Myanmar - ReliefWeb News
Authorities in Dhaka have demanded that Myanmar repatriate tens of thousands of Rohingya Muslims who crossed the border to escape what they say is persecution, and are now living illegally in Bangladesh.
Myanmar says it will accept a small fraction of the refugee population now in Bangladesh, but the Rohingya themselves say they are unwilling to go back to Myanmar's Rakhine state. Refugee community leaders are appealing to "Rohingya-friendly" countries to take them in.
Ko Ko Linn, a Rohingya community leader in Bangladesh, told VOA that conditions in Myanmar had become unlivable, particularly in recent weeks, and "they do not want to return to this anti-Rohingya Myanmar."
Linn, an executive member of the Arakan Rohingya National Organization, said, "The Myanmar government and the country's Buddhist-majority society have turned extremely hostile against the Rohingya Muslims, turning the country into a hell for them."
An Amnesty International report last month accused Myanmar security forces of being responsible for unlawful killings, multiple rapes and the burning down of houses and entire villages in a "campaign of violence against Rohingya people that may amount to crimes against humanity."
The Foreign Ministry of Bangladesh called in Myanmar's ambassador Thursday to complain about the refugees and to demand an early return of all Rohingya migrants to Myanmar.
Kamrul Ahsan, Bangladesh's Bilateral and Consular Secretary, told Ambassador Myo Myint Than there is "deep concern at the continued influx of Muslims" from Myanmar.
A Foreign Ministry statement in Dhaka said Ahsan asked "the Myanmar government to urgently address the root cause of the problem," so that the Rakhine Muslims are not forced to flee Myanmar and seek shelter in Bangladesh.
Less than 1 percent can return
One day after that tense meeting in Dhaka, Myanmar said it would agree to accept the return of fewer than 2,500 Rohingya from Bangladesh — less than 1 percent of the total refugee population, which is estimated to be at least 350,000 people.
Authorities in Yangon contend most of the impoverished Rohingya now seeking shelter in Bangladesh are not citizens of Myanmar, because they are descended from illegal immigrants who arrived years ago. The Rohingya, however, claim their community has lived where Myanmar is located for several centuries.
Separately, Bangladesh's foreign secretary, Shahidul Haque, said Myanmar's Aung San Suu Kyi is expected to send a special envoy to Bangladesh soon, to take stock of the Rohingya refugee situation.
Violence directed at Rohingya Muslims has broken out in Myanmar sporadically in recent years, and members of the Muslim minority fleeing persecution kept crossing over to southeastern Bangladesh, which lies adjacent to their home villages in Rakhine state. The situation worsened considerably 11 weeks ago, however, after nine Myanmar border guards were killed in an armed attack blamed on Rohingya militants.
Refugee tide swelled recently
A military crackdown in Myanmar that followed the border attack has been blamed for human rights abuses including extrajudicial killings, rapes and arson in Rohingya villages. In those recent weeks up to 50,000 Rohingya men, women and children have crossed into Bangladesh seeking safety.
Bangladeshi officials' estimates of the Rohingya population vary, but most contend there are 350,000 to 500,000 Rohingyas living in Bangladesh, over 90 percent of whom are illegal refugees.
Bangladesh, one of the world's most densely populated countries, has long complained that its congested urban areas and villages cannot cope with the burden of Rohingya refugees pouring into the country. About 10 years ago, Bangladesh quietly adopted a policy to push the refugees back to Myanmar, yet the Rohingyas have consistently managed to return, slipping through the porous border, usually by river crossings.
Authorities in Myanmar, formerly known as Burma, claim that all the allegations of abuse, killings and rapes by soldiers are fictitious, but such complaints by newly arrived refugees have increased dramatically since October. The Rohingya say they have been the victims of violence by Buddhists in Rakhine, also known as Moghs, as well as government soldiers.
Hasina Begum, who has been staying in the illegal Rohingya settlement of Kutupalong in Bangladesh since November, said that under no circumstances would she agree to return to Myanmar.
"Soldiers and Moghs were raping and torturing the people around us. My children were murdered. I was beaten and they broke my waist. My husband was taken away by the soldiers and he has disappeared since then," Begum told VOA.
"Moghs looted my house before burning it. … Unable to bear this torture I have fled to Bangladesh," she continued.
"If Bangladesh says we must go back, we shall kill ourselves. But we will not return to Myanmar," the Rohingya woman added.
Nuruzzaman, a 55-year-old Rohingya man, told VOA, "I had eight members in my family. I lost three of them, including my young daughter, to the violence there. To save our lives five of us have fled to Bangladesh. ... In Burma they say, 'You belong to Bangladesh.' In Bangladesh they are saying, 'you belong to Burma.'
"Where shall we go? ... The world is so big. Is there not some space for the Rohingyas to live?"
Hoping to refuge in Muslim-majority countries
Nuruzzaman said he hoped Muslim-majority countries like Malaysia, Indonesia, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia or Turkey, all of whom have been sympathetic to the Rohingyas' cause, could provide refuge.
"They can perhaps arrange our transportation from Bangladesh to their countries by ship or plane," the refugee told VOA. "That way, perhaps, the Rohingyas could be saved from dying a bad death here."
Nurul Islam, a Britain-based Rohingya rights activist and community leader, said that there is an exodus from Rakhine state because Rohingyas there "are desperate to save their lives."
"By just crossing a river they can reach safety, they know," said Islam, who is president of the Arakan Rohingya National Organization, told VOA.
"If Bangladesh really does not want to host these refugees any more and some other countries are willing to help," Islam told VOA, "we will be thankful if those countries offer temporary refuge to this hapless community."
Myanmar: The Soldier, Above All Others, Prays for Peace: An analysis of the Myanmar armed forces in an era of transition
Sarah L. Clarke
Myanmar in Transition
After decades of isolation and stasis, Myanmar has burst into the world stage as a fascinating case of transition and transformation. Amidst the turbulent change of the Arab Spring, and the downward spiral of violence surrounding efforts at “regime change” in Iraq and Syria, the optimism and hope surrounding recent developments in Myanmar are a stark contrast. Media headlines have featured the words “dawn” or “dawning” and “democratic era” in what is often portrayed as an historic change and a monumental transition.
At the same time, Myanmar has also become a focal point for peacebuilding efforts. Donors have shifted from only limited or no funding under the previous regime to contributions of many millions in support of a peace process, a nascent political dialogue process, and new development assistance to communities that were previously inaccessible.
In this context of political transition, peacebuilding and renewed development efforts, much domestic and global attention is focused on the National League for Democracy (NLD) and its iconic leader, Aung San Suu Kyi. Indeed, following the November 2015 elections through mid-March 2016, the most scrutinized question by media outlets inside and outside the country was the issue of who would become president and whether Aung San Suu Kyi, also known as “The Lady”, would find a way to play the role directly.
Beyond the focus surrounding the new leader, who came to assume the role of State Counsellor, one of the key protagonists on the Myanmar stage remains an actor about which we know the least: the Myanmar armed forces, or Tatmadaw. It is an institution that has maintained firm control over all politics in the country from 1962 onwards. Even now, the power and influence of the Tatmadaw is reflected at multiple levels:
• The new era in Myanmar politics has emerged in accordance with a plan carefully laid out and directed by the armed forces
• Their power and on-going role in legislative politics, as well as their control over key ministries, is protected by the constitution
• As a party to the armed conflict that has ravaged Myanmar’s border areas since independence, the Tatmadaw is a key actor in peace negotiations between the government and armed groups.
Indeed, as an institution that remains autonomous in its purview over security issues, and as an actor that has long played a major role in economic affairs, the Tatmadaw is not only central to peacemaking efforts, it also holds a unique position in relation to longer term peacebuilding endeavours.
Yet, as an institution, the Tatmadaw remains inaccessible and opaque. Many stakeholders in Myanmar’s current transition find themselves highly constrained in their access to, engagement with, and analysis of this central player. Ultimately, engagement at this time requires a deeper understanding of how the armed forces fits as a central part of the Myanmar puzzle.
The project will focus on how individual deeds, in times of radical uncertainty and flux, inspire collective action or lead to new institutional practices in ways that determine the direction a society takes. The emphasis will lie on the small but often heroic everyday acts of common people who attempt to challenge dehumanizing trends of exclusion and abuse in violent conflict and civil war in Syria, Somalia and Myanmar.
The new project, led by Research Professor Cindy Horst and titled Societal Transformation in Conflict Contexts (TRANSFORM), has been awarded a 10 million Norwegian kroner budget from the Research Council of Norway.
In addition to Horst, project participants include Senior Researcher Marte Nilsen (PRIO), Senior Researcher Kjetil Selvik (CMI), Lecturer Tamar Groves (Universidad de Extremadura) and Research Fellow Benjamin Dix (SOAS).
The project will run from May 2017 until May 2020. Below is a summary of the project and its aims:
TRANSFORM: Societal Transformation in Conflict Contexts
In times of radical uncertainty and flux, how do individual deeds inspire collective action or lead to new institutional practices in ways that determine the direction a society takes? What can we learn from conflict contexts about the driving forces of societal transformation? TRANSFORM studies the small but often heroic everyday acts of common people who attempt to challenge dehumanizing trends of exclusion and abuse in violent conflict and civil war. The project involves a close examination of the origins of individual deeds in violent conflict, and the process by which these acts encourage collective action and new institutional practices. The individual, social and institutional drivers of transformation have not been studied systematically within one project, as disciplinary divides often prevent insights on one from informing research on the others. Thus, the project aims to make a theoretical contribution to the agency-structure impasse in the social sciences and humanities – an impasse that hides a fundamental disagreement about the driving forces of societal transformation. TRANSFORM combines a strong social anthropological and political philosophical curiosity about the normative aspects of moral acts in situations of radical uncertainty with empirical research on actual practices and processes during transformative moments in the history of violent conflict and civil war in Syria, Somalia and Myanmar. Data collection combines life histories and institutional ethnography with a new method that uses graphic illustrations in focus group discussions, and will take place in the three countries and/or among refugee communities from these countries in the region and in Norway. Collecting data on the societal impacts of ordinary citizens' moral counter-acts of empathy, care and protection in conditions of suffering and marginalization, TRANSFORM aims to make a ground-breaking contribution to the newly established field of the 'anthropology of the good' (Robbins 2013)
INTRODUCTION: ASSESSING THE INDEX
By Derek Verbakel and Marie Pavageau Research staff, IPCS
Since its inception in 2005, the annual index produced by the Washington DC-based Fund for Peace has ranked 178 countries based on measures of their stability and the pressures they face. The vast amount of information acquisition and interpretation involved in such a project is no small task and the commendable objective of the Fragile States Index (FSI), aimed at policymakers and the wider public, is to inform political risk assessment and better policy responses. Called the Failed States Index when the IPCS last issued a report on it, the FSI has generated lively debate in South Asia and further afield. While it has received some qualified praise, it has also faced wide-ranging arguments by numerous scholarly and policy critics. The term 'failed state' and the FSI more broadly have been variously regarded as excessively biased and politicised, overly simplistic, and lacking analytical precision and predictive utility.
The title was amended in 2014, yet the term ‘failed state’ continues to be used in the text. The term replacing it in the title, “Fragile,” remains little less problematic. There is a lack of clarity about what is meant by ‘fragile’, how a state is rendered fragile, or whether fragility is relative or absolute. It is uncertain whether such a condition is measurable in any meaningful way, particularly in relation to establishing security, providing services and other public goods, maintaining the rule of law, and other presumed state functions. Leaving aside that no universal understanding exists as to what exactly constitutes a state, the FSI presupposes a neat, linear, ideal-type, and assumes as straightforward the complex interface and interplay between state and society. As a result of persisting criticism for presenting an overly grim and sensationalist image of a world going up in flames, the FSI has in recent years de-emphasised rankings to allow greater appreciation of individual country contexts and adjusted their ‘Heat Map’ to incorporate cooler colours into their maps and rankings spectrum.
Situating the FSI
Worth noting is the political baggage on which the Fragile States Index rests. The FSI embodies a continuity of ‘failed states’ discourse formerly influential in US foreign policy-making circles in the mid-1990s to late-2000s. Fixated on security threats emanating from weak or ‘failed’ states, this called for US-led external interventions to address said threats through undertaking liberal democratic state-building projects. While its message has served to legitimise the exercise of US power abroad, the FSI has simultaneously worked to occlude the historical and contemporary impacts of external interventions affecting many states that it has depicted as ‘failed’ or ‘fragile’. In identifying the problems it seeks to address, the 2016 FSI claims: ''Since the end of the Cold War, a number of states have erupted into mass violence stemming from internal conflict.'' Yet almost all of these states were formerly colonised and/or destabilised by the superpower struggle, and so presenting given conflicts as simply arising endogenously is misguided.
The FSI only offers interpretations rooted in its particular US-centric provenance, and therefore any objectivity claimed by the FSI is unattainable. The text insists on its diagnostic and predictive utility, and the FSI model attempts to shed light on a common set of characteristics that engender a condition of state fragility or failure. According to this logic, the identification of patterns in terms of factors likely to precipitate specific problems could then lead to predicting emerging threats and creating policies to address them.
However, there are inherent difficulties in slicing and dicing the social world into variables slotted into such models, and there are methodological issues aplenty related to the 12 indicators comprising the FSI. Abstract indicators such as Group Grievance and State Legitimacy defy easy, intelligible measurement, and the sources and scoring methods for all 12 indicators are not transparent. Inter-relationships between indicators are left unexplored and it is unclear whether the indicators are adequately attuned to the impact of factors such as democratic processes, both formal and informal, which are stretched across or fall into the gaps between indicators. The equal weighting of all 12 indicators raises questions about whether such a one-size-fits-all approach fails to capture the contextual nuances of 178 diverse countries.
In simplistically categorising states, the FSI also fails to illuminate differentiations within states. For instance, in terms of governance at the provincial level, more capable states may have poorly managed provinces and less capable states better-run provinces. Unapparent too can be the reasons behind movements in the rankings, which are no more clearly due to state strengthening or weakening than to unfolding political vicissitudes. Consider the reduction of pressure on dissidents in Myanmar or Iran engaging in nuclear talks. It is not evident if these states become stronger or weaker, more or less fragile in each case. The FSI also struggles to account for the blurriness of some borders and transnational dynamics affecting states, such as amorphous, decentralised groups perpetrating terrorism. The FSI also slips into a tautological trap in presenting violence as an indicator to predict violence.
Issues and Implications Moving Forward
As such, is the FSI helpful in finding context-sensitive solutions to addressing instability and conflict?
Or does it lend too readily to unhelpful generalising in place of more tailored, nuanced approaches to promoting sustainable security? Can a poor ranking lead to reprioritising, legislative change, or policy adjustments in a given country? Can or should the FSI be re-engineered?
As is to be expected, debate in various circles surrounding the Fragile States Index continues to be vibrant and vigorous. The following series of contributions offer timely and unique engagements with conceptual and empirical issues concerning the Fragile States Index 2016 as it relates to complex political, economic, and social dynamics in South Asia and beyond.
Myanmar has for decades said Rohingyas are illegal immigrants from Bangladesh and it has declined to grant them citizenship
By Shwe Yee Saw Myint
YANGON, Dec 30 (Reuters) - Myanmar said on Friday it will take back 2,415 citizens from Bangladesh, only a tiny fraction of the 300,000 people who Bangladesh says are Myanmar citizens taking refuge there and should go home.
Read more on the Thomson Reuters Foundation
Aid flotilla, departing from Malaysia on Jan. 10, would be carrying 1,000 tonnes of rice, medical aid and other essentials
KUALA LUMPUR/YANGON, Dec 30 (Reuters) - An aid flotilla carrying food and emergency supplies for Rohingya Muslims will sail from Malaysia for Myanmar's troubled Rakhine State next month, the Malaysian organiser said on Friday.
Read more on the Thomson Reuters Foundation
One year on from the devastating floods that struck the country, around 400,000 people have received emergency assistance and support for their recovery from MRCS and its partners in the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement. Out of that number, 58,000 people were covered through IFRC’s emergency appeal.
Between July 2015 and September 2016, over 1,400 Red Cross volunteers and staff from MRCS and PNSs assisted flood-affected people across the country. The first phase of this operation (focusing on relief; lasted from July to October 2015) included evacuations, providing emergency relief such as purified water, food, household items and shelter materials. The second phase of this operation (focusing on recovery) began in November 2015 and was completed in September 2016. This phase saw more focus on supporting the longer – term recovery of flood-affected communities across the five worst-hit regions of Chin, Rakhine, Sagaing, Magway and Ayeyarwady.
These regions benefited from livelihood activities, cleaning of contaminated ponds and wells, and infrastructure rehabilitation. This included MRCS’ piloting of an unconditional cash transfer programme (CTP) intervention, building off MRCS’ previous experience with conditional CTP during Cyclone Nargis and American Red Cross’ Cash Preparedness Programme for MRCS.
An Emergency Appeal was launched following floods that affected several parts of Myanmar in July and August 2015. The floods were brought on by heavy monsoon rains coupled with high winds and heavy rain from Cyclone Komen which made landfall in neighbouring Bangladesh on 30 July 2015. It resulted in widespread flooding and landslides across 12 of Myanmar’s 14 states and regions. The flooding spread over a large area largely in the northwest, west, south and southwest of the country. At its peak, the floods affected over 9 million people across 12 of Myanmar’s 14 states and regions. According to Relief and Resettlement Department (RRD) figures, 149 people died and the floods temporarily displaced over 1.6 million people from 405,958 households. Over 15,000 homes were destroyed as well as more than 840,000 acres of agricultural crops. The high winds and heavy rain also disrupted transportation, electricity and communications and flooded several townships.
Dozens of people are missing and feared dead after a landslide hit a remote jade mining region in Myanmar’s restive Kachin State, the Anadolu Agency reported on 30 December, quoting officials.
The landslide occurred late Wednesday when a 400-foot (122-meter) cliff of debris and waste soil collapsed in Hpakant Township of northern Kachin.
Tin Tun Aung, a local police officer, told the Anadolu Agency that a rescue team started search operations Thursday morning by digging up the landslide.
According to the Myanmar Red Cross Society, more than 300 people were killed in 38 landslides at jade mines in Kachin last year, the report said.
An Overview of Non-Traditional Security
Vishalini Chandara Sagar The study of Non-Traditional Security (NTS) emerged during the post-Cold War period due to significant shifts in the way we understand global security. As risks of traditional inter-state wars and conflicts decline, new security challenges, which are typically non-military in nature, have transpired from transnational threats.
Studies have shown that NTS crises have resulted in more deaths and have had a substantially larger impact on people over time than conventional military threats.
Often, overcoming these NTS crises are more challenging than preventing traditional military aggression.
NTS challenges are mainly people-centred issues, which threaten the survival and well-being of individuals and states and can be broadly categorised into the following key areas – economic security threats; food security threats; health security threats; environmental security threats; community security threats; political security threats; and personal security threats. These arise from sources such as climate change, resource scarcity, infectious diseases, natural disasters, irregular migration, food shortages, people smuggling, drug trafficking and transnational crime. It is the state's responsibility to protect its citizens' from such threats. If governments fail to do so, they lose international standing and credibility.
States are aware that the transnational nature of NTS crises defies conventional unilateral solutions. They require comprehensive political, economic and social responses. Such responses can only be initiated with significant cooperation between governments to formulate policies at a regional and international level to overcome NTS challenges.
Many governments in the Asia-Pacific region are not sufficiently prepared to respond due to the scale, magnitude and complexity of NTS crises. As a result, when such crises occur, the devastation surpasses national boundaries and impacts states and societies further afield. For instance, the spread of Zika virus in the region, human trafficking across Southeast Asian borders, forced migration in Myanmar, massive typhoons and storms that hit the Philippines and surrounding countries, flooding of the Mekong River and recurring transboundary haze pollution from agricultural practices in Indonesia have had significant consequences in terms of human security, tourism and business, and economic development. Viewing these challenges through a NTS lens allows for a more multi-dimensional approach to be taken to analyse the situation and to formulate solutions.
In conclusion, it is crucial to note that to sufficiently understand NTS challenges, condense and resolve them, solutions need to be people-centric, multilateral and holistic.
A third Muslim man whom the Myanmar government said had worked closely with local administrative officials in restive northern Rakhine state has been found dead in violence-ridden Maungdaw township, the State Counselor’s Office announced on Wednesday.
Authorities are investigating the murder of the man who was a former ward administrator in Badakar village and had been working with local authorities on regional development activities, the announcement said.
The death is the third to have occurred in the past week of local Muslims who are said to have collaborated with authorities as they continue to try to round up “militants” who raided three border guard stations on Oct. 9 and killed nine officers.
The body of the man, identified as Sirazuhut from Wet Kyein village in northern Rakhine, was reportedly found Monday near a creek that runs between Wat Kyien and Badakar in Maungdaw—an area inhabited primarily by Myanmar’s stateless Rohingya Muslim minority—according to Myanmar media reports. He had been missing since Dec. 16.
The government has blamed the October attacks and subsequent violence in the area on Rohingya insurgents who received training and financial support from Islamists abroad.
Myanmar’s foreign affairs ministry has said that about 50,000 Rohingya have fled the region to adjacent Bangladesh during a security crackdown following the border post attacks. Some of them have accused soldiers of murder, rape, torture and arson.
On Sunday, a Muslim man named Rawphi, a 28-year-old administrator in Yedwingyun village, was found dead with knife wounds.
The State Counselor’s Office said the following day that the victim had been working with security forces in administrative duties, the online journal The Irrawaddy reported.
On Dec. 22, the decapitated body of Shuna Mya, a Muslim man from Ngakhura village, where one of the attacks on three area border guard stations took place, was found floating in a river on Dec. 22, a day after he had spoken with reporters who visited the area.
A statement issued by the State Counselor's Office on Facebook the next day said Shuna Mya had been killed after he told the media that the government army had committed no acts of rape or arson and did not make arbitrary arrests. No arrests have been made in the case.
Indonesia sends aid
In the meantime, majority-Muslim Indonesia sent 10 shipping containers of food, baby food, and clothes for Rohingya affected by the violence in northern Rakhine state, according to a report in The Nation.
A Malaysian Muslim organization plans to send an “aid flotilla” to Rakhine on Jan. 10 with nearly 200 metric tons of rice, medical aid, and essential supplies for Rohingya communities in northern Rakhine, despite a warning by the Myanmar government on Thursday that it will turn back the boats if official permission to enter the country is not obtained.
The two predominantly Muslim countries called on Aung San Suu Kyi, Myanmar’s de facto leader, to allow unimpeded humanitarian access to the areas affected by violence when they and other member states of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) met with her on Dec. 19 to discuss the crisis in northern Rakhine.
Reported by RFA’s Myanmar Service. Translated by Khet Mar. Written in English by Roseanne Gerin.
More than 150 villagers have fled to camps in Kyaukme township in the northern part of Myanmar’s volatile Shan state to escape intensified fighting between government soldiers and Ta’ang National Liberation Army troops, a local lawmaker said Thursday.
Sai Tun Nyan of the Shan Nationalities Democratic Party, who represents the town of Kyaukme, said he and another state lawmaker took residents of Nyaung Maung village to safety in internally displaced persons (IDP) camps in Kyaukme.
The two Shan state parliamentarians intend to take more people to the camps there as villagers fear for their safety during the ongoing bout of fighting that began on Dec. 26.
“Because the government army used airstrikes, people were killed and injured, and houses were damaged,” said Sai Tun Nyan.
“People are afraid, and more than 150 IDPs have arrived in Kyaukme,” he said.
“One more truck has gone to the fighting area to bring more IDPs to Kyaukme,” he said. “We haven’t been able to send any of the IDPs home recently because they feel insecure and have emotional wounds.”
So far, three men have been killed, and eight other villagers, including three Buddhist monks, have been injured in the latest round of fighting.
The TNLA is part of the Northern Coalition of four ethnic militias that launched coordinated attacks on Nov. 20 on 10 government and military targets in war-torn northern Shan state.
The other members of the alliance are the Arakan Army (AA), Kachin Independence Army (KIA), and Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA).
The TNLA has also been fighting another ethnic armed group—the Restoration Council of Shan State/Shan State Army (RCSS/SSA)—in the region since late November 2015, about six weeks after the signing of a nationwide cease-fire agreement (NCA) between the government and eight of the country’s more than 20 ethnic armed groups.
The TNLA was excluded from signing the accord because of its ongoing hostilities with Myanmar armed forces.
Group leader abducted
Meanwhile, a northern branch leader of the All Burma Students’ Democratic Front (ABSDF) was abducted by the military on Wednesday while he was on his way to Laiza, the capital of KIA-controlled territory in neighboring Kachin state on Myanmar’s border with China, the group’s general secretary said Thursday.
Soldiers abducted and arrested Min Htay as he was on his way home from a meeting about state-level peace talks in Mae Sot, Thailand, said ABSDF general secretary Sonny Mahinder.
No one from the ABSFD, which is a signatory to the NCA, knows where Min Htay is, but the group is working with government military officers and local authorities to try to secure his freedom, he said.
“We found out about him at around 9 p.m. last night, and we are still searching for him,” he said.
Min Htay played a Myanmar military officer in the American movie “Rambo 4” with actor Sylvester Stallone.
Clashes between the KIA and government army have intensified this week, forcing more than 2,000 IDPs to flee their camps and look for safer places.
Government soldiers have captured KIA battalion headquarters and stations, including the militia’s strategic mountaintop Gidon outpost in Waingmaw township on Dec. 16.
The fighting has resulted in an increase in the number of internal refugees and civilian deaths and has stymied the government’s efforts to bring warring ethnic militias to the negotiating table.
The United Nations estimates that more than 100,000 people have been displaced by fighting between government soldiers and ethnic armed groups in Kachin and the northern part of neighboring Shan state.
Reported by Ko Kan Thar and Aung Moe Myint for RFA’s Myanmar Service. Translated by Khet Mar. Written in English by Roseanne Gerin.
Countries and territories reporting mosquito-borne Zika virus infections for the first time in the past week:
Countries and territories reporting microcephaly and other central nervous system (CNS) malformations potentially associated with Zika virus infection for the first time in the past week:
Countries and territories reporting Guillain-Barré syndrome (GBS) cases associated with Zika virus infection for the first time in the past week:
- Overall, the global risk assessment has not changed. Zika virus continues to spread geographically to areas where competent vectors are present. Although a decline in cases of Zika infection has been reported in some countries, or in some parts of countries, vigilance needs to remain high.
Seventy-five countries and territories (Fig. 1, Table 1) have reported evidence of mosquitoborne Zika virus transmission since 2007 (69 with reports from 2015 onwards), of which:
- Fifty-eight with a reported outbreak from 2015 onwards (Fig. 2, Table 1).
- Seven with having possible endemic transmission or evidence of local mosquitoborne Zika
infections in 2016.
- Ten with evidence of local mosquito-borne Zika infections in or before 2015, but without documentation of cases in 2016, or with the outbreak terminated.
- Fifty-eight with a reported outbreak from 2015 onwards (Fig. 2, Table 1).
Thirteen countries have reported evidence of person-to-person transmission of Zika virus (Table 2).
Twenty-nine countries or territories have reported microcephaly and other CNS malformations potentially associated with Zika virus infection, or suggestive of congenital infection (Table 3).
Twenty-one countries or territories have reported an increased incidence of GBS and/or laboratory confirmation of a Zika virus infection among GBS cases (Table 4).
Myanmar: Child Protection, Protection, Camp Management and WASH: “Mainstreaming through capacity building: Collaboration to increase safety in Rakhine State, Myanmar”
In emergencies, girls and boys face increased risk to violence, abuse, neglect and exploitation. The way in which humanitarian aid is delivered can further increase these risks. Children may be exposed to harm during the chaos of a distribution or at water points or experience abuse in cramped centres.
Sometimes harm is caused directly due to humanitarian workers’ actions or non-actions. Many threats to the safety and wellbeing of children can be mitigated or even eradicated through timely and sensitive provision of humanitarian aid across all sectors. All humanitarian actors have an important contribution to make to the protection and recovery of children.
To mainstream child protection means to ensure child protection considerations inform all aspects of humanitarian action. It also minimizes the risks of children being violated by programmes designed without proper consideration for children’s safety or wellbeing. Mainstreaming child protection is an essential part of compliance with the ‘do no harm’ principle that applies to all humanitarian action.
Going beyond mainstreaming, integrated programming allows for actions between two or more sectors to work together towards a common programme objective, based on an assessment of needs. Where integrated child protection programming is not possible, child protection mainstreaming is essential. This case studies series looks at both examples of integrated programming and mainstreaming and the CPMS mainstreaming standards are applicable for both.
In early June 2012, and again in October that year, inter-community violence erupted in parts of Rakhine State, Myanmar, displacing over 100,000 people. Rakhine State is one of the least developed parts of Myanmar, characterized by high population density, malnutrition, low income, poverty and weak infrastructure, as well as being vulnerable to recurrent floods and storms. Thus the impact of violence was significant, not only causing large numbers of people to be displaced but also adversely impacting affected populations in isolated and host communities as well. Humanitarian organizations responded with the provision of life-saving assistance, including establishing temporary IDP camps.
This case study explores a number of WASH-related incidents occurring in Sittwe and Pauktaw townships, including some significant safety incidents involving children and highlighting the lack of a protective environment for children and communities. These incidents as well as the strong relationships between actors involved in the response prompted a significant and long-term collaboration between WASH, Camp Coordination and Camp Management (CCCM) and Child Protection actors, working within a coalition with broader protection and gender-based violence (GBV) actors. Within a year, this interagency inter-sectoral collaboration led to a wide-scale protection mainstreaming capacity-building project that trained over 1,000 WASH actors in Rakhine State.
For the purposes of analysing the collaborative activities undertaken in this case study, it is helpful to understand the humanitarian coordination structures in Rakhine State, Myanmar. The Protection Working Group is led by UNHCR; UNICEF leads the Child Protection Sub-sector Working Group; and UNFPA and International Relief Committee (IRC) leads the GBV Working Group. The WASH cluster in Sittwe-Rakhine is led by UNICEF and UNHCR leads the Shelter/NFI/CCCM cluster in Sittwe-Rakhine. This case study is based on interviews with three key actors in Rakhine State: Lindsay Shearer, then Save the Children Child Protection Manager; Maria Makayonok, then Danish Refugee Council Protection Programme Manager; and Mélissa Adoum, then WASH Cluster Coordinator
Myanmar’s Rakhine state parliament criticized state government leaders on Wednesday for not showing up to discuss an investigation commission’s report on deadly border guard station attacks in October and subsequent violence in the northern part of the state.
The state-level investigation commission submitted a report to Rakhine lawmakers on Tuesday, saying that the October attack and ensuing clashes were planned by Muslim militants who wanted to occupy Buthidaung, Maungdaw, and Rathedaung townships, where many of the country’s stateless Rohingya Muslim minority group live.
The government of predominantly Buddhist Myanmar has blamed the attacks on local Rohingya Muslims.
The commission’s report was recorded on Wednesday at the Rakhine state parliament, where state-level officials were to discuss its findings during a meeting, but no one showed up, lawmakers said.
Legislator Tun Thar Sein suggested that the state parliament extend the commission’s term slated to end on Friday in order for officials to have a more thorough report before making any decisions about the situation.
Maung Ohn, a lawmaker from Maungdaw township, pointed out that most staffers who work in local offices of the United Nations or international nongovernmental organizations (INGOs) are Rohingya Muslims.
“Most staffers in the U.N. or INGOs are Bengalis,” he said, using a derogatory name for the Rohingya who are generally believed to be illegal immigrants from neighboring Bangladesh and are routinely discriminated against in Myanmar.
“The U.N. and INGOs get daily news updates from their Muslim staffers, so we need to think about these [organizations],” he said in an implicit suggestion that employees could be spreading falsehoods that reflect unfavorably on security forces that have areas under lockdown.
Some of the tens of thousands of Rohingya that fled their villages after security forces swept in have accused soldiers of committing atrocities against members of the Muslim community. The government has denied the accusations.
The commission’s report also called for tighter security at schools and in ethnic Rakhine villages where Buddhists live, as well as along security patrol routes beside the Naf River which separates Myanmar and Bangladesh.
“We need to work hard to have stability again in the Maungdaw area,” said state lawmaker Aung Win, who chairs the 11-member investigation commission formed by the Rakhine state parliament on Oct. 24.
Warning against food flotilla
Meanwhile, a Myanmar government spokesperson warned Malaysia on Wednesday about a Muslim organization that intends to send a “food flotilla” of aid to Rohingya Muslims displaced by violence in northern Rakhine state.
“We don’t have any information that a Malaysian Islamic organization requested or asked for permission from the Myanmar embassy in Malaysia or from the Myanmar government to do this,” said Zaw Htay, spokesman of the President Office.
“So our question for this Islamic organization is ‘Can any organization do what it wants in other country’s territory without legal permission?’” he asked. “The Malaysian government or any government will not accept it if we [Myanmar] do the same thing in their countries.”
Zaw Htay said that those in charge of the operation can get permission to help out in northern Rakhine when they arrive.
But he also warned that the government will not accept any food if the flotilla enters the country’s waters illegally, and did not rule out the possibility of an attack on the boats.
The Muslim aid flotilla, which is due to set sail from Port Klang on Jan. 10, will deliver nearly 200 metric tons of rice, medical aid, and essential supplies to Rohingya communities in Maungdaw and Buthidaung, according to Malaysian media. It is expected to return to Malaysia about two weeks later.
Foreign Minister Anifah Aman of Malaysia, whose leaders have been critical of Myanmar’s handling of the Rakhine dispute, called on the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) on Dec. 19 to coordinate humanitarian efforts to assist people uprooted by violence in Rakhine state as well as establish an independent body to probe allegations of human rights abuses in the area.
Malaysia, a predominantly Muslim country in Southeast Asia, irked officials in Myanmar after Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak participated in a protest rally in Kuala Lumpur on Dec. 4 during which he called on the United Nations to end “ethnic cleansing” targeting Rohingya Muslims in Rakhine state.
By Min Thein Aung, Kyaw Thu, and Wai Mar Tun for RFA’s Myanmar Service. Translated by Khet Mar. Written in English by Roseanne Gerin.
A state-level investigation commission tasked with probing the deadly border guard post attacks and subsequent violence in the northern part of the country’s Rakhine state found that the initial October attack was planned, according to a report submitted to the local legislature on Tuesday.
Formed by the Rakhine state parliament on Oct. 24, the commission, which is composed of 11 regional legislators from different political parties, visited Maungdaw and neighboring townships in the aftermath of a deadly Oct. 9 attack on three border guard stations that left nine policemen dead.
In the report, the commission determined that the initial attacks on three border guard states in Maungdaw and Rathedaung townships were planned, as were subsequent clashes between locals and security forces who had locked down the area plus adjacent Buthidaung township, where many of the country’s stateless Rohingya Muslim minority group live.
The government of predominantly Buddhist Myanmar has blamed the attacks on local Rohingya Muslims.
“They [the attackers] did it to build Rohingya society by occupying Buthidaung, Maungdaw, and Rathedaung townships,” said commission chairman and Rakhine state lawmaker Aung Win.
The assailants, said to be Muslim militants, had received military training prior to the attacks, and many of them were deployed in the region, the report said.
The report also said the militants attacked the three border guard posts because of weak security, and that local Muslims knew the vulnerabilities because they had worked as helpers in the stations.
The border police had also used Muslim residents as informers, it said.
The officers could not get to weapons quickly enough to defend themselves when the attack occurred, the report said.
The commission has called for tighter security at schools and in ethnic Rakhine villages where Buddhists live, as well as along security patrol routes beside the Naf River which separates Myanmar and Bangladesh.
The commission also recommended restructuring some of the Muslim villages that were destroyed in the violence and removing barriers from them.
Getting it all wrong
All in all, nearly 90 people died in the violence. Some of the 34,000 Muslims who fled their villages and went mainly to neighboring Bangladesh have accused the soldiers of arbitrary arrests, extrajudicial killings, torture, rape, and arson.
Last Thursday, New York-based Human Rights Watch (HRW) issued video testimony of Rohingya accounts of human rights abuses inflicted by soldiers in the areas affected by violence.
The group previously released satellite images that show about 1,500 of structures burned down in several Rohingya villages where the military conducted security sweeps.
However, a government-appointed, national-level investigation commission, whose members visited northern Rakhine earlier this month, has determined that security forces deployed in the area did not violate any rules or regulations when conducting security sweeps of Muslim communities.
At the end of October, Aung Win accused international media organizations and outside rights groups of producing incorrect information in their reports on the situation in northern Rakhine, getting the story wrong because they hadn’t visited the area at the center of the conflict.
After the Rakhine investigation commission visited Aung Zayya village in Maungdaw, its members concluded that almost all villagers had been involved in the attacks, and that some had set fires that burned down their own homes, Aung Win said at the time.
The committee also concluded that residents of nearby Watpate village were also involved in the attacks, and afterwards moved out of the area with weapons they had stolen from the border guard posts, he said.
The submission of the investigative commission’s report to the Rakhine state parliament comes as a man was found dead with knife wounds in what the government said was the second murder in less than a week of a Rohingya who cooperated with authorities as they crack down on suspected insurgents, Reuters reported.
On Friday, the body of a Rohingya Muslim man who had spoken to reporters visiting the areas affected by violence a day earlier was found decapitated in a river.
The State Counselor’s Office issued a statement later that day saying that Shuna Mya had denied reports that soldiers committed abuses in Rohingya communities, a tacit suggestion that he was murdered by his own people in retaliation for not corroborating their stories.
Reported by Min Thein Aung for RFA’s Myanmar Service. Translated by Khet Mar. Written in English by Roseanne Gerin.
By NYEIN NYEIN 28 December 2016
A Burma Army offensive to capture Kachin Independence Army (KIA) outpost Lai Hpawng in Kachin State’s Waingmaw Township forced thousands of internally displaced persons (IDPs) to flee nearby camps on Tuesday evening.
Burma Army troops seized Lai Hpawng and six surrounding smaller outposts after a week of air strikes and artillery fire in a continuation of operations that overran the KIA’s strategic Gideon outpost on Dec.16, according to the Office of the Commander-in-Chief on Tuesday.
Lai Hpawng outpost is located seven miles east of the Myitkyina-Bhamo road and housed KIA Battalion 3 under Brigade 5.
Around 2,600 IDPs fled Zai Awng (Mungga Zup), Maga Yang and Hkau Shau camps Tuesday night and Wednesday when at least five Burma Army shells fell nearby, according to relief workers from the Kachin Baptist Convention (KBC).
“The elderly and children left their shelters in the camps and spent the night in the cold jungle after five mortar shells fell near the camp on Tuesday,” Dr. Rev Hkalam Sam Sun, the secretary of the KBC in Myitkyina told The Irrawaddy.
After the fall of Gideon outpost, last week, hundreds of IDPs fled Munglai Hkyet camp to Woi Chyai camp in the KIA stronghold of Laiza.
More than 100,000 civilians have been displaced in Kachin and Shan states since fighting resumed between the Burma Army and the KIA in June 2011, according to the UN.
Civilians, including KBC relief workers, have been killed on suspicion of ethnic armed groups, said Dr. Rev Hkalam Sam Sun, adding that he hopes to release accurate data on deaths and detentions of relief workers soon.
Locals claim that the Burma Army have increased security checkpoints on the main roads of Kachin State, including the capital Myitkyina.
A Joint Strategy Team for IDPs comprised of nine local relief groups said, “the major concerns for the IDPs and the civilians in the region are protection, safety and security. Sustained humanitarian access and immediate response are critical for the IDPs and civilians in the conflict-affected area of northern Shan and Kachin states.”
The team also noted that the arrest of civilians forced to act as porters for ethnic armed groups remained a concern for civilians in Shan and Kachin states.
Recent clashes in northern Shan State between the Burma Army and a joint force of the KIA, the Ta’ang National Liberation Army (TNLA), the Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA), and the Arakan Army (AA)—dubbed the Northern Alliance—has added to the number of IDPs and civilian deaths and further shaken confidence in the ability of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and her NLD-led government to bring peace.
According to locals, two religious leaders in northern Shan State’s Mong Ko have been missing since Dec. 24 after assisting media reporting on the severe damage to the town, including its Church.
The government Peace Commission attempted negotiations with the Northern Alliance last week. Meanwhile, the situation is tense on the ground, however, with both the Burma Army and Northern Alliance troops preparing for further conflict.
Khin Oo Tha contributed to this report.
WFP assisted 27,000 people in need of food assistance from both Muslims and Rakhine communities in northern Rakhine State.
With recent armed conflicts in northern Rakhine and Shan States, WFP’s operations are limited in most areas due to restrictions on movement and access.
WFP expanded the school feeding programme to four new states and regions, effectively adding 16,000 schoolchildren to the programme.
In November, WFP managed to deliver cash assistance to 20,000 regularly-assisted vulnerable people from both Muslim and Rakhine communities in Buthidaung. Food baskets were also provided to 7,000 mostly newly displaced people in four villages of Maungdaw in October and November. Since end-November, access to the operational areas and distributions in northern Rakhine have been again restricted due to ongoing security operations. WFP is working with authorities for the soonest resumption of life-saving food assistance activities. WFP is on standby to assist the remaining 132,000 food-insecure people, normally benefiting from the lean agricultural season programme, nutrition activities and school meals.
The security situation in northern Shan State continues to be unstable due to conflicts between the military and an alliance between ethnic armed organisations, since approximately the 20 November. Currently, WFP’s operations are limited in north and north-western areas affected by the conflicts. WFP was able to continue normal operations in only two townships in the area that benefits from School Feeding, Asset Creation and Nutrition programmes. In addition, the usual food deliveries from WFP’s Lashio Area Office to the Wa Special Administrative Zone remain restricted by the military’s Regional Commander Office since July 2016, along with movement to the north and north western area of northern Shan State.
Following a request by the Chief Minister of Kayin State, 4.2 mt of nutritious biscuit snacks was delivered to displaced children in Myainggyingu on 24 November. The delivery was aimed at helping them reach their daily nutrition needs. For two months, the biscuits will cover 932 school children under the age of five years.
WFP’s school feeding programme was expanded in November to include four new states and regions; namely Sagaing, Mon, Kayin and Kayah. The inclusion of these states and regions means WFP now reaches an additional 16,000 schoolchildren in ethnic minority areas, who have never before received school feeding from WFP. In order to ensure success in the included areas, township education officers and school teachers/ headmasters completed fieldlevel trainings on the implementation of the programme.
The inclusion of these new schoolchildren is part of WFP’s expansion plan for the school feeding programme during the 2016-17 academic year, aiming to reach 300,000 schoolchildren after the inclusion of 100,000 additional students.
On 25 November, the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Womenkicked off the international campaign “16 Days of Activism against Gender Violence”.
In line with this year’s initiative “Orange the World”, WFP offices across the country were coloured orange in support of the campaign, to emphasise how hunger can exacerbate abuse, rape and violence against women and particularly to highlight the need for sustainable funding for initiatives supporting this cause. The work WFP carries out is done with careful consideration to ensure the empowerment and protection of women through its food assistance.
In November, WFP did not reach the targeted 114,500 people in need of food assistance, largely due to access constraints in northern Rakhine State caused by recent security incidents.
Three civilians were killed and eight others injured amid fighting between the Myanmar Army and the Ta’ang National Liberation Army (TNLA) in Kyaukme township of northern Shan state, RFA reported on 27 December quoting a local official.
Those killed during the hostilities on 26 December were all men, while the injured includes three children, two women and three monks, all of whom are being treated at Kyaukme hospital, according to Shan state assembly legislator Sai Tun Nyan of the Shan Nationalities Democratic Party who represents the town of Kyaukme.
The Border Guard Bangladesh (BGB) intercepted 34 boats carrying at least 340 Rohingyas at border and pushed them back to Myanmar/Burma, according to BGB officials.
“They were pushed back from Fuler Dale, Jadimura and Kanjormarha points of Naf River (on the border between Bangladesh and Myanmar) to Myanmar on December 25 morning,” said Teknaf-based BGB Battalion’s Major Abu Russel Siddiqui.
The boats tried to intrude into Bangladesh, but, BGB patrols compelled them to go back to Myanmar. Each of the boat carried around 10 people,” he said.
However, dodging the 'strict vigilance' by BGB, many of the persecuted community have already managed to sneak in to Bangladesh and taken shelter.
Major Russel claimed that more than 459- boat carrying Rohingyas have been turned back since December 1, 2016.
Bangladesh is under considerable pressure to accept the Rohingyas on humanitarian grounds.
“The Rohingya are being squeezed by the callous actions of both the Myanmar and Bangladesh authorities. Fleeing collective punishment in Myanmar, they are being pushed back by the Bangladeshi authorities. Trapped between these cruel fates, their desperate need for food, water and medical care is not being addressed,” said Champa Patel, Amnesty International’s South Asia Director.
Many of those arriving Rohingya migrants are, in extremely poor health and in need of medical attention. Several people have crossed the border bearing untreated bullet wounds. But, did not seek medical attention from the few clinics in the area, out of fear of being detained and deported, according to reliable sources said.
“The Bangladeshi government must not add to the suffering of Rohingya. They should be recognized and protected as refugees fleeing persecution, not punished for who they are,” said Champa Patel.
But Dhaka says that the Rohingya problem should be settled by international pressure on Myanmar and Bangladesh, as an over-populated country, has no space for huge numbers of migrants from across the border.