discussions between the Government and the CTFMR on how to speed up efforts to make the Tatmadaw child free. We commend the progress achieved so far including the issuing of a new directive which seeks to prevent enrollment at battalion level, continued CTFMR access to military facilities, and the setting-up of billboards nationwide to raise awareness that the recruitment of children - those under the age of 18 years - is illegal,” said Mr. Bertrand Bainvel, UNICEF Representative to Myanmar and co-chair of the CTFMR.

The release comes ahead of the review of the Action Plan on Friday 26 September where the CTFMR and Government will take stock of progress made and identify remaining steps to end the recruitment and use of children by the Government armed forces. Among the primary issues that the CTFMR is looking for is the strengthening of the legal framework, the strict implementation of age verification procedures, and the reinforcement of accountability mechanisms to prevent further recruitment into the ranks of the Tatmadaw.

“Ending the recruitment and use of children in the armed forces is critical as Myanmar strives to strengthen the broader protection of its children and to guarantee their rights,” Mr. Bainvel concluded.

Background

All young people released were children 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 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 UN Country Taskforce on Monitoring and Reporting on grave violations against children (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 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.

Hotline 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 CTFMR, 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.

About UNICEF

UNICEF promotes the rights and wellbeing of every child, in everything we do. Together with our partners, we work in 190 countries and territories to translate that commitment into practical action, focusing special effort on reaching the most vulnerable and excluded children, to the benefit of all children, everywhere.

Follow us on Twitter and Facebook.

For more information please contact: Alison Rhodes, Chief, Advocacy, Partnerships and Communication, UNICEF Myanmar, Tel: (+95) 1 2305960-69 (Ext. 1446) arhodes@unicef.org Ye Lwin Oo, Communication Officer, Advocacy, Partnerships and Communication, UNICEF Myanmar, 09 511 3295 (m), ylwinoo@unicef.org. Melanie Sharpe, UNICEF New York, +1 917-485-3344, msharpe@unicef.org

Myanmar: Myanmar frees dozens more child soldiers from army: UN

25 September 2014 - 7:39am
Source: Agence France-Presse Country: Myanmar

09/25/2014 11:08 GMT

YANGON, September 25, 2014 (AFP) - Myanmar's army Thursday released 109 children and young people from its armed forces, the United Nations said, commending the country's "accelerated" efforts to end the use of child soldiers.

The move was the largest single release of child recruits since the formerly junta-ruled nation committed to ending the recruitment and use of children in its "tatmadaw" army in a June 2012 pact with the UN.

A total of 472 children and young people have been released since then as the military has slowed -- but not yet completely halted -- its use of children.

"We are witnessing an increasing number of children coming out of the Tatmadaw, indicating the accelerated efforts of the Government of Myanmar and the Tatmadaw to put an end to the harmful practice," Renata Lok-Dessallien, UN resident coordinator in Myanmar, said in a statement.

There are no verifiable figures on how many children are currently serving in Myanmar's huge military, which has faced a slew of accusations over rights abuses, including the forced recruitment of children to work as porters or even human mine detectors.

This latest release comes soon after the army freed 91 children and young people from the armed forces in August. All of those released were under the age of 18 when the June 2012 pact was signed.

Bertrand Bainvel, UNICEF representative in Myanmar, commended progress including a new directive to prevent child enrolment at battalion level and nationwide billboards raising awareness that the recruitment of children is illegal.

A quasi-civilian regime led by former general Thein Sein has won praise and steered Myanmar out of decades of isolation.

But ending rights violations is a key demand of the international community, which has embraced reforms in the once pariah state since the end of outright junta rule in 2011.

pj/jg

© 1994-2014 Agence France-Presse

Myanmar: Ceasefire accord hits barrier on road map to peace

25 September 2014 - 6:15am
Source: Democratic Voice of Burma Country: Myanmar

By TUN TUN THEIN

A Nationwide Ceasefire Coordination Team (NCCT) representative said on Wednesday that the ethnic bloc is unable to reach agreement with the Burmese government on four of the remaining five points of the proposed single-text nationwide ceasefire draft.

Speaking to DVB after the third day of negotiations between ethnic and government delegations in Rangoon, NCCT Vice-chairman Nai Hongsa said the sticking points concerned military issues, as well as the “road map” for political dialogue and the issue of how many and which armed groups will join the peace process.

The outstanding military matters are thought to involve: troop deployment; a code of conduct for troops; the formation of a ceasefire monitoring joint-committee; and whether or not to prohibit recruitment drives.

“We cannot reach agreement on several issues,” said Nai Hongsa. “Matters relating to the road map, how many groups will be permitted to take part in political dialogue – the government proposed there should be seven – and also military issues.”

Senior NCCT member Salai Lian Hmong Sakhong, head of the Chin National Front, said the government negotiators – a delegation known as the Union Peace-making Work Committee, or UPWC, headed by Minister Aung Min – had backtracked on issues that had been discussed at previous meetings.

“We discussed several points today [Wednesday], but were unable to reach a tangible agreement,” he said. “The UPWC team have backtracked on certain key issues that had already been discussed, such as the road map for political dialogue. We basically had to restart negotiations from scratch.”

Asked about the potential for progress or accord, the Chin leader said, “It is all taking time.”

Maj. Zau Tawng, head of strategic command for the Kachin Independence Organisation, which is still involved in an ongoing armed conflict with Burmese government forces, said he came to the Rangoon meeting this week with the express aim of agreeing on terms of troop redeployment in the wake of a ceasefire agreement.

“We believe that the deployment of troops is a matter that must be discussed, agreed and included in the NCA [Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement],” he said.

This round of talks, the sixth in a series of negotiations aimed ultimately at securing a lasting ceasefire among all the armed groups of Burma, is scheduled to last from 22 to 26 September, but looks set to be extended due to the lack of accord on crucial issues.

In an interview with DVB on Monday, following the first day of talks, the NCCT’s Nai Hongsa was asked about the degree of progress reached towards concluding a single-text agreement between the two sides.

“Almost none,” he exclaimed.

Meanwhile in Naypyidaw, the lower house of parliament on Wednesday approved a proposal urging the government and ethnic armed groups to work together to agree on a nationwide ceasefire.

Myanmar: Report calls for legal reforms to drive forward HIV response in Myanmar

24 September 2014 - 4:30pm
Source: UN Development Programme Country: Myanmar

NAY PYI TAW, 24 September 2014-A national HIV legal review report, launched in Myanmar’s capital Nay Pyi Taw , calls for immediate and long-term legal reform and capacity building to ensure access to health and HIV prevention and treatment services for people living with HIV (PLHIV) and key affected populations. The report, a collaboration between UNAIDS, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), and Pyoe Pin (DFID supported community programme), provides evidence of widespread stigma and discrimination of PLHIV and key affected populations in employment, education and the provision of health care and other services and offers strong recommendations to improve the legal framework and create a more enabling environment for HIV responses.

"Meaningful progress cannot occur without collaboration and ensuring that the people most affected by the HIV epidemic are involved in the solution. The diverse voices coming together today mark a significant step in bringing about legal reform," said Caitlin Reiger, UNDP Chief Technical Adviser (Rule of Law) at the report launch. She commended the active engagement between Government of Myanmar officials, UNAIDS and UNDP,, and members of key affected populations, including female sex workers, people who inject drugs, transgender individuals and men who have sex with men.

Amidst on-going social and economic transitions in Myanmar, the report will contribute to the Government of Myanmar's efforts to meet its international commitments, work toward its vision of Universal Health Coverage by 2030 and strengthen implementation of the Myanmar National Strategic Plan on HIV and AIDS 2011 - 2016.

The report found that the majority of laws affecting the rights of PLHIV and key populations in Myanmar are outdated, including a law inherited from the British colonial era that maintains the transmission of HIV as a criminal offence, as well as sex between two males. New laws and policies are needed to address a range of issues, with priorities in non-discrimination and confidentiality and ARV eligibility criteria.

The report also calls for reforms to existing laws and the development of new police instructions that will support public health approaches to HIV prevention.

"We have long dealt with police harassment on the street and fear of discrimination when accessing health care. I am eager to see the changes that may come about from our discussion today," said a Ma Thuzar Win from Sex Worker network in Myanmar (SWiM) present at the report launch.

The report cites the need for targeted capacity building efforts in the justice sector and among health care workers in HIV and human rights to accompany the implementation of new laws, policies, and police instructions.

"Whether you are a sex worker or a transgender individual or HIV-positive or not, should not affect your right to access life-saving treatment and HIV prevention," said Eamonn Murphy, Country Director for UNAIDS Myanmar. "Reforms are needed to drive forward the agenda to ensure an enabling environment that will eliminate injustices and rights violations and protect people living with HIV and key affected populations from stigma and discrimination."

The report was launched at a two-day meeting with representatives from different sectors from government, representatives of people living with HIV and key affected population networks, NGOs and UN agencies. Government sectors included Ministry of Home Affairs; Ministry of Social Welfare, Relief and Resettlement; Ministry of Science and Technology; Ministry of Health; and the Attorney General's Office.

Contact Information
Eamonn Murphy
Country Director, UNAIDS
Phone: + 95(1) 504832, 503816
E-mail: MurphyE@UNAIDS.org

Shobhna Decloitre
UNDP Communications Specialist
Phone: + 95 (1) 09250345158
Email: Shobhna.decloitre@undp.org

Myanmar: Proposal by Myanmar’s Rebel Groups to Discuss Federal Army Rejected

24 September 2014 - 3:30am
Source: Radio Free Asia Country: Myanmar

Myanmar government negotiators have refused to discuss a proposal by armed ethnic rebel groups to create a new federal, or “union,” army incorporating soldiers from their groups, according to a rebel leader, complicating talks to draw up a nationwide cease-fire accord that was expected to be signed by the end of the year.

The refusal came on the second day of a new round of cease-fire talks on Tuesday between the government’s Union Peacemaking Work Committee (UPWC) and the Nationwide Ceasefire Coordination Team (NCCT) representing more than a dozen armed ethnic rebel groups in Myanmar’s commercial capital Yangon.

Military officials in the UPCW refused to discuss the federal army plan with the rebel leaders, leading to an early conclusion of talks on Tuesday as the NCCT had to leave to consult with member groups over the development.

“We stopped today’s meeting early because we now have to discuss among our groups what our position will be tomorrow [when talks resume],” NCCT leader Naing Han Tha told RFA’s Myanmar Service.

“In a previous meeting, we had agreed to discuss creating a Union Army in upcoming talks, but the military generals said today that now they can’t approve that agreement,” Naing Han Tha said.

Ethnic rebel leaders have been pushing their plan for a Union Army in negotiations for a nationwide cease-fire accord with the government since last year. The government says any cease-fire accord would be followed by landmark political dialogue that would result in greater powers accorded to ethnic states.

Another hurdle

A requirement for ethnic groups to stop recruiting new members after the signing of the cease-fire agreement has also complicated negotiations.

“They are also holding to their position that ethnic armies can’t recruit new members after signing on to a nationwide cease-fire agreement,” Naing han Tha said, adding, “We told them that we won’t forcibly recruit anyone, but that if someone wants to become our soldier, we will accept them.”

“But they won’t agree to this,” he said.

“We can’t abolish our armed forces or reduce the numbers of our troops unless we can reach an agreement based on political dialogue,” he said. “And if dialogue proceeds smoothly, our armed groups should be able to be absorbed into a Union Army and serve in it.”

Myanmar’s ethnic groups have been seeking a federal system since the country gained independence from Britain after World War II, but the country’s former military rulers resisted their efforts because they equated local autonomy with separatism.

The country’s current president, Thein Sein, has signed bilateral cease-fires with more than a dozen ethnic groups and began last year to pursue a nationwide cease-fire to pave the way for further talks as the country enacts political reforms and transitions to democracy.

A proposed cease-fire agreement has already gone through two drafts and is the product of several rounds of formal and informal meetings between the NCCT and UPWC, led by government minister Aung Min.

But while the Myanmar government agreed in talks in August to establish a federal system of government granting ethnic states increased autonomy, senior Myanmar military leaders may still oppose the move, Naing Han Tha said.

Important step

Four lieutenant generals are in the UPWC team at the latest round of talks to last five days, and their presence is seen as an important step to agreeing a binding deal.

"We soldiers are the one who want peace the most," Lieutenant General Myint Soe, the head of the army's negotiating team, told the meeting, according to Agence France-Presse. “We are not here to find fault with each other.”

But Naing Han Tha said, “We have heard that some top-level military people haven’t accepted the agreement to create a federal union.”

“We have felt, and we have seen, that the military leaders attending these [current] talks can’t make any decisions on their own, and because they can’t make any decisions, I think that a nationwide cease-fire may not be signed in early October.”

“There may be obstacles to accomplishing this,” he said.

Aung Min, a former general at the forefront of the peace efforts, said Myanmar's efforts to secure a historic cease-fire agreement with ethnic armed groups are "at a crucial moment,” AFP reported.

"Everyone accepts that Myanmar's peace process is at a very crucial moment," he said.

Reported by Thiha Tun and Myo Zaw Ko for RFA’s Myanmar Service. Translated by Khet Mar. Written in English by Richard Finney.

Myanmar: Muslim Citizenship Procedure Angers Arakanese, Some Rohingya See Opportunity

23 September 2014 - 5:34pm
Source: Irrawaddy Country: Myanmar

By LAWI WENG / THE IRRAWADDY| Tuesday, September 23, 2014

RANGOON —Arakanese Buddhists in Myebon Township held a silent protest on Monday to express their displeasure over the government’s decision to award degrees of citizenship to 209 displaced Muslims in the area, according to Arakanese politicians.

Khin Maung Gyi, who is a central committee member from Arakan National Party, said local Arakanese residents held a protest to send a message to Arakan Chief Minister Maung Maung Ohn who attended the ceremony to grant citizenship to the Muslims on Monday.

“All our people held a protest in the town during his trip. It was a silent protest. They closed all their doors and no one went out onto the street,” he said.

The Arakanese Buddhist population has been in embroiled in a violent communal conflict with the state’s Rohingya Muslim minority, some 140,000 of who have been displaced by violence since 2012.

“From my personal point of view, I do not agree with the ongoing national verification process. I could not trust their actions,” Khin Maung Gyi said.

“There are Bengalis among the Kaman [Muslims]. Bengalis got citizenship in the past by fraud. Our community leaders asked the government to check them carefully, but the government did not listen to the voices of our community leaders.”

The ceremony on Monday granted 40 Muslims citizenship, while 169 received naturalized citizenship, said Khin Soe, an officer at the Immigration Department in the Arakan State capital Sittwe. Burma’s 1982 Citizenship Law offers degrees of citizenship rights to three categories: citizens, associate citizens and naturalized citizens.

Khin Soe said the 40 Muslims citizens are “free to travel like anyone.” Asked about the rights of the 169 naturalized citizens, he referred to the 1982 law’s Article 53, a clause which sets broadly defined conditions for the state to revoke naturalized citizenship.

He said there were “some Kaman” Muslims among the new citizens, while “most were Bengalis.” Khin Soe added that 1,094 people are currently taking part in the national verification process and more could receive citizenship soon.

The Kaman are a Muslim minority recognized as citizens under the 1982 law, but this controversial law drawn up by the then-military government fails to recognize the approximately 1 million Rohingya Muslims living in northern Arakan State as an ethnic group of Burma.

The law renders the group stateless, leaving them vulnerable to human rights violations and putting a range of restrictions on them, such as restrictions of movement and limited access to government services such as health care and education.

The Rohingya claim they have lived in northern Arakan State for generations and should have citizenship rights, but the government insists that they are illegal “Bengali” immigrants from neighboring Bangladesh.

Citizenship Through Nationality Verification

The awarding of citizenship to the Muslims in Myebon is the outcome of the government’s nationality verification process, an operation started last year that is surrounded by a dearth of information.

The process involves groups of local officials, immigration officers and armed police entering into Muslim-majority communities and camps for displaced Muslims in northern Arakan and asking families for identity papers and those of their forebears. If residents refuse to accept the term Bengali on the verification forms, the procedure will be broken off.

“Our immigration officers first check those who provided us with documents about whether they were born here, and whether their parents are born here,” said Khin Soe, the immigration officer. “We check the documents and then we pass it to the township authority. And then, the central government is the main authority that grants citizenship.”

Most of the Muslim minority in northern Arakan maintains they are called Rohingya. During the UN-funded population census in March and April census teams skipped all households that refused to accept ethnic classification as Bengali and an estimated 1 million Muslims were not included.

The international community has long pressured the Burmese government into resolving the statelessness of the Rohingya and it appears Naypyidaw wants to address the issue through the national verification process, even though it—much like the census—is likely to leave out most of the Rohingya.

Aung Win, a Rohingya rights activist and community leader from Sittwe’s Muslim quarter Aung Mingalar, said it was unclear whether Rohingya could obtain full citizenship rights under the nationality verification process.

“I do not like this process because there is no transparency. For example, other countries offer citizenship after a person stays for 10 years in the country. But how long our people have to wait for [citizenship], they [authorities] do not tell us,” he said.

Aung Win said he had little hope that the process would offer a permanent solution for the group’s statelessness, not least because most Rohingya would resist being registered as Bengali.

Hla Myint, a Muslim resident from Myebon, was among the 40 who received citizenship. He said he considered himself a Rohingya but had registered as Bengali in order to obtain citizenship.

“I put Bengali on the verification form… Those who got full citizenship may travel, and those who got naturalized citizenship may have business opportunities,” he said. “Regarding this national verification process, I think that it is a good opportunity for us.”

According to Hla Myint, some 3,000 displaced Muslims in Myebon had applied for citizenship through the national verification process, but many failed to obtain it because they had lost their identity documents during the inter-communal violence, while some refused to register as “Bengalis.”

Myanmar: Exclusion of Smaller Groups Emerges as Ceasefire Sticking Point

23 September 2014 - 5:29pm
Source: Irrawaddy Country: Myanmar

By LAWI WENG / THE IRRAWADDY| Tuesday, September 23, 2014

RANGOON — An ethnic leader has expressed doubts over the military’s willingness to sign a nationwide ceasefire, after Burma’s commander-in-chief reportedly rejected a call by ethnic groups for a more inclusive accord than the government has been willing to allow.

The contention centers on the government’s decision not to recognize five of the ethnic minority groups that are part of the 21-member United Nationalities Federal Council (UNFC). Local media reported that Snr-Gen Min Aung Hlaing in a speech on Friday said a request by the UNFC that the five unrecognized members be given the opportunity to sign a nationwide ceasefire would make peacebuilding efforts in Burma more difficult.

The government has allowed the five groups to join ongoing ceasefire negotiations as “observers,” but has said they will not be eligible to sign the agreement.

Speaking to The Irrawaddy at the end of first day of the latest round of negotiations with the Burmese government on Monday in Rangoon, Nai Hong Sar, who heads the ethnic groups’ Nationwide Ceasefire Coordination Team (NCCT), said the senior general’s comments could be indicative of lingering resistance to signing a nationwide ceasefire.

“Regarding his criticism, it is very possible they do not want to have peace talks. They may put more pressure on our current peace talks by saying this. But, let him criticize as he wishes, we will not say anything in response to his speech,” Nai Hong Sar said.

He speculated that the Burmese Army remained unhappy about the government conceding to ethnic minorities’ longstanding demand for a federal system in the country, potentially prompting Min Aung Hlaing to hit out at the UNFC.

The ethnic armed groups and Burmese government negotiators agreed to work toward a “federal system” at their last meeting in August.

Min Aung Hlaing reportedly criticized the UNFC in a speech last week at a defense academy in Naypyidaw, where he was meeting with military officers.

Local media reported on the speech, quoting Min Aung Hlaing as saying the UNFC’s push for greater inclusion would complicate ongoing ceasefire talks.

“Min Aung Hlaing Warns UNFC Will Make Peace Difficult,” read a headline in The Voice, one of the country’s biggest Burmese-language dailies, which cited the general referring specifically to a UNFC statement issued earlier this month.

The commander-in-chief went on to say that the army would compromise as necessary to bring peace to the country, in accordance with the will of the people, according to the reports.

The UNFC issued the statement in question after hosting its First Congress in Chiang Mai, Thailand. The umbrella grouping’s statement said it would seek to bring all of the UNFC’s ethnic groups into the peace process.

The five members of the UNFC that are not recognized by the government are smaller and largely political organizations of the Kokang, Wa, Arakanese and Lahu ethnic minorities.

Nai Hong Sar told the BBC’s Burmese service on Monday that the NCCT would not sign a nationwide ceasefire unless the government allowed the five UNFC members to sign.

Negotiations for a nationwide ceasefire agreement began last year, and five rounds of talks have come and gone with a finalized accord still proving elusive.

The sixth round of talks began on Monday and is expected to run through the end of this week. The government has said a ceasefire signing could come by November.

However, this week’s meeting is not likely to result in a finalized agreement, according to Nai Hong Sar, who said there are still many issues to negotiate.

“We still have the code of conduct issue to discuss, but they [the government] proposed not to discuss this issue first because this issue could delay a peace agreement,” Nai Hong Sar said.

Myanmar: Crunch time for ceasefire talks as delegates meet in Rangoon

23 September 2014 - 5:27pm
Source: Democratic Voice of Burma Country: Myanmar

By TUN TUN THEIN 23 September 2014

The Burmese government’s Union Peace-making Work Committee (UPWC) and the ethnic armed groups’ Nationwide Ceasefire Coordination Team (NCCT) kicked off a sixth round of negotiations at the Myanmar Peace Centre in Rangoon on Monday.

Hopes are high that the talks, scheduled for five days, will result in a single-text agreement for a nationwide ceasefire; it was announced at the end of the last round in August that only five points were left to be discussed. Notwithstanding, some crucial military issues need to be resolved.

“We expect to wrap up discussions on the draft as soon as possible, but we have to keep on amending it until we finally reach the point where we can all agree – we still have issues left to discuss on military issues, such as troop deployment and such,” said Maj-Gen Gun Maw of the Kachin Independence Organisation.

“And of course there will still be a lot of work to be done after an agreement is signed, so this round of negotiations should not be regarded as end of the peace-building process.”

Leading the government delegation is Minister Aung Min, the deputy head of the UPWC. Speaking to DVB on Monday, he said, “For the moment we at the fourth-draft stage of a single-text agreement containing 104 points – we have only five left to discuss.”

He added: “Our main objective is to find a solution to political problems via political means – to facilitate an all-inclusive political dialogue.”

A newly appointed government representative, Lt-Gen Khin Zaw Oo, attended the Rangoon parlay alongside chief negotiator Aung Min, while the ethnic alliance was headed by Nai Hongsa of the New Mon State Party.

This week’s talks are expected to see conclusive discussions on: a framework for political dialogue; who will sign the nationwide ceasefire agreement; troop deployment; a code of conduct for troops; the formation of a ceasefire monitoring joint-committee; and whether or not to prohibit recruitment drives.

The last point, according to the current draft, prohibits ethnic armed groups from recruiting soldiers in the post-ceasefire period, a contentious point as, of course, as the country’s national armed forces, the Burmese government side will continue recruiting.

Naypyidaw has previously stated an intention to begin political dialogue by the beginning of 2015.

World: Global emergency overview Snapshot 17–23 September

23 September 2014 - 11:59am
Source: Assessment Capacities Project Country: Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bolivia (Plurinational State of), Burundi, Cambodia, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Côte d'Ivoire, Democratic People's Republic of Korea, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Djibouti, El Salvador, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Gambia, Guatemala, Guinea, Haiti, Honduras, India, Iraq, Jordan, Kenya, Lebanon, Lesotho, Liberia, Libya, Mali, Mauritania, Myanmar, Namibia, Nepal, Nicaragua, Niger, Nigeria, occupied Palestinian territory, Pakistan, Paraguay, Philippines, Rwanda, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Somalia, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Syrian Arab Republic, Uganda, Ukraine, World, Yemen, South Sudan preview

Ebola in Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Guinea: As a three-day countrywide shutdown came to an end in Sierra Leone, the UN Security Council set up a special mission to lead the global response to the Ebola outbreak. More than 5,800 cases have been reported since the beginning of the outbreak, including 2,800 deaths, and more than 13.5 million people are now considered in need of assistance as the impact of the epidemic spreads.

Syria: Kurds flee IS advance on Kobane, and 138,000 refugees have been counted at the Turkish border. The US has launched airstrikes targeting IS bases, with the support of other states, while government airstrikes in Idleb, Homs, Rural Damascus, and Aleppo have killed over 100 people in the past week. Tens of thousands of civilians are trapped under IS control in Deir-ez-Zor. For lack of funds, WFP will be reducing the size of rations from October, with further cuts planned in November.

Yemen: Sanaa saw a significant escalation in violence, in which the Houthis gained control over much of the capital, including key government buildings, and 200 people are thought to have died. Houthi leaders have denied reports of a peace deal agreed with the Government on 21 September.

Updated: 23/09/2014. Next update: 30/09/2014

Global Emergency Overview Web Interface

Thailand: The Border Consortium Programme Report, January - June 2014

23 September 2014 - 2:29am
Source: The Border Consortium Country: Myanmar, Thailand preview

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

The period was characterised by a virtual shutdown of the government in Thailand culminating in a military coup leaving the country under the administration of the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO). In Burma/Myanmar there were worrying signs that the reform process is backtracking while the peace process continued on a faltering path towards a nationwide ceasefire agreement with still considerable differences yet to be resolved on military issues before substantive political dialogue can commence. The escalation of conflict in Kachin and Shan State and the census igniting religious and ethnic tensions in the country served to deepen the divide and mistrust of both the government and the army.

In spite of the bilateral ceasefire agreements, skirmishes were reported across SE Burma/Myanmar. The most intensive attacks were reported in Southern Shan State and displaced over 800 civilians, but villagers in northern Karen State were also subject to indiscriminate heavy artillery fire while skirmishes related to troop deployment continued as far south as Tanintharyi Region.

Although there is a change of order in Thailand and refugee return has been on the agenda between top level military officials in both Thailand and Burma/ Myanmar, Thai authorities were keen to reassure that there has been no change in refugee policy. National authorities in Naypyidaw and Bangkok continue to commit to a future return of refugees in accordance with international principles.

Myanmar: Myanmar gives citizenship to 209 displaced Muslims, including Rohingya

23 September 2014 - 2:23am
Source: Reuters - AlertNet Country: Myanmar

Source: Reuters - Mon, 22 Sep 2014 10:05 GMT

By Jared Ferrie

YANGON, Sept 22 (Reuters) - Myanmar gave citizenship on Monday to 209 Muslims displaced by sectarian violence, after the first phase of a project aimed at determining the status of about a million Rohingya whose claims to nationality have been rejected in the past.

Read the full article on Reuters - AlertNet