Myanmar - ReliefWeb News

Syndicate content
ReliefWeb - Updates
Updated: 2 hours 23 min ago

World: A Year of Progress for “Children, Not Soldiers”

7 March 2015 - 2:49am
Source: UN Office of the SRSG for Children and Armed Conflict Country: Afghanistan, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Myanmar, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan, World, Yemen

By Leila Zerrougui, Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict

One year ago, representatives of the last eight governments of the world named by the UN Secretary-General for the recruitment and use of children in their security forces gathered at the United Nations in New York to declare they were ready to take the steps necessary to make their security forces child-free.

The gathering in itself was historic. And so is the campaign “Children, Not Soldiers”, launched jointly with UNICEF exactly a year ago. The campaign builds on the growing international consensus that children do not belong in security forces and seeks to galvanize support to end and prevent the recruitment and use of children by national security forces in conflict by the end of 2016.

The countries concerned by the campaign are: Afghanistan, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Myanmar, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan and Yemen.

There is still a lot of work ahead of us, but we have come a long way. A few years ago, it was not uncommon in my travels to be greeted by military commanders, surrounded by children in uniforms and carrying weapons. That has become unacceptable now. Governments identified by the UN Secretary-General acknowledge that children do not belong in their security forces and most have taken concrete steps to make sure their children do not become soldiers.

In the campaign’s first year, progress has been steady. The campaign received broad support and we achieved results that are making a difference in children’s lives. Chad has completed all the reforms and measures included in its Action Plan signed with the UN and has been taken off the UN Secretary-General’s list of child recruiters. Over 400 children were released from the national army in Myanmar. In all of 2014, in DRC, there was only one case of child recruitment by the national army, and the child was quickly released. In Afghanistan, the recruitment of children is in decline and only 5 cases were recorded by the UN.

Six of the seven remaining countries concerned by the campaign have now signed and recommitted to Action Plans with the United Nations. These Action Plans are agreements that indicate all the steps necessary to end and prevent the recruitment of children in government forces.

The “Children, not Soldiers” campaign has also accomplished its purpose as a rallying cry to make the issue of child soldiers a top concern of the international community. “How can we help?” was the question asked by officials from dozens of countries, NGOs, partners from the UN system, regional organizations and many more. Officials from countries involved in the campaign have also met with representatives from other countries who ended the use of child soldiers in their armies. These were opportunities to share experiences, successes and challenges.

This is positive, but the campaign’s first year has also shown that goodwill and commitments with the UN are not enough to guarantee that children will not become soldiers.

The conflict in South Sudan is a cruel reminder that acting on provisions included in an Action Plan, such as the establishment of child protection units in a country’s armed forces, or taking steps to criminalize the recruitment of children is not enough to guarantee that boys and girls will be fully protected if conflict strikes again.

In Yemen, months of work leading to the signature of an Action Plan in May 2014 have been derailed by the current political situation. Instead of the anticipated progress, data gathered by the UN indicates a spike in the recruitment of child soldiers by all parties to the conflict. Even the armed group Al-Houthi Ansar Allah, whose leaders were actively engaged in dialogue with the UN, have reneged on their commitment to protect children.

We cannot afford to watch silently while children once again pay the price for political instability in their countries. We keep reminding parties to the conflict that they cannot recruit or use children, that it is a war crime. We ask all those involved in peace talks to make sure that releasing children is a priority.

The big lesson of this campaign’s first year is that the road to child-free government armies is promising, but also full of obstacles. The setbacks of 2014 show that even if measures to protect children are put in place, gains can be reversed under the pressure of conflict.

Common Challenges

We also have a better understanding that many countries face similar challenges. Addressing these common challenges will be a priority in the campaign’s second year.

Accountability is central to our work. To enhance accountability, I will encourage all countries concerned by the campaign that have not yet done so to criminalize the recruitment and use of children and to spell out consequences for offenders. Investigations and prosecutions of child recruiters remain far too rare, even in countries that have criminalized the recruitment of children. Without sanctions, children will never be fully protected.

Another challenge faced by most countries is verifying the age of their soldiers. That may seem like a problem easy to solve, but it is in fact a delicate and difficult task to execute in countries that do not have well-established birth registration systems. The UN will continue to work with Governments to establish or refine age-verification procedures to identify underage recruits and release them from the army.

Releasing children found in the ranks of national forces is essential, but they cannot be left on their own to rebuild their lives. Adequate resources must be available for community-based programmes that provide psycho-social assistance and help children build their future through educational and vocational opportunities. Helping children and their communities is the best way to not only prevent re-recruitment, but also to build peace and stability.

Throughout the year, I will continue to reach out to Member States concerned by the campaign, the international community, regional organizations and all relevant partners to mobilize political, technical and financial support to address challenges faced by countries in the implementation of their Action Plan. This is essential to encourage and guide concerned countries who must put in place mechanisms strong enough to safeguard the progress accomplished to protect children from recruitment, now and in the future should a new crisis strike.

The campaign has already received tremendous support from many who could make a real difference. This year, I call on everyone to join us, because, together, we can make sure that they are children, not soldiers.

Myanmar: Bangladesh border guards clash with Muslim migrants from Myanmar

6 March 2015 - 5:42pm
Source: Reuters - AlertNet Country: Bangladesh, Myanmar

DHAKA, March 6 (Reuters) - Bangladeshi border guards clashed with a group of illegal migrants who had crossed from neighbouring Myanmar on Friday, before deporting 136 of them, including women and children.

A local commander from the paramilitary Border Guards Bangladesh (BGB) unit, Colonel Mohammad Khalekuzzaman, said the migrants were from Myanmar's Rohingya Muslim community, a mostly stateless minority living in often grim conditions.

read the full story here

Myanmar: Violent clashes break out during northern Myanmar’s dry season

6 March 2015 - 1:36pm
Source: UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs Country: Myanmar

The dry season is an important time for humanitarian organizations in Myanmar’s Kachin and northern Shan States. When the rains arrive in May, the unpaved roads make it difficult to reach many of the remote camps and communities that are home to 98,000 people still displaced by the conflict that has gripped this area since 2011. Unfortunately, the dry season is also the time when fighting between government forces and different armed groups is at its worse.

In the first two months of 2015 alone, tens of thousands of people have been forced to flee their homes following clashes between the Myanmar Army and a number of ethnic armed groups in Kachin and northern Shan states.

The most recent flare-up in fighting began on 9 February in the Kokang area of northern Shan State between government troops and the Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA) and other armed groups.

At least 13,000 people, mostly migrant workers, have fled Kokang to other parts of Myanmar and tens of thousands of people have reportedly crossed the border into China.

Read the full article

Myanmar: Myanmar: Thandaunggyi Township - Kayin State (as of 9 December 2013)

6 March 2015 - 4:45am
Source: Myanmar Information Management Unit Country: Myanmar

World: World’s 15 Countries with the Most People Exposed to River Floods

5 March 2015 - 11:50pm
Source: World Resources Institute Country: Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Brazil, Cambodia, China, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Egypt, India, Indonesia, Iraq, Myanmar, Nigeria, Pakistan, Thailand, Viet Nam, World

Tianyi Luo, Andrew Maddocks, Charles Iceland, Philip Ward and Hessel Winsemius - March

This blog was co-written with Hessel Winsemius and Philip Ward. Hessel is a researcher at Deltares. Philip is a senior researcher at the Institute for Environmental Studies of the VU University Amsterdam.

Last September, Hamberton Nongtdu woke to a loudspeaker at a nearby mosque blaring a warning: Floods were coming.

Nongtdu, a Kashmiri resident, barely had time to rush to the third floor of her house before water burst through her gate and inundated the first and second floors. Nongtdu and her family survived, but unusually heavy monsoon rains in September 2014 triggered floods in India and Pakistan that claimed more than 500 lives. It was the year’s costliest catastrophe.

Those floods may have been the most dramatic of recent river floods, but the threat extends well beyond Southeast Asia. More people are affected by floods than by any other type of natural disaster. New analysis shows that approximately 21 million people worldwide could be affected by river floods on average each year. That number could increase to 54 million in 2030 due to climate change and socio-economic development.

Quantifying and Visualizing River Floods Worldwide

The Aqueduct Global Flood Analyzer, a new online tool, quantifies and visualizes the reality of global flood risk. WRI co-developed the tool with four Dutch research organizations: Deltares, the Institute for Environmental Studies of the VU University Amsterdam, Utrecht University and PBL Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency, supported by the Netherlands’ Ministry of Infrastructure and the Environment. The Analyzer estimates current and future potential exposed GDP, affected population and urban damage from river floods for every state, country and major river basin in the world.

We ranked 164 countries by the number of people affected by river flooding. We found that the top 15 countries account for nearly 80 percent of the total population affected every year. These countries are all considered least developed or developing. Roughly 167,000 people in the United States, the highest-ranked high-income country, are affected every year.

River Flooding Affects GDP

WRI analyzed which countries have the highest percentage of total GDP affected by river flooding on average per year, and each of the top 20 is classified as least developed or developing. India has by far the most GDP exposed, at $14.3 billion. Bangladesh is a distant second, at $5.4 million.

We judged the potential national economic consequences of river floods to be highest in countries with the largest percentage of affected GDP. China and Brazil, for example, would fall first and fifth respectively on a list ranked by gross GDP affected. However, their national incomes are so large that they drop off a list of countries ranked by percentage of GDP exposed.

GDP Exposure in 2030: Disparity between the Developed and Developing Countries

Our analysis shows a clear trend across the world. In lower and middle-income countries, socio-economic development is expected to concentrate more people, buildings, infrastructure and other assets in vulnerable regions. So, the developing world is expected to see more GDP exposed to flood risks in 2030, driven largely by socio-economic change.

India, for example, faces more potential change in exposed GDP than any other country. Using a middle-of-the road scenario, the Analyzer estimates that India’s current $14 billion in GDP exposed annually could increase more than 10-fold to $154 billion in 2030. Approximately 60 percent of that increase could be caused by socio-economic development.

In the developed world, Australia, Croatia, Finland, Portugal, and Israel are expected see more GDP exposed to floods in 2030, driven primarily by social-economic change. On the contrary, countries like the Netherlands, Slovenia, Belgium, Ireland, and Switzerland will likely see increased GDP exposure driven primarily by climate change.

Climate Change Will Expose More People to River Floods

Climate change is a greater driver of change in population exposure to river floods than socioeconomic development, because both the frequency and intensity of river floods is expected to increase due to climate change in many areas. This phenomenon would expand flood-prone areas, and make floods more likely to occur in those areas more often.

Climate change drives populations at risk in the developed and developing world alike – there is no clear distinguishing pattern. In Ireland, for example, 2,000 people face flood risks currently. By 2030, 48,500 more people could face river flood risk, and 87 percent of that difference would be driven by climate change. From the developing world, 715,000 people in Pakistan are at risk today. By 2030, river floods could affect 2 million more people, with climate change driving 70 percent of that increase.

A Tool for Awareness and Action

The risks may be escalating, but public and private sector decision makers can do more to prevent catastrophic damage before it happens.

Sharing the Analyzer’s easily accessible data with public and private sector decision makers will immediately raise their awareness about current and future river-flood risks. Armed with the right information, decision makers can then prioritize risk reduction and climate adaptation projects, and implement the most viable, cost-efficient options (see sidebar).

It will take decades and many billions of dollars to protect the tens of millions of people at risk from river floods and coastal storm surges. But starting now and following the direction of tools like the Global Flood Analyzer will help decision makers in international relief organizations, reinsurance companies, multinational companies, and many others build advanced protection systems to protect people and infrastructure.

Who Can Use the Flood Analyzer?

  • International development and financing organizations like the World Bank can prioritize investments in promising natural disaster risk-reduction strategies.

  • International natural disaster risk-reduction monitoring organizations like the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction can evaluate baseline risk conditions and monitor progress of risk reduction activities.

  • (Re-) insurance companies can rapidly assess risk and projected risk trends across their portfolios and explain the importance of insurance to potential clients.

  • Multinational companies can assess risks to their global manufacturing facilities and supply chains and prioritize locations for further analysis and risk mitigation actions.

For more on the ranking and methodology behind this analysis, access our data setsor test the tool.

World: Losses from river floods to worsen significantly by 2030, says new global 'risk analyzer'

5 March 2015 - 11:50pm
Source: International Federation of Red Cross And Red Crescent Societies, Netherlands Red Cross Country: Afghanistan, Bangladesh, China, Egypt, India, Indonesia, Myanmar, Nigeria, Pakistan, Togo, Viet Nam, World

River flooding will “affect more people and cause significantly more damage by 2030” because of climate change and development, according to the first ever public analysis of current and future global risks of river floods.

The new Aqueduct Global Flood Risk Analyzer – believed to be the first comprehensive global survey of its kind – tracks potential human and material losses for every river basin in the world.

It was launched today by the Washington, DC-based World Resources Institute (WRI) through an international telephone press conference that included World Bank, Climate Centre and other experts.

WRI is a global research organization that “turns big ideas into action at the nexus of environment, economic opportunity and human well-being”, according to its website.

The Analyzer was the outcome of its collaboration with Deltares, VU University Amsterdam, the University of Utrecht, and PBL Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency.

Country rankings

River flooding worldwide currently affects an estimated 21 million people and costs nearly 100 billion US dollars a year in lost GDP.

The new analysis finds that by 2030, those numbers could grow to 54 million people and just over $520 billion annually.

Country rankings show flood risk by affected population for the entire world, with these countries in the top ten positions: India, Bangladesh, China, Vietnam, Pakistan, Indonesia, Egypt, Myanmar, Afghanistan and Nigeria.

The tool shows current flood-risk for a location and then projects it into the future in terms of change in risk from both socio-economic factors and climate.

The tool also helps users see how building resilience could reduce expected damage over time.

‘Historical floods’

Floods comprised almost half of all disasters recorded in 2013, according to the IFRC’s World Disasters Report 2014, but river floods can be predicted to a significant extent, enabling early warning early action to limit impacts on communities.

“In a changing climate, people’s memory of historical floods doesn’t provide a good estimate of what the flood risk could be in years to come,” said Erin Coughlan de Perez, Senior Climate Specialist at the Climate Centre, who participated in the WRI press call.

“People need to evaluate those risks and take action quickly, not be surprised in the future.

“In Togo, for example, the Analyzer projects that people affected by flooding could double by 2030.

“Now the Togolese Red Cross is working with the German Red Cross and us on a highly innovative ‘forecast-based financing’ system that will trigger preparedness actions based on forecasts.”

Myanmar: China asks Myanmar to "lower temperature" on border

5 March 2015 - 11:06pm
Source: Reuters - AlertNet Country: China, Myanmar

BEIJING, March 5 (Reuters) - Myanmar must ensure lower temperatures along its border with China and all parties must exercise restraint, a senior Chinese official told a Myanmar envoy, following clashes that have pushed refugees into China.

Read the full article here

Myanmar: 350 Displaced Civilians Arrive in Shan Border Town

5 March 2015 - 9:35pm
Source: Irrawaddy Country: China, Myanmar

By KYAW MYO TUN

RANGOON — More than 350 displaced civilians arrived in northern Shan State’s Chin Shwe Haw on Wednesday after spending several weeks hiding in the forest on the Burma-China border to escape fighting in the Kokang Special Region, an aid worker said.

Chit Mi, a teacher who has been volunteering to help displaced families staying at a Buddhist school in Kunlong, told The Irrawaddy that the group had been hiding in the forests between Laukkai and the Chinese border town of Nansan after clashes erupted in Laukkai Township last month.

After the township was brought under control by the Burma Army in the past week or so, the group began to leave the forest and walked via Laukkai to the Shan State border town of Chin Shwe Haw, where aid workers would pick them up, Chit Mi said.

“Some walked from a camp near Nansan to Laukkai. They are coming to Chin Shwe Haw on foot from Laukkai along the motorway,” she said, adding that the families were migrant workers from central Burma who had been employed as farm and construction workers in the Kokang region.

Some 10,000 Burmese workers fled south from the region after fighting between the Burma Army and the Kokang ethnic rebels, known as the Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA), escalated on Feb. 9. Those fleeing south were welcomed by the army, Burmese Red Cross and authorities.

Many more ethnic Kokang civilians—by some unconfirmed estimates as many as 50,000—fled to China, where authorities have set up emergency shelters for them. The Chinese government has released little official information about their plight and their exact numbers.

Although Laukkai town is under control of the Burma Army, skirmishes are still continuing in outlying parts of the township, where the MNDAA and its allies, such as the Ta’ang National Liberation Army, are engaged in clashes with government forces.

Myanmar: Burma Army Shot, Tortured Kokang Civilians During Conflict: Rights Group

5 March 2015 - 9:26pm
Source: Irrawaddy Country: Myanmar

By LAWI WENG

RANGOON — The Shan Human Rights Foundation has alleged that the Burma Army killed, injured and tortured at least 10 ethnic Kokang civilians while it was fighting Kokang rebels in the Kokang Special Region in northern Shan State last month.

The group said in a briefing released on Wednesday that it conducted interviews with victims, witnesses and family members of the victims to document five cases of gross rights violations by soldiers from Feb. 13-19, when fighting raged in Laukkai Township, the administrative center of the Kokang region.

The group said these individual cases probably represented only a small part of the number of abuses committed against civilians during the conflict, adding that eye witnesses had seen at least a dozen dead bodies of civilians lying in the streets.

The foundation called on the UN Special Rapporteur on human rights in Burma Yanghee Lee “to visit the Kokang area as soon as possible to monitor the human rights situation there, and push for accountability for abuses that have taken place.”

The Kokang rebels, for their part, were accused by authorities last month of opening fire and injuring volunteer aid workers on Burmese Red Cross convoys that were bringing displaced civilians to safety.

Fighting between the Kokang rebels, known as the Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA), and the army escalated on Feb. 9. Tens of thousands of civilians fled to China and about 10,000 headed south toward central Burma.

The Shan organization’s spokesperson, Nang Kwarn Lake, told The Irrawaddy that interviews with Kokang refugees were conducted at a camp in China. “The victims reported to us that the Burmese Army shot and tortured them,” she said. “We even asked whether Kokang rebels also shot civilians, but they said no.”

In the most serious case it documented, the organization said soldiers had shot dead a couple—Kokang woman Chen Xing Zi, 48, and her Chinese husband Yang Er, 33—after they had briefly returned from China, to where they had fled, in order to fee their pigs at their home near Laukkai.

As they drove on an army-controlled road between Laukkai and the Chinese border on Feb. 13 they were shot dead, presumably by government forces, the rights group said.

Later, “members of the family saw pictures of the dead couple lying in the road on social media. On February 14, a relative went with three other people to collect the bodies and cremate them at the border,” the organization said, citing accounts by family members. “The wife had been shot in her thigh, her arm and her back. The man had been shot in the head, and also in the side.”

In another case, the group documented indiscriminate shooting by the army at a car travelling from Laukkai to China on Feb. 13, injuring two Kokang women in the foot and the leg. One of the victims, named Nai Nai and aged 76, told the foundation that soldiers later came to the vehicle, which had its tires punctured by gunfire, asking them why they had been travelling on the road.

The foundation also alleged that four male Kokang men from a village one mile west of Laukkai had been arrested by a group of soldiers who were searching their village on Feb. 19 and taken to a nearby regional operation command base. They were reportedly kept for one night and beaten during interrogation by soldiers, who asked them if they were hiding any weapons. Three of them were then released, but the fourth man was detained and has not been heard from since.

Haw Shauk Chan, an Upper House lawmaker with the ruling Union Solidarity and Development Party who represents Kunlong Township, an area which border Laukkai Township, said in a reaction to the allegations that he was concerned about the abuses against and killing of civilians, adding that he heard dozens of civilians were killed in the conflict.

“About 60 people were killed. Some children were only 10 years old, older people also were killed; some were over 70 years old. They were shot and died during the fighting,” he said, although he stopped short of casting blame for the deaths.

“We do not know who killed them. They were in the middle of fighting between armed groups. Many of them were killed in the town [Laukkai], our people burned their dead bodies,” said Haw Shauk Chan, who is himself an ethnic Shan.

Sitt Myaing, joint chairman of the Myanmar National Human Rights Commission, told The Irrawaddy that he was concerned about the reports of civilian deaths, adding that the commission would investigate the claims if an official complaint was filed with it.

“We were sad to see civilians were killed. They are our ethnic [citizens]. We do not have information about who killed them,” he said.

Asked if the commission would visit the area soon, Sitt Myaing said, “The area still has fighting, it’s not safe for us. So we don’t have a plan to go there for our investigation,” adding that no complaints had been filed yet.

Civil society groups have criticized the commission in the past, saying it has failed to properly investigate any complaint filed with it since it was set up by the President’s Office in 2011. The commission chairman has previously said that abuses conducted in conflict areas or in communal-violence wracked Arakan State are not within its mandate of investigation.

World: Red Cross Red Crescent denounces recent violence against its volunteers and staff

5 March 2015 - 1:49pm
Source: International Committee of the Red Cross, International Federation of Red Cross And Red Crescent Societies Country: Central African Republic, Guinea, Myanmar, Sudan, World

Joint Statement by ICRC Director-General, Yves Daccord, and IFRC Secretary General, Elhadj As Sy

The International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement is deeply concerned about the recent spate of attacks against its volunteers and staff.

In the last month alone, two volunteers and one staff member were killed in Sudan. Volunteers have been attacked in Myanmar, and in Guinea teams fighting Ebola are being attacked by community members on average 10 times a month due to misinformation and stigma.

In the Central African Republic and elsewhere, the emblems have not been universally respected and in some cases have even been targeted. In Syria, 47 volunteers have lost their lives since the beginning of the conflict.

Risking their lives for the community

Volunteers and staff risk their lives for their communities every day. They do so believing they are under the protection of the red cross and red crescent emblems, which international law recognizes as visible signs of humanity and neutrality in wartime and peacetime alike. As humanitarian workers displaying these emblems, they should be spared from attack and granted safe passage. Unfortunately – unacceptably – this is not always the case.

But ensuring effective protection for volunteers and staff is increasingly difficult. Various factors are placing them at risk, such as the protracted nature of current crises, the multiplication of armed actors and a widespread lack of respect for international humanitarian law. Moreover, civil wars often stretch beyond country borders, with ripple effects that dismantle communities, destroy the social fabric and create volatile environments in which volunteers and staff strive to carry out their life-saving work.

Respect and protection needed

Humanitarian needs generated by today’s crises are huge. Red Cross and Red Crescent volunteers and staff play a key role within their communities helping to alleviate the human cost of these crises. Without respect and protection from all parties, they cannot perform that unique and essential role safely. Countless crisis victims and survivors rely on them for help, and are at risk because these workers are prevented from doing their jobs because of safety concerns.

The Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement as a whole – 189 National Societies, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies and the International Committee of the Red Cross – calls for State and non-State parties, armed forces and groups, and individuals, communities and thought leaders to support Red Cross and Red Crescent volunteers and staff as well as other humanitarian workers everywhere. We call on all parties to conflicts to fulfil their obligations under international humanitarian law and respect Red Crescent and Red Cross aid workers by granting them safe and unrestricted access to all people in need.

For further information or to set up interviews contact :

In Geneva:
Ewan Watson, ICRC Head of Public Relations
Mobile: +41 79 244 64 70. Email: ewatson@icrc.org Twitter: @EWatsonICRC

In Washington DC:
Anna Nelson, ICRC Spokeswoman
Mobile : 202-361-1566. Email: anelson@icrc.org

Myanmar: Activists beaten, arrested at Myanmar rally: witnesses

5 March 2015 - 12:32pm
Source: Agence France-Presse Country: Myanmar

Yangon, Myanmar | | Thursday 3/5/2015 - 15:29 GMT

by Hla-Hla HTAY

Security forces beat activists protesting in downtown Yangon with batons, campaigners and witnesses said Thursday, arresting around eight in a surge in tension over spreading student rallies calling for education reforms in the former junta-run nation.

Dozens of demonstrators were sent scattering after they were set upon by uniformed police officers and men wearing civilian clothes with red armbands who attacked the group, according to witnesses and campaigners.

"I was quite scared. A policeman hit me with a baton, he was aiming for my head but he hit only my arms" said 17-year-old student Su Yin Lin on the sidelines of a hastily arranged press conference by activists on Thursday night.

"He hit me once and then another student pulled me away," she added, her left arm bearing visible bruising.

Myanmar's quasi-civilian government, which replaced outright military rule in 2011, is being closely watched in a key election year amid fears that its reforms are stalling.

Scores of people, protesting on a variety of issues, have been arrested in recent months for demonstrating without permission.

-- 'We cannot tolerate this' --

Thursday's rally saw about 50 protesters gather in the heart of Yangon, Myanmar's main commercial hub, in solidarity with a student demonstration in the central town of Letpadan, where around 200 activists have been corralled by riot police since Monday.

Authorities have expressed determination to stop that group from continuing their planned march to Yangon, the site of several mass student demonstrations in Myanmar's modern history that have convulsed the country.

"We will definitely respond with another movement," said student leader Min Thu Kyaw, who was at the Yangon protest. But he said the group would wait to see how the government would proceed.

Min Ko Naing, leader of the 88 Generation democracy campaign group, held up a printout at the press conference of a photograph from the crackdown showing a young female protester being held by the neck by a man in an armband.

"Are they showing the brutality of this era?" asked the veteran of mass student-led rallies nearly three decades ago that rocked Myanmar's then military government.

"We cannot tolerate this at all."

Those sporting red arm bands had the word for "Duty" emblazoned on them, witnesses said.

Police at the scene earlier confirmed that seven people were arrested, but the government has yet to make an official comment on the crackdown.

-- Student defiance --

Student activism is a potent political force in Myanmar with young campaigners at the forefront of several major uprisings, including a huge 1988 demonstration that prompted a bloody military assault under the former junta.

The 88 Generation is made up largely of student activists from that mass protest, which also saw the rise of Aung San Suu Kyi's opposition.

Until now the authorities had appeared reluctant to take forceful action against the months-long student protests, despite the activists holding their demonstrations without permission.

Tensions have risen since Tuesday when students in Letpadan ignored a deadline from authorities to disperse and give up plans of marching to Yangon, some 130 kilometres (80 miles) further south.

The students have rallied for months against education legislation, calling for changes to the new law including decentralising the school system, giving students the right to form unions and teaching in ethnic minority languages.

Talks between the government and the young activists had led to a rethink of the legislation by parliament, which is currently debating proposed changes.

But students earlier on Thursday told MPs they were pulling out of the discussions because of police efforts to stop the Letpadan activists from going to Yangon.

"The security of student protestors from the main march is at risk," the All Burma Federation of Students Unions said in an announcement.

hla-nan/klm/kb

© 1994-2015 Agence France-Presse

World: La Croix-Rouge et le Croissant-Rouge dénoncent les violences récentes perpétrées à l’encontre de leurs volontaires et de leur personnel

5 March 2015 - 8:01am
Source: International Federation of Red Cross And Red Crescent Societies Country: Central African Republic, Equatorial Guinea, Myanmar, Syrian Arab Republic, World

Déclaration conjointe

Elhadj As Sy, secrétaire général de la Fédération internationale des Sociétés de la Croix-Rouge et du Croissant-Rouge, et Yves Daccord, directeur général du Comité international de la Croix-Rouge

Le Mouvement international de la Croix-Rouge et du Croissant-Rouge est profondément préoccupé par la récente vague d’attaques contre ses volontaires et son personnel.

Au cours du seul mois dernier, deux volontaires et un employé ont été tués au Soudan. Des volontaires ont été attaqués au Myanmar et les équipes luttant contre la maladie à virus Ebola en Guinée sont agressées en moyenne dix fois mois par les membres des communautés du fait de la désinformation et de la stigmatisation. En République centrafricaine et ailleurs, les emblèmes n’ont pas été universellement respectés et ont même, dans certains cas, été pris pour cibles. En Syrie, 47 volontaires ont perdu la vie depuis le début du conflit.

Ils risquent leur vie pour la communauté

Les volontaires et le personnel risquent tous les jours leur vie pour leur communauté. Ils le font en se disant qu’ils sont protégés par les emblèmes de la croix rouge et du croissant rouge, lesquels sont reconnus par le droit international comme des signes visibles d’humanité et de neutralité en temps de guerre comme en temps de paix. En tant que travailleurs humanitaires arborant ces emblèmes, ils devraient être à l’abri de toute attaque et bénéficier d’un accès sûr. Malheureusement, tel n’est pas toujours le cas, et cela est inacceptable.

Il est de plus en plus difficile de garantir une protection efficace aux volontaires et au personnel, car ils sont exposés à risques dus à des facteurs variés tels que le caractère prolongé des crises actuelles, la multiplication des acteurs armés et le non-respect du droit international humanitaire. En outre, les guerres civiles s’étendent souvent au-delà des frontières nationales, et leurs répercussions disloquent les communautés, détruisent le tissu social et créent des environnements instables dans lesquels les volontaires et le personnel peinent à accomplir leur mission vitale.

Il faut leur assurer respect et protection

Les besoins humanitaires créés par les crises d’aujourd’hui sont immenses. Les volontaires et le personnel de la Croix-Rouge et du Croissant-Rouge jouent un rôle clé dans leur communauté pour alléger le coût humain de ces crises. S’ils ne bénéficient pas du respect et de la protection de toutes les parties, ils ne peuvent pas assumer ce rôle unique et essentiel en toute sécurité. D’innombrables victimes et survivants des crises ont besoin de l’aide des travailleurs humanitaires et sont en danger car ceux-ci ne peuvent pas faire leur travail pour des raisons de sécurité.

Le Mouvement international de la Croix-Rouge et du Croissant-Rouge dans son ensemble – 189 Sociétés nationales, la Fédération internationale des Sociétés de la Croix-Rouge et du Croissant-Rouge et le Comité international de la Croix-Rouge – appelle les parties étatiques et les parties non étatiques, les forces et les groupes armés, les individus, les communautés et les guides d’opinion à apporter leur soutien aux volontaires et au personnel de la Croix-Rouge et du Croissant-Rouge partout dans le monde. Nous appelons toutes les parties à des conflits à respecter les obligations qui leur incombent en vertu du droit international humanitaire et à protéger les travailleurs humanitaires de la Croix-Rouge et du Croissant-Rouge en leur accordant un accès sûr et sans entrave aux personnes en détresse.

Pour des informations complémentaires, veuillez contacter :

Ewan Watson, CICR, Genève, tél: +41 79 244 64 70

Benoit Matsha-Carpentier, FICR, Genève tél: +41 79 213 24 13 ou visitez notre site internet: www.ifrc.org

Myanmar: Reducing poverty and building resilience to climate change in Myanmar’s Dry Zone

5 March 2015 - 5:32am
Source: UN Development Programme Country: Myanmar

03 Mar 2015 by Yusuke Taishi, Regional Specialist, Climate Change Adaptation

In the undulating plains of the Dry Zone of central Myanmar, the Kingdom of Pagan flourished between the 11th and 13th century, largely thanks to productive agriculture supported by skilled water management techniques. Today, if it were not for the hundreds of pagodas that still remain standing, it would be hard to believe that a Kingdom once prospered here. There is little trace of the rich and fertile agricultural land, extensive canals, and abundant water that once existed in the heart of this now Dry Zone.

When I arrived in the village of Taung Shae in the Dry Zone, the popping noise of a diesel pump was reverberating in the air. A water-less community pond, in disrepair with a cracked bottom, illustrates the importance of water infrastructure for this community. But a villager proudly tells me that their tube well is 250 metres deep and now water is available throughout the year. He says he collects 300 Myanmar Kyat (about US$0.30) per 200 litres from villagers to maintain the pump.

In the village of Sin Loo Ey, villagers were busy with shelling peanuts. They tell me that the harvest is not as good as they hoped this year, but not bad enough for them to have to rely on the sales of palm sugar and their livestock.

Hundreds of thousands of Dry Zone residents are not as fortunate as those of Taung Shae and Sin Loo Ey. Many do not have a diesel water pump. Nor do they have alternative income sources to fall back on when the rain is not enough. Climate change is projected to cause more frequent and/or severe droughts, disrupt access to freshwater during the dry season, and make the livelihood in the Dry Zone an even more challenging undertaking.

The Government of Myanmar recently launched one of its first climate change adaptation projects. The project is financed by the Adaptation Fund and UNDP and will run for four years in five townships in the Dry Zone. The Government has an ambitious target of supporting nearly 250,000 people in the area with water management infrastructure, improved watershed management, and resilient livelihood options.

Some of the key initiatives are to:

  • Enhance water capture and storage in 280 villages while protecting and rehabilitating 4,200 hectares of micro-watersheds

  • Promote drought-resilient crop varieties and conservation agriculture practices on 5,600 hectares of drought-prone land and support a resilient post-harvest processing system

  • Support 6,300 landless households in developing a climate-resilient livestock production system

Supporting the Government and its citizens in building a livelihood system resilient to the impacts of climate change in the most vulnerable parts of the country, also directly contributes to UNDP’s mandate of poverty reduction.

About the author

Yusuke Taishi is the Regional Specialist, Climate Change Adaptation, for the Bureau of Policy and Programme Support in Bangkok.

Myanmar: Myanmar: Humanitarian Bulletin, Issue 1 | 1 – 31 January 2015

5 March 2015 - 1:50am
Source: UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs Country: Myanmar

HIGHLIGHTS

  • Over 1,000 people displaced following renewed clashes in the Hpakan area of Kachin

  • IRC provides support for KMSS health clinics in IDP camps in northern Shan

  • Government vaccination campaign aims to reach millions of children with support from UN and INGOs

  • Fire in Rakhine IDP camp leaves 450 people without shelter

KEY FIGURES

People displaced in Rakhine State 139,000

People displaced in Kachin and northern Shan states 100,000

People displaced in Meiktila, Mandalay region 3,300

Myanmar: Saving Burma’s Child Soldiers

4 March 2015 - 5:11pm
Source: Pulitzer Center Country: Myanmar

Living under armed guard, Arkar Min received one meal a day—a bowl of rice with some oil and salt. He had no bed and slept on the concrete, using his lungi as a pillow. There were six other conscripts, most of them 15; the eldest was 17. None of them had joined voluntarily—they'd been offered work, hoodwinked, kidnapped, and sold into service.

read the full article here

Myanmar: Myanmar: IDP Sites in Kachin and northern Shan States (Feb 2015)

4 March 2015 - 4:24am
Source: UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs Country: Myanmar

Myanmar: Myanmar: Internal Displacement in Kachin and northern Shan States (Feb 2015)

4 March 2015 - 4:06am
Source: UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs Country: Myanmar

Myanmar: Myanmar: IDP Sites in Rakhine State (Jan 2015)

4 March 2015 - 4:00am
Source: UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs Country: Myanmar

Myanmar: Myanmar: Internal Displacement in Rakhine State (Jan 2015)

4 March 2015 - 3:58am
Source: UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs Country: Myanmar

China: 'Crisis' in Yunnan's Refugee Camps as Chinese Police Block Supplies

4 March 2015 - 1:21am
Source: Radio Free Asia Country: China, Myanmar

Authorities in the southwestern Chinese province of Yunnan are preventing food supplies from reaching refugee camps packed with ethnic Kokang civilians fleeing the fighting across the border in Myanmar between government troops and rebel forces, local sources told RFA on Tuesday.

The blockade has sparked a crisis in some camps, where food is already running out, as well as the deaths of two people who were unable to seek emergency medical help, refugees and volunteers said.

A refugee who declined to be named said local security personnel have sealed off the roads leading to a camp in the border town of Maidihe.

"There is a huge crisis at the refugee camp at the moment, because the government and armed police have sealed off all the roads," the refugee said.

"They are stopping anyone from taking relief supplies and medicines to the camps," he said.

He said the roadblocks had already led to the deaths of an elderly person and a pregnant woman who were unable to seek emergency medical care when they needed it.

A volunteer at the No. 125 refugee camp surnamed Zhao confirmed the refugee's account, suggesting the ban affects other refugee camps on the Chinese side of the border.

"The Chinese side won't let us [take food and supplies any more]," Zhao said. "That has all stopped."

Pregnant woman dies

He said the pregnant woman had died at the refugee camp in Maidihe after giving birth amid complications.

"They won't allow the doctor at Maidihe to live on site," Zhao said, adding that some of the volunteer doctors in the camp had traveled from Yangon to help out.

A volunteer at Maidihe refugee camp who asked to remain anonymous said an infant had also needed emergency medical care on Tuesday.

"There was a two-month-old baby who lost consciousness, and needed to go to the Chinese side, but nobody would cooperate," the volunteer said.

He said the Maidihe camp is now unable to receive grain shipments by truck.

"The thing is that they're blocking the trucks that bring grain here for us. This is a very serious problem," he said.

"As of 9.00 a.m. [on Tuesday], we had handed out the last of our rice," he said. "Now we are just waiting for the hunger to hit us."

Ban on Myanmar cars

Meanwhile, police in Dehong have issued an order banning vehicles with Myanmar registration plates from driving on roads on the Chinese side of the border.

Police in Yunnan's Dehong autonomous prefecture issued the ban on Myanmar-licensed vehicles on Monday, saying vehicles that broke the ban would be impounded, local residents said.

The ban also applies to the vehicles of refugees at the No. 125 refugee camp within China's borders, which had been parked at the camp since being driven there to escape the fighting, they said.

More than 100,000 refugees are now encamped in tents and makeshift public buildings after taking refuge across the border from the fighting, according to estimates from Chinese aid workers.

Myanmar has declared a state of emergency in the region in response to the conflict, and called on Beijing to prevent rebels from using its territory to launch "terrorist activities."

A Kokang resident surnamed Zhang said shelling and gunfire had continued on Tuesday in the rugged and remote mountainous region of Shan State.

"It went on from yesterday evening to this morning, until about 6.00 a.m.," Zhang said. "We hear artillery fire and gunfire every half hour or so."

Camp hit by earthquake

A woman refugee also surnamed Zhang said some refugees had been further shaken by a 5.5 Richter scale earthquake near Yunnan's Lincang city on Sunday.

"We spent last night sleeping at the side of the road," she said. "We didn't dare to go back to sleep in those buildings in the refugee camp, because we were afraid they would collapse."

"Everything was swaying and shaking about, so the refugees were all very frightened," she added.

Some 20,000 people were made homeless in the earthquake, which destroyed 3,700 homes in Cangyuan and Gengma counties, the Lincang municipal government said on its official website.

She said conditions are worsening in the camps, especially for the more recent arrivals.

"The refugees that are coming over [to Yunnan] now are all staying in closely packed tents, and they are dependent on volunteer teams who also came over from Kokang," Zhang said.

Fighting began on Feb. 9 in Laukkai, capital of the special region of Kokang near Myanmar's border with China, between army troops and Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA) rebel forces.

The MNDAA under ethnic Chinese commander Peng Jiasheng are trying to retake the Kokang self-administered zone, which it had controlled until 2009, forcing a wave of refugees away from the conflict zone and across the border into China.

The MNDAA is allied with three other ethnic minority armies: the Ta'ang National Liberation Army (TNLA), the Kachin Independence Army (KIA), and part of the Shan State Army (SSA), although the KIA has remained in the region it controls, rather than following the MNDAA troops.

Reported by Qiao Long for RFA's Mandarin Service, and by Wen Yuqing for the Cantonese Service. Translated and written in English by Luisetta Mudie.