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Australia: ACFID Analysis of the 2016-17 Federal Budget

5 May 2016 - 8:48pm
Source: Australian Council for International Development Country: Afghanistan, Australia, Fiji, Myanmar, Nepal, Pakistan, Syrian Arab Republic, World

ACFID Budget Analysis 2016-17: Cuts Disappointing, Transparency Welcome

While the Federal Budget’s fourth successive cut to Australian aid is disappointing, in its aid Budget Analysis 2016-17 published today the Australian Council for International Development (ACFID) has welcomed the Government increasing the program’s overall transparency.

ACFID CEO Marc Purcell has congratulated the Government’s decision to release the Orange Book—Australian Aid Budget Summary 2016-17.

“This helpful document, along with other recent aid information provided online, should be used by the Government to actively communicate more to the public about the aid program’s value and achievements.”

“ACFID encourages the Government to continue to increase the public information it provides, including details about specific aid programs, forward estimates of the total volume of aid and sectoral projections. This would provide predictability for Australian aid recipients and non-government aid partners,” Mr Purcell said.

Mr Purcell welcomed a $220 million allocation over three years to Syria and a $10 million increase to the humanitarian Emergency Fund ($130 million total).

“The increase to Australia’s ability to respond to emergencies is welcome, but it falls short of what’s needed given the rising frequency and scale of disasters and conflicts around the world. ACFID has called for a doubling of humanitarian aid to $240 million to ensure Australia contributes its fair share to helping people during emergencies,” he said.

“It’s good to see that the budget provides small increases in funding for Fiji and Nepal – countries still recovering from disasters. Also welcome is funding to help meet the Government’s gender equality commitments, and the maintenance of funding for non-government aid partners and the volunteer program,” Mr Purcell said.

As ACFID’s Budget Analysis 2016-17 shows, the budget reduced funding for Australian aid by $224 million to $3.828 billion.

This means Australia’s aid generosity is now 0.23% of Gross National Income (GNI) or 23 cents in every $100.

“ACFID is concerned that with no real growth across the budget’s forward estimates there’ll be no new funding for poverty alleviation at the country level for many years, and Australia may struggle to fully meet its international commitments,” Mr Purcell said.

“As the federal election nears, ACFID is calling on all parties to reverse the cuts and begin rebuilding the Australian aid program to $5.5 billion in the next term of Parliament. This would set Australia on a trajectory to reach 0.7% of GNI by 2030 in line with its pledge to help attain the Sustainable Development Goals.”

See the ACFID Budget Analysis 2016-17 here.

World: The Market Monitor - Trends and impacts of staple food prices in vulnerable countries, Issue 31 - April 2016

5 May 2016 - 11:51am
Source: World Food Programme Country: Afghanistan, Algeria, Armenia, Bangladesh, Benin, Bolivia (Plurinational State of), Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cabo Verde, Cambodia, Cameroon, Chad, Colombia, Congo, Costa Rica, Côte d'Ivoire, Dominican Republic, Egypt, El Salvador, Ethiopia, Ghana, Guatemala, Guinea, Haiti, Honduras, India, Indonesia, Jordan, Kenya, Lao People's Democratic Republic (the), Lebanon, Lesotho, Liberia, Malawi, Mali, Mozambique, Myanmar, Nepal, Nicaragua, Niger, Nigeria, Pakistan, Panama, Peru, Philippines, Rwanda, Somalia, South Sudan, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Swaziland, Syrian Arab Republic, Thailand, Togo, Turkey, Uganda, Ukraine, United Republic of Tanzania, Viet Nam, World, Yemen, Zambia

This bulletin examines trends in staple food and fuel prices, the cost of the basic food basket and consumer price indices for 71 countries in the first quarter of 2016 (January to March).1 The maps on pages 6–7 disaggregate the impact analysis to sub-national level.

Global Highlights

•During Q1-2016, FAO’s global cereal price index fell by 14 percent year-on-year thanks to ample supplies and stock positions. The index is now at levels last seen in early 2007. The FAO global food price index is 15 percent lower than in Q1-2015.

•The real price2 of wheat has fallen by 22 percent over the past year and is 3 percent below Q4-2015 levels. This is because world production is still at record levels, and ending stocks in March were 9 percent greater than those in 2014/15.

•The real price of maize came under pressure in Q1-2016 and is 9 percent lower than last year. Global supplies are abundant and export competition is high.

•During Q1-2016, the real price of rice remained constant compared to Q4-2015. It is down 15 percent from Q1-2015.

•In Q1-2016, the real price of crude oil dropped by 23 percent to its lowest level since 2004. The drop has been largely supply driven. Prices started to pick up after January.

•The cost of the minimum food basket increased severely (>10%) in Q1-2016 in eight countries:

Burundi, Republic of Congo, Ghana, Lao PDR, Malawi, South Sudan, Swaziland and Viet Nam.
High increases (5–10%) were seen in Costa Rica, Iran, Mozambique, Myanmar, Nepal, Sudan, Thailand and Zambia. In the other monitored countries, the change was moderate or low (<5%).

•Price spikes, as monitored by ALPS (Alert for Price Spikes), were detected in 16 countries, particularly in Burundi, Ghana, Haiti, India, Malawi, Mozambique,
South Sudan, Sudan, Syria and Zambia (see the map below).3 These spikes indicate crisis levels for the two most important staples in each country, which could be beans, cassava, maize, millet, oil, rice, sorghum, sweet potatoes, sugar or wheat flour.

Myanmar: FAO assistance to conflict-affected communities in northern Rakhine, Myanmar

5 May 2016 - 11:10am
Source: Food and Agriculture Organization Country: Myanmar

Listen to the podcast here

Three years on from significant outbreaks of inter-communal violence across Rakhine State, hundreds of thousands of people remain in need of **humanitarian assistance**. With a poverty rate of 78 per cent, Rakhine is one of the least developed areas of Myanmar. To compound this further, the state was one of the worst-hit parts of **Myanmar** during the floods in 2015.

This audio file from a **livestock distribution** includes interviews with FAO’s Emergency Coordinator in Myanmar and FAO’s National Agronomist based in Sittwe, Rakhine, regarding how FAO is supporting conflict- and flood-affected communities through this **CERF-funded** emergency project.

Myanmar: Villagers Pinned Down by Landslides, Floods in Northern Kachin State

5 May 2016 - 8:15am
Source: Democratic Voice of Burma Country: Myanmar

By LAWI WENG / THE IRRAWADDY

RANGOON — Landslides and flooding caused by heavy rains have destroyed hundreds of houses in northern Kachin State’s Chipwi Township, according to sources in the region, with rescue personnel struggling to reach the affected population.

Five villages were hit by the severe weather in Chipwi, not far from the Chinese border.

The area is isolated and remote. A landslide blocked the only major road in or out, obstructing attempts by authorities and local aid groups to reach the survivors, who have been trapped in the area for almost two weeks.

It is still unclear how many people live in the affected area, which is home predominately to the Lisu ethnic minority.

“One-hundred-thirty-five houses in five villages were destroyed on April 24,” said Zar-Ki a Lisu former state lawmaker from Chipwi Township. “Even a motorbike cannot travel on the road right now, but the Burma Army used two helicopters to transport the injured and bring aid to survivors on April 30.”

Some members of the Kachin State government are waiting to enter the disaster area, according to Zar-Ki, but they have to wait for the road to be cleared to gain access to the valley.

No one was killed in the natural disaster, he said.

Heavy rainstorms and wind felled a group of trees that then clogged a nearby river, acting like a natural dam. When the flow of the river burst through the tangle of fallen trunks, it created a flash flood that inundated the villages, Zar-Ki said.

The area has experienced intensive logging by a Kachin militia, the New Democratic Army-Kachin (NDA-K), according to Zau Lai, a former Lower House parliamentarian from the National League for Democracy (NLD).

“The deforestation in the area has created ripe conditions for landslides,” said Zau Lai. “I warned the people many times about the natural disasters that can occur due due to logging, but they did not believe me.”

The area has been at peace since 1990, when the militia signed a ceasefire agreement with the Burmese government. Since then, the NDA-K has generated most of its income from logging.

World: IPCS Forecast 2016

5 May 2016 - 7:39am
Source: Institute of Peace and Conflict Studies Country: Afghanistan, India, Myanmar, Nepal, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, World

BIG PICTURE

CARDINAL TRANSITIONS

In 2016, India is likely to hit a sweet spot and come to be seen – despite a host of domestic debilities and external vulnerabilities – as an island of growth and stability. This year, several countries whose internal dynamics are acutely relevant to India will undergo internal transitions of one sort or another.

Leading the pack are the three countries that constitute India’s three cardinal external relationships: the US, China, and Pakistan. Three others – Myanmar, Afghanistan and Nepal – in India’s immediate neighbourhood too are experiencing protracted political transitions. Finally, there is an important evolving relationship with Brazil, a country three oceans and two hemispheres away that is experiencing severe internal turbulence and could well be heading towards transition.

The US

The 2016 US presidential election is turning out to be one of the most unusual since the 1948 Truman-Dewey match-up. It is increasingly expected that Hillary Clinton will face Donald Trump after the primaries; but much could yet happen to overturn this expectation. Trump, Clinton, Ted Cruz and Bernie Sanders all speak to sectional constituencies that feel scared, angry and ignored. As in the late 1970s, many Americans feel humiliated and demoralised about what they see as their country’s decline in world affairs. When a similar mood prevailed in 1980, an unconventional candidate, Ronald Reagan, was elected. The world could once again witness an unexpected electoral outcome in the 2016 US presidential elections. The US has not been as internally divided as today since the Civil War. These divisions are not only causing electoral unpredictability but also policy uncertainty and even paralysis. Predicting the contours of Washington's policies under a Clinton administration is at least a plausible venture; but under a Trump administration, who can tell what will happen?

China

The ongoing rebooting of China is equally important. Change will not be easy for a US$12 trillion economy comprising 1.35 billion people. Chinese President Xi Jinping’s Chinese Dream is centenarian: making China a moderately well-off society by 2021 and a fully developed nation by 2049, i.e. the 100th anniversaries of the founding of the Communist Party of China (CPC) and the People’s Republic of China (PRC) respectively. Economically, rebooting China is essential: after three decades of 10 per cent annual growth rates, China is now a middle income country that must transform its export-led growth and government-led investment model to a more sustainable lower growth trajectory that relies on internal demand and consumption-led growth.

Transformation has a sharp political edge under Xi. The anti-corruption campaign has severely disrupted tacit understandings across all levels of the CPC, especially in the higher echelons. So far, the only winners appear to be the so-called ‘princelings’, children of first generation CPC revolutionaries. As political power is increasingly being monopolised by a single leader, the orderly decadal transitions of the administrations of former Chinese Presidents Jiang Zemin and Hu Jintao may no longer serve as a template for the future. Certainly, the ‘collective leadership’ of the Hu years is already a thing of the past.

Pakistan

Pakistan too will experience a significant transition this year. The country’s Army Chief, Gen Raheel Sharif, is scheduled to retire on 29 November. He has garnered immense popularity in the Pakistani society and across the political spectrum by taking the battle to groups like the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP). He has characterised the TTP as an even greater threat to Pakistan than India is. Such characterisation was a clear departure from his predecessors as also from his own biography: his maternal uncle and elder brother were killed in wars against India.
Although several voices advocate that he should be given an extension, Sharif has insisted that he will leave in November.

Given the monopoly Pakistan’s military has over the country’s overall policies related to India, the Kashmir issue, and nuclear weapons, from an Indian perspective, the identity of Sharif’s successor is a significant matter. The senior-most lieutenant general, Maqsood Ahmad, is currently a military adviser at the UN Department of Peacekeeping Operations. Most likely, he will retire from the army in January 2017, as will three other lieutenant-generals who follow Ahmed in seniority. Thus, Sharif’s likely successors are lieutenant-generals Ishfaq Nadeem Ahmed or Javed Iqbal Ramday, currently commanders of 2 Corps (Multan) and 31 Corps (Bahawalpur) respectively. However, there is a long tradition of supersession when army chiefs change in Pakistan. Sharif’s successor could be someone lower on the seniority list, such as Lt Gen Rizwan Akhtar, currently director-general, Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI). Both the identity and orientation of Sharif’s successor would be important factors in New Delhi-Islamabad relations.

Myanmar

Ostensibly, the ongoing political transition in Myanmar is the least problematic of the three other transitions in India’s immediate neighbourhood that have the potential to pose challenges for Indian policy. Electoral democracy has certainly triumphed in Myanmar. The next crucial stage will be for a democratic system to provide effective governance. Several factors could yet upset systemic stability. Keeping Myanmar's military onside during the transition is critical; and with 25 per cent of the votes in the parliament, the military can block any constitutional amendment. There are huge pent up expectations in Myanmar’s population and, after receiving such a massive electoral majority, the National League for Democracy (NLD) government will be expected to produce visible results soon. The ethnic minorities' issue, especially of the Rohingyas, could bring significant external pressure on the young democratic government. Finally, Htin Kyaw as president and Aung San Suu Kyi as the power behind the throne could be a feasible arrangement in the immediate future, but in the longer-term, this could kindle the problem of dual centres of power.

Afghanistan

In 2016, Afghanistan too may face the problem of dual power centres. The US-brokered arrangement of September 2014 that resulted in Ashraf Ghani as Afghanistan’s president and Abdullah Abdullah as the country’s chief executive officer has worked much better than most had expected. The Taliban’s so-called annual ‘spring offensive’ can be expected from mid-April.
However, US President Barack Obama’s October 2015 decision to maintain the current force of 9,800 through most of 2016, then begin drawing down to 5,500 late in early 2017, works to Kabul’s favour. That the Taliban and the Islamic State (IS) are now targeting each other adds to Afghanistan’s perturbation and violence but further strengthens the government. India’s core challenge in Afghanistan will remain the same: maintaining its high levels of development assistance while its personnel and citizens continue to be specifically targeted by the Taliban and other insurgents.

Nepal

The most prolonged and troubled transition in India's regional neighbourhood has been in Nepal. New Delhi’s role in this transition also marks one of the biggest failures of Indian foreign policy in the recent years. In part, Kathmandu’s problem has been one that it shares with other relatively small countries: the tendency of having a difficult time acknowledging and designing for ethno-cultural diversity. Sri Lanka is another South Asian example of this tendency. However, Nepal’s protracted transition, particularly its constitution-making travails, also highlight the difficulties of framing a constitution in an era of mass politics and intrusive mass media. The Madhesi problem is likely to remain unresolved through 2016, with continuing negative spill-over effects on India. Given India’s organic ethno-cultural and ecological linkages with Nepal, this is unfortunate but unavoidable.

Brazil

Brazil – India's new partner in the BRICS and other ventures – is experiencing a year of Olympian discontent. The economy is shrinking as the recession cuts deep: a negative growth rate of 3.9 per cent is expected in 2016, albeit it could be as severe as 6 per cent. The world still expects Brazilians to rally around and throw a big party when the Olympic Games begin in Rio de Janeiro in mid-2016. However, these days, the mood in Brazil is particularly grim.
Investigations of corruption in Petrobras, the massive state-owned energy company, have led to prosecutions and indictments that have now reached the highest levels of government. The speaker of the Chamber of Deputies in Congress has been indicted for corruption. Shockingly, corruption charges have now tainted former Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, the patron saint of the Brazilian left and mentor of incumbent President Dilma Rousseff. Calls for Rousseff's resignation are increasing and there are moves to begin impeachment proceedings in Congress. Rousseff's impeachment is unlikely as she still has the support of most Workers' Party (PT) and Party of the Brazilian Democratic Movement (PMDB) legislators. However, it is sobering to consider the possibility that the Rousseff administration is de facto at an end and will limp on as a lame duck till 2018. Most worryingly, the possibility of massive public unrest on ideological right-left lines cannot be discounted.

Red Herrings

In this analysis of key transitions, situations of stasis have obviously been ignored. However, some cases of supposed stability should also be problematised. For instance, it is unclear as to how long incumbent Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and her Awami League party will be able to marginalise their longstanding traditional rivals, Khaleda Zia and the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), or continue the process of retributive justice against the perpetrators of the 1971 independence war genocide. Likewise, although he still seems to be firmly in the driving seat in Russia, in 2016, some searching questions will be asked about President Vladimir Putin's staying power.

Myanmar: Myanmar: April 2016

5 May 2016 - 5:37am
Source: UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Shelter Cluster Country: Myanmar

NEED ANALYSIS

  • In Rakhine, 118,084 people remain displaced across 39 camps or camp-like settings. In Kachin/Northern Shan, over 96,000 IDPs are mostly dispersed over 150 camps or camp-like settings but around 9,000 with host families.

RESPONSE

  • Rakhine: Emergency shelter response in 2012/13 and temporary shelter response in 2013 for 140,000 IDPs.
    Care and maintenance in 2014/15. Owner-driven housing solutions in places of origin/relocation in 2015 for 26,800 IDPs. Government plan to assist with individual housing in 2016, which combined with 2015, could benefit in total 40,000-50,000 IDPs.

  • Kachin/NS: Main contribution was local-faith based NGOs in 2011/12. Cluster focus has been to enhance technical capacity, including greater awareness of and adherence to minimum standards, and pursue individual housing solutions where possible. Four rounds of camp profiling covering 130 sites completed. NFI coverage only needed for vulnerable IDPs or new displacement.

GAPS / CHALLENGES

  • Prone to natural disasters, Rakhine remains potentially volatile context where underlying social, political and economic causes cannot be solved completely with humanitarian response. Temporary shelters have exceeded their lifespan and are in a state of serious disrepair or collapse. Solutions that avoid ethnic segregation and support communities to become selfreliant are needed, however, recent elections and lengthy period of transition inhibits long-term planning.

  • Belated international engagement in Kachin/NS required huge information gathering/operational undertaking to address shortfalls. Protracted nature means perpetual cycle of repairing and replacing temporary shelters.
    Significant variations for quality and quantity of assistance provided partly due to intermittent access to nongovernment controlled areas.

World: Food Security Now: New Norm or False Dawn?

5 May 2016 - 4:11am
Source: Nanyang Technological Univ. Country: Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Thailand, Viet Nam, World

By Paul P.S. Teng

Synopsis

The world is experiencing a situation of slower economic growth and lower commodity prices translated into relatively lower Food Price Indices for many countries. This “new norm” benefits urban consumers but poses potential problems for agribusiness and rural producers, since, inter alia, it discourages them to invest. Will this “new norm” last? Or will it prove a “false dawn”?

Commentary

FOOD SECURITY as a matter of national concern cannot be considered in isolation from the broader economic, social and physical environments. In recent years, many countries have experienced slower economic growth, affecting disposable income levels and consequently consumer spending and food consumption patterns. The physical environment has likewise experienced challenges from climate events and continued loss of arable land and freshwater resources.

During the same period, many food commodity prices have also fallen. While this makes food more affordable, it also reduces farmer incomes and reduces investment in infrastructure and technology needed to improve overall productivity. A vicious cycle may ensue in which reduced productivity can further reduce farm incomes and a country’s agricultural competitiveness.

Lulled Into Complacency?

That there has been no discernible challenge to food security in the recent past should not be taken to mean that ASEAN countries have become food secure. In a new normal, ASEAN particularly and Asia generally has shown slower economic growth which affected the incomes of many of those who are food insecure. But with lower commodity prices, food prices generally had also declined. This situation, however, could potentially be a false dawn if events cause food prices to rise irrespective of economic trends and households again have to endure food insecurity.

An index which tracks food security relative to macro-factors is the Rice Bowl Index (RBI) ©, which provides a measure of a country's ability to withstand disturbances to its various food security dimensions - availability, physical and economic access, utilisation and stability. The latest RBI © Report, titled “New Norm or False Dawn” released in late 2015, showed that over the preceding 12 months, the food security robustness of ASEAN countries had generally improved, but at a slower pace than in previous years.

The RBI ©, further concluded that in 2015, while Vietnam, Thailand and Malaysia may be considered as relatively robust in their food security preparedness, other ASEAN countries were not, namely the Philippines, Indonesia and Myanmar. Most ASEAN countries cannot afford to fall into a complacency trap because there has been no threat of any supply disruption in the recent past. Certainly, the vulnerability of countries such as Singapore and Brunei Darussalam to any prolonged supply shutdown of an important food item remains real.

Warning Signs - A “False Dawn”?

Many threats remain to destabilise food availability in the short term, while over the mid to longer term, challenges linked to climate change affect the ability of countries to be food secure.

Warning signs indicate that for critically important food to Asia such as rice, the “new norm” may be a transient one and become a “false dawn” even faster than expected. The International Rice Research institute (IRRI) in an early 2016 report showed that while global rice commodity prices have declined in consecutive years since 2013, the huge stocks of yesteryears have also declined sharply, especially in the top exporting countries of Thailand, Vietnam and India. By the third quarter of 2016, the combined rice stocks of India and Thailand have been projected by IRRI to be around 70% lower than in 2013 (a peak of 41 Million tonnes).

The same IRRI report has warned of the impending effects of El Niño, expressed through exceptional dry periods, to lower rice yields. So the near term is likely to see a tight supply situation, with a reminder that there could be a repeat of the 2007-08 price hikes which precipitated general food availability crises and civil disobedience in over thirty countries.

The false dawn may be further amplified through a possible La Niña effect of excessive moisture causing flooding later in 2016.

So going into 2017, much will depend on whether the upcoming rice growing seasons will be affected by unexpected severe weather events, and how governments respond to them. Governments will need to keep their food security situation balanced by a broader view and not over-react to temporary price hikes or supply disruptions. Within ASEAN, the countries which can impact greatly on others from the actions they take are Indonesia, Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam by virtue of population and agricultural production.

Thailand and Vietnam play important roles in global rice supply and are therefore barometers of preparedness to meet expected threats to rice security. India, the other big rice exporter, portends a worrisome situation caused by uncertainty about the upcoming wet (monsoon) season crop. The performance of this rice crop may well decide if India continues to export rice.

Preparing For The Expected

In the short-term, rice-eating countries in particular need to do forward planning and take anticipatory action. One such action is to ensure that their own rice stocks are sufficient to buffer any short term (6 -9 months) disruption to the rice supply chain. Forward contracts on supply may not be as helpful if there is a global rice shortage, however, transient.

The current situation of relatively low commodity and food prices suggests that there is a “food security dividend”. This can be derived by governments to invest in improving the preparedness of infrastructure, technologies and farming communities to respond to expected and impending challenges. Climate change adaptation measures, such as the development of Climate Smart Agriculture practices like drought-tolerant or submergence-tolerant crop varieties, need to be given high priority.

Accompanying this is the needed improvement in the ease of doing business to facilitate investments, and increased utilisation of mobile technology such as those championed by Accenture © for improving farm and farmer productivity for pro-active action and also responses to emergencies or calamities.

Paul S. Teng is Professor and Principal Officer, NIE, and Adjunct Senior Fellow at the Centre for Non-Traditional Security (NTS) Studies, S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS), Nanyang Technological University (NTU), Singapore. He is also a member of the Advisory Board of the Rice Bowl Index.

Myanmar: HRW Letter to President U Htin Kyaw [EN/MY]

4 May 2016 - 11:18pm
Source: Human Rights Watch Country: Myanmar

Re: Human Rights Priorities for the New Government

Dear President U Htin Kyaw,

We congratulate you on becoming Myanmar’s first civilian president appointed by a democratically elected parliament since 1962. We respect the sacrifices that you, National League for Democracy (NLD) leader Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, and millions of people in Myanmar have made in ending repressive military rule in the country.

Human Rights Watch is a nongovernmental organization that monitors and reports on human rights in over 90 countries around the world. We have documented the human rights situation and advocated for the promotion and protection of human rights in Myanmar for more than 25 years.

We write to you to outline key human rights challenges Myanmar faces and make recommendations to your government to address them. We hope that these recommendations will be helpful in formulating and implementing policies to tackle the country’s many human rights problems. We recognize the scale of the challenges your government faces in transforming Myanmar into a rights-respecting democracy after more than a half-century of military dictatorship and repression. The legacy of misrule you have inherited includes the fundamentally flawed 2008 constitution, which was designed to limit civilian reform and ensure residual constitutional powers for the Tatmadaw (national armed forces).

Human Rights Watch reiterates its call for amendments to the constitution to end the military quota of members of parliament, rescind provisions empowering the military to control three key ministries, and end reserved powers which allow the military to make decisions that should be overseen by an elected civilian government. The next national election should be for all parliamentary seats so that the people of Myanmar can choose a fully civilian government.

Myanmar faces many deep-rooted challenges, such as an unprofessional judiciary, decades of disregard for the rule of law, and poorly trained and unaccountable military and police. Up until the change in government, the authorities continued to arrest peaceful protesters and critics, which we hope will end now that your government has started the process of issuing pardons for political prisoners and dropping charges against those facing trial for political reasons. Extremists have fanned the flames of violence and discrimination against religious and ethnic minorities. While Southeast Asia has seen significant economic development over recent decades, military rule has left many in Myanmar in extreme poverty, estimated at 26 percent of the population, made worse by high-level corruption. Ongoing armed conflict between the state and ethnic armed groups has resulted in countless atrocities and economic hardship for millions of the country’s most marginalized civilians.

Human Rights Watch is aware that no new government in Myanmar can immediately meet the very high expectations held both nationally and internationally for improvements in the human rights situation. However, we believe there are many steps that can quickly be taken to improve the lives of many in Myanmar, while at the same time developing policies that will take longer to implement and bring to fruition. Below we identify key issues and present immediate and more gradual recommendations that we urge you and your government to undertake to make Myanmar a significantly more rights-respecting country.

We hope you find these recommendations useful. We look forward to learning the actions you plan to take and to working with your government in a constructive manner in the months and years ahead.

Sincerely,

Brad Adams Executive Director Asia Division

Cc:
Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, State Counselor, Minister of Foreign Affairs, and Minister of the President's Office
U Tun Tun Oo, Attorney General Lt. Gen. Kyaw Swe, Minister of Home Affairs
U Pe Myint, Minister of Information
U Win Mra, Chairman, Myanmar National Human Rights Commission
U Kyaw Myo Htut, Ambassador to the United States
Human Rights Priorities for the New Myanmar Government

1 Release All Political Prisoners

More than 100 National League for Democracy (NLD) members of parliament (MPs) are former political prisoners, so we are confident that freeing current political prisoners is a primary concern of your government, as evidenced by the release of 199 on April 8, 2016. While the previous government should be credited with a series of political prisoner amnesties from 2011-2014, in the final years of its rule the Thein Sein government fell short of its public commitment to free all remaining political prisoners. We welcome the major undertaking of your government to free Myanmar’s remaining political prisoners and drop charges against over 400 others currently facing trial, a process that began with the April 8 amnesty. We urge you to complete this process as soon as possible.

The NLD government’s finalization of a formal definition of “political prisoner,” in consultation with former political prisoner groups, should expedite releases of those unjustly imprisoned. Pursuant to that agreed definition, a political prisoner is “anyone who is arrested, detained, or imprisoned for political reasons under political charges or wrongfully under criminal or civil charges because of his or her perceived or known active role, perceived or known supporting role, or association with activity promoting freedom, justice, equality, human rights, and civil and political rights, including ethnic rights.”

Human Rights Watch urges your government to make it a priority to finalize the release of all current political prisoners and to order local authorities to immediately drop politically motivated charges against those in detention or facing trial. We call on your government to end the cycle of politically motivated arrests, and work to rein in local officials who use rights-abusing laws to stifle basic freedoms.

2 Reform Laws that Violate Basic Rights

The NLD has made the establishment of the rule of law in Myanmar a priority after decades of repressive and arbitrary military rule. We believe the prompt repeal or revision of laws that are used to prosecute peaceful critics of the government or military will remove the tools of repression from abusive authorities and end the long cycle of politically motivated arrests and detentions.

Human Rights Watch urges your government to take up in parliament the repeal or revision of the following laws and provisions (we will be providing more specific recommendations on how to do so in a report to be released soon):

Right to Peaceful Assembly and Peaceful Procession Act, Article 4: requiring those seeking to hold an assembly to obtain “consent” rather than simply provide notice; Article 8: requiring that the consent specify items such as the identification of those “permitted” to speak and the “chants that are allowed”; Article 18: imposing criminal penalties of up to six months in prison for conducting a peaceful assembly or peaceful procession; and Article 19: imposing criminal penalties of up to three months in prison for holding a peaceful assembly in other than the assigned location and for violating a range of rules, including broadly worded rules on content, in the conduct of an assembly.

Penal Code, Section 124(a) (sedition): imposing criminal penalties of up to three years in prison for speech that “attempts to bring into hatred or contempt, or excites or attempts to excite disaffections towards” the government; Sections 141-147: a series of broad provisions relating to “unlawful assemblies” that have been used against a range of protesters; Section 295(a): imposing criminal penalties of up to two years in prison for insulting or attempting to insult religious feelings of any class of persons “with deliberate and malicious intent”; Section 298: imposing criminal penalties of up to one year in prison for “wounding the religious feelings” of any person; Sections 499-502: imposing criminal penalties of up to two years in jail for defamation; and Section 505(b): imposing criminal penalties of up to two years in prison on anyone who makes, publishes, or circulates any statement, rumor, or report “with intent to cause, or which is likely to cause, fear or alarm to the public or to any section of the public whereby any person may be induced to commit an offense against the State or against the public tranquility.” Telecommunications Act, section 66(d): imposing criminal penalties of up to three years in prison for “extortion of any person, coercion, unlawful restriction, defamation, interfering, undue influence, or intimidation using a telecommunications network.” News Media Law, Section 9: imposing a vague and broadly worded code of conduct on the media, with particularly problematic subsections 9(g) (essentially a broad defamation provision) and 9(h) (“ways of writing which may inflame conflicts regarding nationality, religion, and race shall be avoided”); and Section 25(b): imposing criminal penalties of up to 1,000,000 kyats for violating subsections (d), (f) or (g) of the code of conduct in section 9.

Electronic Transactions Act, Section 33: imposing criminal penalties of up to seven years in prison for (a) “doing any act detrimental to the security of the state or prevalence of law and order or community peace and tranquility or national solidarity or national economy or national culture,” or (b) “receiving or sending and distributing any information relating to secrets of the security of the State or prevalence of law and order or community peace and tranquility or national solidarity or national economy or national culture”; and Section 34(d): imposing criminal penalties of up to 10,000,000 kyat for “creating, modifying, or altering of information or distributing of information created, modified, or altered by electronic technology to be detrimental to the interest of or to lower the dignity or any organization or any person.” Contempt of Courts Act: defining criminal contempt so broadly that it impairs the ability of the media to accurately report on, and of the media and the public to criticize, proceedings in the courts, and subjecting those who do so to the possibility of up to six months in jail.

Official Secrets Act 1923, Section 3: imposing criminal penalties for “spying” using unclear and outdated terminology, with no requirement that the government prove a real risk to national security, and permitting the use of “known character” evidence to establish intent; and Section 6(2): imposing criminal penalties for the disclosure or receipt of “any official document” without any requirement that the disclosure poses a real risk of harm to national security.

Printing and Publishing Enterprise Law, Article 8: imposing several broadly worded content restrictions on printers, publishers, and news agencies, including prohibitions on “matters that can tarnish the ethnicity, religion, or culture of an ethnic group or citizen,” or “matters that can undermine national security, the rule of law, community peace, and tranquility, or the equality, freedom, justice, and rights of every citizen.” Emergency Provisions Act 1950, and the State Protection Act 1975: long outdated laws that previous military governments frequently used against critics and more recently against the media.

Unlawful Associations Act 1908: "Whoever is a member of an unlawful association, or takes part in meetings of any such association, or contributes or receives or solicits any contribution for the purpose of any such association or in any way assists the operations of any such association." This provision is regularly used to punish people suspected of having involvement with an unlawful armed group. The act has been used to arrest and convict dozens of civilians in Arakan State suspected to have provided support for the Arakan Army, and was used recently on April 8, the day of the government's general pardon, to convict and sentence two interfaith activists in Mandalay, Pwint Pyu Latt and Zaw Zaw Latt, to two years with hard labor.

3 Protect and Facilitate the Work of Civil Society Organizations

The transition from military rule to semi-civilian rule in Myanmar has been partly realized by a long-term contribution by nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) to the promotion of human rights and development throughout the country. Some of these groups began working from exile before 2011, and have continued that work on their return to Myanmar.

Myanmar NGOs are playing a prominent role in the transition by advocating for women’s rights, land rights, financial transparency, rights of minorities, religious freedom, and rights of people living with disabilities. Many of these NGOs are also playing pivotal roles in electoral reform, including having helped make the 2015 elections transparent and inclusive, and in disaster relief, health, and education development. The promotion of democratic values, human rights, rule of law, basic freedoms, and developmental goals by national and international NGOs should be recognized as a crucial feature of Myanmar’s long-term effort to be a rights-respecting democracy. These groups work hard to protect the right to associate freely, online as well as offline, for persons espousing minority or dissenting views or beliefs, human rights defenders, trade unionists, migrants working in Myanmar and overseas, and others. They have important perspectives, information, and capacity that we believe can assist your government in its reform agenda. We strongly recommend you hold regular and meaningful consultations with diverse civil society groups on all aspects of governance and legal reform.

Accordingly, Human Rights Watch urges your government to amend the Association Registration Law of 2014, which contravenes international standards on freedom of association. Bringing this law into line with Myanmar’s international obligations should displace efforts by the Attorney General’s department to finalize implementing regulations for the law.

Myanmar is not a party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) or the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR). It has not signed the ICCPR but did sign the ICESCR in July 2015. The Myanmar National Human Rights Commission recommended in 2013 that the government ratify the covenants and their optional protocols—promptly doing so would bring Myanmar in line with international human rights standards that will be pivotal in guiding the transition and development of the country. Chapter 8 of the 2008 Constitution guarantees many economic, social, and cultural rights, even if they are interspersed with problematic qualifications about national security and non-disintegration of the union, and we believe that adopting and adhering to the principles included in the ICESCR will be crucial to major challenges your government will face on rights to land, water, resources, and cultural freedoms.

4 Reform National Human Rights Commission

A key initiative will be to reform the Myanmar National Human Rights Commission (MNHRC) to be fully in line with the United Nations principles relating to the status of national institutions (the Paris Principles). Created by the Thein Sein administration in 2011, the commission lacks genuine independence. It remains institutionally weak and received little financial support from the central government, relying largely on international development aid. Although it has been critical of government actions in a number of cases, such as the police assault on protesting students at Letpadan in March 2015, for the most part it has refrained from investigating pressing reports of human rights violations, particularly by the Myanmar military. As a result it has frequently been criticized by Myanmar human rights groups.

The MNHRC should be reconstituted in line with the Paris Principles, including ensuring a diverse composition involving representatives of civil society. Its composition and activities should be gender-sensitive, and it should be trained and equipped to fully address women’s rights issues. The commission should also be granted an adequate budget and full scope to investigate and report on human rights violations throughout the country. A first step should be to amend the 2014 MNHRC Law, particularly sections 5, 8, and 9 on the selection and independence of commissioners, and section 46 on the transparency and independence of the commission’s budget, in consultation with Myanmar civil society groups to ensure the selection criteria are developed in an inclusive manner.

5 Invite the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) to Open an Office with a Full Mandate and Adequate Staff

We urge your government to promptly approve the establishment of a formal OHCHR office with full reporting and capacity-building mandates. The establishment of this office was a key pledge by President Thein Sein to United States President Barack Obama that he failed to fulfill, partly because of resistance from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, which has long been institutionally antagonistic to UN human rights mechanisms. The establishment of a full OHCHR office will immeasurably improve the cooperation your government will have with the United Nations and help to bolster promotion of the UN’s “Human Rights Up Front” approach to assistance throughout the world. The office would work proactively with parliament, the bureaucracy, and civil society to promote and reinforce a commitment to human rights, provide technical assistance to the government in drafting legislation, and help strengthen national institutions concerned with human rights, including the MNHRC.

6 Protect and Promote Women’s Rights

The promotion and protection of women’s rights in Myanmar should be a key priority of your government. Previous military governments marginalized women’s participation in public life. The new parliament elected in November 2015 has more women MPs than at any time in Myanmar’s history; women now comprise 14.5 percent of the MPs elected to the Union parliament and 12.5 percent of state and regional assemblies. Five out of 29 ethnic affairs ministers elected in the regional assemblies are women, and women were selected as chief minister for both Tenasserim Region and Karen State. Yet promoting the rights of women in Myanmar still has a long way to go, and the 18-person cabinet of the national government has just one woman. We propose several measures your government can pursue to help promote the rights of women in Myanmar.

The government should ensure Myanmar is in full compliance with its obligations under the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), which Myanmar acceded to in 1997. Myanmar is scheduled to provide its next report to the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, which oversees implementation of the convention by member states, in 2016. The previous government’s submission to the committee claimed it had enacted eight pieces of legislation that promoted women’s rights, but many of them did so only tangentially, such as the Social Security Law. The draft law most important to women’s rights is still awaiting parliamentary action and approval: the Protection and Prevention of Violence Against Women Law. We call on your government to ensure Myanmar is in full compliance with its obligations under CEDAW. The National Strategic Plan for the Advancement of Women 2013-2022 formulated by the previous government should be amended to be in line with CEDAW and other international human rights conventions.

We urge your government to enact the Protection and Prevention of Violence Against Women Law, the draft of which was the result of extensive consultation with Myanmar women’s groups and the United Nations. This draft law has languished in recent months, and some suggested amendments would cause the law to fall short of Myanmar’s commitments to international human rights standards, including the need to include a full definition of rape and specifically outlaw domestic violence and marital rape. Nonetheless, if passed, this law would go farther than the piecemeal legislative reforms of the previous administration toward guaranteeing the protection of women and would serve as a firm basis for amending other existing laws that discriminate against women.

Of particular concern are reports of sexual violence perpetrated against women and girls in conflict zones. These persistent abuses have been facilitated by the lack of accountability for those responsible for such crimes, whether by members of Myanmar’s military or non-state armed groups. The Ministry of Defense has informed the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar that the military has prosecuted 61 armed services personnel for rape offenses between 2011 and 2015. Yet these numbers are well below what numerous groups believe to be the extent of the problem, and many proceedings take place in military rather than civilian courts, and are rarely if ever open to the public. There are numerous cases of alleged sexual violence that the military has refused to seriously investigate, notably the rape and murder of two Kachin schoolteachers, Maran Lu Ra and Tangbau Hkawn Nan Tsin, in January 2015 by suspected Myanmar army soldiers. In addition, abductions and enforced disappearances of women in conflict zones is an ongoing concern, such as the case of a Kachin woman, Sumlut Roi Ja, abducted by Myanmar army troops in October 2011 whose fate is unknown.

Human Rights Watch also urges your government to ensure full participation of women in all future peace negotiations. Women’s voices and concerns have been noticeably absent from nearly four years of negotiations, and women hold few if any senior positions in organizations involved in peace negotiations. The now defunct Myanmar Peace Center (MPC), the government’s secretariat for the negotiations, had few women on its staff, and many women’s groups involved in peace and conflict in Myanmar reported being treated with disdain or as “spoilers” by MPC officials for their involvement in the process and for pressing for women’s rights to be included. The principles contained in UN Security Council Resolution 1325 and subsequent resolutions on women, peace, and security should set the standard for the essential role of women in Myanmar in the prevention and resolution of conflicts, including in peace negotiations, peace-building, peacekeeping, humanitarian response, and in post-conflict reconstruction. The commitment of the Union Peace Conference in January to “enable at least 30 per cent participation by women at different levels of political dialogues” is an important development and we urge you to ensure the full and unfettered involvement of women at all levels of the peace process. Your government should also encourage leaders of non-state armed groups to support the full participation of women, since those groups have also failed to ensure women’s meaningful participation. Women’s rights organizations should have a central role in the design and implementation of these processes, ensuring a diverse population is able to provide substantive input to policy and programming on peace and security in Myanmar.

7 Protect and Promote Land Rights

One of the major nationwide challenges your government faces concerns land issues. Seizures of land and forced displacement of rural communities have risen sharply since 2011, and as parliamentary investigations have concluded, one of the major agents of land seizures is the Myanmar military. Increased protests throughout Myanmar have resulted in a marked increase in the arrest and prosecution of peaceful protesters and land rights activists, often under the abusive laws outlined above. The enactment of the National Land Use Policy in January 2016 will help address the vexing problem of land disputes, as it contains rights-based language on equality of men and women in land rights, rights standards concerning land acquisition, and rights of ethnic minorities. Yet the land use policy is limited by other laws regulating land use, such as the Farmland Act; the Vacant, Fallow and Virgin Lands Management Law; and the Myanmar Investment Law, which has made it easier for national authorities and national and international businesses to acquire land without ensuring adequate protection of land tenure rights of local communities. We urge your government to amend these three laws in line with the principles presented in the National Land Use Policy and ensure regular and meaningful consultation with civil society groups and rural communities at every stage of legislative reform of this crucial sector. These laws should also be in full compliance with international standards on transparency including Myanmar’s commitments under the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI), environmental protection, and human rights protection. Your government should create a complaints body that addresses current and former land disputes, operating in full accordance with international standards.

We also urge your government to end the cycle of arrests of land rights activists under abusive laws on assembly, and to drop cases against anyone charged for peaceful protest. When the right to peaceful assembly is unnecessarily restricted, otherwise peaceful protests can turn violent, as occurred during the protests in Letpadaung in 2012 to 2013 when local authorities refused to permit peaceful assembly and arrested prominent land rights activists.

Human Rights Watch urges the government in addressing land rights issues to provide for the full participation of women, based on their informed, active, meaningful, and effective engagement in the formulation of laws, policies, and programs. Your government should ensure that women and women’s rights groups and collectives are effectively represented on equal terms with men in all decision-making structures relevant to land and agriculture, including in mechanisms that have a voting function. Women’s rights groups in Myanmar should be provided with full and accurate information about decision-making processes relevant to land and agriculture, and should be able to benefit from capacity-building in this regard in order to ensure that their participation in decision-making is informed, active, meaningful, and effective. The right to participation applies to all stages of law, policy, and program development, including assessment and analysis, program planning and design, budgeting and financing, implementation, and monitoring and evaluation. As the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) has recognized, “In all instances, training women on their rights has proved extremely useful as it increases their awareness of the claims they can make and provides opportunities for enhancing their political capital and their participation in the policy process.”

8 Protect and Promote the Right to Health

We recognize your government’s commitment to reforming the health sector and improving access to health throughout the country. We urge you to pursue reform of the health sector in line with international human rights standards, which recognize that the right to health is related to the enjoyment of other rights, including the right to safe drinking water and adequate sanitation, safe food, adequate nutrition and housing, healthy working and environmental conditions, health-related education and information, and gender equality.

Government healthcare goods and services throughout Myanmar should ensure access based on genuine need, and not discriminate on the basis of ethnicity, religion, language, or gender. In particular, the provision of humanitarian needs and health care to people internally displaced by conflict, communal violence, or dispossession of land through development and business ventures should not be limited by arbitrary security restrictions at a local level. There have been numerous reports for many years of government troops targeting health workers and clinics in conflict zones, so we urge your government to work to end all targeting of healthcare facilities and workers, and to hold those responsible to account, regardless of their position or rank.

The enactment of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Law in 2015 is an important gain for the rights of people with disabilities in Myanmar. We urge your government to take steps to ensure that there is no discrimination in the provision of healthcare services to people living with physical and mental disabilities throughout Myanmar.

Myanmar is a major producer and exporter of illicit narcotics, and there are many reports of increases in drug use in Myanmar. Human Rights Watch recognizes that governments have a legitimate interest in preventing societal harms caused by drugs. But the Myanmar government’s current drug control policies have caused or contributed to serious human rights violations. Decades of misguided national drug policies—often shaped by the international community which has long adopted prohibitive policies that seek to ban all use, possession, production, and trafficking of drugs—has driven armed conflict in rural areas, displaced and impoverished hundreds of thousands of farmers, and contributed to official corruption in the hinterlands. Punitive eradication by the government and military, often mirrored by approaches by non-state armed groups in Kachin and Shan States, have a destructive impact on the livelihoods of farming communities in opium cultivation zones. Some initiatives pursued by local authorities to reduce drug dependence, such as compulsory drug detention centers, are abusive and violate the right to health, as well as other rights. Drug dependence treatment should not be forced. Human Rights Watch considers that no one should be routinely detained for the purpose of compulsory treatment and opposes any system that provides for routine detention for the purpose of treatment for drug dependency.

In the wake of the United Nations General Assembly Special Session (UNGASS) on drugs in April 2016, we urge your government to reconsider Myanmar’s drug laws and policies. Your government should support law reform that reshapes drug policy to mitigate the effects on human rights, public health, and development of punitive drug approaches. To deter, prevent, and remedy the harmful use of drugs, Myanmar should rely on non-penal regulatory and public health approaches that do not violate human rights. We urge your government to work closely with international agencies in Yangon working on narcotic drug programs to ensure that Myanmar’s anti-narcotic’s efforts comport with international standards.

9 End Persecution of Rohingya and Other Muslims

One of the most pressing human rights challenges your government faces is the situation in Arakan State. The communal violence of 2012, which Human Rights Watch research found resulted in ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity, left over 125,000 Rohingya Muslims displaced and living in horrific conditions. The 1.2 million Rohingya in Myanmar have long been targets of government persecution, which has been facilitated by their effective denial of citizenship under the discriminatory 1982 Citizenship Law. Past public statements by senior members of the NLD have often been dismissive of Rohingya concerns, downplayed claims of the Rohingya minority’s right to citizenship, and rejected their claims to self-identification. We call on you as president to strongly urge an end to official denunciations of the Rohingya minority as a first step in the resolution of this issue.

President Thein Sein’s recent lifting of the state of emergency that was imposed in 2012 in Arakan State opens the door to greater respect for the human rights of all in the state. However, we remain concerned by the retention of the curfew order in Maungdaw and Buthidaung townships, which bans gatherings of more than five people in public places, including mosques. We urge your government and Nyi Pu, the NLD-appointed chief minister of Arakan State, to immediately rescind this curfew order.

The effective denial of citizenship to the Rohingya has facilitated various human rights violations against them, including restrictions on the right to freedom of movement, discriminatory limitations on access to education, arbitrary detention, forced labor, and arbitrary taxation and confiscation of property. Curbs on basic freedoms in Arakan State maintained by security forces and officials of the three ministries remaining under military control will be an obvious obstacle. The swift repeal of these local security measures would immeasurably improve the situation of the Rohingya population. We urge you to strengthen efforts to ensure that the security environment in Arakan State protects all communities equally and without discrimination.

We remain especially concerned that humanitarian access to camps for internally displaced Rohingya in Sittwe and to Rohingya communities in northern Arakan State continues to be obstructed by local officials and security forces. While the number of officially designated internally displaced persons (IDPs) in Arakan State has decreased in the last year, from 140,000 to around 125,000, and the number of camps decreased from 67 to 40 following resettlement and rebuilding projects in isolated IDP areas, the humanitarian conditions for remaining displaced Rohingya and Arakanese Buddhists remains dire.

A statement released by the NLD Central Executive Committee on June 1, 2015, following the maritime crisis in the Andaman Sea, said, “The National League for Democracy, and the party’s Chairperson [Aung San Suu Kyi], have consistently said that resolution of the communal conflict in Rakhine [Arakan] State should be founded on the principles of human rights, democracy and rule of law,” and committed to “address the issue of citizenship fairly, transparently, and as quickly as possible.” You now have the opportunity to act on these words.

In a broader national context, we urge your government to publicly call for an end to the public vilification and in some cases incitement to violence against Myanmar’s Muslim minority population. This entails public repudiation of calls by ultranationalist Buddhist organizations to discriminate against, incite violence against, or expel Muslims from Myanmar. The anti-Rohingya abuses in Arakan State in 2012 unleashed anti-Muslim violence throughout the country that has seriously complicated the democratic transition. In contrast to what was an otherwise inclusive election in 2015, neither the NLD nor the now opposition Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) fielded a single Muslim candidate in the 2015 election. No Muslim from any party was voted into office.

Your government should also immediately repeal the four so-called race and religion protection laws proposed by the Thein Sein government at the urging of the Association for the Protection of Race and Religion (Ma Ba Tha) and passed into law by the Union Parliament in 2015. All four laws were designed to limit the rights of religious minorities and women, and in doing so contravene Myanmar’s international human rights obligations and provisions of the 2008 Constitution. We note with appreciation that the NLD MPs voted against these laws, and Aung San Suu Kyi has spoken out publicly against the threats several of these laws pose to women’s rights. Your government now is in position to take measures against these deeply problematic laws and should do so immediately.

Ending decades of repression and communal conflict in Arakan State is complicated and cannot be resolved through development alone, and government efforts there must also address ongoing root causes of human rights abuses and pressing humanitarian realities.

10 Amend Myanmar’s 1982 Citizenship Law

The 1982 Citizenship Law provides that “full” citizens are members of named “national races” (including Arakanese, Bamar, Chin, Kachin, Karen, Karenni, Mon, and Shan), or those whose ancestors settled in the country before 1823, the beginning of British occupation of what is now Arakan State. If individuals cannot provide evidence that their ancestors settled in Myanmar before 1823, and if they are not members of a national race, the law denies them full citizenship.

The law designates three categories of citizens: full citizens, associate citizens, and naturalized citizens. Foreigners may become naturalized citizens if they can provide “conclusive evidence” that they or their parents entered and resided in Myanmar prior to independence in 1948. Persons who have at least one parent who holds one of the three types of Myanmar citizenship are also eligible to become naturalized citizens. Beyond this qualification, section 44 of the law requires that a person seeking to become a naturalized citizen must be at least 18-years-old, able to speak one of the national languages well (the Rohingya language is not recognized as a national language), and of good character and sound mind. The UN Human Rights Committee has long expressed concern over stringent language criteria set out for citizenship in this law. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) and all major international human rights conventions prohibit discrimination on the basis of race, religion, language, and other grounds. The 1982 Citizenship Law discriminates against Rohingya by applying distinctive standards to them that are not supported by reasonable and objective criteria.

Under the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), to which Myanmar is a party, children have the right to acquire a nationality and have this right ensured under national law, particularly where they would otherwise be stateless. The 1982 Citizenship law thus violates this convention.

Your government should request technical assistance from the United Nations to amend the citizenship law to meet international standards. The law should then be implemented to allow Rohingya full citizenship on a non-discriminatory basis and ensure that children are never made stateless. The category of “associate citizen” and other forms of second-class citizenship that give local officials legal tools and bureaucratic latitude to deny minority groups their full rights should be eliminated.

11 Press the Military to End Human Rights Violations in Conflict Areas

Decades of armed conflict between the central government and various ethnic armed groups has been accompanied by countless violations of the laws of war and human rights abuses that have adversely affected millions of predominantly marginalized people. The ceasefire signed by the outgoing government and eight of the ethnic armed groups in October 2015 was followed by resumed fighting in northern Myanmar that has seen renewed instances of forced labor, forced recruitment, torture and ill-treatment, sexual violence, indiscriminate attacks, and use of anti-personnel landmines, by all warring parties. Fighting in Shan State over the past several months has displaced thousands of civilians, while over 90,000 civilians remain internally displaced by the fighting in Kachin State between 2011 and 2013, where reports of abuses are ongoing.

Human Rights Watch urges your government to impress upon the military the country’s obligations to abide by Common Article 3 to the Geneva Conventions and customary laws of war in its conflicts with ethnic armed groups. Of particular concern has been the lack of accountability for serious abuses committed by members of the armed forces. This failure has engendered deep distrust in communities affected by past and ongoing fighting. Human Rights Watch believes that justice and accountability should be the foundation of any process to end armed conflict. While the Myanmar military is constitutionally protected against civilian oversight, the government could nonetheless hold regular parliamentary hearings to discuss laws of war violations and abuses against civilians by all parties to the conflict, and publish reports of those hearings. It would be crucial to include the voices of Myanmar civil society in such hearings and perhaps compel the military to be more forthright about abuses and accountability measures.

Human Rights Watch also remains concerned about the return of thousands of civilians internally displaced by conflict in northern Myanmar, and over 100,000 civilians displaced by decades of war still in refugee camps along the Thailand-Myanmar border. We call on your government to ensure that any repatriation of IDPs and refugees takes place in full compliance with international standards, including the UN Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement and the 1951 Refugees Convention, which we urge your government to ratify. Any IDP returns and refugee repatriation must be conducted voluntarily, in safety and dignity, and with full oversight from international bodies such as the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), and in full consultation and planning with refugee rights representatives and community leaders. Failing to ensure these important principles could imperil the rights of displaced people and refugees and increase tensions in many ethnic areas.

12 End All Recruitment and Use of Children as Soldiers

Reports of continued use of child soldiers by the military and non-state armed groups persist, despite the signing of a Joint Action Plan between the Myanmar government and the United Nations in 2012. While the military has released 745 underage or underage recruited soldiers since the plan was signed, reports of continued recruitment by the military continue, although the scale is difficult to estimate. In 2014, for example, 357 cases of child recruitment and use by the military were reported through the UN, the forced labor complaint mechanism of the International Labor Organization (ILO), and community monitoring.

Similarly, while prosecution of military officials involved in underage recruitment has risen, mostly before military tribunals, restrictions on access to military facilities suspected of holding child soldiers and information make it impossible to accurately assess the scale of the problem of continued recruitment, and the extent of punishment of military officials. Reports of recruitment and use of underage soldiers by pro-government militias has risen, as have recent reports of forced recruitment by non-state armed groups such as the Kachin Independence Army and others. We urge your government to fully implement the 2012 Joint Action Plan, and bolster these efforts by ratifying the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the involvement of children in armed conflict, and ensure the draft Child Law is fully in line with Myanmar’s obligations as a state party to the CRC.

13 Accountability for Past and Ongoing Abuses

The people of Myanmar have endured decades of military repression and armed conflict, and many patterns of abuses persist despite a transition from authoritarian rule. Establishing a framework for accountability that includes mechanisms to prosecute civilian and military officials implicated in serious rights abuses should be a priority of your government, despite resistance from the military and obstacles contained in the 2008 Constitution. Ongoing violations by all sides to the fighting in Shan, Kachin, and Arakan States should also be investigated in line with international standards. Patterns of violations have included extrajudicial executions, use of torture and ill-treatment, use of forced labor including convict labor on the front line, sexual violence against women and girls, use of child soldiers, and looting and destruction of property.

Investigating and prosecuting individuals responsible for serious violations of international human rights and humanitarian law is an obligation under international law. Holding individuals accountable for human rights abuses and war crimes is important because it can provide avenues for much-needed redress for the victims of these crimes and their families. Credible accountability measures—meaning justice that is independent, impartial, and fair—can also deter future violations and promote respect for the rule of law. Such actions can promote discipline and professionalism by the armed forces and law enforcement officials, support responsible command and control structures, and improve relations with the civilian population. Governments that fail to hold key violators to account undermine their standing in conflict areas and globally, and increase the likelihood of international action being taken against them.

Ensuring justice for serious violations is, in the first instance, the responsibility of the state whose nationals are implicated in the violations. The state must ensure that military or domestic courts or other institutions impartially investigate whether serious violations occurred, identify and prosecute the individuals responsible for those violations in accordance with international fair trial standards, and impose punishments on individuals found guilty that are commensurate with their deeds. While non-state armed groups do not have the same legal obligation to prosecute violators of the laws of war within their ranks, they are nonetheless responsible for ensuring compliance with the laws of war and have a responsibility when they do conduct trials to do so in accordance with international fair trial standards.

Human Rights Watch strongly recommends that your government sign and ratify the 1998 Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, joining 124 member states, as a firm commitment to promoting accountability.

We also urge your government to amend the Former President’s Security Bill, passed by the outgoing parliament in 2016, especially article 10, which grants immunity to former heads of state “from any prosecution for actions during his term.” This clause is inimical to democratic governance and rule of law by granting immunity to heads of state who may be guilty of serious crimes committed while in office. Retaining such a clause sends a signal to abusive officials further down the line of command that impunity persists.

We recognize that promoting accountability will be a major challenge for your government, as Myanmar’s judiciary is weak, corrupt, and often controlled by the military or government ministries under military control. By pursuing accountability for past and ongoing abuses, the reform of the judiciary and its full independence can be obtained, possibly through technical assistance from the OHCHR and donor countries.

14 Constitutional Reform

Civilian rule in Myanmar is constitutionally circumscribed by the 2008 Constitution. Amending the constitution can only be achieved with the cooperation of the military, and so far the military commander in chief has been unwilling to do so, despite having been in discussions with NLD leadership since November 2015.

Parliament voted down a package of constitutional amendments in 2015, although some proposals had strong support. Producing a roadmap for constitutional reform that provides for a genuinely democratic political system with the military under civilian rule should be a priority, though there will likely be opposition from entrenched interests. Many provisions of the constitution could be changed by a majority parliamentary vote. However, Section 436 of the constitution sets out sections that require more than 75 percent of Union parliamentary votes, which will be difficult given the 25 percent of seats reserved for appointed Tatmadaw MPs, and a nationwide referendum needing a majority of votes.

We suggest focusing on the following provisions in parliament and in consultation with Myanmar civil society organizations so that constitutional reform remains a top priority of public debate:

Section 6(f), “Enabling the Defence Services to be able to participate in the national political leadership role,” is counter to the principles of a civilian democratic system and preserves extraordinary power for the military.

Section 20, which grants the military a key role in safeguarding the constitution, should instead be the responsibility of a democratically elected parliament or an independent judiciary.
Section 59(f), which blocks from the presidency anyone with a foreign spouse or child is discriminatory and should be amended. The military’s unwillingness thus far to amend this provision—obviously intended to deny Aung San Suu Kyi the presidency—is evidence of the arduous challenge your government faces to amend the constitution.
Section 232(b) [ii, iii], which empowers the military to appoint serving military officers to the key ministries of Defense, Home Affairs, and Border Affairs. In particular, the guarantee of the Ministry of Home Affairs to a serving military officer places key security services in the hands of the military, notably the Myanmar Police Force, Special Branch, the General Administration Department, and the Correctional Department. These law enforcement agencies should be under civilian control and oversight.

Chapter 7, on the role of the Defense Services, should be reframed in line with the principles of a national military being under full civilian control and oversight. In particular, the military justice system, which falls under the authority of the commander in chief, should be placed under civilian jurisdiction.

Chapter 8, on the Fundamental Rights and Duties of Citizens, should be amended in line with Myanmar’s obligations under international human rights law. Several provisions are antithetical to these commitments such as Section 352, which states, “Nothing shall prevent appointment of men to the positions that are suitable for men only,” in violation of the right to gender equality under CEDAW; and Section 383, which enshrines as a citizen’s duty upholding the military’s Three Main National Causes of non-disintegration of the Union, non-disintegration of national solidarity, and perpetuation of sovereignty.

Section 436, which grants the military effective veto over specific amendments to the constitution, requiring over 75 percent of votes in parliament and a nationwide referendum with an approval of over half of eligible voters. This effectively blocks constitutional amendments without approval of the Defense Services, namely the commander in chief, who appoints the military MPs.

Myanmar: Myanmar Police Force supply water to drought-hit-areas

4 May 2016 - 9:48pm
Source: New Light of Myanmar Country: Myanmar

MEMBERS of the Myanmar Police Force are in the process of supplying water for drinking, washing and bathing to communities who have recently been facing water-shortages.

Members of the Air Police Force (Yangon-Branch) under the Myanmar Police Force donated 700 drinking water bottles— each bottle holding 20 litres— to villagers of Ahnochaunggyi village in Dala Township, Yangon Region on 30 April.

On 1 May, Members of the Police Forces in Magwe and Thayet Townships, Magwe Region distributed 8,000 gallons of drinking and bathing water, members of Myo Ma Police Station in Ann Township, Rakhine State supplied 1,700 gallons of water. On Monday members of the Thaton

Township Myo Ma Police Force and Chaungsone Township Police Outpost in Mon State distributed 2,050 gallons of water while members of the Kataikkyi Police Outpost donated 1,300 gallons of drinking water to residents in their townships.

On that same day members of the Dawei District Police Force supplied 400 gallons of drinking water to the people of Launglong Township.

Ye Zarni

Myanmar: Myanmar: Fire destroys 49 longhouses at IDP camp in Sittwe

4 May 2016 - 12:51pm
Source: Government of Myanmar Country: Myanmar

A FIRE, reportedly beginning in a kitchen at the Baw Du Ba internally displaced persons (IDP) camp-2 in Sittwe destroyed 49 longhouses yesterday.
The fire started at around 9.10 am and was brought under control by firemen at 10 am, according to the local fire department.
Six longhouses were destroyed by the firefighters in order to control the blaze and stop the spread of fire to other structures.
The fire caused losses totaling K137.5 million according to the Ministry of Social Welfare, Relief and Resettlement.
A total of 1,744 persons from 435 different households, who were left homeless by the fire, are currently being sheltered at the Ohndawgyi relief camp.
The Rakhine State Government and local Social Welfare, Relief and Resettlement Department have provided relief aid to the fire victims and are establishing tents for them at their temporary shelter location.
Red Cross members in Sittwe are providing medical assistance to the injured. No deaths were reported.

Myanmar: Midwives save lives in remote, conflict-hit Myanmar

4 May 2016 - 8:54am
Source: UN Population Fund Country: Myanmar

Yangon - In Myanmar’s Magway region, far too many mothers, babies and infants die needlessly.

The remote Central Western district has the highest infant mortality rate in the country, and one of the highest maternal mortality rates in a nation where nearly one third more mothers die through childbirth than the South East Asian average.

Midwife Daw Aye Myint arrived in Magway in September 2015, determined to do something about it. She now gets vital healthcare and support to pregnant women, new mothers and newborn babies across four villages with a combined population of around 2,600.

“I make four or five routine visits to three other villages each month,” she says. “In the summer they are easily accessible, but when the rains come the roads turn into mud, but I manage.”

The first ever health professional to be based in the village of Htamakaut, Myint also provides on the job training to the single auxiliary midwife and the two community health workers in the area.

She also supports a potentially lifesaving expanded programme of immunization (EPI) for the local population.

“The EPI taxes our resources to the limit,” she says. “We have to coordinate with the village authorities of each village, and ensure that all the families from each village are gathered in the same place on the designated day.”

Myint is one of seven midwives to be trained, deployed and supported to the impoverished region by the Myanmar Nurses and Midwives Association (MNMA) and the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA).

As part of a wider programme to ensure quality care reaches women and girls in remote and conflict-hit areas, she received 18 months midwifery training and a five-day pre-deployment course before heading out to Htamakaut.

“They have experience, and can share it with community health workers and auxiliary midwives in the villages,” says Dr. Kyaw Kyaw, the local township's medical coordinator.

“Their value lies in the fact that they can blend in with rural people very easily. They are trusted, and respected. Where they are deployed, we are certain that maternal and infant care improves greatly, thanks to MNMA and UNFPA.”

Dr. Hla Hla Aye, UNFPA’s Assistant Representative in Myanmar, says that getting more professional midwives out to remote areas is key to bringing down maternal and newborn mortality rates.

“58 midwives received pre-deployment training with our support in 2015,” she says, “and 136 midwives have received training that they then share with others on emergency obstetric care.”

World: World events - ECHO Daily Map | 03/05/2016

3 May 2016 - 10:32pm
Source: European Commission Humanitarian Aid Office Country: Djibouti, Ethiopia, India, Indonesia, Myanmar, Nepal, Syrian Arab Republic, Vanuatu, World, Yemen

India, Nepal – Forest fire
• According to media, forest fires have been affecting northern India, especially the state of Uttarakhand, as well as some areas of Nepal over the past couple of months causing casualties and damage.
• Media report at least 18 people dead, of which 11 in Nepal and seven in Uttarakhand state (India), as of 3 May.

India – Severe weather
• Heavy rain and thunderstorms have been reportedly affecting several areas of the country over the past few days causing floods.
• As of 3 May, media reported two people injured, over 1 000 houses damaged and power outages in Nagaland state.

Myanmar/Burma – Severe weather
• Severe weather, including heavy rain and strong winds, has reportedly continued to affect several areas of the country over the past few days causing more casualties and damage.
• Local media reported one person dead, at least three injured and 1 000 homes damaged in Mandalay city as well as several people were left without power in the regions of Yangon and Mandalay, as of 2 May. National authorities also report more than 450 people homeless in the state of Kachin.

Indonesia – Severe weather
• Heavy rain has been affecting several areas of the country over the past week causing floods and landslides.
• National authorities report, as of 3 May, two people dead, three injured and four missing due to a landslide in Lebong district (Bengkulu province) that occurred on 28 April. Search operations are still ongoing. OCHA also reports that over 1 500 houses have been damaged by floods in the provinces of Aceh, Central Sulawesi, Banten and West Java.

Vanuatu – Earthquake
• An earthquake of magnitude 6.0 M at a depth of 5 km hit off the western coast of Malakula island (Melampa province, Vanuatu) on 30 April at 8:35 UTC. The epicentre was located 35 km south-west of the Lakatoro city and 17 km south-west of Travendoua village. USGS PAGER estimates that 2 000 people were exposed to "Strong" shaking. No tsunami threat was posed by this earthquake
• As of 3 May, there have been no reports of damage or injuries.

Yemen – Conflict
• The casualty figures of the Yemen conflict are on the rise. As of 20 April, a total of 6 433 deaths and 30 819 injuries had been recorded at health facilities according to WHO.
• According to UNHCR, Yemeni refugees from O’bock camp in Djibouti have started to return. Since early March a total of 555 refugees have spontaneously returned to Yemen. In addition, a total of 10 424 migrants and asylum-seekers arrived in Yemen during the month of March, mostly Ethiopians. In spite of the conflict, 28 717 new arrivals were registered in Yemen in the first quarter of 2016 while at least 27 people have gone missing at sea.

Syria – Conflict
• Following the increase in violence in Aleppo, 88 international and Syrian NGOs have called on the Governments of USA and Russia, cochairs of the International Syria Support Group (ISSG), to help restore the cessation of hostilities that has been increasingly challenged in recent weeks.
• The surge of violence in Aleppo has brought to an end the relative calm that the population had enjoyed since the cessation of hostilities entered into effect in late February. According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) at least 253 civilians, including 49 children, have died in shelling, rocket fire and airstrikes in Aleppo since the surge in fighting began in late April.

Myanmar: Severe weather coming this week: DMH

3 May 2016 - 10:15pm
Source: Government of Myanmar Country: Myanmar

THE weather bureau has warned the public of strong winds accompanied by hailstorms and lightning strikes in many parts of the country, alerting the peoples to the possibility of severe weather patterns from 3 to 7 May.

The Meteorology and Hydrology Department announced the warning saying its observation at 3:30pm yesterday found some cumulus clouds in upper Sagaing, Mandalay and Magway regions and Kachin, Shan, Chin and Rakhine states due to unstable atmospheric pressure.

The forecast of the Meteorology and Hydrology Department at that time said rain accompanied by strong wind, hailstorms and lightning are expected over those regions from 3 to 5 May.

The same severe weather pattern is expected to strike upper Sagaing Region, Kachin State, Chin State, Mandalay Region, Bago Region, Yangon Region, Taninthayi Region, Shan State, Kayah State, Kayin State and Mon State from 6 to 7 May, said the statement.

GNLM

Myanmar: Myanmar/Burma- Severe weather (NOAA, MOI, DMH, Media) (ECHO Daily Flash of 3 May 2016)

3 May 2016 - 2:44pm
Source: European Commission Humanitarian Aid Office Country: Myanmar

Severe weather, including heavy rain and strong winds has reportedly continued to affect several areas of the country, especially Mandalay region, over the past few days causing more casualties and damage.

Local media reported one person dead, at least three injured and 1 000 homes damaged in Mandalay city as well as several people were left without power in the regions of Yangon and Mandalay, as of 2 May. National authorities also report more than 450 people homeless in the state of Kachin.

Over the next 24 h light to moderate rain may continue affect the central, northern, south-eastern, eastern and western areas of the country, including the ones already affected.

Myanmar: UN Agencies Welcome Japan’s Generous Contributions To Development And Humanitarian Activities In Myanmar

3 May 2016 - 8:59am
Source: World Food Programme, UN Human Settlements Program, Food and Agriculture Organization, UN High Commissioner for Refugees Country: Japan, Myanmar

NAY PYI TAW, Myanmar – United Nations agencies today welcomed the generous contributions made by the Government of Japan to their operations in Myanmar. The four agencies – the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO), the United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-Habitat), the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) – received a total of JPY 3.76 billion (approximately USD 31.7 million) in contributions. This timely injection of funding will enable the agencies to continue and advance their development and humanitarian activities in Myanmar.

The donation was formally handed over to the UN agencies on 27 April by H.E. Tateshi Higuchi, Japan’s Ambassador to Myanmar, at a ceremony at the Ministry of Border Affairs in Nay Pyi Taw. Lt.-Gen. Ye Aung, Union Minister of Border Affairs, represented and delivered a speech on behalf of the Myanmar Government.

Japan's contribution of JPY 531 million (USD 4.5 million) to FAO will be used to improve agricultural livelihoods and build resilience of communities affected by conflict and floods in Rakhine and Chin states. The recent Crop and Food Security Assessment report for Myanmar highlighted that poor, remote communities in Rakhine and Chin are particularly vulnerable in terms of resilience to withstand disasters. In addition to providing direct agricultural inputs to affected communities, the Japanese funding will go towards critical asset rehabilitation, upgrades or replacement, for example grain storage and irrigation systems. “This project will incorporate disaster risk reduction activities to ensure communities are better able to cope with future disasters,” said Bui Thi Lan, FAO Representative in Myanmar.

UN-Habitat received a contribution of JPY 607 million (USD 5.1 million) which will assist the vulnerable ethnic communities project for Chin State on constructing community infrastructure, increasing access to safe drinking water and reconstructing housing badly affected by the 2015 floods. It will contribute to empowering communities to ensure they will jointly work to build or renovate quality basic services and housing to give targeted population basis for healthy and productive life. The project is framed within the overall objective of helping Myanmar’s ethnic poor and vulnerable communities to address the emergency needs to restore their normal life and to sustainably improve quality of life. Bijay Karmacharya, Country Programme Manager of UN-Habitat said that the project will reach most needy and vulnerable communities who are in dire need of recovery of their housing and basic service infrastructures. It will be implemented in 200 villages across Hakha, Tedim, Falam and Thatlang townships, aiming to benefit over 90,000 people.

UNHCR is grateful for Japan’s contribution of JPY 365 million (USD 3.1 million), which will support the agency’s efforts to assist the Myanmar Government in addressing the needs of internally displaced people (IDPs) in Rakhine and persons without citizenship across the country. UNHCR leads efforts relating to protection, shelter, camp coordination and camp management, and emergency relief items as part of the inter-agency response to displacement in Rakhine, Kachin and northern Shan states. “We are deeply appreciative of Japan’s long-standing commitment to supporting refugees and all those who have been forced to flee their homes,” said Giuseppe de Vincentiis, UNHCR Representative in Myanmar. “This latest contribution to UNHCR in Myanmar will help us to provide for the vital and basic needs of IDPs while we continue our work with the Myanmar Government to find long-term solutions to their plight.”

Japan’s generous JPY 2.26 billion (USD 19 million) contribution to WFP will assist internally displaced people, communities affected by floods and landslides, pregnant and nursing mothers, young malnourished children, people living with HIV and TB patients, as well as preschool and primary school children in Rakhine and Chin states, by (re-)creating community infrastructures, distributing relief assistance, providing nutrition support, and daily school meals. The contribution will be predominantly used to provide locally purchased rice, pulses and salt and internationally purchased vegetable oil, blended food and high energy biscuits to 300,000 people. WFP will also employ cash based transfers, allowing internally displaced people and affected population to choose their preferred food. “With Japan’s timely contribution and in partnership with the Government of Myanmar, WFP will enable recovery of the most affected communities across 20 townships in Chin and Rakhine States and for this, we are most thankful.” said Dom Scalpelli, Country Director and Resident Representative, WFP Myanmar.

For further information, please contact:

FAO Myanmar Renata Sivacolundhu, Emergency Communications & Advocacy Officer Renata.sivacolundhu@fao.org/ +95 9 793 120 232

UN-Habitat Myanmar Bijay Bahadur Karmacharya, Country Programme Manager bijay.habitat@gmail.com / +95 9 421 170 787

UNHCR Myanmar Kasita Rochanakorn, Associate Public Information Officer rochanak@unhcr.org / +95 9 448 034 427

WFP Myanmar May Myat Swe, Reports and Communications Officer maymyat.swe@wfp.org/ +95 1 2305971~6 (Ext: 2424)

Myanmar: Landslides in Kachin State cause food shortages

3 May 2016 - 8:28am
Source: Democratic Voice of Burma Country: Myanmar

Around 15 villages in Kachin State’s Hsawlaw Township are facing food shortages following landslides triggered by heavy rains over the weekend.

Yaw Na, a former MP in the Kachin State parliament, said that landslides completely destroyed two villages — Larchin and Zapanhka — leaving more than 100 families homeless.

“The villages are miles away from one another and the army is airdropping aid supplies to areas that are not otherwise accessible,” said Yaw Na.

Residents of the affected areas were advised on the weekend to seek shelter in the village of Kanpan in Chipwi Township, which is still reachable by road.

Officials said that so far there have been no reports of casualties from the disaster.

Kachin State is prone to extreme flooding and landslides. In 2014 and 2015, flooding in jade-mining areas in the state’s north displaced many local communities.

Widespread flooding and landslides in July last year decimated nearly one million acres of rice crops and displaced over 300,000 households.

Last year’s flooding was so severe that that it stymied the country’s economic growth to levels lower than previously forecast by the World Bank.

This year, Kachin State has been spared some of the worst of the extreme weather that has hit large parts of the country in recent weeks. However, strong winds did extensive damage to three camps for internally displaced persons in the state’s Chipwi and Waingmaw townships on 19 April.

Myanmar: Myanmar: Baw Du Pha 2 IDP Camp, Rakhine State (as of 03 May 2016)

3 May 2016 - 8:14am
Source: UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs Country: Myanmar

A fire swept through "Baw Du Pha 2" Muslim IDP camp in rural Sittwe in Rakhine State today just after 9:00am. The cause of the fire is being investigated by the authorities. Initial reports indicate that it is likely it was an accident resulting from a cooking fire.

The exact number of affected long houses is unconfirmed but first reports indicate that 44 were destroyed and between 5 and 9 badly damaged. An estimated 440 households (about 2,000 individuals) were affected, but exact numbers are unconfirmed. The total number of long houses in this camp before the fire was 156.

Based on the current information available, at least 14 people were injured by the fire. There are unconfirmed reports of fatalities but this has not been verified. Local and humanitarian organisations are supporting the authorities in responding to immediate needs in medical aid and shelter, and in the coming days in assessing and responding to humanitarian needs such as food, water and sanitation, and other basic necessities. (source: State Authorities, MRCS, UN, INGOs)

Myanmar: Blaze destroys hundreds of homes in Myanmar Rohingya camp

3 May 2016 - 5:47am
Source: Agence France-Presse Country: Myanmar

Yangon, Myanmar | AFP | Tuesday 5/3/2016 - 09:41 GMT

A major fire on Tuesday damaged or destroyed the homes of nearly 450 Rohingya Muslim families living in a camp for people displaced by 2012 communal fighting in western Myanmar.

The charred remains of wooden shelters and twisted metal roofs were visible through a thick haze of smoke after the fire broke out in the early morning, a stark reminder of dire living conditions for over 100,000 Rohingya confined to bleak camps in Rahkine state.

Authorities said a cooking stove caused the blaze at the Bawdupa camp near the state capital Sittwe, with strong winds believed to have spread flames from house to house in the tinder-dry area.

A local police officer told AFP the fire was extinguished after it charred 448 family dwellings.

"We are still checking whether they were any injured. We do not know yet how many people are now homeless but local authorities are working on it," he told AFP, asking not to be named.

Some 140,000 people, mainly Rohingya, have been trapped in the grim displacement camps since they were driven from their homes by waves of violence between Buddhists and minority Muslims four years ago.

The conflict left Rahkine state deeply scarred, effectively segregating communities on religious grounds and despressing the local economy.

It also stoked wider Buddhist nationalism in Myanmar, which has seen outbreaks of anti-Muslim bloodshed in other areas in recent years.

Rakhine's Rohingya are labelled "Bengali" by hardline Buddhists and many government officials, who brand them as illegal immigrants from Bangladesh even though many can trace their ancestry back generations.

Faced with apartheid-like restrictions that limit access to jobs, education and healthcare, thousands have braved perilous boat journeys in search of better lives in Malaysia and Indonesia.

An exodus last year sparked a regional crisis and a crackdown on smuggling routes.

Last month at least 20 Muslims from a Rakhine displacement camp drowned when their boat capsized in choppy waters while it was travelling to a market in Sittwe.

Passengers said they were forced to take the dangerous sea route because authorities ban them from travelling by road.

hla/klm/ssm/sm

World: Humanitarian Funding Update April 2016 - United Nations Coordinated Appeals

3 May 2016 - 2:52am
Source: UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs Country: Afghanistan, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cameroon, Colombia, Democratic People's Republic of Korea, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ecuador, Ethiopia, Fiji, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, Libya, Mali, Mauritania, Myanmar, Niger, Nigeria, occupied Palestinian territory, Pakistan, Senegal, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan, Syrian Arab Republic, Ukraine, World, Yemen
  • As of 30 April, global funding requirements to meet the needs of 89 million people across 39 countries through humanitarian response plans and appeals for 2016 amount to over US$20.3 billion. About $3.8 billion in funding has been received so far, leaving a shortfall of $16.5 billion. With the emergence of new humanitarian crises, global financial requirements have increased by around 2 per cent in the first trimester of the year.

  • The Ecuador Earthquake Flash Appeal issued in April seeks $72.8 million to support 350,000 people with multi-sector life-saving assistance over a three-month period. Also this month, the humanitarian country team in Port-au-Prince concluded a Humanitarian Response Plan for Haiti, requiring $193.8 million to overcome severe food insecurity affecting 1.3 million people, and ensure protection for returnees andOn 26 April, the Emergency Relief Coordinator convened a global call for support and action to avert accumulation of adverse effects of the El Niño crisis. An estimated $3.6 billion is required to respond to this crisis in countries across East Africa, Southern Africa, Central America, Asia and the Pacific, through government plans, plans developed by the humanitarian community, and in some cases joint government-humanitarian country team plans. This figure is expected to escalate.

  • Funding for the Syria Humanitarian Response Plan (HRP) and the Syria Regional Refugee and Resilience Plan (3RP) is at 13 per cent and 23 per cent respectively. Although the London conference earlier this year saw record-level pledges, many donors have not yet allocated the funds pledged, and disbursement rates remain low. Without tangible contributions, organizations cannot scale up or sustain operations in Syria and the region.

  • Over the last month the Financial Tracking Service (FTS) recorded funding for the Syria 3RP increased by 17 per cent; appeal funding for South Sudan increased by 14 per cent, and funding towards Fiji, Honduras, Senegal, and the Nigeria RRP increased by 12 percent. At the other end of the spectrum, reports on funding for The Gambia have yet to come in. Please see overleaf for information on time-sensitive funding needs.

  • By end-April the Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF) has received $229.7 million in contributions for 2016 (this is 81 per cent of all commitments and 51 per cent of the annual funding target). The Fund has allocated $96.5 million in rapid response grants to 16 countries, and $99.9 million from the first round of underfunded emergency grants in 9 countries. Following the earthquake in Ecuador, the Emergency Relief Coordinator, Stephen O’Brien announced a

  • $7 million CERF allocation to support immediate life-saving response efforts in affected areas. This funding will help kick-start vital logistics, shelter, WASH, and emergency health operations in affected areas of Ecuador. As the El Niño global climatic events continue to impact tens of millions lives across the globe, CERF has also allocated approximately $50.3 million for life-saving activities in response to drought, floods and cyclones since January this year, with an additional $6 million currently being processed.

  • In the first quarter of 2016, country-based pooled funds (CBPFs) received $171 million from 11 donors. 60 per cent of this funding has gone to NGOs, including 11 per cent to national NGOs. OCHA manages 18 CBPFs in crisis-affected countries, allowing donors to pool their earmarked contributions to a specific emergency and enabling Humanitarian Coordinators and the best-placed organizations on the ground to deliver assistance in a timely and coordinated manner.

Myanmar: Drought reaches Karenni State for first time in memory

3 May 2016 - 2:35am
Source: Democratic Voice of Burma Country: Myanmar

By NAW NOREEN

The drought that is hitting many parts of Burma this year has reached a region that rarely lacks for water — Karenni State, where local people says their wells are drying up for the first time in living memory.

Saw Daniel, a resident of the state capital Loilkaw, told DVB that locals have been facing water shortages since the beginning of April, as the unusually hot summer weather continues to take hold and leaves a growing number of wells without a drop of water.

“We are experiencing water shortages in many areas across the town. Areas without tube-wells are completely dried up, as they are the only available source of water at the moment,” he said.

“There a lot of fairly deep wells around my area, but they have all dried up. This has never happened here before this year,” he added.

He said that sympathetic locals have provided some relief to those hit by the drought, but not all affected areas can be reached. In some cases, he said, people are paying up to 3,000 kyat (US$2.60) for a barrel of water, but even then, the supply is not enough to meet everyone’s needs.

“Most of the relief is focused on the Padanyin, Chike and Nuababo areas, so residents in our part of town have to pay [water fetchers] between 2,500-3,000 kyat for a barrel of water from the Belu Creek, but they aren’t always able to deliver.”

Khin Sithu, the chairperson for the Karenni State chapter of the ruling National League for Democracy and a lawmaker in the parliament’s lower house, said the party is providing relief in affected areas but missed some due to a lack of information.

“In order for us to provide help, residents in the affected villages must inform us about their situation and where they are so that we can reach to them,” she said.

Loikaw, Demoso and Hpasaung townships are among the areas affected by the drought.