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Myanmar: Myanmar creates information committee to handle news about volatile Rakhine

17 November 2016 - 2:02am
Source: Radio Free Asia Country: Myanmar

The Myanmar government on Wednesday formed a special information committee to release real-time news about the volatile situation in the country’s westernmost Rakhine state where the death toll from recent violence is believed to have reached 130, in an apparent move to counter damning reports by outside groups.

The seven-member committee includes officials from the ministries of defense, foreign affairs, border affairs, home affairs, and President’s Office, said government spokesman Zaw Htay at a news conference in the capital Naypyidaw.

Khin Maung Tin, deputy minister of the State Counselor’s Office, has been appointed chairman of the committee, and General Soe Naing Oo from the military commander-in-chief’s office has been named vice chairman, he said.

During the conference, Zaw Htay refuted a report issued by New York-based Human Rights Watch that said 430 buildings in three Rohingya Muslim villages in northern Maungdaw township had been burned during recent violence, the online news journal The Irrawaddy reported.

The actual number of burned buildings was 155, he said, blaming the arson on militants, the report said.

The Myanmar army on Wednesday, however, said nearly 230 houses and other structures had been burned since deadly attacks on three border guard stations on Oct. 9 and subsequent clashes between security forces and local armed groups.

The army also confirmed that 130 people have been killed during the past five weeks of violence in Rakhine, Reuters reported. It quoted state media as saying 102 suspected Rohingya Muslim attackers and 32 security forces had been killed since Oct. 9.

On Tuesday, an army report said security forces had killed nearly 70 “insurgents” and detained more than 230 others.

Local residents and rights activists have accused security forces of setting homes ablaze, killing civilians, and raping women in Maungdaw, where the majority of residents are Rohingya.

Some of the hundreds of Rohingya who fled the violence and tried to cross the Naaf River that separates Myanmar from Bangladesh have been shot dead, Reuters reported on Wednesday, but did not clarify whether Myanmar or Bangladeshi border guards fired the shots.

The guards also blocked dozens of others who arrived by boat and may now be stranded at sea, the report said, citing local residents.

'Immediately sent back'

Border Guards Bangladesh (BGB), a paramilitary force under the Ministry of Home Affairs, and the Bangladeshi coast guard are on alert in the border area which consists of a 209-kilometer (130-mile) land boundary and a 63-kilometer (39-mile) river boundary with Myanmar.

“A total of 86 Rohingya have been pushed back. “BGB members did not mistreat them, but gave humanitarian assistance,” BGB commander Lt. Col. Abu Zar Al Zahid told RFA’s sister news organization BenarNews.

“They were victims of recent violence in Rakhine. They crossed the Naaf River in boats and were immediately sent back by the BGB,” he said.

The BGB did not fire on the Rohingya, he said.

“More than 200 Rohingya Muslims are waiting near the Bangladesh border,” an unnamed BGB source said. “Most of them are women and children. Because they could attempt to enter at any time, the BGB and coast guard are on alert.”

“If they had an opportunity to enter Cox’s Bazar, it would be a tough place to live,” Mozammel Haq, president of the Rohingya defense committee, a local group in Teknaf, told BenarNews.

“The refugee camps are already occupied, and there is no space,” Mozamel said. “The Rohingya have been settling in different areas and destroying forests. They are also involved in criminal activities.”

About 300,000 to 500,000 Rohingya are thought to live in Bangladesh.

Stop the violence

The creation of the new information committee came a day after the United States asked the Myanmar government to stop the violence in Rakhine state, where security forces have prohibited independent journalists and rights groups from accessing Maungdaw to assess the situation.

So far, only a delegation of United Nations and foreign ambassadors to Myanmar, including U.S. Ambassador Scot Marciel, have been permitted to visit the area.

“We note the recent visit to Rakhine state by Ambassador Marciel and other representatives was a positive step in improving international access, but it’s important for the government to do more to stem the violence and provide assistance to those in these affected areas,” U.S. State Department spokesperson Elizabeth Trudeau said at a press briefing on Tuesday in Washington.

“We’re concerned by reports of a spike in violence in Burma’s Rakhine state,” she said. “We’re following the situation closely and attempting to get reliable information about developments there.”

That same day, Marciel and a delegation of officials from the U.S. State Department and other federal agencies held a previously scheduled bilateral dialogue with Myanmar officials in Naypyidaw, she said.

“The U.S. delegation stressed the need for the government of Burma to facilitate a credible and independent investigation of these allegations to improve transparency and information sharing, and to provide access for both media as well as humanitarian aid,” Trudeau said.

The delegation included deputy assistant secretaries from the department’s East Asian and Pacific Affairs Bureau, as well as the Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor Bureau, she said. It also met separately with representatives from local NGOs and officials from Rakhine state.

Patrick Murphy, U.S. deputy assistant secretary for Southeast Asia who is in Myanmar, said the delegation discussed developing the relationship between Myanmar and the U.S., human rights, the rule of law, and business and trade during the meeting.

Murphy also said he urged Myanmar officials to stem the violence in Rakhine state by forming an independent investigation group and to allow the international community access to the area to deliver aid to those who have been displaced by the violence.

‘Deep concern’ about Rakhine

Likewise, former U.N. chief Kofi Annan, who is leading a commission created by the Myanmar government to provide recommendations to resolve the issues dividing the impoverished state and impeding its economic development, expressed deep concern over the recent violence.

“As chair of the Rakhine Advisory Commission, I wish to express my deep concern over the recent violence in northern Rakhine state, which is plunging the state into renewed instability and creating new displacement,” Annan said in a statement on Wednesday. “All communities must renounce violence and I urge the security services to act in full compliance with the rule of law.”

“Recent events have reinforced the urgency of tackling [Rakhine’s] challenges in order to find viable solutions in the interest of all the people of the state,” he said.

On Wednesday, the commission members, except for Annan, met with officials from the Rakhine government and leaders from ethnic Rakhine and Rohingya Muslim communities. They also visited local Muslim villages near the state capital Sittwe.

Some Muslim leaders told the commission members about the discrimination they face when it comes to being denied certain rights that Myanmar citizens have, including the right to vote.

“We have voted in many elections, including the 2008 [constitutional] referendum,” Muslim community leader Kyaw Hla said. “We hold identification cards, and yet we can’t vote. Is this fair to us?”

When speaking with the Muslim community, the commission members urged Muslims to submit to the citizenship verification process according to the country’s 1982 Citizenship Law to resolve the problem.

But rights groups charge that the law discriminates on the grounds of race because access to citizenship is primarily based on race and excludes certain ethnic groups such as the stateless Rohingya. The policy also denies them basic rights, freedom of movement, and access to social services and education.

The commission members planned to visit villages in Maungdaw township for a field assessment on Thursday, but cancelled the trip on account of the security situation.

This was the committee’s second visit to Rakhine state.

Reported by Min Thein Aung for RFA’s Myanmar Service and by BenarNews. Translated by Khet Mar. Written in English by Roseanne Gerin.

Myanmar: Myanmar: Kachin & Northern Shan CCCM Dashboard (1/Sep/2016)

17 November 2016 - 12:35am
Source: UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Myanmar Information Management Unit, CCCM Cluster, Shelter Cluster Country: Myanmar

# of IDP Locations (host families & Camps) 176

Estimated number of IDPs 97,638

The majority of IDP locations are in or near (less than 5km) urban areas.

Displacement started in June 2011 due to the fighting between the Government and the Kachin Independence Organization. The majority of IDPs live in camps along the Myanmar-China Border. Approximately 44% of IDPs live in camps in non-Government Controlled areas (NGCA).

Myanmar: Myanmar: Rakhine CCCM Dashboard (1-Sep-2016)

16 November 2016 - 11:39pm
Source: UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Myanmar Information Management Unit, CCCM Cluster, Shelter Cluster Country: Myanmar

Number of IDP Locations 36
Number of IDPs 119,876

In Myanmar, the Shelter/NFI/CCCM Cluster was activated in January 2013. By March 2013, the CCCM Cluster became operational in Rakhine State. Currently 3 Camp Management Agencies undertake substantial work for the CCCM Cluster: data collection, coordination, monitoring of services, community mobilization and capacity building across camps that house over 92,000 IDPs. In addition, one agency serves as a CCCM Focal Point, which ensures communication between the camp population and the UNHCR co-led CCCM Cluster. The objective of the CCCM Cluster remains to ensure all of the priority camps, camps that contain the majority of IDPs, have a dedicated Camp Management Agency, delivering coordinated assistance in line with the rights and needs of the displaced and where possible preparing them for life after displacement.

Malaysia: Still Adrift: Failure to Protect Rohingya in Malaysia and Thailand

16 November 2016 - 11:19pm
Source: Refugees International Country: Bangladesh, Malaysia, Myanmar, Thailand

A year and a half ago, thousands of desperate Rohingya and Bangladeshi migrants and asylum-seekers were abandoned at sea, shocking and horrifying many around the world. But more than a year later, little has changed.

Governments and international agencies have fulfilled few promises to better protect Rohingya who, facing persecution in Myanmar, have seen flight as their only survival option. Rohingya asylum-seekers in Malaysia and Thailand, including many women and children who survived the May 2015 boat crisis, continue to face the threat of detention and restricted access to the most basic human rights, including to livelihoods, healthcare, and education. As tensions flare once again within Myanmar, the possibility of another boat crisis remains real, but whether international reaction would be different remains unclear. It is time for regional governments and the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) to act.

Faced with many of the same restrictions as in Myanmar — including on access to work, education, healthcare, and freedom of movement — the lives of Rohingya in Malaysia remain better than life in Myanmar only in relative terms.

Despite the many high-level meetings and constructive ideas and commitments, little of substance has been implemented to suggest that the response to any future crisis would be any different.

Recommendations

  • ˆMalaysia must protect the human rights of Rohingya refugees and asylum-seekers inside its borders by:

  • Immediately convening the joint task force on refugee registration with UNHCR which was announced in March 2016;

  • Implementing Rohingya asylum-seeker work permit pilot program in cooperation with UNHCR;

  • Working with UNHCR and local local non-governmental organizations (NGOs) to design a program for extending access to education to Rohingya children and accrediting education provided by NGO-run “learning centers”;

  • Fulfilling its commitments under the Convention on the Rights of the Child and its own Child Act of 2001 by ending child detention and providing for the physical and psychosocial protection of child asylum-seekers and refugees.

  • UNHCR must take urgent steps to better fulfill its refugee protection mandate by:

  • Appointing one or more dedicated UNHCR officers as the first point of contact for all asylum-seekers approaching the UNHCR office in Kuala Lumpur;

  • Improving the Partner Referral System through outreach and coordination with NGOs and community leaders to develop clear points of contact and information (including public listing of partners) on alternative assistance options for those determined not to be priority cases for UNHCR, with special attention to ensuring pregnant and lactating Rohingya women are not denied life-saving access to medical care;

  • Expanding registration of Rohingya in Malaysia and the issuance of UNHCR identification cards, including by expanding the use of mobile registration options for Rohingya living substantial distances from Kuala Lumpur.

  • The Government of Thailand should fill protection gaps for Rohingya asylum seekers by:

  • Rescreening Rohingya for status as victims of human trafficking;

  • Implementing Cabinet Resolution no. 11/B.E.2559 to provide work opportunities and protection for witnesses in human trafficking trials;

  • Extending protections provided to victims of human trafficking to all survivors of the May 2015 boat crisis and eventually full protections to all asylum-seekers in Thailand;

  • Improving conditions in detention centers to meet international standards, ending indefinite detention, and providing UNHCR and NGOs with regular access to detainees;

  • Providing Rohingya interpreters and psychosocial care professionals for Rohingya in shelters.

  • Members of ASEAN and the Bali Process should take action on solutions discussed for addressing the threat of another regional boat crisis by:

  • Immediately setting up a task force on mixed movements of refugees and migrants as proposed at the May 29, 2015 Special Meeting on Irregular Migration in the Indian Ocean;

  • Providing funds for the ASEAN Trust Fund to Support Emergency Humanitarian and Relief Efforts in the Event of the Irregular Movement of Persons in Southeast Asia that were pledged at the July 2015 ASEAN Ministerial Meeting;

  • Agreeing to predetermined disembarkation points in the case of future regional boat crises;

  • Addressing the root causes behind the boat crisis by engaging the government of Myanmar on solutions, including granting citizenship to Rohingya in the long-term and freedom of movement in the short-term.

  • The United States should:

  • Include assessment of the effects of Malaysia and Thailand’s policies on Rohingya, including rescreening of Rohingya from the May 2015 boat crisis, in its Trafficking in Persons report for 2016.

Daniel Sullivan traveled to Malaysia and Thailand in September and October 2016 with RI colleague Alice Thomas and in consultation with Fortify Rights, an independent nonprofit human rights organization based in Southeast Asia. The mission assessed the situation for Rohingya refugees and the status of regional efforts to prepare for and prevent any future boat crises. RI would like to extend special thanks to Puttanee Kangkun at Fortify Rights for her assistance and for accompanying RI staff in Thailand.

Myanmar: Burma: Allow access to investigate abuses in Rakhine State

16 November 2016 - 10:01pm
Source: Human Rights Watch Country: Myanmar

Authorities admit destruction in Rakhine, but use flawed methodology to dispute scale

(Rangoon) – The Burmese government should allow human rights monitors and independent journalists prompt and unfettered access to northern Rakhine State to investigate alleged widespread property destruction and other rights abuses against ethnic Rohingya, Human Rights Watch said today.

At a news conference on November 16, 2016, Burma’s Office of the State Counsellor responded to a November 13 Human Rights Watch report that used satellite imagery to identify 430 destroyed buildings in three Rohingya villages in Maungdaw district. Zaw Htay, deputy director general of the President's Office, acknowledged there had been buildings burned in the three villages, but disputed the total number based on images collected on November 15, by a Burmese military helicopter. He also stated the government would lift restrictions on non-state media access to the area, which has been on lockdown since October 9, but provided no timeframe for doing so.

“The Burmese government’s confirmation of widespread fire damage in northern Rakhine State and offer to allow media access is a step toward getting at the truth of what happened,” said Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “But this is long overdue. Prompt and unhindered access to affected areas for independent investigations by the media and human rights organizations is crucial.”

After the October 9 attacks on three border outposts in Maungdaw township that left nine police officers dead, the military implemented a lockdown of the area, denying access to humanitarian aid groups, independent media, and rights monitors. Another outbreak of violence occurred starting on November 11, during which nearly a hundred people were reported killed. According to humanitarian groups, tens of thousands have been displaced by the violence. Humanitarian access to the area remains extremely limited.

Human Rights Watch’s analysis of high resolution satellite imagery recorded on October 22, November 3, and November 10, identified 85 buildings destroyed in Rohingya communities in Pyaung Pyit (Ngar Sar Kyu), 245 in Kyet Yoe Pyin, and 100 in Wa Peik (Kyee Kan Pyin). Human Rights Watch found that damage signatures in each of the assessed villages were consistent with fire, including the presence of large burn scars and destroyed tree cover. Because of dense tree cover it is likely that the actual number of destroyed buildings is higher than 430.

Local organizations have alleged the attacks on villages were carried out by government security forces, while the Burmese authorities have said they were carried out by Rohingya militant organizations.

The military’s “True News Information Team” released a statement on November 15, claiming that the buildings had been “torched by members of the violent attackers in northern Rakhine.” Zaw Htay also denied allegations of rape and sexual violence committed by security forces against Rohingya women and girls during the military’s “clearance operations.”

“The army’s use of oblique angle photographs taken from helicopters to assess the extent of the destruction is flawed and inadequate,” said Adams. “Very high resolution satellite imagery recorded both before and after the attacks provide a more accurate picture of the damage that has occurred over the past month. But even this limited amount of information shows the urgent need for free access for impartial investigations by human rights organizations, and the media.”

Myanmar: Myanmar: Populations at Risk - Current Crisis (15 November 2016)

16 November 2016 - 3:52pm
Source: Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect Country: Myanmar

Stateless Rohingya in Burma/Myanmar face systematic persecution that poses an existential threat to their community. Recent violence and ongoing human rights violations against the Rohingya amount to possible crimes against humanity.

BACKGROUND:

The situation in Arakan/Rakhine state in northwest Burma/Myanmar has deteriorated significantly following a series of attacks on border guard posts on 9 October, when nine police officers and eight unidentified attackers were killed. The government declared a state of emergency in Maungdaw and three other townships. Reports of mass arrests, rape, and extrajudicial killings of Rohingya – a distinct Muslim ethnic minority group - have surfaced since a joint army-police operation began on 10 October. Since 23 October army officers have forcibly removed more than 2,000 villagers from their homes. The army deployed helicopter gunships to several Rohingya villages on 12 and 13 November, resulting in the death of 2 soldiers and at least 25 civilians. Arakan/Rakhine state government officials have announced they will start recruiting and arming local citizens for an auxiliary police force, which Rohingya are ineligible to join.

Discriminatory state policies and systematic persecution in Burma/Myanmar continue to threaten the existence of the more than 1 million stateless Rohingya. The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra'ad al Hussein, has reported on the human rights situation of the Rohingya in Burma/Myanmar, detailing discriminatory practices targeting Rohingya on the basis of their identity. These "widespread and systematic" abuses amount to crimes against humanity.

Rohingyas were largely disenfranchised in advance of Burma/Myanmar's historic November 2015 elections and continue to be denied citizenship and other fundamental human rights. The National League for Democracy (NLD) leader Aung San Suu Kyi has publicly stated that her government will not use the term "Rohingya," cautioning against "emotive" and "controversial" terms.

An estimated 120,000 people, mostly Rohingyas, remain segregated in internally displaced persons (IDP) camps in Arakan/Rakhine state as a result of 2012 inter-communal violence. After visiting Rohingya displacement camps during February 2016, the Director of Operations for the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), John Ging, appealed for an end to the "discriminatory and repugnant policies" of segregation and disenfranchisement. The World Food Programme has reported that government authorities continue to deny humanitarian access to parts of Arakan/Rakhine state.

The cumulative impact of deteriorating living conditions, combined with ongoing persecution, has led tens of thousands of Rohingyas to flee to neighboring countries, where they are often subject to further abuse, human trafficking and refoulement. Many Rohingyas in Arakan/Rakhine state also face the ongoing threat of recurring violence at the hands of Buddhist extremists who reject their right to exist in Burma/Myanmar.

In March 2015 the former government invalidated the identification cards held by many Rohingyas, forcing them to apply for citizenship as "Bengalis," suggesting their illegal migration from Bangladesh. This follows the government denying Rohingyas the ability to self-identify on the national census of March 2014, the first since 1983. The UN Special Rapporteur for the human rights situation in Myanmar, Yanghee Lee, has previously highlighted the "right of the Rohingya to self-identification according to international human rights law."

Former President Thein Sein signed into law the last of four so-called "Protection of Race and Religion" bills in August 2015. These discriminatory laws place harsh restrictions on women and non-Buddhists, including on fundamental religious freedoms, as well as reproductive and marital rights.

On 23 August the office of State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi announced the establishment of a high-level advisory commission, headed by former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, to find solutions to "the complex and delicate issues in the Rakhine state." The commission convened its first meeting on 5 September in Yangon. On 18 September Arakan/Rakhine state's Minister for Security and Border Affairs announced plans to demolish thousands of Muslim homes, schools and mosques, claiming that the structures were built illegally.

The country's military forces (Tatmadaw) also pose an ongoing threat to other ethnic groups in Burma/Myanmar. While the previous government signed ceasefire agreements with several ethnic armed groups, conflict continues. The NLD government held a peace conference – the 21st Century Panglong - with ethnic armed groups from 31 August to 3 September. However, shortly after the conference fighting resumed in several states, including in northern Shan, Kachin and Karen.

ANALYSIS:

The recent violence in northwest Arakan/Rakhine state represents a dangerous escalation of the conflict between state security forces and the Rohingya minority, also potentially exacerbating tensions between Buddhist and Muslim communities across Burma/Myanmar.

The previous government's refusal to end discriminatory state policies against Rohingyas encouraged violations of their fundamental human rights and reinforced the dangerous perception of the Rohingya as ethnic outsiders. The Protection of Race and Religion bills were intended to eradicate the Rohingya's legal right to exist as a distinct ethnic group in Burma/Myanmar.

While the NLD government has made some progress towards democracy and advancing human rights, it has yet to repeal existing discriminatory laws and anti-Rohingya policies. The NLD government has an opportunity to drastically improve the plight of the Rohingya, including by utilizing the recently established high-level advisory commission.

With a pervasive culture of impunity, the military has not been held accountable for previous mass atrocity crimes, and there are grave fears for the safety of vulnerable Rohingya civilians as the security forces increase operations in Arakan/Rakhine state.

Despite some positive signs, the government of Burma/Myanmar is still failing to uphold its primary Responsibility to Protect with regard to the Rohingya.

INTERNATIONAL RESPONSE:

Following decades of military dictatorship, democratic reforms have contributed to rapprochement between Burma/Myanmar and the international community, including the lifting of sanctions by a number of countries.

On 7 July the European Parliament passed a resolution calling upon the government to abolish discriminatory policies and restore the Rohingya's citizenship. Citing progress on human rights under the leadership of Aung San Suu Kyi, the European Union (EU) announced on 16 September that it would not be submitting a UN General Assembly human rights resolution on Myanmar for the first time since 1991.

Following a meeting with Aung San Suu Kyi in Washington, on 7 October United States President Barack Obama formally announced that the United States is lifting its remaining sanctions on Myanmar because of the country's progress towards democracy.

On 14 October the high-level advisory commission on Rakhine state issued a statement "strongly [deploring] the violent attacks perpetrated in northern Rakhine State." On 24 October Special Rapporteur Lee – together with four other UN Special Rapporteurs – issued a joint statement condemning human rights violations in Burma/Myanmar, calling upon the government to undertake thorough investigations of all alleged abuses during Army operations and prevent incitement against the Rohingya.

NECESSARY ACTION:

While responding to the recent border post attacks, the NLD government must ensure that all security operations in Arakan/Rakhine state are fully compliant with international law. Authorities should ensure that humanitarian aid can reach vulnerable populations in Arakan/Rakhine state, including the Rohingya.

The government of Burma/Myanmar must uphold its Responsibility to Protect all populations, regardless of their ethnicity or religion. The NLD government should immediately abolish the Rakhine Action Plan and end institutionalized discrimination against the Rohingya, including the denial of citizenship. The government must prohibit hate speech and hold accountable all those who commit human rights abuses. The government should collaborate with the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) to open a UN human rights office in Burma/Myanmar.

In Arakan/Rakhine state the government must facilitate the safe, voluntary return of IDPs to their communities. Countries that receive Rohingya asylum seekers should offer them protection and assistance. The NLD government should urgently halt any proposed action to systematically demolish buildings belonging to Muslim and Rohingya communities in Arakan/Rakhine state.

The high-level advisory commission should investigate the systematic persecution of the Rohingya.

Last Updated: 15 November 2016

Myanmar: Hundreds of Rohingya flee Myanmar army crackdown to Bangladesh-sources

16 November 2016 - 3:12pm
Source: Reuters - Thomson Reuters Foundation Country: Bangladesh, Myanmar

Bloodshed in Rakhine state is most serious since 2012 when hundreds were killed in communal clashes

  • Some people trying to cross to Bangladesh gunned down-residents

  • Bloodshed most serious since communal clashes in 2012

  • More than 80 pushed away by Bangladesh, may be at sea

By Serajul Quadir and Wa Lone

DHAKA/SITTWE, Myanmar, Nov 16 (Reuters) - Hundreds of Rohingya Muslims are fleeing a military crackdown in western Myanmar to Bangladesh, trying to escape an upsurge of violence that has brought the total number of dead confirmed by the army to more than 130.

Read more on the Thomson Reuters Foundation

Myanmar: Statement by Kofi Annan, Chair of the Advisory Commission on Rakhine State on the recent violence in Rakhine State, Myanmar

16 November 2016 - 11:37am
Source: Advisory Commission on Rakhine State Country: Myanmar

As Chair of the Rakhine Advisory Commission, I wish to express my deep concern over the recent violence in northern Rakhine State, which is plunging the State into renewed instability and creating new displacement. All communities must renounce violence and I urge the security services to act in full compliance with the rule of law.

The Advisory Commission is mandated to provide recommendations to the Myanmar government on measures for resolving the complex challenges facing Rakhine State, which are holding back the State’s economic and social development. Recent events have reinforced the urgency of tackling these challenges in order to find viable solutions in the interest of all the people of the State.

Violence will not create an environment conducive to peace and inter-communal cohesion, which is a prerequisite for economic progress and prosperity. The interest of the people of Rakhine is best served through inclusive dialogue, by the promotion of mutual respect and cooperation and by providing local communities with opportunities to live their lives in dignity and to achieve their legitimate aspirations.

The Commission continues its work. We are grateful for the support we have already received and we encourage all communities to engage constructively with the Commission.

Myanmar: Myanmar: Floods - DREF operation update n° 2 (MDRMM007)

16 November 2016 - 1:40am
Source: International Federation of Red Cross And Red Crescent Societies Country: Myanmar

A. Situation analysis

Description of the disaster

Floods brought by monsoon rains that have been pounding parts of Myanmar since late July 2016 affected a number of townships in Sagaing, Mandalay, Bago, Ayeyarwady, Magway and Yangon region and to some extent, Kachin State. According to figures released by the Relief and Resettlement Department (RRD) on 9 August, at least 377,000 people were displaced from their homes in the six states, with Magway being the most affected area – where some 60,000 people have been displaced. Five people died – two in Sagaing, two in Kachin and one in Yangon. Many schools remained closed across affected areas as floodwater gradually moved south towards the Ayeyarwady Delta.

Over the weeks that followed the initial flooding, it was clear that the swelling of rivers would recede fairly quickly. The Myanmar Red Cross Society (MRCS) and the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) have monitored the situation closely until water levels went back to normal. All the temporary shelters were closed by 28 August, with affected people gradually returning to their villages.

In response to the floods, state and local governments led the response, sandbagging vulnerable areas along river banks and providing food, water, relief items, cash and shelter materials to affected people. The government’s emergency operations centre was not activated and the response is mostly being managed at the state/regional level using existing resources. The government is coordinating with the Red Cross Red Crescent, civil society organizations and other actors who are providing relief supplies including food, water and oral rehydration salts.

By Early October, the rains have lessen in intensity and the water level of previously flooded rivers has started to recede. Once the flooding subsided, the affected people started returning back to their homes and the needs for nonfood items and shelter drastically reduced.

Summary of current response

In order to address the needs of affected people, MRCS launched its operational response plan aiming to cover five regions with 21 townships. The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), upon request of the MRCS, allocated CHF 317,098 from the disaster relief emergency fund (DREF) on 19 August to support the National Society response plan aimed at meeting the immediate humanitarian needs affected populations. Under the DREF operation, thus far MRCS has assisted approximately 10,455 people (2,091 families) with hygiene parcels.

A minor adjustments within budget lines was made to the DREF operation through the DREF update issued on 4 October. The revision is mainly trigger by reducing needs for hygiene parcels and an increased focus on unconditional cash grants to enable the affected people to quickly recover and return to home.

Learning from last year’s floods operation, MRCS was well aware of the need to invest sufficient resources and headstart in advocacy work with the local authorities and administration as well as the affected communities. However this process took longer than expected as the intervention was in new areas which were not affected by last year’s floods.

MRCS assessed the needs of the affected communities as recommended by the authorities, followed by relevant advocacy and preparations work with various stakeholders. The process in most of the intervention areas was fairly smooth, with the exception of West Bago where the preparation and advocacy required more time to complete.

The MRCS EOC activated at the onset of the floods was running on a weekly basis until mid-October. After which the EOC was put on standby and operation was carried out following the non-emergency operating procedures of MRCS.

Myanmar: Nearly 70 Killed by Myanmar Security Forces to Date in Rakhine State

16 November 2016 - 12:02am
Source: Radio Free Asia Country: Myanmar

Myanmar security forces have killed nearly 70 “insurgents” and detained more than 230 others in violence that has occurred in Rakhine state’s Maungdaw township since deadly attacks on border guard stations and subsequent clashes with armed groups last month, the country’s armed forces said on Monday.

Rohingya “terrorists” set fire to six villages and ran away, though residents have blamed soldiers for the arson, the military’s announcement said.

Local residents and rights activists have accused the armed forces of killing civilians, raping women, and burning down homes in the areas under security lockdown, where the majority of residents are Rohingya. Though the army has denied the allegations, it has not permitted independent observers or journalists to enter the area.

Nearly 230 houses and other buildings have been burned since the Oct. 9 attacks, and nine clashes between military units and attackers have occurred with nine instances of soldiers opening fire on attackers and three instances of attackers bombing military vehicles, the army said.

During the attacks, seven army soldiers, including a military unit commander, were killed, and five were injured, the announcement said. Ten policemen also died in the attacks, and six were injured.

Security forces transferred the 234 people it arrested to the Myanmar Police Force which released 23 after it was determined that they had not been involved in any of the attacks.

During the weekend, Myanmar soldiers killed roughly 30 villagers they say attacked them with machetes and wooden clubs in an upsurge in violence in the area.

About 200 Rohingya—mostly women and children—have fled the violence and are stranded at the Bangladesh border, where Bangladeshi guards have refused to let them pass, Agence France-Presse reported on Tuesday, citing community leaders. A border guard spokesman, however, put the figure at closer to 80, the report said.

Rakhine commission visit

The recent upsurge in violence has prompted the Myanmar government’s Rakhine Advisory Commission to meet with representatives from the state government and ethnic Rakhine and Muslims communities on Monday in Rakhine’s capital Sittwe.

Saw Khin Tint, a commission member, said the panel wants to visit Maungdaw township to survey the security situation.

“We have plans to visit Maungdaw, but we can’t make the trip because of security reasons,” the chairwoman of the Rakhine Literature and Culture Association in Yangon and vice chairwoman of the Rakhine Women’s Association said.

“We will visit Rakhine villages and refugee camps and Bengali villages and refugee camps tomorrow and will listen to what the people have to say,” she said, using a derogatory term for Rohingya that is used by Myanmar’s Buddhists, who view the Muslims as illegal immigrants from Bangladesh.

The Myanmar government formed the nine-member commission, led by former United Nations chief Kofi Annan, on Aug. 24 to work on conflict resolution, humanitarian assistance, and development issues in the impoverished and restive western state.

Diplomats from the United Nations, United States, and other countries visited Maungdaw earlier this month and got the government to agree to allow humanitarian aid workers into the area.

The latest spate of attacks has been the bloodiest since 2012 when more than 200 people died during communal violence between Buddhists and Rohingya Muslims, and tens of thousands of Rohingya were forced into squalid internally displaced persons camps where they are denied basic rights, including that of citizenship.

Reported by Min Thein Aung for RFA’s Myanmar Service. Translated by Khet Mar. Written in English by Roseanne Gerin.

Syrian Arab Republic: R2P monitor - 15 November 2016 issue 30

15 November 2016 - 5:16pm
Source: Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect Country: Burundi, Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Iraq, Myanmar, Nigeria, Philippines, South Sudan, Sudan, Syrian Arab Republic, Yemen

R2P Monitor is a bimonthly bulletin applying the Responsibility to Protect lens to populations at risk of mass atrocities around the world. Issue 30 looks at developments in Syria, Iraq, Yemen, Sudan, Burma/Myanmar, South Sudan, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Burundi, Nigeria, Central African Republic and Philippines.

Myanmar: Myanmar: Safety concerns for people in North Rakhine

15 November 2016 - 3:18pm
Source: Amnesty International Country: Myanmar

After attacks on police outposts in the north of Myanmar’s Rakhine State, the authorities initiated a major security operation placing thousands of already vulnerable people at risk. Amid reports of human rights violations by security forces, access for humanitarian organizations, independent journalists and human rights monitors has been restricted.

On 9 October, unknown assailants attacked three police outposts in the north of Myanmar’s Rakhine State, killing nine Boarder Guard Police officers and seizing weapons and ammunition. Following the attacks, the authorities initiated a major security operation and sealed off the area, placing thousands of already vulnerable people at risk.

Before the start of the security operation, around 150,000 people in northern Rakhine State, home to the majority of Myanmar’s Rohingya population, were reliant on humanitarian services. This is in large part due to severe restrictions on their movement and other rights. Since 9 October, the authorities have restricted humanitarian access to the area, suspending regular humanitarian services and preventing an assessment of the needs of an estimated 15,000 newly displaced people. Tightened restrictions on movement have also meant many Rohingyas are confined to their villages. Access to healthcare, including lifesaving medical-treatment, is also restricted. On 6 November, the World Food Programme (WFP) was allowed to conduct a rapid assessment in four affected villages and was able to supply food aid, however other villages in the area have yet to receive any aid or assistance.

Amnesty International is also deeply concerned about continuing allegations of human rights violations being committed against Rohingyas by members of the Myanmar security forces in the context of security operations. These includes reports of unlawful killings, rape and other crimes of sexual violence, and arbitrary arrest and detention. The government has denied these allegations, yet has effectively barred independent observers and human rights monitors from accessing the area.

Myanmar: Buddhist aid workers face backlash for helping Myanmar's Rohingya Muslims

15 November 2016 - 8:14am
Source: IRIN Country: Myanmar

Soe Aung works for an international aid agency in his hometown of Sittwe, the capital of Myanmar’s Rakhine State. It’s a good job, but he isn’t eager to discuss it in a public setting or outside his close circle of friends and family. That’s because his agency helps Rohingya Muslims.

Read more on IRIN.

World: Mapping Fragile and Conflict-Affected Situations in Asia and the Pacific: The ADB Experience

15 November 2016 - 6:52am
Source: Asian Development Bank Country: Afghanistan, Kiribati, Marshall Islands, Micronesia (Federated States of), Myanmar, Nauru, Nepal, Papua New Guinea, Philippines, Solomon Islands, Timor-Leste, Tuvalu, Vanuatu, World

This study maps out the major weaknesses of each fragile situation on the latest country performance assessment exercises and identifies overall common issues that need special attention.

While investments in transport, energy, education, health, private sector development, and other areas remain necessary, much more must be done to ensure that these investments are sustainable. Rethinking ADB’s engagement in fragile countries is critically important. This must be backed by a comprehensive understanding of the governance, institutional, political, and social issues that are behind each country’s exposure to conflict or fragility.

Findings show that the weakest areas in fragile and conflict-affected countries are policies for social inclusion/equity, followed by structural policies, and public sector management and institutions. Economic management has generally the highest ranking or is the strongest area in many such countries.

Myanmar: Clashes in Myanmar's Rakhine raise weekend death toll to about 30-state media

14 November 2016 - 11:59am
Source: Reuters - Thomson Reuters Foundation Country: Myanmar

by Reuters
Monday, 14 November 2016 05:57 GMT

Satellite images show widespread destruction of Rohingya villages, including 430 homes burnt down, Human Rights Watch says

TAUNGGYI, Myanmar, Nov 14 (Reuters) - Myanmar's military has killed about 30 members of what it has described as a Rohingya Muslim militant group, state media said on Monday, marking the largest escalation of the conflict since fighting erupted in the northwest a month ago.

The weekend's killings in restive Rakhine state have essentially destroyed any hopes for a swift resolution to the fighting and a gradual restoration of communal ties, observers and diplomats say.

Read more on the Thomson Reuters Foundation

Philippines: Asia and the Pacific: Weekly Regional Humanitarian Snapshot (8 - 14 November 2016)

14 November 2016 - 4:15am
Source: UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs Country: Indonesia, Myanmar, New Zealand, Philippines

NEW ZEALAND

On 14 November, a 7.5 magnitude earthquake struck northeast of Christchurch on South Island at a depth of 15 km. The media reported at least two people were killed. Following the earthquake, a two meter tsunami was recorded in Kaikoura. The Ministry of Civil Defence and Emergency Management (CDEM) immediately issued a tsunami land warning for the East Cape to Southland, including Wellington and the Chatham Islands but has since been cancelled. A state of emergency was declared in Kaikoura.

Evacuations were conducted along the coastal areas with local authorities leading the response. The National Crisis Management Centre is activated to provide support as required. To date, no international request for assistance has been made.

INDONESIA

Between 10 and 13 November, incessant rains across Java Island and in Aceh and Jambi provinces triggered floods and flash floods. It is estimated that tens of thousands people were affected, although some local governments were unable to provide data as the floods rapidly receded. In Jambi, one person was killed by flash floods. As the rainy season is expected to continue until March 2017, the National Agency for Disaster Management (BNPB) warned that 41 million people across Indonesia are at moderate or high at risk of landslides.

41 Million people at risk of landslides

MYANMAR

From 8 to 10 November, WFP distributed 60 tons of food to about 7,200 people in four villages of northern Rakhine State which have been inaccessible since the 9 October armed attacks. While this limited access is welcome, thousands of people remain in need of humanitarian assistance with up to 15,000 people displaced in the area of security operations. In addition, 260 ethnic Rakhine IDPs remain displaced in Buthidaung and Maungdaw.

Humanitarian services, including food, cash and nutrition for more than 150,000 people, have now been suspended for more than a month. Advocacy continues for access to conduct assessments, deliver life-saving assistance and resume regular services. On 12 November, new clashes were reported in Rakhine State leading to an unconfirmed number of deaths arrests.

15,000 people displaced

PHILIPPINES

As of 10 November, about 31,000 people are displaced in Region III (Central Luzon) by Typhoon Haima, which hit the Philippines on 19 October. Of the total number of displaced people, 3,600 people remain inside evacuation centres in the provinces of Tarlac, Bulacan and Pampanga. Nearly 270,000 houses were destroyed, mostly in Cagayan and Isabela provinces. The Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) continues to lead the government’s transition to recovery, providing emergency shelter funds and cash-for-work programming to affected families.

Myanmar: Burma: Massive Destruction in Rohingya Villages

12 November 2016 - 10:15pm
Source: Human Rights Watch Country: Myanmar

Satellite Images Show 430 Burned Buildings; UN-Aided Inquiry Needed

(New York) – High-definition satellite imagery shows widespread fire-related destruction in ethnic Rohingya villages in Burma's Rakhine State, Human Rights Watch said today. The Burmese government should immediately invite the United Nations to assist in investigating reported destruction of villages in the area.

“New satellite images not only confirm the widespread destruction of Rohingya villages but show that it was even greater than we first thought,” said Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “Burmese authorities should promptly establish a UN-assisted investigation as a first step toward ensuring justice and security for the victims.”

Human Rights Watch identified a total of 430 destroyed buildings in three villages of northern Maungdaw district from an analysis of very high resolution satellite imagery recorded on the mornings of October 22, November 3, and November 10, 2016. Of this total, 85 buildings were destroyed in the village of Pyaung Pyit (Ngar Sar Kyu), 245 in Kyet Yoe Pyin, and 100 in Wa Peik (Kyee Kan Pyin). Damage signatures in each of the assessed villages were consistent with fire, including the presence of large burn scars and destroyed tree cover. Because of dense tree cover it is possible that the actual number of destroyed buildings is higher.

In addition to satellite imagery reviewed by Human Rights Watch, reports by human rights organizations, the media, and members of a delegation of nine foreign ambassadors who visited some impacted areas on November 2-3 confirm that the damage was substantial. The delegation conducted no formal investigation or assessment but confirmed that they saw burned structures in several towns.

The crisis follows violence on October 9 in which gunmen attacked three police outposts in Maungdaw township in northern Rakhine State near the Bangladesh border, leaving nine police officers dead. The government said that the attackers made off with dozens of weapons and thousands of rounds of ammunition. The Burmese government asserts the attack was carried out by a Rohingya group, but actual responsibility remains unclear.

Immediately after the attacks, government forces declared Maungdaw an “operation zone” and began sweeps of the area to find the attackers and lost weapons. They severely restricted the freedom of movement of local populations and imposed extended curfews, which remain in place. A UN-assisted investigation needs to examine the deadly attacks on border guard posts on October 9, and allegations by the media and local groups that government security forces subsequently committed summary killings, sexual violence, torture, arbitrary arrests, arson, and other abuses against Rohingya villagers in Maungdaw district, Human Rights Watch said.

On October 28, Reuters published interviews with Rohingya women who allege that Burmese soldiers raped them. The government also allegedly pressured the Myanmar Times to fire one of its editors who reported allegations of rape by Burmese army soldiers. Government-imposed restrictions on access to the area by journalists and human rights monitors continue to hinder impartial information gathering.

A second attack on a border guard post in Maungdaw was reported to have occurred on November 3. The attack reportedly resulted in the death of one police officer.

Burma is obligated under international law to conduct thorough, prompt, and impartial investigations of alleged human rights violations, prosecute those responsible, and provide adequate redress for victims of violations. Standards for such investigations can be found, for example, in the UN Principles on the Effective Prevention and Investigation of Extra-legal, Arbitrary and Summary Executions, and the UN Guidance on Commissions of Inquiry and Fact-Finding Missions. Burma’s failure to conduct such investigations in the past underscores the need for UN assistance, Human Rights Watch said.

Reuters has reported that the military has ignored the civilian government’s request for more information about the situation.

“The Burmese armed forces are not only keeping independent observers out of affected Rohingya areas, they apparently aren’t even telling their own government what happened,” Adams said. “The authorities need to allow the UN, the media, and rights monitors unfettered access into the area to determine what happened and what needs to be done.”

The government recently granted the World Food Programme (WFP) access to four villages for a one-time food delivery. However, humanitarian aid groups continue to be denied full access, placing tens of thousands of already vulnerable people at greater risk. The vast majority of villages are not receiving any assistance, and the area remains sealed to humanitarian assessment teams and human rights groups. A statement by the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) on November 8 noted that the children in northern Rakhine State already suffer from high levels of deprivation and malnutrition. “Their futures depend on help from doctors, nurses, teachers and others who can provide them with nutrition, health and education services,” the statement said.

The Burmese government should immediately deliver on its assurances to resume humanitarian aid to all impacted areas, Human Rights Watch said.

“The Burmese government and military should immediately allow humanitarian access to vulnerable populations,” Adams said. “The UN and concerned governments need to dial up the pressure on the authorities to ensure aid reaches all affected areas as this crisis enters its second month.”

Myanmar: Myanmar: UN envoy urges investigation into alleged sexual assaults after violence flares in Rakhine state

11 November 2016 - 7:12pm
Source: UN News Service Country: Myanmar

11 November 2016 – Gravely concerned about allegations of rape and sexual assault of women and girls in Northern Rakhine state in Myanmar following recent border attacks, Zainab Hawa Bangura, the United Nations Special Representative on Sexual Violence in Conflict called today on the Government to ensure that an impartial and effective investigation is conducted into the alleged incidents.

It is also vital to provide enough access for the humanitarian organizations to intervene and ensure life-saving clinical management and psycho-social support services for survivors, and end access restrictions on human rights monitors and member of the media, she added in a statement issued by her Office.

The envoy warned that there might be more similar incidents of sexual assaults in the future as the escalation of the violence continues, and urged to the Government of Myanmar to act now to prevent any future incidents.

“These are not isolated incidents but are part of a wider pattern of ethnically motivated violence that my office has tracked over the past several years. It is critical to end impunity for sexual violence, and I would remind the relevant authorities that human rights must be respected even in the context of counter-insurgency operations,” said Mrs. Bangura.

Finally, the Special Representative stressed that her Office will continue to monitor the situation, provide any necessary support to the survivors, and hold perpetrators of conflict-related sexual violence accountable.

Myanmar: Japan grants US$71,543 for a flood affcted school

11 November 2016 - 5:50pm
Source: The Global New Light of Myanmar Country: Japan, Myanmar

The Japanese Government, under its Grant Assistance for Grassroots Human Security Projects (GGP) Scheme, has granted US$71,543 for the Project for Construction of Hta Naung Gone Village Basic Education Branch High School in Pwint Phyu Township, Magway Region.

This is the first handover ceremony for the reconstruction and rehabilitation of 493 schools requested by the Myanmar Government to the Japanese Government.

The handover ceremony of the project took place in Pwint Phyu Township on 8th November 2016. Mr. Hideaki MATSUO, Counselor of the Embassy of Japan, Dr. Aung Moe Nyo, Chief Minister of Magway Region, Committee Chairperson, committee members of the construction project, and local residents attended the ceremony.

Due to the lack of sufficient classrooms, students of Hta Naung Gone Village Basic Education Branch High School have been studying in congested classrooms for years and often have been disturbed by noise caused in classrooms. Furthermore, the flood occurred in July 2015 caused serious damages to the school Building 2, which nearly collapsed and was in dangerous condition for the students to study.

To address these challenges, the Japanese Government, under its GGP scheme, provided funding for construction of a 120’x30’ one-storey R.C.C building with full furniture.

The project will benefit 728 students of the school and promote disaster prevention in the area.

Myanmar: Overview of the September 2016 3W - Kachin State

11 November 2016 - 6:31am
Source: Myanmar Information Management Unit Country: Myanmar

The MIMU 3W gathers inputs from participating humanitarian and development agencies on Who is doing What, Where, across Myanmar. This exercise is currently conducted every 6 months, gathering information on agencies’ activities at village/township level (MIMU Village level 3W) as well as in IDP camps (MIMU Camp 3W).

210 agencies participated in the September 2016 3W, providing information on their activities in 22 sectors and 154 sub-sectors which have been defined by technical/sector working groups. Currently the 3W reporting is quite comprehensive for projects of INGO, UN and Red Cross agencies, but there is still likely to be under-reporting of the specific activities of field-based local NGOs and CBOs. Some reporting agencies do not report village information – as such their work cannot be reflected in the village tract maps and tables or the village level Online 3W.

This overview of the 3W results in Kachin describes projects under implementation as of September 9, 2016. Further information on planned and recently completed projects is available from the 3W dataset, published on the MIMU website and, at a glance, through the MIMU 3W Township Dashboard, http://themimu.info/3w-dashboard

Organizations active in Kachin State

In total, 51 agencies reported activities in Kachin state - 39 are engaged in Development Focused activities (488 villages), 15 are engaged in activities which target IDP and Host Community (223 villages) and 18 are active in IDP-only Focused activities. IDP-related projects were reported in a total of 150 camps or camp-like settings.

In all there were a total of 105 projects in Kachin State, namely 68 Development-focused projects and 32 projects linked in some way to work with IDPs (IDP & Host Community or IDP- only focused projects).

For the development-focused activities: 39 organizations reported 68 projects under implementation in Kachin that are village or township based. The majority are NGOs. In terms of project spread, most of the projects are in Myitkyina (79 Villages), Bhamo (72), Mogaung (70), Mansi (57) and Momauk (52) townships.

For the IDP & Host Community and IDP-only focused activities: 25 organizations reported 32 projects under implementation in 289 villages and 150 IDP camps. The majority are INGOs and UN agencies. In terms of project spread by township, most of the projects are in Puta-O (68 villages, 2 camps), Waingmaw (44 villages, 28 camps), Momauk (33 villages and 21 camps), Bhamo (30 villages, 11 camps), Myitkyina (29 Villages and 25 camps) and Mansi (22 villages and 17 camps).