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World: UNICEF seeks $42 million emergency assistance for children caught in conflict and crises in East Asia Pacific

7 February 2017 - 4:38am
Source: UN Children's Fund Country: Democratic People's Republic of Korea, Myanmar, World

BANGKOK, 6 February 2017 – As part of its annual global humanitarian appeal, UNICEF is seeking $42 million to deliver lifesaving aid for children in emergencies in two countries in the East Asia and Pacific region. The two East Asian countries that feature in the 2017 Humanitarian Action for Children report are DPR Korea and Myanmar, where children are affected by conflict, food shortages or natural disaster.

Globally, almost one in four of the world’s children lives in a country affected by conflict or disaster. UNICEF estimates up to 7.5 million children will require assistance just to avoid severe acute malnutrition, including almost half a million children in each of northeast Nigeria and Yemen. The agency’s 2017 appeal totals $3.3 billion, to be used to provide children with access to safe water, nutrition, education, health and protection in 48 countries.

“War, natural disaster and climate change are driving ever more children from their homes, exposing them to violence and disease,” said Karin Hulshof, UNICEF East Asia and Pacific Regional Director. “UNICEF is dedicated to saving and improving the lives of children from natural disasters, conflicts and other crises.”

The appeal seeks support to provide essential medicines to more than 2 million children in DPR Korea, as well as funds to support assistance for other urgent initiatives including access to decent nutrition and clean water, and to safe sanitation and better hygiene. In August 2016, heavy rains from Typhoon Lionrock in North Hamgyong Province resulted in widespread flooding and the destruction of infrastructure, livestock and crops, affecting more than 600,000 people. Children, pregnant women and lactating mothers face increased risks of water-borne and communicable disease. Last year, the number of children suffering from acute malnutrition and in need of urgent life-saving treatment quadrupled in flood-affected areas from 500 to 2,000 per month.

In Myanmar, protracted crises in three states continue to threaten at least 220,000 internally displaced people. Children need urgent humanitarian assistance in Rakhine State, especially Rohingya children, in Kachin State and in Shan State. Compounding the protracted crises are issues related to religious and ethnic discrimination, exploitation, chronic poverty, vulnerability to natural disasters, statelessness, trafficking and humanitarian access. UNICEF is appealing for funds to meet the basic needs of some 127,000 of the country’s most vulnerable children. The money will be used by UNICEF and its partners to provide some 12,500 children aged 6 to 59 months affected by severe acute malnutrition with life-saving treatment; 75,000 people (30,000 of them children) with access to clean water for drinking, cooking and safe sanitation facilities as well as information about proper hygiene practices; and to provide some 127,000 children with access to psychosocial support.

In the first ten months of 2016, as a result of UNICEF’s support for children in emergencies around the world, some:
- 13.6 million people had access to safe water;
- 9.4 million children were vaccinated against measles;
- 6.4 million children accessed some form of education;
- 2.2 million children were treated for severe acute malnutrition.

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Notes to Editors:

The Humanitarian Action for Children 2017 appeal can be found here: www.unicef.org/HAC2017

For DPR Korea: https://www.unicef.org/appeals/dprk.html

For Myanmar: https://www.unicef.org/appeals/myanmar.html

Video and photos are available for download here: http://weshare.unicef.org/Package/2AMZIF0Y3VA

About UNICEF

UNICEF promotes the rights and wellbeing of every child, in everything we do. Together with our partners, we work in 190 countries and territories to translate that commitment into practical action, focusing special effort on reaching the most vulnerable and excluded children, to the benefit of all children, everywhere.

For more information about UNICEF and its work for children, visit www.unicef.org

Follow UNICEF on Twitter and Facebook

For more information or for interviews please contact:

Chris de Bono, UNICEF East Asia & Pacific, +66-844277431, cdebono@unicef.org

Simon Nazer, UNICEF East Asia & Pacific, +66-618833557, snazer@uncief.org

Myanmar: Two Myanmar Ethnic Groups From Strife-torn Areas Not Allowed to Hold Advance Talks

7 February 2017 - 1:59am
Source: Radio Free Asia Country: Bangladesh, Myanmar

A joint committee overseeing the drafting process of the framework for political dialogue in Myanmar on Monday suspended regional-level discussions by two ethnic minority groups in the run-up to the second meeting of nationwide peace talks scheduled for the end of February.

The Union Peace Dialogue Joint Committee (UPDJC), headed by State Counselor and de facto national leader Aung San Suu Kyi, has put on hold regional-level discussions about policies regarding national-level talks planned by the Arakan Liberation Party (ALP) and the Chin National Front (CNF) in Chin state in western Myanmar before the 21st-Century Panglong Conference on Feb. 28.

The UPDJC, which is holding a two-day meeting in the capital Naypyidaw, is composed of ethnic armed groups that have signed a nationwide cease-fire agreement (NCA) with the government, representatives from political parties and the central government, and military officers.

The UPDJC did not give a reason for suspending regional-level talks in Rakhine and Chin state, while other ethnic minority parties that have signed the NCA have been permitted to hold them in their respective regions in preparation for the national-level conference later this month, said presidential spokesman Zaw Htay.

“It’s not that there wasn’t any solid reason [for the decision],” he said. “We are not saying they cannot do it. Of course, the talks will take place sooner or later.”

The ALP and CNF are both signatories to the NCA.

Kachin political parties in Myanmar’s northernmost state have held discussions to prepare for the next round of the Panglong Conference, but the UPDJC has not recognized their preparatory meetings, and the groups will not be able to submit their meeting results to the peace conference, Eleven Myanmar media group reported on Monday.

The Kachin Independence Organization (KIO), one of the state’s major parties and the political wing of the Kachin Independence Army (KIA), has not signed the NCA and is not officially allowed to hold talks, the report said.

The KIA has been engaged in recent skirmishes with the government army in neighboring northern Shan state.

Who will attend?

The UPDJC urged those in attendance at the current meeting to do what they can to ensure that ethnic militias that have not signed the NCA attend the Feb. 28 conference.

It is not yet clear whether groups that did not sign the NCA will be invited to attend.

About 700 delegates will attend the second session of the of the 21st-Century Panglong Conference to work out a peace plan for the nation to end decades of civil wars between the military and ethnic militias.

Delegates who attended the first session at the end of August and beginning of September 2016 agreed to hold the national-level talks between sessions of the Panglong Conference in order to consider what various ethnic groups and political parties wanted.

Both Rakhine and Chin states have been scenes of recent volatility. Security forces moved into northern Rakhine state in October 2016 after nine border guards were attacked and killed in raids by Rohingya militants.

Deadly clashes between army troops and groups of armed men ensued in November. The crackdown has left hundreds dead by some estimates and forced more than 66,000 Rohingya Muslims who live in the region to flee, mostly to neighboring Bangladesh where they have accused security forces of murder, toture, rape, and arson.

Renewed clashes between the government army and Arakan Army (AA) took place last December in Paletwa township, Chin State, which sits on the border with Rakhine state. The fighting displaced hundreds of residents.

HRW calls for action

On Sunday, New York-based human Rights Watch issued a call for the Myanmar government to endorse an independent, international investigation into alleged human rights abuses in northern Rakhine, including reports of rape and sexual violence against Rohingya women and girls.

The group, which documented cases of rape from interviews it conducted with Rohingya survivors and witnesses in Bangladesh, also called for security forces involved in the violence to be punished.

“These horrific acts on Rohingya women and girls by security forces add a new and brutal chapter to the Burmese military’s long and sickening history of sexual violence against women,” said Priyanka Motaparthy, senior emergencies researcher at HRW.

“Military and police commanders should be held responsible for these crimes if they did not do everything in their power to stop them or punish those involved,” she said.

The group’s statement comes two days after the United Nations human rights office (OHCHR) issued a report confirming attacks of rape and sexual violence against Rohingya women and girls based on interviews it conducted, and said that abuses committed against the minority by security forces indicate “the very likely commission of crimes against humanity.”

Rights groups have blasted a national-level commission investigating the violence, which said in an interim report issued in January that it had found no cases of genocide or religious persecution of Rohingya Muslims living in the region.

The commission also said that its interviews of local villagers and women had yielded insufficient evidence of rape to take legal action, though its investigations into accusations of arson, torture, and illegal arrests were still under way.

Commission inspects jails

Meanwhile, Myanmar’s independent National Human Rights Commission inspected jails and prisons in Rakhine state’s capital Sittwe on Monday about two weeks after a U.N. human rights envoy visited the state.

During a 12-day visit, Yanghee Lee visited violence-affected areas in northern Rakhine state, the prison in Buthidaung township, Sittwe prison, and internally displaced persons camps where Rohingya live. She will deliver a report on her findings to the U.N. Human Rights Council in March.

The members of the commission found that improvements have been made in Sittwe Prison and other jails in Rakhine state according to human rights guidelines, a member of the body said.

“We noticed there were still minor violations at the prisons we inspected,” commission member Yu Lwin Aung told RFA’s Myanmar Service on Monday after his visit to Sittwe. “The toilets in Sittwe prison are not as clean as they should be, and some of the plastic bedsheets are torn. Apart from that, we didn’t find any major human rights violations.”

Regular inspections by officials and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) had resulted in the improvements, he said.

Commission members also inspected courtrooms and the general hospital in Sittwe and visited Ponnagyun, a township of Sittwe district, Yu Lwin said.

The Commission has drawn up a working plan to meet the minimum standards in prisons prescribed by the U.N. and are on an inspection tour of various prisons, he said.

No Rohingya support from Cambodia

The crisis in Rakhine has prompted government leaders of some member states of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) to condemn violence against the Rohingya and increased pressure on Myanmar to stop it, though the members of the regional body have long agreed to a policy of noninterference in each other’s internal affairs.

Malaysia and Indonesia—both Muslim-majority countries—have sent ships with food and other essentials to Rakhine state.

But Cambodia is not among those criticizing Myanmar. Following a meeting with Myanmar President Htin Kyaw, Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen said his country would refrain from intervening in the Rohingya crisis.

Hun Sen also said the issue was an internal matter, and that the ASEAN charter bans members from intervening in each other’s internal affairs.

“The issue is purely that of Burma’s,” said Cambodia government spokesman Phay Siphan, using the former name of Myanmar. “It falls within the sovereignty of Burma. We shall respect that.”

Reported by Min Thein Aung and Kyaw Thu for RFA’s Myanmar Service, and by Sel San of RFA’s Khmer Service. Translated by Khin Maung Nyane and Nareth Muong. Written in English by Roseanne Gerin.

Myanmar: Fleeing the Shells of War, Kachin Civilians Struggle Against Freezing Cold

7 February 2017 - 1:33am
Source: The Irrawaddy Country: Myanmar

6 February 2017 Myo Min Soe / The Irrawaddy

SHAIT YANG VILLAGE, Kachin State — Nearly 2,000 internally displaced people (IDPs) arrived at Shait Yang village in Laiza District, an area controlled by the Kachin Independence Army (KIA), on Jan. 21. These IDPs came from the Zai Awng and Hkau Shau camps in Waingmaw Township.

They had to flee the camps in darkness on Jan. 19 when artillery shells—fired in a battle between the Burma Army and KIA—rained down around their camps. These civilians rushed into Shait Yang village, which is situated on the Burma-China border. They expected that Shait Yang would be safe because there were no soldiers there, and because the Chinese and KIA had an agreement not to deploy soldiers too close to the frontier. An IDP and refugee relief committee struggled to assist the new arrivals.

The weather offered no help—the area is one of the few in Burma with snowfall. At night, the temperatures dropped to -4 degrees Celsius (25 degrees Fahrenheit). On Jan. 25, when The Irrawaddy visited, some residents in the camp lacked clothes warm enough to protect them from the bitter cold. Some built fires to stay warm.

“My legs are killing me. They are numb due to the cold,” said 60-year-old Laphai Zau Ra, who wore only a worn-out blue sweater. He said that he’d had no time to grab other clothes when he ran for his life, away from the artillery shells at Zai Awng.

Another IDP, Kawt Mai, said she was afraid of the nighttime because the temperatures were becoming extreme.

“I have never experienced this kind of cold in my life,” she said. “It seems very long when I wait for the day to break.”

Myanmar: Statement by Adama Dieng, United Nations Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide following OHCHR’s report on the situation in northern Rakhine State, Myanmar

6 February 2017 - 11:06pm
Source: United Nations Country: Myanmar

(New York, 6 February 2017) The United Nations Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide, Adama Dieng, stated that he was shocked and alarmed to read the accounts of serious human rights violations being committed against Muslim Rohingya in northern Rakhine State by Myanmar’s security forces, as set out in the report published on 3 February by the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR). According to the findings of the report, human rights violations committed by the security forces include mass gang-rape, extra judicial killings – including of babies and young children - brutal beatings and disappearances. These attacks have taken place in the context of an escalation of violence in northern Rakhine State since border security posts were attacked by armed assailants in early October 2016.

There have been allegations that security forces were committing serious human rights violations against the civilian population of northern Rakhine State from the very beginning of the recent escalation of violence. “I and many others have been urging the authorities to conduct an independent and impartial investigation into these allegations. The investigation conducted by OHCHR gives further credibility to those accounts and describes a level of dehumanization and cruelty that is revolting, and unacceptable. This must stop right now!” The Special Adviser welcomed the Government’s commitment to investigate the matter immediately. The commission previously appointed by the Government to investigate allegations of human rights violations in norther Rakhine state, which was led by Vice-President U Myint Swe, reported just a few weeks ago that it had found no evidence, or insufficient evidence, of any wrongdoing by Government forces.

“I am concerned that the Government Commission, which had unhindered access to the location of the incidents, found nothing to substantiate the claims, while OHCHR, which was not given access to the area, found an overwhelming number of testimonies and other forms of evidence through interviews with refugees who had fled to a neighbouring country” stated the Special Adviser. “The existing Commission is not a credible option to undertake the new investigation. I urge that any investigation be conducted by a truly independent and impartial body that includes international observers. If the Government wants the international community and regional actors to believe in their willingness to resolve the matter, they must act responsibly and demonstrate their sincerity.”

According to the Special Adviser, “There is no more time to wait. All of this is happening against the background of very deeply rooted and long-standing discriminatory practices and policies against the Rohingya Muslims and a failure to put in place conditions that would support peaceful coexistence among the different communities in Rakhine State. If people are being persecuted based on their identity and killed, tortured, raped and forcibly transferred in a widespread or systematic manner, this could amount to crimes against humanity, and in fact be the precursor of other egregious international crimes. The Government has a responsibility to protect its populations against these atrocious and punishable acts.

For media queries please contact:
Claudia Diaz, Office on Genocide Prevention and the Responsibility to Protect
http://www.un.org/en/preventgenocide/adviser/
Phone: +1 917-367-2061; Email: diazc@un.org

Bangladesh: Bangladesh: Foreign Minister briefed the members of the diplomatic community on the situation of Myanmar refugees and undocumented Myanmar nationals

6 February 2017 - 9:55pm
Source: Government of Bangladesh Country: Bangladesh, Myanmar

Foreign Minister Mr. A H Mahmood Ali, MP, briefed the members of the diplomatic community on the situation of Myanmar refugees and undocumented Myanmar nationals at the State Guest House Padma today. About 60 (sixty) Ambassadors/High Commissioners / Heads of Missions /representatives of various Diplomatic Missions in Dhaka as well as representatives from Office of UNRC, IOM, UNHCR and other UN agencies attended the briefing. The briefing was also graced by Advisor to Hon’ble Prime Minister on Political Affairs, Hon’ble State Minister for Foreign Affairs, Cabinet Secretary, and Principal Secretary to Prime Minister and Foreign Secretary, among others.

During the briefing, Hon’ble Foreign Minister apprised the diplomatic community of the steps that the Government of Bangladesh had taken vis-à-vis Myanmar refugees and the undocumented Myanmar nationals who entered Bangladesh to flee persecution and communal violence in the Rakhine State of Myanmar. This huge population numbering more than 400,000 (including the newly arrived 69,000) is living mainly in Cox’s Bazar in two registered camps and makeshift settlements. He also mentioned about successful repatriation of around 236,599 Myanmar refugees through an agreement negotiated during 1991-92 in which he had been deeply involved in his official capacity.

The Foreign Minister stressed that the presence of the huge number of Myanmar Nationals in Cox’s Bazar district has not only created formidable challenges for the authorities to manage humanitarian assistances to them but also created a number of adverse effects on the overall socio-economic, political, demographic, environmental, and humanitarian and security situation of Cox’s Bazar and adjacent districts and also negatively affecting the eco-tourism prospects. Citing the vulnerable nature of this population, he added that networks have emerged in this area for the purpose of human trafficking and smuggling of narcotic drugs.

The Foreign Minister explained that since the existing accommodation arrangements in the Cox’s Bazar District for the Myanmar Refugees and undocumented Myanmar Nationals are already over-stretched, arranging shelters for the new arrivals has become a new challenge for the authorities. In this situation, in order to ensure humanitarian assistance to the Myanmar Nationals, the Government of Bangladesh has decided to relocate this population to Thengar Char, an Islandnext to Hatia Island in the Bay of Bengal. He hoped that it would help the Myanmar refugees including undocumented Myanmar nationals to have better access to the humanitarian assistances. The Foreign Minister informed that in order to make the place habitable, the Government plans to build necessary infrastructure including shelter, schools, hospitals/health centers, mosques, roads etc and he added that the relocation will take place only after the development activities are completed. He also hoped that he would be able to lead the diplomatic community to visit the place once the infrastructure is in place.

In this regard, he requested the bilateral, UN and other international partners to render their support in the implementation of this relocation plan by providing assistance in developing the island and in transporting the Myanmar nationals living in Bangladesh to the new place of their residence. He also mentioned that while this remains a temporary arrangement for the Myanmar refugees, Bangladesh would like the international community to take meaningful measures for repatriation of this population to their homes back in Myanmar.

The Dean of Diplomatic Corps the Brazilian Ambassador, the US Ambassador, the Saudi Ambassador, UNRC highly praised Bangladesh Government and its people for hosting this population for decades and rendering necessary humanitarian support to them. The Saudi Ambassador particularly referred to the presence of Myanmar population in Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and explicitly stated his Government’s support to Bangladesh. The representatives of diplomatic community in general expressed their readiness to help the government implement its relocation plan as and when it is finalized. They also expressed their hope that this will bring improvements in the living condition of this population. In addition the representatives also recognized that the ultimate solution lies in the repatriation of these refugees from Myanmar to their homeland and also assured their full support in this regard.

The Foreign Minister thanked the diplomatic community for their presence in the meeting and assured them to keep them abreast with all future developments on this matter.

Media Type:

Press Release

Publish Date:

Sunday, February 5, 2017

Myanmar: Site Profile - Ohn Taw Chay Camp - Township: Sittwe (Rakhine, Myanmar) | Reporting Month, December 2016

6 February 2017 - 12:17pm
Source: UN High Commissioner for Refugees, CCCM Cluster Country: Myanmar

Philippines: Asia and the Pacific: Weekly Regional Humanitarian Snapshot (31 January - 6 February 2017)

6 February 2017 - 3:17am
Source: UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs Country: Bangladesh, Myanmar, Philippines, Vanuatu

Bangladesh

Aid agencies in Cox’s Bazar estimate that 69,000 people have crossed the border from Myanmar since the 9 October attacks in northern Rakhine. The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights has issued a report based on interviews with 200 Rohingya people who have newly arrived in Bangladesh. The OHCHR report details allegations of serious human rights abuses by security forces in northern Rakhine. The recent OHCHR report underscores the need for immediate action to strengthen protection of civilians in Rakhine and to allow full, unhindered humanitarian access to the affected area, including for international staff.

69,000 people crossed the border from Myanmar since 9 October

Myanmar

More than 24,000 people remain internally displaced in northern Maungdaw township which is the area most severely affected by the 9 October border post attacks and subsequent security operations. WFP has reached more than 45,000 people in this area with emergency food aid since 13 January. UNHCR has also delivered non-food items to more than 10,000 people and aid from Indonesia has reached 99,000 people. International humanitarian staff are still not allowed to participate in delivery of life-saving services, including health and nutrition, outside the main centres. Access for the delivery of other assistance, including protection activities, remains severely restricted.

24,000 people remain internally displaced

Philippines

As of 6 February, about 178,000 people in north-eastern Mindanao remain displaced by flooding caused by a series of weather systems that brought heavy rains since 8 January. Of those displaced, 20,000 are at 127 evacuation centres while most are being hosted by relatives or friends. A total of 586 houses in the towns of La Paz and Trento (Agusan del Sur province) were damaged. Roads in some areas, particularly Agusan del Sur, remain impassable while school classes have been suspended. DSWD is coordinating assistance with local government authorities.

178,000 people displaced by floods

As of 30 January, about 5,700 people displaced by military operations began to return to their homes in Ampatuan municipality, Maguindanao province. Those displaced were predominantly members of indigenous groups. The local government provided transportation and DSWD provided food packs for their return. No civilian casualties were reported as a result of the incident. On 29 January the military announced it had ended its operation against an armed group associated with the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters.

Vanuatu

Since the latest eruption of Lopevi Volcano in Malampa Province on 13 January, authorities raised the alert level to 3 (out of 5). Aerial observations indicate that Lopevi has spewed volcanic plume up to 3 km above sea level. While the current volcanic activity is considered to be minor with no reported casualties or major damage, the Vanuatu Meteorological and Geo-hazards Department has issued an advisory to communities in the surrounding islands and visitors as a precaution. The last reported eruption of the volcano was in 2007

Myanmar: Whose Crops, At What Price? Agricultural investment in Myanmar

6 February 2017 - 1:43am
Source: Oxfam Country: Myanmar

SUMMARY

After years of international isolation, Myanmar is liberalizing its economy and seeking to attract growing levels of foreign investment. Agriculture currently plays a crucial role in the country's economy and more than 60 percent of the population depend on agriculture for their livelihoods.

The Government of Myanmar (GoM) has acknowledged the need to support smallholders by improving access to credit and providing affordable fertilizers and seeds, but it has also made it clear that attracting foreign investment is crucial to achieving its goals for economic reform and reintegrating Myanmar into the global economy. This paper looks at the current level and types of agribusiness investment into Myanmar, outlines some of the potential risks to communities posed by these investments, and explores state regulation of outbound investments as a potential way to promote responsible business practices in the sector.

The paper finds that while foreign investment can play an important role in developing Myanmar‟s agriculture sector, in the current environment of limited transparency and accountability, an increase in agribusiness investments poses serious risks to the livelihoods of small-scale farmers and others dependent on land for their livelihoods.

Although the agriculture sector accounts for a small percentage of overall investment into Myanmar, a very substantial amount of land has already been handed over to companies. As of April 2014, an area nearly 10 times the size of Hong Kong (939,683 hectares) had been granted to private businesses (both Myanmar and foreign) in the form of land concessions.3 Agribusiness investments are often hidden in Myanmar. Official statistics on investments are unreliable due to over-reporting (of projects that are approved but not implemented) and under-reporting (of projects that do not go through the formal approval channels). In many cases, land concessions that have been granted to private businesses are not being cultivated, but are instead being used to enable mineral extraction or logging. Some publicly available data do exist, but more information on agribusiness investments is required both from the GoM and from investing companies. Limited transparency creates blind spots in which corruption can flourish, and incoming investors risk worsening this situation if they do not act responsibly and publish investment details.

As of December 2015, China, Singapore and Hong Kong (China) rank as the top three foreign investors into Myanmar. Thai, Malaysian, Korean and Vietnamese companies are also significant investors, and all have invested in agriculture projects in the country. Where land concessions and investments are being used for agriculture purposes, foreign businesses are investing in rubber and palm oil, with smaller investments into corn, sugarcane, biofuels, fruits and other crops.

Some companies have obtained large tracts of land for plantations, while others are purchasing from small- and medium-scale local farmers through contract farming agreements or brokers.

Both of these paths of investment – large-scale land acquisitions and contract farming arrangements – carry risks for smallholders and communities who rely on land. The granting of land for large-scale agriculture in Myanmar, as elsewhere in Southeast Asia, is frequently connected to land conflict and displacement and environmental degradation. Land dispossession has already reportedly occurred through Malaysian joint investments with the development of palm oil plantations in Tanintharyi. Poor rural women are often disadvantaged with regards to land access and ownership, and therefore investment that affects the land use of local people has a disproportionate impact on women. Even in cases where investment generates employment, when those investments require large-scale land acquisition, the disadvantages may outweigh the benefits for local people in a context where land rights are unclear and insecure.

The number of land and agricultural investments in Myanmar is highly likely to rise in the near future, from foreign and domestic companies alike. Thailand and China have guidelines and mechanisms in place to promote socially and environmentally responsible behaviour of outbound investments, although it is unclear to what extent these guidelines are being implemented.

If investment in agribusiness is isolated from the broader development of Myanmar's agriculture sector, the potential benefits will be limited. Simply approving large-scale investments will not automatically translate into benefits for small-scale farmers unless targeted policies are put in place that focus on increasing smallholders‟ access to inputs, safe credit, training, markets and security of land tenure.

This paper sets out recommendations that businesses and governments could consider following to ensure that agriculture investments into Myanmar are transparent and follow international best practice regarding due diligence, upholding human rights and providing redress to communities for violations.

Recommendations to the Government of Myanmar

Land concessions

  • Cease granting large-scale concessions until the new National Land Use Policy is being effectively implemented and a Land Law is passed. The laws currently being used to grant concessions are widely seen as failing to protect smallholders and ethnic groups. Until the new Land Law is passed, the GoM should suspend the granting of new concessions.

  • Review the implementation of existing concessions. Existing concessions should be monitored against their development plans and agreements with the government, and if the company has not met its obligations, concessions should be frozen, or revoked if serious violations have occurred.

  • Ensure that decisions to grant additional land concessions in the future are based on a thorough and responsible assessment of proposals. This must take into account existing land use, and no concession should be granted without a detailed assessment and mapping of existing land use rights.

  • Ensure that all relevant stakeholders are consulted on concessions, including, crucially, potentially affected communities. No land use rights should be transferred from pre-existing land users without their free, prior and informed consent (FPIC).

  • Increase transparency and access to information regarding existing and future investments related to land. The GoM should increase transparency in investment by making available reliable statistics, maps and other documents related to land-based investments. This includes releasing details of the locations and boundaries of existing land concessions. These data should be stored in an open database which includes project maps, names of investors, purpose of the project and status of implementation.

Support for small-scale farmers

  • Reallocate the national budget to increase agricultural spending, particularly to improve the quality and reach of extension services and inputs; this also means resourcing local government to focus on farmer-identified challenges and solutions.

  • Support the development of agricultural cooperatives and producer organizations based on an appropriate regulatory framework, and empower them to link to and work with the local private sector.

  • Provide scrutiny of investment proposals and monitoring of approved investments to ensure that they protect smallholder interests.

  • Use government bodies to provide support to farmers in the negotiation of contract farming arrangements, and regulate and monitor ongoing contract farming agreements.

Recommendations to foreign governments

  • Recognize that, to be effective, the duty to protect must extend beyond national boundaries. The duty to protect against business-related abuses is not confined to a state‟s own territory. In cases where a company‟s overseas operations are causing harm, both host and home states have a duty to act.

  • Promote the adoption of international standards, principles and guidelines by companies investing overseas. Home governments should promote and encourage companies to implement international standards such as the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (UNGPs), the OECD Guidelines to Multinational Enterprises and the UN‟s Voluntary Guidelines on the Responsible Governance of Tenure of Land, Fisheries and Forests (VGGT). • Governments across the region and regional institutions such as ASEAN should develop guidelines related to social and environmental safeguards in overseas investment. China has developed a number of guidelines for Chinese companies and financial institutions operating overseas. Although basic, they can serve as a foundation from which to promote improved conduct in overseas investment.

Recommendations to businesses investing in or sourcing from Myanmar

  • Ensure compliance with local laws and regulations and follow international standards, including the responsibility to respect human rights as set out in the UNGPs, and the VGGT. Businesses have the obligation to follow local laws and regulations, but should go further by implementing higher standards that go beyond what is required under state law, using the International Finance Corporation (IFC) Performance Standards on Environmental and Social Sustainability as a minimum. End-user companies should ensure that the companies with which they have business relationships adhere to these standards.

  • Consider alternatives to large-scale land investments. Prioritize models of investment that do not require the transfer of land away from small-scale farmers and communities, and that are based on fair contracts.

  • Conduct thorough due diligence. Before buying or leasing new land, expanding existing operations or developing existing holdings, investors must conduct robust due diligence. This enables the company to gain a clear understanding of the local context and of social, environmental and human rights risks and/or impacts. End-user companies should likewise conduct due diligence, looking into the policies and practices of the companies with which they have business relationships. According to the UNGPs (Guiding Principles 17–21), due diligence includes:

    • assessing the actual and potential impacts of human rights (including investigating impacts on existing land users);

    • integrating assessment findings into decision-making processes and addressing risks and adverse impacts identified;

    • tracking the effectiveness of the company‟s efforts to address adverse impacts;

    • communicating these efforts to stakeholders (such as local communities).

  • Assessments should also examine other environmental and social impacts, and must include the participation of potentially affected communities. Assessments must be based on timely, transparent and meaningful consultation with affected communities, including women. Businesses should engage with and seek the input of those who could be affected by investment decisions. These assessments should be made public in an accessible format so that communities and civil society groups can engage with the findings.

  • Ensure respect for the free, prior and informed consent (FPIC) of indigenous peoples and local communities. Before making major investment decisions, businesses must consult with local people, including women and marginalized groups. Any land acquisition or land use change must follow the principles of FPIC. Consultation should continue after a project becomes operational.

  • Make available operational-level grievance mechanisms, as per UNGP 29 and following the principles of UNGP 31. Effective grievance mechanisms will enable investors to catch adverse impacts before they escalate, and provide potentially affected communities and workers with a means of redress.

  • Provide access to remedy in cases where the company has caused or contributed to adverse human rights impacts, as per responsibilities under the UNGPs.

  • Improve transparency by disclosing project details. Companies should disclose the locations of their investments, including maps showing the boundaries of plantations and processing plants, the purpose of the investment, periods of contracts and concession agreements. Businesses should also publish information on what processes they have in place to ensure respect for human rights, including access to grievance mechanisms. Publications should be presented in a form that is accessible to affected people, and this should be done in a manner that guarantees accessibility to affected communities (e.g. appropriate language, channels of communication for disclosing project details, and so on).

  • Adopt a comprehensive commitment to respect the land rights of women, communities and indigenous people; including customary and usage rights. The policy commitment should cover the company and its suppliers, and should be based on existing guidance for such commitments. • Champion responsible land-based investments among government officials, peer companies, multi-stakeholder initiatives and other stakeholders. Take an active role to foster a race to the top and strengthen sector-wide initiatives and regulations.

Further recommendations for governments, businesses and development actors can be found in the "Conclusions and recommendations‟ section at the end of this paper.

Myanmar: Dooplaya Situation Update: Kyonedoe Township, April 2016 to July 2016

6 February 2017 - 1:31am
Source: Karen Human Rights Group Country: Myanmar

This Situation Update describes events occurring in Kyonedoe Township, Dooplaya District during the period between April and July 2016, including education, healthcare, the situation for civilians, Burma/Myanmar government military (Tatmadaw) activity, Border Guard Force (BGF), Democratic Karen Benevolent Army (DKBA), Karen Peace Council (KPC) and Karen National Union (KNU) activities.  

  • In Kyonedoe Township, Dooplaya District, there were a number of problems affecting civilians, including low incomes for rubber plantation workers, forced labour, taxation and land destruction.
  • Some of the local students in Kyonedoe Township had to stop studying after they finished primary school in their villages, because their parents could not support them if they went to study at the Burma/Myanmar government’s middle school.
  • The Burma/Myanmar government has opened a clinic for the villagers but it lacks supplies and local villagers continue to use traditional medicine.
  • Tatmadaw activity has decreased in Kyonedoe Township. The BGF, DKBA and KPC are all still active in the Township, while the KNU is working to make villagers aware of the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement (NCA) and drug policies.

Bangladesh: Arakan State Advisory Commission member describes inhumane conditions for refugees in Bangladesh

5 February 2017 - 11:50pm
Source: The Irrawaddy Country: Bangladesh, Myanmar

By MOE MYINT 

3 February 2017

RANGOON – An Arakan State Advisory Commission delegate who participated in a three-day trip to Bangladesh, Al Haj U Aye Lwin, told The Irrawaddy on Thursday that the living conditions for Muslim refugees on the Bangladeshi border were “inappropriate even for animals.”

Commission members, U Win Mra—of the Myanmar National Human Rights Commission—and Al Haj U Aye Lwin—co-founder of Religions for Peace Myanmar—as well as the former UN Special Advisor to the Secretary General, Ghassan Salame, visited Bangladesh at the end of January and arrived back in Rangoon on Wednesday.

The advisory commission made an official announcement on Thursday that three delegates had traveled to Dhaka to explore Bangladeshi perspectives on the various challenges facing Arakan State. During the visit, they held meetings with Bangladesh’s Foreign Affairs Minister, the Minister of Home Affairs, an advisor to the Prime Minister, former Bangladeshi diplomats of Bangladesh, as well as non-profit organizations, according to U Aye Lwin.

Bangladeshi authorities led the three commission delegates to the sites of several Rohingya camps in Teknaf, Cox’s Bazar, said U Aye Lwin. He added that, currently, the Bangladeshi officials had identified three categories of refugee housing: registered camps, makeshift camps and camps for new arrivals who fled the Maungdaw border region as a consequence of the Burmese armed forces’ “clearance operations” and manhunt for assailants who attacked three border outposts on Oct. 9, killing nine policemen.

International rights groups have accused the Burma Army of committing right abuses in the conflict zone; the Burmese government has rejected the allegations.

Al Haj U Aye Lwin told The Irrawaddy that the new arrivals were living in inhumane conditions.

“The place where they live is inappropriate even for animals, not to mention humans. When I asked a child if he had eaten, he just cried instantly.”

According to statistics released by the UN’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs in Burma, the latest report on Feb. 2 states that a total 92,000 people have been displaced since the October 2016 attacks on police posts in northern Arakan State; among them 69,000 people have sought shelter in Bangladesh.

Speaking to reporters from The Daily Star after meeting with representatives from Bangladesh’s Institute of International and Strategic Studies on Jan. 31, commission delegate Ghassan Salame said that granting Burmese citizenship to Muslims in Arakan State was “key” to creating “a better situation” and halting the flow of Rohingya refugees into Bangladesh.

In a meeting with Bangladeshi police, U Aye Lwin said he questioned officials about whether insurgents had come across the Maungdaw border for the purpose of recruitment—claims which have not been substantiated. The deputy commissioner of the police in Cox’s Bazar reportedly answered that they “would not allow” security in the border areas to be compromised.

U Aye Lwin said that local Bangladeshis had disapproved of how the Rohingya refugees had cut down trees in the area in order to build makeshift shelters. They said they were also worried about job competition with the incoming population.

While the recent wave of Rohingya refugees are facing difficulties accessing food and healthcare, a government notice from Dhaka expressed concern about “law and order issues” and said that the country plans to relocate refugees to the Bangladeshi island of Thengar Char temporarily, to be returned to Burma eventually.

Myanmar: Update on the humanitarian mission - Food flotilla for Myanmar

5 February 2017 - 11:21pm
Source: Government of Malaysia Country: Bangladesh, Malaysia, Myanmar

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs can now confirm that the Government of Bangladesh has agreed to allow the "Humanitarian Mission - Food Flotilla for Myanmar" to dock at Teknaf port in Bangladesh. The approval was received tonight, following this afternoon's meeting between Foreign Minister YB Dato Sri Anifah Aman and the High Commissioner of Bangladesh to Malaysia, His Excellency Md Shahidul Islam.

The matter has now been resolved as a result of the good relations between Malaysia and Bangladesh. The Government of Malaysia expresses its appreciation to the Government of Bangladesh for its willingness to allow the Food Flotilla to provide humanitarian aid to the Rohingya refugees around Teknaf port.

Putrajaya

4 February 2017

On 2/6/17

Myanmar: Suu Kyi’s office donates to Kachin IDPs in rare nod to conflict

5 February 2017 - 11:06pm
Source: Democratic Voice of Burma Country: Myanmar

After months of public silence, State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi has acknowledged, albeit somewhat obliquely, the deteriorating security environment in Kachin State, with the office of Burma’s de facto leader donating 300 million kyats ($222,000) in cash assistance to those displaced by conflict.

Suu Kyi turned over the donation to the Ministry of Social Welfare, Relief and Resettlement in a ceremony on Thursday. She urged the ministry to independently decide how to spend the money and suggested that humanitarian aid coordinators put the focus on improving healthcare for the displaced locals, and providing education for children and occupational training for adults in temporary camps.

“My hope is that the displaced people will get the opportunity to learn something useful during their time in the camps, such as education for children and occupational training for adults. With good reason, no one wants to stay in displacement camps for a long period of time, and I would like them to be able to return home as soon as possible,” Suu Kyi said on Thursday.

“If women are given training for home-stay occupations, they will be able to use these skills when they go back to their villages to improve their lives. We must always find ways to improve the situation of displaced people and hope that peace and stability will prevail so that they don’t have to live in camps.”

She said the government would continue its efforts to achieve nationwide peace in order to end displacement of civil populations in conflict zones. In the meantime, the government would provide as much assistance as possible to displaced civilians, she added.

Thousands in Kachin State have been displaced in recent weeks as the Burma Army has ramped up an offensive against the Kachin Independence Army. The military escalation began in August, just weeks before Suu Kyi convened the 21st Century Panglong Conference, her government’s signature peace initiative to date.

The long-running conflict between the KIA and the Burma Army dates back to 2011, when a 17-year bilateral ceasefire broke down. In the years since, nearly 100,000 people have fled their homes across Kachin and northern Shan states as fighting between the two sides has flared repeatedly.

December brought waves of new internally displaced persons (IDPs) as Burma Army troops advanced on KIA positions, capturing several of the ethnic armed group’s outposts near its Laiza headquarters.

The situation has prompted civil society groups to call for an end to the hostilities and assistance to the conflict-affected population, but Suu Kyi had not directly addressed their plight until this week.

Even then, state media shied away from assigning blame for the displaced civilians’ recent hardship, with the Global New Light of Myanmar on Friday reporting only that the IDPs had been forced to flee their homes “due to security reasons in Kachin State.”

Malaysia: UNHCR lauds government work scheme for refugees

5 February 2017 - 10:03pm
Source: UN High Commissioner for Refugees Country: Malaysia, Myanmar

Win-win for Malaysia’s security and economy, and refugee protection

Kuala Lumpur, 3 February 2017 (UNHCR) - UNHCR welcomes the announcement by the Deputy Prime Minister Dato’ Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi yesterday regarding a pilot project that will allow an initial group of 300 Rohingya refugees to work in the plantation and manufacturing sectors in the country.

UNHCR believes that a scheme that allows genuine refugees the opportunity to work lawfully would have a remarkable and positive impact on their quality of protection.

It would also help the Government deal with its legitimate concerns about criminality and security, and provide a source of willing labour to support the Malaysian economy.

A scheme that allows refugees to live and work legally in Malaysia would transform the quality and protection of their lives. Greater self-sufficiency among refugee communities would lead to better health and education, and significantly reduce the burden on the host state.

It would also provide a stronger basis for refugees to plan their future, including returning to their home countries with transferrable skills to start their new lives.

UNHCR is convinced that this new approach is a ‘win-win’ for the people of Malaysia for its security and economy, and for refugees who live here temporarily. It is our hope that after an initial pilot phase, this scheme can be expanded to benefit all refugees in the country.

UNHCR welcomes the cooperation it enjoys with the Government of Malaysia, including through the recent Joint Task Force to tackle the complex challenges of mixed migration and refugees in Malaysia.

Myanmar: Burma: Security Forces Raped Rohingya Women, Girls

5 February 2017 - 9:48pm
Source: Human Rights Watch Country: Bangladesh, Myanmar

New Eyewitness Accounts Show Systematic Attacks Based on Ethnicity, Religion

(New York, February 6, 2016) – Burmese government forces committed rape and other sexual violence against ethnic Rohingya women and girls as young as 13 during security operations in northern Rakhine State in late 2016, Human Rights Watch said today. The Burmese government should urgently endorse an independent, international investigation into alleged abuses in northern Rakhine State, including into possible systematic rape against Rohingya women and girls.

Burmese army and Border Guard Police personnel took part in rape, gang rape, invasive body searches, and sexual assaults in at least nine villages in Maungdaw district between October 9 and mid-December, Human Rights Watch said. Survivors and witnesses, who identified army and border police units by their uniforms, kerchiefs, armbands, and patches, described security forces carrying out attacks in groups, some holding women down or threatening them at gunpoint while others raped them. Many survivors reported being insulted and threatened on an ethnic or religious basis during the assaults.

“These horrific attacks on Rohingya women and girls by security forces add a new and brutal chapter to the Burmese military’s long and sickening history of sexual violence against women,” said Priyanka Motaparthy](https://www.hrw.org/about/people/priyanka-motaparthy), senior emergencies researcher at Human Rights Watch. “Military and police commanders should be held responsible for these crimes if they did not do everything in their power to stop them or punish those involved.”

Between December 2016 and January 2017, Human Rights Watch researchers in Bangladesh interviewed 18 women, of whom 11 had survived sexual assault, as well as 10 men. Seventeen men and women, including some women who survived assaults, witnessed sexual violence, including against their wives, sisters, or daughters. Altogether Human Rights Watch documented 28 incidents of rape and other sexual assault. Some incidents involved several victims. A report released by the United Nations Office of the High Commission for Human Rights (OHCHR) on February 3 found that more than half of the 101 women UN investigators interviewed said they were raped or suffered other forms of sexual violence. The report, based on a total of 204 interviews, concluded that attacks including rape and other sexual violence “seem[ed] to have been widespread as well as systematic, indicating the very likely commission of crimes against humanity.”

After attacks by Rohingya militants on border police posts on October 9, 2016, the Burmese military undertook a series of “clearance operations” in northern Rakhine State. Security forces summarily executed men, women, and children; looted property; and burned down at least 1,500 homes and other buildings. More than 69,000 Rohingya fled to Bangladesh, while another 23,000 have become internally displaced in Maungdaw district.

Several women described how soldiers surrounded their villages or homes, then gathered the villagers in an outdoor area, separating men from women, and detained them for up to several hours. Soldiers often shot villagers, and raped and gang raped women and girls. “Ayesha,” a Rohingya woman in her 20s, told Human Rights Watch: “They gathered all the women and started beating us with bamboo sticks and kicking us with their boots. After beating us, the military took [me and] 15 women about my age and separated us.… [The soldiers] raped me one by one, tearing my clothes.”

During raids on homes, security forces frequently beat or killed family members and raped the women. “Noor,” in her 40s, said that 20 soldiers stormed her home and grabbed her and her husband: “They took me in the yard of the home. Another two put a rifle to my head, tore off my clothes, and raped me.… They slaughtered [my husband] in front of me with a machete. Then three more men raped me.… After some time, I had severe bleeding. I had severe pain in my lower abdomen and pain in my whole body.”

The sexual violence did not appear to be random or opportunistic, but part of a coordinated and systematic attack against Rohingya, in part because of their ethnicity and religion, Human Rights Watch said. Many women told Human Rights Watch that soldiers threatened or insulted them with language focused on their status as Rohingya Muslims, calling them “you Bengali bitch” or “you Muslim bitch” while beating or raping them. “We will kill you because you are Muslim,” one woman said soldiers threatened. Other women said that security forces asked if they were “harboring terrorists,” then proceeded to beat and rape them when they said no. A woman in her 20s who said soldiers attempted to rape her in her home, added that they told her, “You are just raising your kids to kill us, so we will kill your kids.”

Burmese authorities have taken no evident steps to seriously investigate allegations of sexual violence or other abuses reported by nongovernmental organizations, including Human Rights Watch. A national-level investigation commission on the situation in Maungdaw district headed by the first vice president and comprised of current and former government officials released an interim report on January 3, 2017. The commission claims to have addressed rape allegations and “interviewed local villagers and women using various methods … [but found] insufficient evidence to take legal action up to this date.” Also contrary to the findings of human rights groups, the commission rejected reports of serious abuses and religious persecution, and said there were no cases of malnutrition.

On December 26, 2016, the Information Committee of State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi issued a press release addressing “the rumours that some women were raped during the area clearance operations of security forces following the violent attacks in Maungtaw Township.” Accompanied by an image stating “Fake Rape,” the release claimed that the investigation commission had interviewed two women who gave conflicting testimony as to whether they had been raped, and that village leaders later refuted their accounts. However, video footage of the commission’s visit shows an interviewer asking one of the women about violence against other women she witnessed, not her personal experience. Nothing in her video testimony suggests she lied in her interview. The interview appears confrontational, and out of keeping with accepted guidelines on how to conduct interviews with victims of sexual violence. The problematic circumstances under which authorities conducted these interviews, as well as the risks to the women, including when authorities exposed their names and identities to the media, raise serious doubts about the credibility of the Information Committee’s press release.

“The government should stop contesting these rape allegations and instead provide survivors with access to necessary support, health care, and other services,” Motaparthy said.

Rohingya victims of sexual assault face limited access to emergency health care including to prevent unwanted pregnancy from rape and infection with HIV, and to treat other sexually transmitted infections, Human Rights Watch said. Though the Burmese government has permitted some aid to go through to northern Rakhine State, it continues to obstruct international assistance from reaching the civilian population. It is unknown how many rape survivors remain in the area and whether they have received appropriate health care. None of the women Human Rights Watch interviewed had access to medical facilities until they reached Bangladesh. Many reported that in Bangladesh, they lacked information about services available, or could not arrange child care or pay transportation costs to clinics.

“The government’s failure to investigate rape and other crimes against the Rohingya should make it clear to Burma’s friends and donors that an independent, international inquiry is desperately needed to get to the bottom of these appalling abuses,” Motaparthy said.

Rape and Sexual Assault Against Rohingya Women and Girls in Northern Rakhine State

The following incidents took place between October 9 and mid-December 2016. Pseudonyms are used to protect those interviewed, as well as to protect their relatives who remain in Burma from possible government reprisals.

Cases of Rape and Gang Rape

Human Rights Watch interviewed nine Rohingya women who said that Burmese security force members had raped or gang raped them during attacks on their villages in Rakhine State. Several women described how security forces forcibly entered their homes, looted their belongings, and subjected women to invasive body searches before raping one or more women or girls in the family. Fatima, a Rohingya woman in her 20s, described an assault by soldiers against her and her young children in Kyet Yoe Pyin village in mid-November. She said:

Four soldiers attacked and suddenly entered the house. One grabbed the children, two of them grabbed each of my arms.… They were armed with rifles, pistols, small and long knives, and some were wearing ammunition belts.

My eldest [5-year-old] daughter screamed and said, “Please leave us.” … So they killed her … with a machete. They slaughtered her in front of me.

When they killed her, I became very upset. [The soldiers] said many things to me that I could not understand and put a gun to my head.… They kicked me in my hip and back, and beat me on the head with a wooden stick.

[Then] one of the soldiers tore off my clothes. Two soldiers raped me, one by one. They were about 30 to 35 years old. They touched too many places in a very painful way – they touched my chest, they touched my vaginal area. They did it quickly, they only opened their zippers – they didn’t take their pants off. When another soldier tried to rape me, I resisted. Then they burned my leg with plastic, they put it out on my leg.

Noor, in her 40s, said that about 20 soldiers stormed her home in the border town of Shein Kar Li in early December, and grabbed her and her husband:

Two of them held my arms tightly. I couldn’t move. They took me in the yard of the home. Another two put a rifle to my head, tore off my clothes, and raped me.… While they held me, my husband was also held. They slaughtered him in front of me with a machete. Then three more men raped me. I began bleeding severely. After some time, I didn’t know what was happening, I fell unconscious.… I regained consciousness the next morning. I took my gold jewelry, went to the nearby ghat [stairs leading to the river], and gave it to the boatman [so that I could cross to Bangladesh]. I walked there very slowly, as I was in pain. I had severe pain in my lower abdomen and pain in my whole body.

Witnesses also described security forces gathering women together in public areas – in paddy fields or school courtyards – and detaining them before selecting some women to rape. Ayesha, a woman in her 20s from Pyaung Pyit village, said:

They gathered all the women and started beating us with bamboo sticks and kicking us with their boots. In total they beat about 100 to 150 women, young boys, and girls. After beating us, the military took me and 15 women about my age and separated us [from the group].

They took us to a nearby school, kept us in the burning sun, standing in the field in front. They made us turn to face the sun. Then three soldiers took me to a nearby pond.

When they prepared to rape me, they opened their pants. All I could notice was their underwear. When one finished raping me, I resisted with my leg, and one of them punched me in the eye.… One of them kicked my knee and I got hurt. They also bit my face and scratched me with their nails.

I started bleeding. When I started severely bleeding from my genital area and leg, they left me. I became senseless. When I came to, I found my clothes torn around me. I found my skirt and wrapped my body in that.

Ayesha said that her abdomen and vaginal area had become red and swollen, and that she remained in pain for at least a week after the attack.

One woman in her 30s from Kyet Yoe Pyin village said that four soldiers raped her, then one raped her again by inserting the barrel of his rifle into her vagina.

Rape of Girls

Five people told Human Rights Watch they saw security forces raping or sexually assaulting girls as young as 13, or saw girls taken away, heard their screams, and learned soon afterward that they had been raped. Some of these victims were their family members.

Sayeda, a woman in her 40s from Kyet Yoe Pyin village, said that in mid-November soldiers gang raped her 16-year-old daughter in front of her, then burned her house:

After evening prayer time, the military came and surrounded our house, then entered. Three soldiers grabbed me and my [seven] daughters, and took us to the paddy field. They beat us with their rifles.

On the spot in front of me, four military raped [my eldest daughter]. Then one soldier took her to another place. When the soldiers attacked her, I grabbed my other daughters and ran. We ran into the bushes. Other people later told me she died. I didn’t see her body.

Amina, a woman in her 20s from Hpar Wut Chaung village, said that soldiers raped and killed her 13-year-old sister during a raid on their home in early December, as well as killing five other siblings. She said:

When they entered [our house], our brothers were sleeping on the veranda, and we [five sisters] were in the bed. They shot and killed my [brothers] and held the girls so they couldn’t move.

They instantly shot my younger sister in the head. While [another sister was] running away, they shot [her too].

They took my other [13-year-old] sister to another room and raped her there. We heard [her screaming]. She screamed, “Someone save me! He’s trying to take my clothes off!” What I saw from outside is that 10 more people entered that room with my sister.

Amina and her father managed to escape and fled to a neighboring village. There, her next-door neighbor who also fled told her that she had found Amina’s sister dead, without any clothes on.

Sexual Assault

Several women told Human Rights Watch that security forces subjected them to invasive body searches during village raids, either in their homes or while villagers were gathered in open fields. Soldiers put their hands underneath women’s clothes and painfully pressed their breasts and genital areas – searches that constitute sexual assault. They beat or slapped some women, and threatened them with machetes and guns. They also snatched gold jewelry women wore, and took money they kept in their blouses. Some women said they were searched twice.

Taslima, a woman in her mid-20s from Dar Gyi Zar village, said that in early November, after she fled to the nearby village of Yae Twin Kyun, soldiers came to the house where she was staying and dragged her and other women from the village out into the yard:

When [the military] entered the house, one soldier searched my body for gold and jewelry, and asked for money. When I didn’t give it to them, soldiers grabbed me and searched my body. They searched under my clothes … they pressed my chest very badly. They found where I hid my money in my chest. They also touched my hips and sensitive area [genital area].

She said they then dragged her outside: “There were about 10 to 12 women standing in the yard, around the same age as me. They touched us all, very bad touches. They used [their rifles] and machetes to threaten us.”

Sara, from Sin Thae Pyin village, said that in late November about 15 soldiers entered her home where she was with her mother-in-law and her 15-year-old niece. She said that they first searched the cupboards but, finding no valuables, they then searched the women’s bodies:

When they searched our bodies, a soldier was searching my chest, he put his hands inside my clothes. So I started to cry. When I started to cry, they hit us. They slapped me and my mother-in-law, and my sister-in-law’s elder daughter. They took my clothes off and attempted to rape me, but I screamed very loudly, so they left.

Several women said that soldiers subjected them to intrusive body searches or other non-consensual touching. Several men and women described witnessing these searches.

Access to Care and Services

Survivors of sexual assault need access to emergency and long-term medical services, legal assistance, and social support to address injuries caused by the assault; to prevent pregnancy, HIV, and other sexually transmitted infections; and to collect evidence to support prosecution of perpetrators.

International organizations including the International Organization for Migration and Médecins Sans Frontières maintain or fund clinics in the Cox’s Bazar district of Bangladesh, where the women interviewed by Human Rights Watch have fled. These facilities can provide essential and life-saving care, other medical treatment, and psychological counseling to sexual assault survivors. Survivors may also be referred to Bangladeshi government hospitals for more serious or long-term care.

However, while several women interviewed said they had received care at these facilities in Bangladesh, including psychological support, only one had visited medical facilities within 24 hours of being assaulted. The boatman who transported her from Burma to Bangladesh referred her to a clinic after noting the severity of her injuries, and she went there directly after crossing the border. The remaining women sought care several days after they were assaulted, after they had moved within Burma seeking safety, or after they had found a place to stay and basic necessities in Bangladesh. This placed them beyond the window during which providers can effectively administer emergency contraception (120 hours) and post-exposure prophylaxis for HIV (72 hours), as recommended by the World Health Organization. One woman said villagers in Burma provided her with contraceptive medication, while others took only paracetamol, a mild painkiller, after they were assaulted.

A lack of knowledge about services and how to access them has stopped women from getting care, even in Bangladesh. Many other women said they did not seek medical care, including at government or humanitarian-supported facilities in Bangladesh where they could receive treatment for free, because they believed incorrectly that they would have to pay for services, or because they did not know they could access them. Some women also cited financial difficulties paying for transport to facilities, or said that they had no one to watch their children while they visited. None of the women Human Rights Watch interviewed had returned to medical facilities for follow-up visits, though some said they still experienced pain or they had not completed a course of medication and needed prescription refills.

Fatima said, “Now I have urine problems. When I was at [the clinic] they gave me medicine but I didn’t properly recover my [normal urine flow].… After that I didn’t go back … because I was worried about paying for medicine.” Mumtaz said, “I still feel pain in my shoulder and chest [where they beat me] … also in my lower abdomen and back. Now my medicine is finished but I have no money to consult with the doctor, and [I can’t] leave my child home alone.”

Those interviewed also said they did not return for follow-up psychological counseling, even when they continued to experience nightmares about violent incidents or other signs of trauma. Many of the women interviewed said they did not know what counseling was. One woman who received an initial counseling session said she would not return because she felt too overwhelmed by the hardships she faced, and did not feel up to returning. “I won’t visit again. I feel weak, too tired to go,” she said.

Most of the women interviewed said they had come to Bangladesh only with their children, or with other female family members, and struggled to provide for themselves and their children. Their husbands or other male family members had either been killed by the Burmese military or had been separated from them during the violence. Many women no longer knew their husbands’ whereabouts or if they were still alive. Several interviewees who fled with only their children struggled to meet their basic food and shelter needs. They said they survived through limited charity distributions, by begging, or by sending a young child to the local bazaar to beg.

Concerned governments and international agencies should continue to support medical and psychosocial care for survivors of sexual violence in Burma, including those who have fled to Bangladesh. More efforts are also needed to encourage and educate those who may need services about how they can access them.

World: UNFPA Humanitarian Action 2017 Overview

4 February 2017 - 10:37pm
Source: UN Population Fund Country: Afghanistan, Cameroon, Chad, Egypt, Fiji, Haiti, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, Myanmar, Niger, Nigeria, South Sudan, Sudan, Syrian Arab Republic, Turkey, Ukraine, World, Yemen

Today more than 75 per cent of people affected by humanitarian crises are women and children. And adolescents aged 10-19 years constitute a significant proportion of the population in many conflict and post-conflict settings.

In response to today’s humanitarian challenges, UNFPA continues to provide life-saving services to prevent and respond to gender-based violence and provide information, services and supplies for sexual and reproductive health as we work with partners to carry forward commitments made at the World Humanitarian Summit.

Our focus goes beyond meeting immediate needs to reducing risk, building peace, strengthening resilience and supporting long-term development.

By investing in women, adolescent girls and young people we will accelerate progress towards the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals, strengthen prospects for peace and security, and transform humanitarian action.

Bangladesh: Pirates, cyclones and mud: Bangladesh's island solution to Rohingya crisis

4 February 2017 - 6:38am
Source: Reuters - Thomson Reuters Foundation Country: Bangladesh, Myanmar

"We have only heard bad things about the Rohingya. If they work with the pirates and get involved in crime - we don't want them here"

By Antoni Slodkowski

THENGAR CHAR, Bangladesh, Feb 4 (Reuters) - The island is two hours by boat from the nearest settlement. There are no buildings, mobile phone reception or people. During the monsoon it often floods and, when the seas are calm, pirates roam nearby waters hunting for fishermen to kidnap for ransom.

Welcome to Thengar Char, a muddy stain in the murky waters of the Bay of Bengal, identified by Bangladesh as a short-term solution to the humanitarian crisis unfolding on its border with Myanmar, across which some 70,000 Rohingya Muslims have fled.

Read more on the Thomson Reuters Foundation

Ukraine: Press briefing notes on Myanmar and Ukraine, 3 February 2017

3 February 2017 - 10:19pm
Source: UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights Country: Myanmar, Ukraine

Spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights: Ravina Shamdasani, Elizabeth Throssell
Location: Geneva
Date: 3 February 2017

(1) Myanmar

GENEVA (3 February 2017) – Mass gang-rape, killings – including of babies and young children, brutal beatings, disappearances and other serious human rights violations by Myanmar’s security forces in a sealed-off area north of Maungdaw in northern Rakhine State have been detailed in a new UN report issued Friday based on interviews with victims across the border in Bangladesh.

Of the 204 people individually interviewed by a team of UN human rights investigators, the vast majority reported witnessing killings, and almost half reported having a family member who was killed as well as family members who were missing. Of the 101 women interviewed, more than half reported having suffered rape or other forms of sexual violence. Find full news release here.

(2) Ukraine

We are seriously concerned about the dire humanitarian and human rights situation of civilians in eastern Ukraine where there has been an escalation in fighting along the contact line. Since 29 January until 9:00hrs on 3 February, shelling has killed at least seven people and injured a further 41, according to UN Human Rights Office staff. Of these, on Thursday night alone, the hostilities killed three civilians and injured 13. UN Human Rights Office teams are visiting locations and verifying reports of civilian casualties in both Donetsk city and Avdiivka which were reportedly hit by shelling during the night of 2 February.

The increase in hostilities near populated areas, including Avdiivka, Yasynuvata, Makiivka, Donetsk, as well as towns and villages south of Donetsk, has endangered civilians, with disruption to essential water, electricity and heating services amid freezing winter temperatures.

Reports suggest that two hospitals, a polyclinic, a dental clinic, three schools, and a kindergarten were damaged by shelling in Makiivka and Donetsk city, which are controlled by armed groups. UN Human Rights Office staff in Donetsk heard explosions over five days, from 29 January through the night of 2 February, and on 2 February saw a clearly marked ambulance in Donetsk that had been damaged by shrapnel.

Staff also visited government-controlled Avdiivka on 1 February, where they spoke to residents who said the town had been under constant shelling, both night and day, for three days. They said people were afraid to stay alone in their flats, particularly the elderly.

Critical civilian infrastructure has been damaged, including near Avdiivka, where power lines have been destroyed, disrupting water, electricity and heating supplies. Gas and electricity supplies were also reported to have been affected in Makiivka and other areas under the control of armed groups, including Irmino and parts of Donetsk.

Government forces and armed groups must in all circumstances respect the principles of distinction, proportionality and precautions in attack. They must take all feasible measures to avoid harm to the civilian population and damage to civilian objects. Particular care must be taken when conducting attacks against objectives located in populated areas, and the use of explosive weapons with wide-area effects should be avoided in densely populated areas as their use in such circumstances could amount to indiscriminate attacks. They must not place soldiers, fighters and other military objectives in populated areas.

There should be an immediate pause in hostilities to prevent further loss of life and to enable the repair of essential services. We also urge immediate and unhindered humanitarian access for international and national organisations to the affected population, and reiterate our call for the effective and urgent implementation of the Minsk agreements.

Both Government forces and armed groups must take all feasible measures to protect the civilian population in the areas under their control. We remind them that the protection of civilians must be considered the utmost priority and those committing violations of human rights law and international humanitarian law must be held accountable.

The obligation to protect the civilian population from the effects of hostilities includes the foreseeable environmental consequences and we are deeply concerned that continued hostilities could lead to serious environmental disasters.

Among the possible concerns: The chemical waste of a phenol plant near the village of Novhorodske is caught between Government and armed group positions. Shelling has also taken place close to two water filter stations, Donetsk and Verkhniokalmiuska, which contain chlorine tanks. The interruption of power supplies in Avdiivka as a result of shelling means sewage cannot be pumped and instead is being discharged into the environment.

ENDS

For more information and media requests, please contact Rupert Colville (+41 22 917 9767 / rcolville@ohchr.org) or Liz Throssell ( +41 22 917 9466/ethrossell@ohchr.org ) or Ravina Shamdasani (+41 22 917 9169 / rshamdasani@ohchr.org)

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Myanmar: Interviews with Rohingyas fleeing from Myanmar since 9 October 2016 - Flash Report

3 February 2017 - 8:59pm
Source: UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights Country: Bangladesh, Myanmar

Devastating cruelty against Rohingya children, women and men detailed in UN human rights report

GENEVA (3 February 2017) – Mass gang-rape, killings – including of babies and young children, brutal beatings, disappearances and other serious human rights violations by Myanmar’s security forces in a sealed-off area north of Maungdaw in northern Rakhine State have been detailed in a new UN report issued Friday based on interviews with victims across the border in Bangladesh.

Of the 204 people individually interviewed by a team of UN human rights investigators, the vast majority reported witnessing killings, and almost half reported having a family member who was killed as well as family members who were missing. Of the 101 women interviewed, more than half reported having suffered rape or other forms of sexual violence.

Especially revolting were the accounts of children – including an eight-month old, a five-year-old and a six-year-old – who were slaughtered with knives. One mother recounted how her five-year-old daughter was trying to protect her from rape when a man “took out a long knife and killed her by slitting her throat.” In another case, an eight-month-old baby was reportedly killed while his mother was gang-raped by five security officers.

“The devastating cruelty to which these Rohingya children have been subjected is unbearable – what kind of hatred could make a man stab a baby crying out for his mother’s milk. And for the mother to witness this murder while she is being gang-raped by the very security forces who should be protecting her – what kind of ‘clearance operation’ is this? What national security goals could possibly be served by this?” High Commissioner Zeid said, noting the report suggests the recent level of violence to be unprecedented.

“I call on the international community, with all its strength, to join me in urging the leadership in Myanmar to bring such military operations to an end. The gravity and scale of these allegations begs the robust reaction of the international community.”

After the repeated failure of the Government of Myanmar to grant the UN Human Rights Office unfettered access to the worst-affected areas of northern Rakhine State, High Commissioner Zeid deployed a team of human rights officers to the Bangladeshi border with Myanmar, where an estimated 66,000 Rohingya have fled since 9 October 2016.

All the individuals interviewed by the team had fled Myanmar after the 9 October attacks against three border guard posts, which had prompted intense military operations and a lockdown in north Maungdaw. The military indicated that it was conducting “area clearance operations” in the region.

The report cites consistent testimony indicating that hundreds of Rohingya houses, schools, markets, shops, madrasas and mosques were burned by the army, police and sometimes civilian mobs. Witnesses also described the destruction of food and food sources, including paddy fields, and the confiscation of livestock.

“Numerous testimonies collected from people from different village tracts…confirmed that the army deliberately set fire to houses with families inside, and in other cases pushed Rohingyas into already burning houses,” the report states. “Testimonies were collected of several cases where the army or Rakhine villagers locked an entire family, including elderly and disabled people, inside a house and set it on fire, killing them all.”

Several people were killed in indiscriminate and random shooting, many while fleeing for safety. Those who suffered serious physical injuries had almost no access to emergency medical care, and many of the people interviewed remained visibly traumatized by the human rights violations they survived or witnessed. People who did not know the fate of loved ones who had been rounded up by the army or separated while fleeing were particularly distressed.

Many witnesses and victims also described being taunted while they were being beaten, raped or rounded up, such as being told “you are Bangladeshis and you should go back” or “What can your Allah do for you? See what we can do?” The violence since 9 October follows a long-standing pattern of violations and abuses; systematic and systemic discrimination; and policies of exclusion and marginalization against the Rohingya that have been in place for decades in northern Rakhine State, the report notes.*

Reports suggest that operations by security forces in the area have continued into January 2017, although their intensity and frequency may have reduced.

“The killing of people as they prayed, fished to feed their families or slept in their homes, the brutal beating of children as young as two and an elderly woman aged 80 – the perpetrators of these violations, and those who ordered them, must be held accountable,” High Commissioner Zeid said. “The Government of Myanmar must immediately halt these grave human rights violations against its own people, instead of continuing to deny they have occurred, and accepts the responsibility to ensure that victims have access to justice, reparations and safety.”

The report concludes that the widespread violations against the Rohingya population indicate the very likely commission of crimes against humanity.

ENDS

For more information and media requests, please contact Rupert Colville (+41 22 917 9767 / rcolville@ohchr.org) or Ravina Shamdasani (+41 22 917 9169 / rshamdasani@ohchr.org) or Liz Throssell ( +41 22 917 9466/ ethrossell@ohchr.org)

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Myanmar: Humanitarian mission - Food flotilla for Myanmar

3 February 2017 - 8:42pm
Source: Government of Malaysia Country: Bangladesh, Malaysia, Myanmar

The Minister of Foreign Affairs Malaysia, YB Dato’ Sri Anifah Hj. Aman, met with the High Commissioner of Bangladesh to Malaysia, His Excellency Md. Shahidul Islam, at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs on 3 February 2017. The purpose of the meeting was to seek clarification from the Bangladeshi government on its decision not to allow the “Humanitarian Mission – Food Flotilla for Myanmar” to provide humanitarian aid to the Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh.

The Food Flotilla, organized by Malaysia and flagged off by YAB Prime Minister on 3 February 2017, was originally planned to dock at Yangon and proceed onward to Teknaf, Bangladesh. Teknaf is the port closest to the 65,000 Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh who fled Myanmar since 9 October 2016.

During the meeting, YB Foreign Minister expressed his deep regret over the Bangladeshi Government’s decision, given the excellent bilateral relations between the two countries.

YB Foreign Minister reiterated that Malaysia’s main concern is the plight of the Rohingyas in Myanmar as well as the Rohingya refugees. Malaysia has taken a strong and bold stance to address the dire humanitarian situation of the Rohingya. This has been demonstrated by among others, the recent hosting of the Extraordinary Session of the OIC Council of Foreign Ministers on the Situation of the Rohingya Muslim Minority in Myanmar. The Session was held on 19 January 2017 in Kuala Lumpur. The High Commissioner acknowledged YB Foreign Minister’s concern and would revert after getting further clarifications from the Bangladesh Government.

The Food Flotilla aims to provide some 2,200 tonnes of goods for the Rohingyas. This initiative is consistent with the resolution adopted by the Extraordinary Session of the OIC Council of Foreign Ministers which called upon OIC member states to urgently render humanitarian assistance to alleviate the suffering and hardship of the Rohingyas.

The Government of Malaysia has been in close communication with the Bangladesh Government, through its High Commission in Dhaka as well as the High Commission of Bangladesh in Kuala Lumpur, to enable the Food Flotilla to provide humanitarian aid to the Rohingya refugees around Teknaf port.

Putrajaya

3 February 2017

On 2/6/17

Myanmar: Malaysian PM sends aid for Muslim Rohingyas in Myanmar

3 February 2017 - 8:42pm
Source: Reuters - Thomson Reuters Foundation Country: Bangladesh, Malaysia, Myanmar

by Reuters
Friday, 3 February 2017 16:59 GMT

At least 86 people have been killed and about 66,000 have fled into Bangladesh

(Adds foreign ministry statement)

By Rozanna Latiff

KUALA LUMPUR, Feb 3 (Reuters) - Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak on Friday sent a ship carrying tonnes of food and emergency supplies to Myanmar's Rohingya Muslims, saying their suffering would not be ignored.

Read more on the Thomson Reuters Foundation.