Myanmar - ReliefWeb News
By NAN LWIN HNIN PWINT & HTET NAING ZAW / THE IRRAWADDY| Monday, August 29, 2016 |
The Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA), the Ta’ang National Liberation Army (TNLA) and the Arakan Army (AA), ethnic armed groups that have fought alongside each other in northern Shan State, will be barred from attending the Union Peace Conference.
The Burmese military had demanded, as a precondition to their joining formal peace negotiations, that these armed groups release a statement committing to give up arms, at some unspecified point in the future.
The three groups agreed to issue a statement, but insisted that the wording be changed from “the path of taking up arms” to “armed conflict,” in terms of what they would commit to giving up.
Deputy director-general of the State Counselor’s Office U Zaw Htay confirmed that the government would not be extending invitations to the three groups to attend the Union Peace Conference—now branded the “21st Century Panglong Conference”—because “an agreement has not yet been reached.”
He said the government would “keep the doors open,” but with the conference scheduled to begin on Wednesday, their absence seems certain. It also appears that the government, headed by the National League for Democracy, which has pushed an “inclusive” line on the conference, would not be able to invite the groups without the consent of the military.
The Burmese military has told the media that their request to the three armed groups was motivated chiefly by the high-intensity fighting they experienced with the MNDAA—and their allies the TNLA and the AA—in the Kokang region of northern Shan state in early 2015. The Burma Army sustained heavy causalities over three months of fighting.
The Burmese military has since viewed these three groups as a graver threat to national sovereignty than other ethnic armed groups in Burma, who have not been asked to make any commitments to disarm prior to joining peace negotiations, and most of whom have bilateral ceasefire agreements with the Burmese government.
Lt-Col Tar Phone Kyaw of the TNLA told The Irrawaddy: “We want to attend the 21st Century Panglong Conference. But, we can’t attend because the government has not invited us.”
The five-day peace conference, starting on Wednesday, will be repeated every six months under current plans, implying a long and complex process. The (military-controlled) Ministry of Home Affairs will oversee heightened security during the conference—higher than was seen during the 2013 Southeast Asian Games held in Burma—according to U Zaw Htay.
“Since we have received a threatening message from ISIS […] the Home Affairs Ministry will provide close-range security,” U Zaw Htay told a press conference in Naypyidaw on Friday.
The Straits Times reported on Aug. 2 that Burma’s State Counselor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, alongside top politicians and officials in Malaysia, was on a “hit list” purportedly from the Islamist terrorist group ISIS that was sent to Malaysian police the day before.
“We are planning to accommodate [participants] at six hotels in Naypyidaw, where full security will be provided, alongside health services,” said U Zaw Htay.
Of the six hotels, U Zaw Htay would only name the Kempinski and the Shwe San Ein. Transportation would be provided for all participants, he said.
Translated from Burmese by Thet Ko Ko.
This is a joint-report from KHRG, THWEE Community Development Network, and Karen Environmental and Social Action Network (KESAN). It details human rights violations surrounding the construction of the Asian Highway in Thin Gan Nyi Naung to Kawkareik, Dooplaya District, which was completed in August 2015. These violations include the lack of Free, Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC) for affected communities, and armed conflict aggravated by construction, impacting civilians living along the Highway. The main actors identified are the Asian Development Bank (ADB) and the Myanmar Ministry of Construction (MoC) who are leading the construction. This joint-report also raises concerns about further violations should construction continue as planned from Kawkareik to Eindu, Dooplaya District. The report concludes with detailed recommendations to stakeholders in the Asian Highway Development Project.Beautiful Words, Ugly Actions: The Asian Highway in Karen State, Burma
To facilitate economic growth in the border towns of Mae Sot and Myawaddy, as well as the rest of Thailand and Myanmar, a new section of the Asian Highway from Thin Gan Nyi Naung to Kawkareik was completed in August 2015. Another section of the road will soon be developed Between Kawkareik and Eindu, which will shorten travel times even more. The Asian Highway route is located in The middle of the world’s longest-‐running civil war in Southeastern Myanmar’s Karen State, and its construction has involved various human rights violations.
The Asian Development Bank (ADB) and Thailand’s Neighboring Countries Economic Development Cooperation gency NEDA) have been financing highway construction efforts to complete the missing link of both the Asian Highway 1 (AH1) and the East--‐West Economic Corridor (EWEC), a flagship project of the Greater Mekong Subregion (GMS) program. The first section of the Asian Highway in Karen State from Thin Gan Nyi Naung to Kawkareik was funded by NEDA. The ADB will fund the construction of the second section from Kawkareik to Eindu.
Control of the highway areas. These outbreaks of violence have led to displacement and injuries to people living along the road – some villagers have even been killed in the crossfire. In July 2015, the Myanmar military and its Border Guard Forces sought to take control of the territories along the route that have long been controlled by other Ethnic Armed Organizations. As a result, fighting broke out between the Myanmar military and the Democratic Karen Buddhist Army (DKBA), displacing over 1,000 people. As of August 2016, due to safety and security concerns, some have still not been able to return home. The most recent violent incidents took place in January, May and August 2016, and the continued threat of further clashes instills constant fear among villagers in these areas.
The construction of the NEDA segment of the Asian Highway between Thin Gan Nyi Naung and Kawkareik clearly violated the right to Free, Prior, and Informed Consent (FPIC) of local communities. The affected villagers were not properly given notice or consulted about the 2 project, only finding out about it once construction began. At least 17 households were forcefully dispossessed of their lands and properties after receiving an order letter missued by the Burma/Myanmar government. Villagers were coerced into accepting unfair compensation for their losses. There was no publicly accessible evidence of either an IEE or an EIA having been conducted for the project.
The ADB and the government’s Ministry of Construction (MoC) appear poised to repeat these mistakes in relation to a planned upgrade of the highway between Kawkareik and Eindu. It remains unclear how many people will lose their land to a recently demarcated road boundary extension for a government Right of Way, which the MoC has excluded from its resettlement plan. Villagers still do not know how they would be compensated, as they have not been provided with clear information. Even with the poor human rights record during the construction of Asian Highway section from Thin Gan Nyi Naung to Kawkareik, the ADB has entrusted the Myanmar Ministry of Construction to responsibly carry out sensitive resettlement and compensation activities without independent oversight.
In regards to both sections of the highway, completed or planned, all affected peoples must be appropriately informed of the project impacts in a manner that is accessible to them. All information relevant to them cannot be withheld from the communities or civil society. They must be given an opportunity to have their concerns heard and addressed in a tangible manner, and should have been involved sooner in the project planning process.
We call on NEDA to commission an independent Environmental and Social Impact Review of the Thin Gan Nyi Naung to Kawkareik section of the Asian Highway. Such a review is necessary in order to assess the damage to livelihoods and environment, to make appropriate reparations to the people who have already been displaced and dispossessed, as well as to effectively remediate the damage to soils, water, and forests.
For the ADB and MoC to avoid committing the same mistakes during the planned upgrade for the Kawkareik to Eindu section of the highway, there are several steps that need to be taken.
First and foremost, land rights along the highway route need to be clarified in a transparent, impartial and inclusive process. If displacement cannot be avoided, the resettlement processes need to adhere to international best practices, and the displaced should be given a choice of adequate resettlement options, which they can agree tom without being threatened or coerced. A credible, accessible, and fair grievance redress mechanism for affected people needs to be established to prevent corporate and state impunity when implementing large--‐scale development projects. These stringent measures must be taken to prevent further violations of Karen and other communities’ human rights.
As the international financier of the Asian Highway section from Kawkareik to Eindu, the ADB has the responsibility to ensure that the Burma/Myanmar government adheres to its safeguard policy regarding displacement and resettlement, and to take the appropriate measures to address failures of its borrowers to meet its procedural standards.
With a full peace agreement still pending, road construction projects will only Continue to fuel tensions between armed groups competing over the control of the highway area. Large--‐scale development projects should not move forward, unless a clear benefit--‐sharing scheme between the central government and the ethnic groups is established through political agreements. Without doing so, the potential for armed conflict to break out will continue to exist, and the economic development intended to improve the lives of the people of Burma/Myanmar will only cause further suffering for the communities living in these areas.
Myanmar: Two separate landmine incidents happened in Hpapun and Nyaunglebin districts, March and April 2016
This News Bulletin describes two separate landmine incidents. One incident occurred in March 2016, in Dwe Lo Township, Hpapun District, and the other incident occurred in April, in Mone Township, Nyaunglebin District.
On March 16th 2016 at 8:00 am, a 42 year old male C--- villager named Saw B--- stepped on a landmine when he was clearing his hill farm. He was hospitalised at ICRC hospital and his right leg was amputated.
On April 26th 2016, a 25 year old Bamar ethnic villager of E--- village, named Maung G---, was hit by a landmine when he was going to collect firewood near his cultivation land_. He did not sustain a serious injury, but the landmine injured one of his cows and damaged his bullock cart._
Both landmines are suspected to have been planted by KNLA soldiers; however, neither victim received any support from the KNLA.
On March 16th 2016, at around 8:00 am, a 42 year old male C--- villager named Saw B--- (also known as H---) stepped on landmine at his hill farm at K--- (also known as L---), C--- village, between K’Ter Tee and Lay Hpoh Hta village tracts, Dwe Lo Township, Hpapun District. His right leg was blown off and his side was injured by the landmine shrapnel, which rendered him unconscious. The villager had gone to clear his hill farm with two friends, but only he stepped on the landmine. After he sustained the landmine injury, he was sent to hospital in Ka Ma Maung Town. However, since the injuries he sustained were serious, he was later hospitalised for treatment at the ICRC (International Committee of the Red Cross) hospital in Taung Ka Lay Town.
Village head of C--- village gave Saw B--- 1,000 kyat (US $0.82) for travel and food costs while he was in the hospital. Saw B--- was hospitalised for one week at ICRC hospital; after he was discharged the hospital provided him with a prosthetic leg. He returned to his village and a trained medic cured [treated] the remaining injury there. Saw B--- is married and has five children. He earns a living by working on a hill farm, and when he did not have enough food for his family, he did casual daily work; due to his landmine injury, his family will now face difficulty.
The local villagers reported to a KHRG community member that the landmine Saw B--- stepped on was old, and they do not know which armed group planted it. Tatmadaw, BGF and KNLA(Karen National Liberation Army) soldiers operate around C--- village. Some villagers suspect that the landmine was planted by the KNLA during the conflict period, to target Tatmadaw soldiers who used to patrol in Lay Hpoh Hta areas controlled by KNU (Karen National Union), but some villagers remain uncertain.
On April 26th 2016, a 25 year old Bamar ethnic E--- villager named Maung G--- was hit by a landmine when he went to collect firewood near his cultivation land. Maung G--- reported to a KHRG community member that when he was going to his cultivation land with a bullock cart to collect firewood, one of the bullock’s wheels was hit by a landmine at H--- area, which is close to a jungle and one mile from E--- village. He sustained some injuries on his leg from landmine shrapnel, one of his cows was injured, and one of his bullock’s wheels was damaged by the landmine explosion.
According to Maung G---, the landmine was newly planted, and he suspects it was planted by KNLA’s Company #1 soldiers. He also mentioned that the KNU prohibited people from logging in that jungle, so they planted landmines intending to warn people not to log there. He added that the KNU went to inform people in E--- village not to go beyond the H--- River. The reason why he was hit by a landmine is because he has cultivation land beyond H--- River, so he went there to work and collect firewood. He also added that he did not see a sign marking a landmine in the area where his bullock cart was hit. Before Maung G--- was hit by the landmine, he saw that small trees were cut and lying on the road, but he did not think it was a landmine mark because people in the area often cut trees in the jungle.
The day after the landmine explosion, the local Tatmadaw and KNLA leaders came to the village and questioned him about the incident. The local KNU leaders asked him why he went to an area that he had been told not to go, and he replied that he needed firewood, so he went to collect it. The KNU leaders told him that as he had knowingly gone there, he must deal with the consequences himself. The KNU leaders also asked him if he did it with the purpose of creating a misunderstanding between Tatmadaw and KNU. Maung G--- did not receive any support from the KNLA. He mentioned that villagers from E--- village used to collect vegetables and firewood in the area, but since he was hit by the landmine people no longer dare to go there.FOOTNOTES
 This News Bulletin was written by KHRG office staff and is based on information from a community member from Nyaunglebin and Hpapun districts who has been trained by KHRG to monitor local human rights conditions. It summarises information from one situation update and three interviews received by KHRG in April and May 2016. In order to increase the transparency of KHRG methodology and more directly communicate the experiences and perspectives of villagers in southeastern Burma/Myanmar, KHRG aims to make all field information received available on the KHRG website once it has been processed and translated, subject only to security considerations. For additional reports categorised by Type, Issue, Location and Year, please see the Related Readings component following each report on KHRG’s website.
 _Saw_ is a S’gaw Karen male honorific title used before a person’s name.
 All conversion estimates for the kyat in this report are based on the 26
th August 2016 official market rate of 1,213.64 kyats to US $1.
 Border Guard Force (BGF) battalions of the Tatmadaw were established in 2010, and they are composed mostly of soldiers from former non-state armed groups, such as older constellations of the DKBA, which have formalised ceasefire agreements with the Burma/Myanmar government and agreed to transform into battalions within the Tatmadaw. BGF battalions are assigned four digit battalion numbers, whereas regular Tatmadaw infantry battalions are assigned two digit battalion numbers and light infantry battalions are identified by two or three-digit battalion numbers. For more information, see “DKBA officially becomes Border Guard Force” _Democratic Voice of Burma_, August 2010, and “Exploitation and recruitment under the DKBA in Pa’an District,” KHRG, June 2009.
 The Karen National Liberation Army is the armed wing of the KNU.
 The Karen National Union is the main Karen group opposing the government.
 Maung is a Burmese male honorific title used before a person’s name.
21st Century Panglong Conference (31 Aug – 5 Sep)
GENEVA (29 August 2016) – Speaking ahead of a crucial peace conference in Myanmar, United Nations independent expert Yanghee Lee has urged participants to prioritise human rights issues in their discussions over the coming days, and to do more to ensure the process is fully inclusive.
The 21st Century Panglong Conference, which will take place in the capital Naypyidaw from 31 August to 5 September, is the first major peace conference held in Myanmar since Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy assumed power in late March 2016.
“Discrimination, land rights, equitable sharing of natural resources are at the heart of the conflict in Myanmar, and therefore must also be at the heart of the peace discussions and solutions,” said the UN the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar. “It is only by addressing and prioritising these issues that the durable peace desired by the people of Myanmar can be achieved.”
“A lot is at stake with this Panglong Conference,” Ms. Lee stressed. “As with the peace process generally in Myanmar, this is the opportunity to transform the country, into a state that the people of Myanmar have wanted for several decades. But to do so it must be fully inclusive.”
The human rights expert drew special attention to women’s participation as a vital ingredient in successful and transformative peace agreements. “Unfortunately,” she warned, “women will be underrepresented in the coming discussions despite making up over half of the population in Myanmar.”
Noting that civil society will have a parallel peace forum, Ms. Lee also underlined the need for “civil society organisations, who have been on the front lines of the conflict, to be fully involved in the process at every level.”
“Young people, whose futures are most affected by the outcome of the conference should also have a voice in this and future discussions,” the human rights expert said. “But the young people themselves must also remember the importance of inclusivity not just amongst armed groups but within all communities.”
Ms. Lee called the conference “a historic moment” but cautioned against celebrating too much too early. “This is the first brick into the paving of a long road ahead. There is so much, much more to be discussed and negotiated after the first 21st Panglong Conference.” She called for all parties to “be committed and to work together in full steam to achieve a sustainable, inclusive and transformative peace.”
“This is the beginning of the process of creating a beautiful mosaic of a diverse, harmonious, and peaceful new Myanmar,” emphasised the UN Special Rapporteur.
Ms. Yanghee Lee (Republic of Korea) was appointed by the UN Human Rights Council in 2014 as the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar. Ms. Lee served as member and chairperson of the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child (2003-2011). She is currently a professor at Sungkyunwan University, Seoul, and serves on the Advisory Committee of the National Human Rights Commission of Korea. Ms. Lee is the founding President of International Child Rights Center, and serves as Vice-chair of the National Unification Advisory Council. Learn more, go to: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/HRBodies/SP/CountriesMandates/MM/Pages/SRMyanmar.aspx
The Special Rapporteurs are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, is the general name of the Council’s independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms. Special Procedures mandate-holders are independent human rights experts appointed by the Human Rights Council to address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. They are not UN staff and are independent from any government or organization. They serve in their individual capacity and do not receive a salary for their work.
Check the Special Rapporteur’s latest report on Myanmar (A/HRC/31/71): http://www.ohchr.org/EN/HRBodies/HRC/RegularSessions/Session31/Pages/ListReports.aspx
UN Human Rights, country page – Myanmar: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/countries/AsiaRegion/Pages/MMIndex.aspx
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On 24 August, a 6.8 magnitude earthquake hit central Myanmar, killing three people and damaging buildings including more than 100 pagodas. The epicenter of the quake was 25 kilometres west of Chauk, 207 kilometres north-west of Nay Pyi Daw. Due to its location in a sparsely populated area and at a depth of 84 kilometres, the humanitarian impact of the quake was low.
Since the end of July, almost 500,000 people across 11 states/regions have been affected by the monsoon flooding. Displacement numbers have now stabilized and the Government at local, state and regional levels is leading the response, in close cooperation with the Myanmar Red Cross Society and other local actors. A US$3.5 million CERF Rapid Response request has been made to support initial life-saving food security, health and protection activities for more than 80,000 people in the Ayeyarwady, Magway and Mandalay Regions.
500,000 people affected
Approximately 8,000 children in 42 villages across Myanmar's remote Naga Self-Administered Zone have been vaccinated for measles as part of an emergency outbreak response. The outbreak has so far claimed 38 lives, most of them children, in the townships of Lahe and Nan Yun. There have been no additional cases reported in the past week with the containment and immunization campaign now underway. The response is being led by the Myanmar Ministry of Health, regional and local health authorities with support from WHO and UNICEF.
As of 28 August, 32 hot spots had been identified in Riau, central eastern coast of Sumatra, adversely affecting air quality in the area. Strong winds have caused thick smoke from the fires to reach Singapore. A joint task force of various stakeholders including the private sector has been working to extinguish the forest fires alongside BNPB who have mobilized 17 airplanes and helicopters.
Mt. Sinabung, currently on the highest level of alert, continues to spew out hot volcanic clouds. As a result 9,315 people have been forced to leave their homes and are currently living in nine displacement sites. Government reports suggest that the needs of the displaced people are currently being adequately met.
Monsoon rains affected more than 6 million people and killed at least 300 as rivers overflowed in Madhya Pradesh, Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan and Uttarakhand states. As of 22 August, Bihar State authorities confirmed that 119 people had died and 150,000 people were sheltering in 162 relief camps. WASH, health, shelter and livelihood support have been identified as immediate needs. National and State Disaster Response Force teams have been deployed to support local evacuation and relief efforts. To date, no international assistance has been requested.
300 people dead