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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.

Myanmar: Govt, Ethnic Reps Agree to Talks in Mid-March

4 March 2015 - 12:28am
Source: Irrawaddy Country: Myanmar

By NYEIN NYEIN / THE IRRAWDDY

The government’s Union Peacemaking Work Committee will meet with the ethnics’ Nationwide Ceasefire Coordination Team (NCCT) in mid-March for the seventh round of official talks on an elusive nationwide ceasefire agreement.

Both sides have agreed to meet in Rangoon from March 16, according to ethnic and government negotiators.

Hla Maung Shwe, an advisor with the government-affiliated Myanmar Peace Centre, and his technical team met with NCCT leaders from Feb. 27 to March 1 in Chiang Mai, Thailand.

He said that the informal discussions had focused on laying the groundwork for “successful negotiations” on a draft nationwide ceasefire agreement (NCA).

Dr Salai Lian H. Sakhong of the Chin National Front said that in addition to the NCA text, the NCCT would focus on “military affairs and the reduction of fighting in the north.”

The last formal discussions were held in September 2014. Subsequent informal meetings between the government and ethnic negotiators have yielded no concrete results.

On Union Day, Feb. 12, President Thein Sein presented ethnic leaders with a pledge reaffirming support for the nationwide ceasefire during a meeting in Naypyidaw. Leaders of the Karen National Union, the Democratic Karen Benevolent Army, the Shan State Army-South and a small Karen splinter group signed the statement. All other NCCT groups present at the meeting declined, saying that the document failed to address outstanding issues.

Recent fierce fighting between Kokang rebel group the Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA) and the Burma Army in Laukkai in the Kokang Special Region may also prove a barrier to ongoing negotiations.

Representatives from the MNDAA and the Ta’ang National Liberation Army (TNLA), which is fighting alongside the Kokang group, have been absent from recent informal talks with government representatives.

Five non-NCCT members have also been invited to join the meeting this month, which is scheduled to run for five days from March 16-20, Hla Maung Shwe said.

The NCCT also proposed to include international observers from five countries at the meeting, which the government has agreed upon, according to Dr Salai Lian H. Sakhong.

Myanmar: Burma Army, Shan Rebel Peace Pledge Signatory Clash

4 March 2015 - 12:24am
Source: Irrawaddy Country: Myanmar

By LAWI WENG / THE IRRAWADDY|

RANGOON — Fighting has again flared between the Burma Army and the Shan State Army-South (SSA-South), with a member of the rebel group accusing government troops of staging an attack on its base in a village of Shan State’s Mauk Mae Township.

The clashes on Saturday come about three weeks after the ethnic armed group signed a pledge of commitment to Burma’s peace process with the government, which for its part agreed to work toward preventing further armed clashes and “building a Union based on democratic and federal principles.”

Col. Sai Oo of the SSA-South on Tuesday accused the government of “taking political advantage” of the ethnic armed group without practicing a genuine détente.

“They [the Burma Army] got some tip that there was a training at our base,” he said. “We were only having a capacity-building training for youth, however, not military training. So, they came to attack our base. The fighting lasted two hours. We have not yet heard of any casualties.”

SSA-South chairman Lt-Gen Yawd Serk signed the so-called Deed of Commitment with President Thein Sein’s government on Union Day, Feb. 12, despite many of Burma’s ethnic armed groups abstaining from the pledge. Three others—the Karen National Union, the Democratic Karen Benevolent Army and the KNLA-Peace Council—signed the deed.

“We are finding that they [the government] did not sign it for peace, they just took political advantage of our group by getting us to sign,” said Sai Oo.

Clashes between the Burma Army and the SSA-South have been frequent, despite the two sides having signed a bilateral ceasefire agreement in 2011 that was intended to put an end to decades of conflict.

“They [Burma Army troops on the ground] have to listen to orders,” Sai Oo said. “Of course they hate to fight, but they have to do it. Their orders came from above, as we know. But we do not know which senior army officer ordered them to attack us. We do not think that the ground troops would be disregarding orders from above in coming to attack us.”

In his monthly radio address on Sunday, Thein Sein described the Deed of Commitment as a measure to boost confidence in a peace process that many say has stalled.

“I signed the Deed not because the conditions were perfect, but because I want to take any and every opportunity I can to encourage the process, build trust and demonstrate clearly that my government [is] truly committed to a negotiated end to the armed violence that has plagued our country,” he said, according to a transcript of the speech printed in state media.

Meanwhile, a government counterinsurgency campaign in northeast Burma’s Kokang Special Region continued this week, with Burma Army troops engaged in fighting with ethnic Kokang rebels of the Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA). That conflict, which began on Feb. 9, has killed scores on both sides and displaced tens of thousands of civilians, prompting the government to declare a state of emergency and impose martial law in the region.