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Myanmar: Myanmar Health Forum [EN/MY]

9 July 2015 - 10:37pm
Source: Government of Myanmar, UN Country Team in Myanmar Country: Myanmar

First-ever Myanmar Health Forum to take place in Nay Pyi Taw on 28-29 July 2015

NAY PYI TAW, 9 July 2015 - The Myanmar Health Forum (MHF), the first of its kind, will be held at the Myanmar International Convention Centre II in Nay Pyi Taw on 28-29July 2015.

The importance of health in the development agenda and the significant need for investment in health sector will be emphasized. Areas of priority investment will be identified by national and international actors. The forum will also be an opportunity for the Ministry of Health and its partners to showcase progress in the health sector and present their plans for the future. The main overall goal of the MHF is to start Myanmar on the path to universal health coverage, which is to be realized by 2030.

"For the first time, Myanmar's large and diverse health sector will be meeting and sharing experiences to better tackle current challenges and plan for this country to reach universal health coverage by 2030" declared the Union Minister of Health, His Excellency Dr Than Aung.

The MHF will be attended by about 700 health and non-health actors, including experts and senior representatives from the Ministry of Health and other ministries, Members of Parliament, international speakers, multilateral and bilateral development partners, international organizations, local, national and international non-governmental organizations, the private sector and academics.

The two-day MHF will consist of plenary and parallel discussion sessions. These will cover critical issues ranging from the impact of health sector reform, unmet health and development needs, reaching universal health coverage and the interdependence of the health sector and other sectors.

Mr Eamonn Murphy, Country Director for the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), said "The Myanmar Health Forum will provide a platform for discussing support and recommendations to help Myanmar build a better, stronger and equitable health system to serve all the people." The MHF is organized by the Ministry of Health with support from the Myanmar Health Sector Coordinating Committee, the UNAIDS Country Office and other development partners. Funding support was secured by UNAIDS from 3MDG Fund.

Speaking for non-governmental organizations, Daw Nwe Zin Win, Executive Director of Pyi Gyi Khin stated: "As a major health service provider in Myanmar, civil society hopes that this Forum will enable us to be more involved in decisions and actions to strengthen our health system and attain universal health care within a generation."

The MHF will be concluded by a press event, as well as a statement or communique, endorsed by MHF participants, which will provide guidance for future actions. A full report on MHF activities and recommendations will be issued in the following weeks.

Contact

Ministry of Health | Dr Kyaw Khaing (Director) |067 411335 | kyawkhaing68@gmail.com

Thailand: Inside Thailand’s Trafficking Crackdown

9 July 2015 - 2:50pm
Source: Irrawaddy Country: Myanmar, Thailand

BANGKOK — Sheltering in the backroom of a provincial Thai police station is a 35-year-old street vendor who triggered a human trafficking investigation that has reverberated across Southeast Asia.

He is a Rohingya Muslim, a mostly stateless group from western Burma. He had scraped a living for the past decade selling fried bread, or roti, from a push cart in Nakhon Si Thammarat, a city in southern Thailand.

Then his nephew fell into the hands of murderous human traffickers.

The roti seller’s desperate bid to save him ultimately led to the discovery of scores of jungle graves on the Thai-Malaysia border in May and sparked a regional crisis over boatloads of unwanted Rohingya.

Now the roti seller fears traffickers could target him. His new home in the police station is a primitive form of witness protection. (Reuters has withheld his identity at the request of police.)

His predicament raises questions about the long-term effectiveness of Thailand’s crackdown on resilient and lucrative trafficking syndicates. Witnesses have been intimidated, police say. Key suspects are represented by lawyers with powerful political connections. And while 72 people have been arrested, police are still seeking many others.

Thailand’s investigation comes ahead of a new US report card on its anti-trafficking efforts, due out in mid-July. Police spearheading the campaign on the ground told Reuters they encountered official indifference about the evidence they had gathered on trafficking networks—even after the US State Department identified Thailand in June 2014 as one of the world’s worst trafficking offenders.

Katrina Adams, a spokeswoman for the State Department’s East Asia and Pacific Bureau, said this year’s report only covers the year to March 2015, and thus would not include Thailand’s latest crackdown.

“We welcome Thailand’s law enforcement actions, including the arrests of dozens believed to be involved in migrant smuggling and abuses against migrants, which may include human trafficking, in southern Thailand,” Adams added.

Indifference

Police Major General Thatchai Pitaneelaboot, who led early anti-trafficking efforts in southern Thailand was told his investigation was damaging Thailand’s image, though he declined to be more specific about who was telling him that.

“No one cared,” he said.

Thatchai felt otherwise. “If we want to eradicate human trafficking, we can’t hide it. We must put it on the table.”

Deputy National Police Chief Aek Angsannanont, who is in charge of the anti-trafficking crackdown in Thailand, said the military government that came to power in a coup last May took the issue seriously.

“I don’t know what the policy was of previous administrations,” Aek said. “I took up this trafficking issue under the military government and the military government has given this issue importance.”

After last year’s coup, Thailand’s military junta promised what it called a “zero tolerance” policy to human trafficking. Yet Thailand convicted fewer perpetrators of human trafficking last year than in 2013, according to the government’s own anti-trafficking report.

Aek said he could not “give an opinion on this. But I can say that since the June 2014 [US anti-trafficking] report, everyone woke up and has taken this issue seriously.”

The Thai crackdown has disrupted the region’s trafficking infrastructure for now but some experts question how lasting that will be.

The investigation has “made trafficking in Thailand a bit harder,” said Steve Galster, director of FREELAND Foundation, an anti-trafficking NGO that has given technical help to the Thai police. “The question remains, however, if anyone higher up the chain… will be investigated.” If that doesn’t happen, Galster warned, “trafficking in this region will remain a big problem.”

Preying on Rohingya

The trafficking syndicates have particularly preyed on the Rohingya, who are fleeing poverty and oppression in Burma. The number of people leaving on boats from Burma and Bangladesh has nearly tripled in three years—from 21,000 in 2012 to 58,000 last year, according to The Arakan Project, a Rohingya advocacy group based in Bangkok. Most of them came ashore in Thailand and were moved to trafficking camps.

The camps along the jungly border between Thailand and Malaysia had been exposed as early as 2013. But they became impossible to ignore in May after police from both countries found the graves of 175 suspected migrants at dozens of hastily vacated trafficking camps on both sides of the border.

The ensuing crackdown meant traffickers could no longer bring their human cargoes ashore so they simply abandoned them at sea. The boats eventually washed ashore in Malaysia, Indonesia and Burma, their passengers sick and thirsty. At least 1,200 remained stranded at sea, according to a June 16 United Nations report.

The roti seller, who Reuters interviewed at the police station, said his nephew fell into the hands of traffickers during last year’s smuggling season.

Last October, he said his family paid 95,000 baht (US$2,800) in ransom money to free their 25-year-old nephew from a camp in southern Thailand. Traffickers typically held boat people for ransom and often tortured them until their relatives, who had settled in Thailand or Malaysia, paid up. Some of those whose relatives couldn’t pay were left to die in the camps. Police say some were sold into slavery on Thai fishing boats.

Despite getting the ransom payment, the roti seller said the alleged operator of the camp his nephew was in, a Burmese man known as Anwar, refused to release his nephew. It was unclear to him why.

Two months later in December, the roti seller filed a complaint against Anwar with local police. “They didn’t take me seriously,” he said.

Police Colonel Anuchon Chamat, deputy commander of Nakhon Si Thammarat Provincial Police, admitted they were “not that interested” in the complaint at the time.

That was about to change.

Transportation Network

On Jan. 11, just before dawn, Anuchon’s men intercepted five trucks at a routine checkpoint in Nakhon Si Thammarat. Hidden inside were 98 tired and malnourished Rohingya. One woman had suffocated to death; two more later died in hospital.

Police interviews with the survivors confirmed what the roti seller had described: “That there was buying and selling of humans,” Anuchon said.

He said he sought help from the anti-trafficking group FREELAND, which analyzed data from mobile phones seized from two of the truck drivers.

This helped Anuchon map out a transportation network that led from Ranong, a port city on the Andaman Sea, to jungle camps on the Malaysian border, an overnight’s drive away. He concluded that the malnourished Rohingya and the roti seller’s nephew were in thrall to the same syndicate. Bank transfer slips from the roti seller showed he had paid the money to suspected syndicate members.

Anuchon’s discovery, however, was too late to save the roti seller’s nephew.

On Jan. 27, camp guards called the roti seller and placed a phone to his nephew’s face. The roti seller wept as he described what happened next. The traffickers, he said, had found out he had gone to the authorities. Anuchon confirmed the roti seller’s story.

“They’re going to kill me,” his nephew said. “What did you do?”

The roti seller heard the phone drop and his nephew screaming. Then a voice said, “He’s dead already,” and the line was cut.

Inactive Intelligence Unit

Still, Anuchon did not think he had enough evidence to convince his superiors about the growing scale and sophistication of the trafficking networks. “We did not dare talk to Bangkok because our evidence was insufficient. If our information was wrong, we would have lost face with our bosses.”

Yet one Thai police unit was well-placed to help monitor the Ranong-based syndicates, including the one that had held the roti seller’s nephew captive. The Port Intelligence Unit in Ranong was set up in 2013, with help from the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), to gather intelligence on people smuggling, human trafficking and transnational crime. But, lacking the go-ahead from Bangkok, it remained inactive.

The unit is “the right solution in the right place,” said Jeremy Douglas, the UNODC’s Regional Representative in Southeast Asia and the Pacific. “It has not become fully operational and it needs a [Thai] leadership push to get going.”

Aek, the deputy national police chief, declined to comment about the status of the unit.

Shallow Graves

After intercepting the truck convoy, Col. Anuchon enlisted the roti seller’s help in tracking down a Rohingya witness who had survived 10 months at the same camp as the nephew. At the request of police, Reuters has agreed not to reveal the survivor’s name for safety reasons.

The Rohingya survivor said Anwar, the alleged camp operator, had ordered the nephew killed. On April 28, police grabbed Anwar after staking out his house and took him to Nakhon Si Thammarat’s main police station.

The roti seller was already at the station, where earlier that day he had recounted how he had tried to tell police in four different cities about his nephew’s plight. Anwar, flanked by policemen, walked past him in a corridor. “I wanted to hit him for what he did to my nephew,” the roti seller said.

Anwar, 40, also known as Soe Naing from Burma’s Arakan State, is himself a Rohingya. During an hour-long interview at the police station, Anwar insisted he was not a human trafficker, but a rubber tapper—and a roti seller himself.

“They say I killed. I am not worried. I did not do anything and I don’t know anything about this,” Anwar said. “I’m rich enough selling roti.”

Three days after Anwar’s arrest, the Rohingya survivor led police to the camp a few hundred meters from the Malaysian border on a hill local people called Khao Kaew or “Glass Mountain.” Police believed it had been hurriedly evacuated just days before. They discovered shallow graves marked with bamboo sticks.

A somber mood descended as police and rescue volunteers unearthed 26 corpses on May 1. Some were shrouded in cloth or simple bamboo mats. Others were little more than skeletons.

When asked if there were more graves yet to be discovered along Thailand’s border, Police Maj. Gen. Thatchai replied: “Absolutely.”

Establishment Lawyers

After Anwar came other big-name arrests. Patchuban Angchotipan—a wealthy businessman from Satun province known as Ko Tor or “Big Brother Tor”—gave himself up at a Bangkok police station on May 18. Patchuban, the former chairman of Satun’s provincial administration, has been charged with a range of offences, including human trafficking, holding people for ransom and detention leading to bodily harm.

Patchuban was unavailable for comment. Fighting his case in court will be Wirat Kalayasiri, the chief legal advisor of Thailand’s Democrat Party, which has close links to the military and royalist establishment. Wirat is also representing another key suspect, Anas Hajeemasae, who police describe as Patchuban’s right hand man.

Pakkapon Sirirat, another Democrat Party member, is representing Lieutenant General Manus Kongpan, who surrendered to police on June 2. “I’m a lawyer and I have the right to be a member of a political party,” Pakkapon said. “My job as a lawyer is to look after the accused.”

Manus denies all charges, which include human trafficking, holding people for ransom and hiding corpses.

Manus previously headed an operation to intercept migrants in the Andaman Sea for the Internal Security Operations Command, Thailand’s powerful, military-run equivalent to the US Department of Homeland Security. “If Manas really is involved in trafficking, he won’t escape it and will have to accept the truth,” Pakkapon said.

The trials could be lengthy and convictions are far from certain, police said.

On June 16, three men were arrested for intimidating a witness not to testify in the trials. Other witnesses have been threatened by “subordinates” of the accused against testifying, said Aek, the deputy national police chief. “The suspects are powerful people,” he said.

Hundreds Involved

Moreover, the scores of arrests so far may only represent a fraction of those involved, police say. “There could be hundreds of people involved, including many officials,” Thatchai said.

And despite the investigation and crackdown that began in late April, the traffickers’ finances seem largely intact. The United Nations estimates people-smuggling across the Bay of Bengal has generated about $250 million since 2012. Thailand has so far seized assets worth only $3.5 million.

Aek said Thai authorities “only froze assets of those we suspected of wrong-doing.”

The roti seller dares not leave his new home in the provincial police station. He recently stopped praying at a nearby mosque after he heard that some men had turned up to look for him there.

Many known traffickers remained at large, which was why he hoped to be relocated to another country after the trial. “Otherwise,” he said, “I will be killed.”

Myanmar: Myanmar: Internal Displacement in Kachin and northern Shan States (May 2015)

9 July 2015 - 9:07am
Source: UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs Country: Myanmar

Myanmar: Myanmar: IDP Sites in Kachin and northern Shan States (May 2015)

9 July 2015 - 9:00am
Source: UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs Country: Myanmar

Myanmar: Myanmar: IDP Sites in Rakhine State (April 2015)

9 July 2015 - 8:56am
Source: UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs Country: Myanmar

Myanmar: Myanmar: Internal Displacement in Rakhine State (April 2015)

9 July 2015 - 8:46am
Source: UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs Country: Myanmar

Myanmar: ‘Elections Are the End of the Beginning’

9 July 2015 - 3:36am
Source: Irrawaddy Country: Myanmar, Switzerland

By NYEIN NYEIN / THE IRRAWADDY

The Swiss government is among a number of European donors supporting development and human rights in Burma, particularly in the conflict-affected southeastern region. Since opening an Embassy in the former capital Rangoon in 2012, Switzerland has primarily focused its assistance on support for Burma’s peace process and upcoming general election. Switzerland is also the current chair of the Peace Donor Support Group, an aid coordination network formed by foreign governments and NGOs.

Outgoing Swiss Ambassador to Burma, Laos and Cambodia, Christoph Burgener, spent his last day in the post in Chiang Mai, Thailand, catching up with leaders of ethnic armed groups and discussing the nation’s prospects for peace. The Irrawaddy spoke with him at length about his country’s support for peace building, elections and his views on the state of politics in Burma.

Christoph Burgener presented his credentials to then-head of state Sen-Gen Than Shwe on Dec. 1, 2009.

What kind of support does Switzerland provide in Burma?

We opened our Embassy in November 2012 and I had the privilege to be the first resident Ambassador of Switzerland to Myanmar. It’s probably the most exciting posting you can have as a diplomat. From my Government I received the mandate to support the democratization process in this country. We do this through supporting the peace process, the elections, and through our instruments of humanitarian aid and development cooperation with a portfolio of about US$30 million.

How would you assess the recent developments in Burma, with regard to peace, federalism and democratization?

We have to say it again and again that a transition from dictatorship toward democracy is a long process. Democracy doesn’t come overnight. Confidence neither. The expectations are very often too high and that is and will be a challenge for the existing and the new government. Six years ago, when I mentioned the name of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, everybody in the tea shop felt embarrassed. Today the openness, the controversial dialogue and the space for more critical opinions is much broader. I can talk to ministers about everything and I can enter into serious and lively discussions. This is already an achievement, even if more space has to be opened within a framework of a new strong system of rule of law. I further hope that the culture of constructive dialogue between government, Parliament and the opposition will be strengthened and the legislation regarding, for example, manifestations and media created under the dictatorship will be adapted in the near future.

How would you evaluate Burma’s peace process?

When I started my term as Ambassador on December 1, 2009, there was a different political landscape, totally different. Nobody spoke about transition, it was dark. I would not have dreamed that in 2015 the transition to democracy and the peace process would come that far. Regarding the peace process, we have to say that the serious negotiations and a confidence building process are going on in an encouraging way. It is complex and therefore I am not surprised that it takes time. Switzerland tries to build up capacities for all the stakeholders. We are supporting not only ethnic minority parties, but also the government and all the actors in the peace process. When I say support, it is not so much with money. We try to bring in ideas and expertise: How does a peace process work? What exactly is federalism, what is an army in a federal context? Our experts also contribute practical experiences from other peace negotiations elsewhere in the world.

I have to commend the government and the ethnic minority parties for having started such an intense and solid dialogue about peace in this country. After 60 years of war and military dictatorship you cannot build trust within such a short period of time. Whether we end up with a nationwide ceasefire now or not, it’s important that the achievements of this peace process will spill over to the next Parliament and government.

What are the main challenges in the peace process?

I think at the beginning of the process it was very important to find a structure for the peace process, to have first a nationwide preliminary ceasefire agreement, to create space for a political dialogue. The political dialogue has to be structured in a so-called framework agreement beforehand. The experiences of a lot of peace processes show that. Of course, it is much more difficult to build trust and to have a constructive dialogue when there is still fighting in the country. So I think it is important to create space for the dialogue, by that I mean the weapons are silent and there is a nationwide ceasefire in the country. I know the people on both sides personally and I see that everybody knows that peace is the priority for this country. My thoughts are with the millions of affected people in the war zones and with the hundreds of thousands of internally displaced people all over the country in need of basic food, health care and education.

Could you tell us about how Switzerland has been involved in election preparation support?

We have supported a “Code of Conduct for Political Parties and Candidates.” It’s a Code that was created by the political parties with the help of Swiss facilitation. I’m personally very proud that nearly all the political parties were able to reach consensus for such a code of conduct. I’m confident that this code will contribute to peaceful elections: so that there is no hate speech, there are no personal attacks, and a free and fair campaign is possible for all the political parties. This process was very significant for the political parties themselves. It showed them that they can establish such ethical norms themselves. The UEC [Union Election Commission] Chairman [Tin Aye] gave space to political parties to create that. That’s as well a significant symbol of the changes in the country, which would not have been possible four years ago. The elections are the end of the beginning of the transition towards democracy. A credible election is crucial for the further steps in this challenging process. Switzerland furthermore gives financial support to IFES, the International Foundation for Electoral Systems, which provides technical advice to the Union Election Commission on how to organize credible elections. We have also been supporting civil society for voter education and media training, as well as training and preparation of smaller political parties.

How will the Code of Conduct be implemented, as it is not legally binding?

There are different legal frameworks in Myanmar for the campaign. This Code contains ethical principles. It is true that they are not binding. But it is a moral obligation to behave ethically during the campaign and to follow this code of conduct. If there is a breach of Code, it will harm the reputation of a political party. If you find now in the Internet or during a rally that there is hate speech against a candidate or against a religion by party members, that’s a breach of code of conduct. Even if you cannot punish the party, the voters probably will think twice if they want to support the political party that is not following fundamental ethical principles during a campaign.

In light of irregularities and errors on the voter lists, what would you like to see happen in terms of assurances that elections will be free and fair?

The elections are very important now to provide the political composition of the new Parliament, and the new government. It is crucial that these elections are fair and transparent and inclusive. They must be credible. In Switzerland we had our first elections of our Parliament more than one hundred years ago. We have our infrastructure, we have our processes, we have our experiences. Myanmar is now preparing for the second election. The infrastructure and the overall capacity will most likely not be at a standard that would allow for one hundred percent perfect elections to take place. The UEC is leading the process, but the political parties have to make efforts as well to contribute to a fair election. It is very important that there is an election without manipulation and politically motivated irregularities, and that the outcome of these elections is reflected honestly in the composition of the Parliaments, and therefore reflect the will of the people.

You recently met with the Burma Army Chief, Snr-Gen Min Aung Hlaing. What was that meeting about?

It’s a matter of diplomatic courtesy. When you end your term as ambassador, you go to the Government and to the authorities of the host country, as well as to major stakeholders, to say farewell. It is very confidential and it’s not a discussion that goes out to the press. But what I can say is that I had very frank discussions with the Senior General and different ministers. That is symbolic for me when I compare it with my first discussion in 2009, when the dialogue was rather difficult. The Commander-in-Chief, as you could read in the press, explained the importance of the Tatmadaw [Burmese armed forces] in the still not very stable process, and that the trust building process between ethnic minority parties and the government needs to continue. I replied that ongoing fights in different parts of the country are not conducive for a trust building atmosphere. I think that Switzerland can in the near future extend its supporting activities in the democratization and peace process as well more directly to the Tatmadaw leaders that are also important stakeholders in the country, as you know.

You said in an interview last year that the Burmese government’s efforts on improving FDI were “excellent,” do you still see it that way?

Last year when they established the foreign direct investment law, that was a huge and significant step. Now we have to see as well with the Swiss economy, which is still watching Myanmar very closely, but just before the election. With the peace process, where we are until the stable ceasefire is not in place, Swiss companies are still reluctant to come to Myanmar. When once we have ceasefire, once the government comes out of credible election, that situation could be more stable. Now we can’t clearly see what will be in 2016, 2017. That could be a more conducive environment for investors to come to Myanmar.

Myanmar: Heavy rains destroy paddy seedlings and bridges in Maungdaw south

9 July 2015 - 1:30am
Source: Kaladan Press Network Country: Myanmar

Maungdaw, Arakan State: In Maungdaw south, people have been facing difficulties in traveling and finding food since June 26, after destroying bridges and paddy seedlings by heavy rains and high tides, Jaker, a villager from Maungdaw south said.

“The heavy rains and high tides destroyed roads, homes, shrimp farms, and paddy seedlings.”

According to villagers, the bridges of Gawyah Khali,Shara Para (Pa Nyaung Pingyi), Kila Dong ( Du Chee Yartan) and others under the Burmese Border Guard Police (BGP) area No. 8, were damaged by heavy rains and high tide water. The villagers have to cross the rivers and small streams by row boats with high tolls.

“The villagers have to pay Kyat 1,000 to cross the river with goods, but a single man has to pay Kyat 100 to row boat,” Hasan from the village said.

There is a new road which was built recently and it is good for travel, but the authority is not allowing to use for Rohingya community and their vehicles, Hasson more added.

According to sources, the local authority has not taken any step to build the bridge of Gora Khali and others, so far.

A daily labor told the Kaladan Press Network on condition of anonymity, “We are now facing starving because of works scarcity in the areas.”

Many poor people are also suffering from their survival as they are not able to go to work sites for their works, said another farmer.

Bangladesh: Heavy rains and food shortages in unofficial camps

9 July 2015 - 12:22am
Source: Kaladan Press Network Country: Bangladesh, Myanmar

Teknaf, Bangladesh: Heavy monsoon rains have caused widespread destruction in Teknaf region and with more misery affected on the lives of thousands of Rohingyas in Leda (Tal) and Kutupalong makeshift camps and facing food shortages, according to a refugee leader named Salim from Leda camp.

Heavy rains have affected in unofficial camps of Leda and Kutupalong. The Leda makeshift has 13,000 refugees and about 50,000 refugees are living in Kutupalong makeshift camp. The refugees have been struggling to keep themselves safe from the torrential rain. Despite these efforts, many roofs have torn and are facing many difficulties.

Over the weekend, further disaster struck in Leda and Kutupalong camps where food shortages have led to many of the Rohingya Muslims fasting without food or clean water.

During the flood and heavy rains, refugees are not able to go to outside for working for their survival, a refugee Anas from Kutupalong makeshift camp said.

In the area of Cox’s Bazar district, mostly vegetable fields, houses of locals and paddy seedlings had already been washed by the heavy rains and flood. So, Rohingya refugees have no works in local areas and are facing to support their family members, he more added.

Earlier, Muslim Aids UK provided basic medical treatment and hygienic program to the refugees in Leda camp, but it left the camp after their MOU expired. The refugees did not get any ration from any quarter.

A NGO named the Institute of Migration (IOM) has been working occasionally in the Leda camp, but without a stable effort the worsening monsoon rains and the start of severe food shortages are set to continue with many lives at risk.

Myanmar: Burma Seeks 20,000 Police Officers to Bolster Election Security

9 July 2015 - 12:14am
Source: Irrawaddy Country: Myanmar

By MAY SITT PAING & TUN KYAW MAUNG / THE IRRAWADDY |

RANGOON — The Myanmar Police Force (MPF) is seeking to recruit more than 20,000 special police officers to bolster security at polling stations nationwide during the forthcoming general election scheduled for Nov. 8.

The MPF is currently recruiting candidates for the special election squad in wards and villages nationwide.

“We are recruiting for the short-tem, for the election period, since we do not have enough policemen under the existing organizational structure designed by the [Home Affairs] Ministry,” said Police Col. Maung Soe from the MPF.

“We will give them training first. We will use them for security at polling stations. For the time being, we plan to outfit them with the same police uniform.”

In Dawei, Tenasserim Division, the township police force has explained the elections recruitment drive to ward and village administrators and recruitment has begun, but so far no one has applied for the post.

Local authorities are seeking 50 election police officers to post at Dawei’s 10 polling stations.

Job advertisements for the special election police are being posted at respective township General Administration Department offices. Those who are selected to serve on the special police force will be deployed from October to December and are entitled to a basic salary of 120,000 kyats (US$100) per month plus a daily allowance of 1,000 kyats.

Men from age 18 to 60 who are physically fit and are not “too short” nor “too fat” are eligible to apply. Apart from the physical requirements, applicants must have the trust of concerned ward residents and self-confidence, and cannot be involved in party politics.

Tun Kyaw Maung reported from Dawei.

World: Asia-Pacific Humanitarian Bulletin January - June 2015

8 July 2015 - 10:33pm
Source: UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs Country: Bangladesh, Myanmar, Nepal, Timor-Leste, Vanuatu, World

In this issue

Nepal Earthquake P.1

Vanuatu: Tropical Cyclone Pam P.3

Preparing for disasters P.5

World Conference on DRR P.6

Business engagement P.6

HIGHLIGHTS

• The Nepal Earthquake and Tropical Cyclone Pam in Vanuatu were the most severe disasters in the first half of 2015.

• In Nepal, the humanitarian response included a major search and rescue initiative from 31 countries as well as improved response in the field of community engagement and gender.

• During Tropical Cyclone Pam, humanitarian civilmilitary coordination helped to deliver aid to over 22 affected islands.

• Disaster preparedness measures led to a better earthquake response in Nepal.

Disasters affect thousands across Asia-Pacific

In the first half of 2015, the lives of over 2 million people were severely affected by several emergencies in Asia-Pacific. The most severe disasters included the Nepal Earthquake and Tropical Cyclone Pam in Vanuatu. Overall, 48 natural disasters killed more than 11,200 people between January and June, an increase of over 1,000 per cent during the same period in 2014. The increase in deaths comes mainly from the casualties caused by the devastating earthquakes in Nepal. However, fewer people were estimated to be affected by disasters in 2015 compared to the previous year, when floods and storms affected hundreds of thousands in China.

Conflicts across Asia-Pacific continued to displace almost 2.1 million people. This includes some 240,000 people displaced from inter-communal violence in Myanmar, where in the first quarter of 2015 over 25,000 people (from Myanmar and Bangladesh) risked sea crossings in the Bay of Bengal, almost double the departure rates reported in the first quarters of 2013 and 2014.

Myanmar: Myanmar to hold general election on November 8

8 July 2015 - 2:06pm
Source: Agence France-Presse Country: Myanmar

Yangon, Myanmar | AFP | Wednesday 7/8/2015 - 20:07

by Hla-Hla HTAY

Myanmar on Wednesday set November 8 as the date for a historic general election, expected to be the first contested by Aung San Suu Kyi's opposition in a quarter of a century.

The announcement from the country's election commission fires the starting gun for the much-anticipated poll in the former junta-run nation, which has launched a series of reforms since the end of outright military rule in 2011.

The vote, seen as a crucial test of the country's democratic progress, will determine the elected contingent in the fledgling parliament with a president selected by the legislature later. Suu Kyi is barred by the constitution from taking the top job.

The Nobel laureate's National League for Democracy (NLD) party did not immediately confirm it would participate in the polls, although it is widely expected to make huge gains at the ballot box.

"We cannot say whether we will take part right now. We need to hold a meeting to make a decision," spokesman Nyan Win told AFP.

The NLD has gone house-to-house in recent days urging people to check official voter lists and raising concerns that those displayed across the country are riddled with inaccuracies.

Election officials conceded that the lists contain errors, blaming technical faults and staff shortages but insisting that there is still time to iron out many of the flaws.

The Union Election Commission said on its website that the parliamentary election would take place on November 8, a Sunday, with candidates given between July 20 and August 8 to register.

The United States welcomed the announcement.

"We think that a credible parliamentary election is an important step," State Department deputy spokesman Mark Toner said at a daily briefing, adding that the US was providing technical assistance and funding to support the polls.

- 'Voting is important' -

For Myanmar's roughly 30 million voters the election presents a rare chance to cast their votes in a nationwide poll contested by the country's main opposition.

The NLD won national polls in 1990 by a landslide, while Suu Kyi was under house arrest. But it was prevented from taking power by the military, who plunged the country into isolation for decades.

The democracy icon spent some 15 years under house arrest and was also locked up during the last general election in 2010, which was boycotted by the NLD and marred by accusations of cheating.

But the veteran campaigner and 44 of her party members now sit in parliament following a 2012 by-election held as part of sweeping reforms under a quasi-civilian government dominated by former generals that replaced nearly half a century of military rule.

"I will vote for the party that will do good for the country," Kyaw Kyaw Naing, a sailor, told AFP in downtown Yangon.

Retired soldier Maung Nai said it would be his third time voting in a nationwide poll.

"Voting is important," he said.

- Stalling reforms -

The current government under President Thein Sein, a former general, has been credited with ending draconian media censorship, freeing political prisoners and launching economic reforms that have seen the lifting of most Western sanctions.

But Suu Kyi and rights campaigners have increasingly warned that reforms have stalled or even reversed in some areas, with dozens of student protesters behind bars and the tightening of media freedoms.

Last month she vowed not to "back down" from the election despite defeat in a parliamentary vote aimed at ending the military's effective veto on constitutional change.

Myanmar's parliament continues to be dominated by the army, with a quarter of the seats reserved for unelected soldiers. This provision means any major charter change needs a majority of more than 75 percent -- giving the military the final say.

The result of the recent vote virtually extinguished Suu Kyi's chances of the presidency at this stage because of a provision excluding those with foreign children from the top office. Her sons are British.

With Suu Kyi barred from the top job and no obvious second candidate within the NLD, observers predict the party could end up supporting a presidential candidate outside its ranks.

Experts fear that horsetrading between the election and the announcement of presidential candidates several months later could trigger instability in the nation, where the military has a history of crushing dissent.

"If we won a majority, we can arrange to form a government with other people... We need to compromise," said the spokesman Nyan Win in an interview.

He said people in Myanmar were "very disappointed" that Suu Kyi's route to the presidency remains blocked.

The NLD, which has come under fire for failing to outline specific policy ideas as the poll looms, said it was poised to release a much-awaited statement on the economy, health, security and education.

hla/klm/pj/as/pst

© 1994-2015 Agence France-Presse

Myanmar: Myanmar announces date for historic elections

8 July 2015 - 2:06pm
Source: Deutsche Welle Country: Myanmar

The government in Yangon has announced elections for November. For the first time in a quarter century, the pro-democracy NLD party will be allowed to participate in general parliamentary elections in Myanmar.

Myanmar will hold a general election on November 8, the first to be contested by Aung San Suu Kyi’s (pictured above) National League for Democracy (NLD) in decades. The election will see members elected to both houses of parliament in Yangon, according to an announcement on Wednesday. The highly anticipated poll comes as the country slowly approaches reform following nearly fifty years of military rule which saw Suu Kyi’s pro-democracy activism result in years of house arrest. The last time the NLD was on the ballot in 1990 it won around 80 percent of the seats in parliament, but the junta refused to release its grip on power.

"The general election will be held on November 8. The Union Election Commission will announce further details later," Thant Zin Aung, deputy director of Yangon's election commission, told French news agency AFP.

Suu Kyi barred from becoming president

The next president will then be chosen by parliament, though Nobel laureate Suu Kyi is barred from the position by the country’s constitution because her sons have British citizenship. Though there have been efforts to reform the relevant statutes, so far no change has been made.

When asked if they would participate in the election, an NLD spokesman told AFP that they "cannot say whether we will take part right now. We need to hold a meeting to make a decision."

The election would likely pit the NLD against the ruling Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP), which was backed by the military in 2010 elections as the country began to accept democratic reforms. es/jil (AFP, dpa)

World: Emergency Grant Aid in response to stranded persons in the Indian Ocean

8 July 2015 - 9:54am
Source: Government of Japan Country: Bangladesh, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, Myanmar, Thailand, World
  1. On June 19, the Government of Japan decided to provide emergency grant aid totaling 3.5 million US dollars (about 432 million yen) via international organizations in response to stranded persons in the Indian Ocean. On June 20, this was announced by Minister for Foreign Affairs Fumio Kishida in his keynote speech at the High-Level Seminar on Peacebuilding, National Reconciliation and Democratization in Asia.

  2. This grant aid, which will be provided through the International Organization for Migration (IOM) and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), will be implemented for humanitarian assistance of providing temporary shelters and health and nutrition support for stranded persons, and also to support reinforcing gathering, sharing and analysis of information on movements by sea.

Indonesia: Indonesia – Rohingya Refugees Situation Report, Period 8 July 2015

8 July 2015 - 6:01am
Source: DOMPET DHUAFA Country: Bangladesh, Indonesia, Myanmar

Highlights

  • About 1700 Rohingya refugees from Myanmar and Bangladesh were stranded in the waters of Aceh and North Sumatra in the last fourth period.

  • 1722 Rohingya Refugees from Myanmar and Bangladesh have placed in 4 areas evacuation.

  • Before arrival Rohingya and Bangladesh refugees in May 2015, there are 11 941 refugees in Indonesia since the ethnic conflict in Myanmar in 2012.

  • Accomodation such as food, milk, clothing, medicine already distributed. Medical team of LKC Dompet Dhuafa are included in the refugees camp.

  • The Government of Indonesia and Malaysia agreed to accommodate the immigrants from Myanmar and Bangladesh during single year before placed in the third State.

Myanmar: Rakhine State, Myanmar: Monthly Camp Report: Oh Taw Gyi North, Reporting Period: 07-2015

8 July 2015 - 4:14am
Source: Danish Refugee Council, Danish Demining Group, UN High Commissioner for Refugees, CCCM Cluster Country: Myanmar

The report presents an overview of the situation in the camp, including basic demographic data, infrastructures and access to services as of July 2015. Information has been compiled based on various data sources, monitoring exercise and formal/informal interview with camp residents. Additional information on camp information can be made available upon request to: Veronica Costarelli veronica.costarelli@drcmm.org

Monthly Highlights

  • Updated population data.
  • Updated field based staff contact list.

Myanmar: Rakhine State, Myanmar: Monthly Camp Report: Say Tha Mar Gyi (inclusive of Phwe Ya Kone), Reporting Period: 07-2015

8 July 2015 - 4:03am
Source: Danish Refugee Council, Danish Demining Group, UN High Commissioner for Refugees, CCCM Cluster Country: Myanmar

The report presents an overview of the situation in the camp, including basic demographic data, infrastructures and access to services as of July 2015. Information has been compiled based on various data sources, monitoring exercise and formal/informal interview with camp residents. Additional information on camp information can be made available upon request to: Veronica Costarelli veronica.costarelli@drcmm.org

Monthly Highlights

  • IRC women center will be closed on 14th and 15th July.
  • Updated field based staff contact list.

Myanmar: Rakhine State, Myanmar: Monthly Camp Report: Dar Pai, Reporting Period: 07-2015

8 July 2015 - 4:00am
Source: Danish Refugee Council, Danish Demining Group, UN High Commissioner for Refugees, CCCM Cluster Country: Myanmar

The report presents an overview of the situation in the camp, including basic demographic data, infrastructures and access to services as of July 2015. Information has been compiled based on various data sources, monitoring exercise and formal/informal interview with camp residents. Additional information on camp information can be made available upon request to: Veronica Costarelli veronica.costarelli@drcmm.org

Monthly Highlights

  • Updated field based staff contact list.

Myanmar: Rakhine State, Myanmar: Monthly Camp Report: Baw Du Pha 2, Reporting Period: 07-2015

8 July 2015 - 3:57am
Source: Danish Refugee Council, Danish Demining Group, UN High Commissioner for Refugees, CCCM Cluster Country: Myanmar

The report presents an overview of the situation in the camp, including basic demographic data, infrastructures and access to services as of July 2015. Information has been compiled based on various data sources, monitoring exercise and formal/informal interview with camp residents. Additional information on camp information can be made available upon request to: Veronica Costarelli veronica.costarelli@drcmm.org

Monthly Highlights

  • IRC women center will be closed on 14th and 15th July.
  • Updated population data.
  • Updated field based staff contact list.

Myanmar: Rakhine State, Myanmar: Monthly Camp Report: Baw Du Pha 1, Reporting Period: 07-2015

8 July 2015 - 3:54am
Source: Danish Refugee Council, Danish Demining Group, UN High Commissioner for Refugees, CCCM Cluster Country: Myanmar

The report presents an overview of the situation in the camp, including basic demographic data, infrastructures and access to services as of July 2015. Information has been compiled based on various data sources, monitoring exercise and formal/informal interview with camp residents. Additional information on camp information can be made available upon request to: Veronica Costarelli veronica.costarelli@drcmm.org

Monthly Highlights

  • IRC women center will be closed on 14th and 15th July.
  • Updated population data.
  • Updated field based staff contact list.