Press Release: Visit to Myanmar by Mr. Vijay Nambiar, United Nations Special Adviser to the Secretary-General

The Special Adviser to Secretary-General Mr. Vijay Nambiar visited Myanmar from 18 to 25 August in pursuance of his mandate. Undertaken ahead of the 69th session of the General Assembly, this was Mr. Nambiar’s eighth visit to the country during the past year.

The Special Adviser was received by President Thein Sein on 22 August and held discussions with senior officials including Foreign Minister U Wunna Maung Lwin, Senior Ministers in the President’s Office U Soe Thane and U Aung Min, Minister for Immigration and Population Affairs U Khin Yi and with Rakhine Chief Minister U Maung Maung Ohn. During his visit he also met with the Speaker of the Pyidaungsu Hluttaw Thura Shwe Mann and with Deputy Commander-in-Chief Vice Senior General Soe Win of the Tatmadaw and held consultations with members of political parties, ethnic armed groups, civil society, aid agencies, women and youth organizations as well as with diplomatic representatives. The Special Adviser had met with opposition leader Daw Aung Sang Suu Kyi during his earlier visit in July this year.

At the invitation of the Government, the Special Adviser participated as observer at a tripartite meeting of the UPWC, NCCT and representatives of various political parties in the discussion on the peace process including the finalisation of a nationwide ceasefire and framework of a political dialogue. This discussion held in Yangon on 18 August was the first of its kind held in the country. On behalf of the Secretary-General of the United Nations Mr. Nambiar conveyed a key message to all stakeholders to take a leap of faith and to set aside all narrow agendas in the common interest of peace and a unified Myanmar.

In addition to meetings in Yangon and Nay Pyi Taw, the Special Adviser visited Rakhine from 23 to 25 August to obtain a first-hand understanding of the latest situation and progress in relief efforts to assist the local communities including the population affected by the violence of the past months as well as actions being taken to address underlying causes. In his discussions with the authorities, Mr. Nambiar highlighted that translating various plans and commitments, including with regard to the urgent resumption of humanitarian assistance in Rakhine, would help address prevailing tensions and pave the way for sustainable solutions.

In his exchanges with various interlocutors, the Special Adviser touched on areas relating to the reform and democratization process, development, national reconciliation and the strengthening of harmony and cooperation between the communities and ethnic groups as well as emerging constitutional and other issues. He underlined the commitment of the United Nations in providing support to Myanmar during this critical period of the reform process in the country as well as its working constructively with all major national stakeholders.

Yangon, 25 August 2014

Ends

Statement of the Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights in Myanmar Yangon International Airport, Myanmar, 26 July 2014

Statement of the Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights in Myanmar Yangon International Airport, Myanmar, 26 July 2014

Introduction:

Good evening and thank you all for coming today. I have just concluded my first official ten- day mission as Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar. The objective of my visit was to assess the human rights situation in Myanmar through a better understanding of the realities on the ground. Accordingly, I sought to engage constructively with a broad spectrum of stakeholders, including Government officials, political, religious and community leaders, civil society representatives, as well as victims of human rights violations and members of the international community. I was pleased to have had a frank and open exchange of views on a range of matters related to my mandate. And I am grateful that many were so forthcoming in their views on sensitive issues.

Today, I would wish to highlight some preliminary observations from my mission and from additional background research. These issues, along with others, will be elaborated in more detail in the report I will present to the 69th session of the General Assembly later this year.

I would like to warmly thank the Government of Myanmar for its excellent cooperation and flexibility throughout my visit. I would particularly like to note with appreciation the efforts made to ensure my safety and that of my team, including in challenging circumstances. I would also like to thank the United Nations Country Team for giving their full support to this mission and for their invaluable assistance and advice in organizing my programme of meetings.

In Nay Pyi Taw, I met with the Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs and the Director –General of the ASEAN Affairs Department in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Attorney General, the Chief Justice and members of the Supreme Court, the Chair and members of the Constitutional Tribunal, the Minister of Defence, the Minister of Border Affairs, the Minister of Information, the Minister of Social Welfare, Relief and Resettlement, the Minister of Labour, Employment and Social Security, the Minister of Immigration and Population, the Deputy Minister of Education, the Minister of Health and the Minister of Home Affairs. I also met with Ministers U Soe Thein and U Aung Min in the President’s Office, and the Legal, Political and Economic Advisers to the President. Additionally, I met with the Union Election Commission. I was grateful that many provided detailed information highlighting the sequence of events and the context in which certain policy decisions were made or actions were undertaken.

Also in Nay Pyi Taw, I met with the members of various parliamentary committees of the Amyotha and Pyithu Hluttaws and with the Parliamentary Constitutional Amendment Implementation Committee.

I also had a meeting with Daw Aung San Suu Kyi.

In Yangon, I met with members of the Interfaith Friendship Group of Myanmar and the Interfaith Dialogue Group, the Myanmar National Human Rights Commission, as well as with civil society actors working on a wide range of human rights issues, media professionals, lawyers and lawyers groups, members of the 88 Generation Student Group and released prisoners of conscience. I visited Insein Prison and met with six prisoners of conscience: Dr. Tun Aung, U Saw Gay They Mu, U Chit Ko, U Saw War Lay, U Htin Kyaw and U Nay Linn Dwe. I also held meetings with the United Nations Country Team, the Humanitarian Country Team and the diplomatic community.
During my mission, I also visited Rakhine State, Kachin State and Mandalay Division. I will elaborate on those visits shortly.

Preliminary observations:
Myanmar is undergoing an important transition and the sweeping and far-reaching reforms that we have seen in recent years have dramatically transformed the political, economic, social and human rights landscape. This was affirmed in my meetings with various Government officials in Nay Pyi Taw. In three years, Myanmar has come a long way since the establishment of the new Government. This must be recognized and applauded.

Yet, there are worrying signs of possible backtracking which if unchecked could undermine Myanmar’s efforts to become a responsible member of the international community that respects and protects human rights. As many have said, Myanmar therefore needs further encouragement and understanding in order to address these challenges and to continue on the path of reform. And I hope that my observations and recommendations will be taken in this light.

Shrinking of democratic space:
The opening up of democratic space for people to exercise their rights to freedom of opinion and expression and to freedom of assembly and association is widely acknowledged as one significant achievement in Myanmar’s continuing reform process. Yet, in recent months many of my interlocutors have seen the shrinking of that space for civil society and the media.
During my mission, I was informed of the use of the judicial system and the application of outdated legislation, such as the 1923 State Secrets Act or the 1950 Emergency Provisions Act, as well as other legislation such as the Peaceful Assembly and Peaceful Procession Act (now amended) to criminalize and impede the activities of civil society and the media. I learned of the continuing arrests and prosecution of people exercising their rights to peaceful assembly and association, particularly under Section 18 of the amended Peaceful Assembly and Peaceful Procession Act. A disturbing example is the recent conviction of Chin activists who protested against the alleged rape of a woman by a military soldier in Chin State.

Civil society actors also face intimidation, threats and attacks and I was concerned by the alleged threats received by various activists who had publicly voiced opposition to a proposed package of draft bills related to religion, including a proposed interfaith marriage bill and a religious conversion bill.

Civil society actors campaigning on land and environmental issues, or trying to help communities affected by large-scale development projects, face particular challenges. They are routinely harassed and subject to arrest (including for violating the Peaceful Assembly and Peaceful Procession Act). There are also continuing reports of the excessive use of force by the police and the authorities in breaking up protests. During my mission, I met with one activist who had been arrested multiple times and was under trial in multiple township courts for protesting against land grabbing and forced evictions. He informed me that he would continue to protest, regardless of the personal consequences, so as to raise awareness amongst local communities and to ensure that the authorities “listened to what we have to say”.

These patterns not only undermine the work of civil society, but also impose a climate of fear and intimidation to society at large. The Government should create a safe and enabling environment for civil society, given their central role in democratisation, national reconciliation, development and the promotion and protection of human rights. Thus, any administrative and legislative provisions that impede their legitimate and peaceful activities should be reviewed and abolished. Further, specific protections measures should be put in place to allow civil society actors to carry out their work safely and without fear of reprisals. Complaints of violations should be investigated and properly brought to justice.

With respect to the media, I arrived in Myanmar shortly after the sentencing of four journalists and an editor of Unity Journal to ten years’ imprisonment with hard labour under the 1923 State Secrets Act, and charges were brought under Section 18 of the Peaceful Assembly and Peaceful Procession Act against 50 journalists who had staged a silent protest against the verdict. I also received information of other arrests of journalists who had reported on issues deemed too sensitive or critical of those in power, such as Government corruption. Additionally, I was told of the threats and intimidation faced by journalists, including most recently in trying to report on the recent violent incidents in Mandalay. Many spoke to me of a climate of uncertainty, intimidation and fear of arrest resulting in a form of self-censorship of the media.

The enjoyment of the rights to freedom of expression and freedom of association and peaceful assembly are essential ingredients for Myanmar’s democracy and for debating and resolving political issues, particularly in the run-up to the 2015 elections. Electoral periods
are important moments in the life of a nation with the potential to consolidate and strengthen democratic principles and practices. The mere fact that elections are held is not an adequate indicator of democracy. The process leading up to the election is a crucial component of a democratic society. Thus, there should be strict and clear safeguards to prevent undue interference in public freedoms, in particular the rights to freedom of opinion and expression and the freedom of peaceful assembly and association. In effect, genuine elections cannot be achieved if these rights are curtailed.

Prisoners of conscience:
I commend the 15 prisoner amnesties granted since the establishment of Myanmar’s new Government. And I note that the most recent presidential pardon of 30 December 2013 (which released more than 41 prisoners) included those convicted under various laws, such as the Peaceful Assembly and Peaceful Procession Act, the Unlawful Associations Act, sections 122, 124 (a) and 505 of the Penal Code, and the Emergency Provisions Act of 1950.
However, I believe that there are several remaining prisoners of conscience who did not benefit from these amnesties or who were recently arrested (as I described earlier). The information I received from civil society sources as well as my interviews with several prisoners in Insein Prison, Sittwe Prison, Bhamo Prison and Myitkina Prison confirmed that this issue has not been resolved. I raised these cases in my meetings in Nay Pyi Taw and called for their review and release as a matter of priority.

In this respect, I was pleased to hear that the prisoner review committee would continue to function and would likely hold regular monthly meetings. I encourage the Government to continue working with this important body in order to release all remaining prisoners of conscience and to fulfil President Thein Sein’s pledge. And I also reiterate my predecessor’s call for this body to be formally established as a standing institution with a mandate to review continuing detentions that may be politically motivated and to consider questions related to the rehabilitation of released prisoners.

Development and economic, social and cultural rights:
I was encouraged by the priority attention given to education and health and the efforts made to improve Myanmar’s education and health systems as a whole. I was also encouraged to hear of significant increases in public spending on these sectors though note that this is still a very small portion of the total national budget.

My meetings with both Government and civil society actors confirmed my predecessor’s view that land rights issues, in particular land grabbing and confiscations, as well as forced evictions are and will remain one of the major challenges facing Myanmar. And I note that the majority of complaints received by the Myanmar National Human Rights Commission related to land rights and that various parliamentary commissions have been established to address this issue.

These are complex issues requiring reforms to the legislative and institutional framework governing land use and management, the management and sharing of resources, as well as land tenure. A change in the response to public protests on land issues and the handling of complaints received by various institutions and bodies is also needed. While I will elaborate upon these issues in my report to the General Assembly, I will state generally that priority attention should be given to these issues in accordance with human rights principles and standards. This requires that the principles of equality and non-discrimination, participation, protection, transparency and accountability, including access to appropriate remedy, are fully taken into account.

I was also struck by the information I received regarding the impact of large-scale development projects, particularly on vulnerable groups, such as the rural poor, displaced persons and returning asylum-seekers, ethnic communities and women. In this regard, I believe that it is essential to ensure that environmental and social impact assessments are undertaken and recommendations implemented consistently, that relevant information about development projects be made widely available and accessible, and that concerned communities are able to participate actively, freely and meaningfully in the assessment and analysis, design and planning, implementation, monitoring and evaluation of such projects.
The coming years present an opportunity for the Government to proactively manage development and investment processes so as to ensure a rights-based and people-centred form of sustainable development, inclusive growth, poverty reduction and equitable resource-sharing. I believe that Myanmar has started to embark on this path but further reforms to the relevant legislative, institutional and administrative frameworks, as well as a change in mindset and behaviour, is required.

Legislative reform and the rule of law
A recurring and cross-cutting concern mentioned in many of my discussions on a broad range of issues is the need to strengthen the rule of law in Myanmar. This is the foundation for any functioning democracy and underpins the entire process of reform. Thus, it should continue to be given priority attention by the Government.
Central to this is the continuing review and reform of legislation, particularly outdated laws that do not reflect current realities and those deemed to be inconsistent with international human rights standards, as well as the adoption of new laws. While I was encouraged by the scope and pace of the legislative reform process, I heard many concerns regarding the lack of consultation on draft laws, with some laws drafted in secret, published at a late stage with little time for comments to be provided or with unclear or no information on where comments should be submitted. In raising these issues consistently during my mission, I came away with the impression that greater coordination, priority-setting, transparency, consistency and clarity in the process by which laws are reviewed, consulted and drafted is vitally needed. Clear timelines should be given to enable broad consultation and proper consideration of draft laws, including by civil society and international organizations. Consultation should be meaningful and not merely superficial, with comments properly taken into account and concerns addressed. Additionally, more efforts should be made to raise awareness of new laws amongst the general public, beyond their publication in newspapers and journals.

Further, while legislative reform is an organic process, shaped and defined by changing realities, it should ultimately consolidate and further democratic transition and respect for human rights. I am therefore concerned by the legislative package on the protection of race and religion, which includes four draft bills on interfaith marriage, religious conversion polygamy and population control. I have spoken out publicly on this issue and have raised concerns that these bills are incompatible with international human rights standards, in particular the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) and the Convention on the Rights of the Child, to which Myanmar is party. I add my voice to those who have called for the package to be withdrawn.

Women’s rights and gender equality
During my visit, I had the opportunity to meet and discuss with civil society organizations and activists working on women’s rights issues in Myanmar. Yet, it seemed to me that women’s voices and women’s roles are seemingly lacking on the public radar: women are severely underrepresented in Government and Parliament, as well as in the formal peace process, and there does not seem to be much public awareness and understanding of the important roles women could and should play in the reforms process – as both agents and beneficiaries of change. As party to CEDAW, I believe that Myanmar should do more to promote women’s participation in all areas of public and political life.

Rakhine State
During my mission, I had the opportunity to visit Sittwe and Maungdaw and I wish to thank the State Government for its cooperation and logistical facilitation. In Sittwe, I met with the Chief Minister and members of the State Government, members of the Rakhine State Emergency Coordination Centre, representatives of the Rakhine Buddhist community and representatives of international non-governmental organizations (INGOs) and United Nations agencies. I also visited Shwe Say Ti Monastery. In and around Sittwe, I visited Set Yone Su and Baw Du Par Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) camps, Ohn Yay Paw Village and Aung Mingala. I also visited Sittwe Prison and met with U Kyaw Hla Aung, U Than Shwe, U Kyaw Myint and three Muslim male prisoners. In Maungdaw, I met with four Muslim women who were being held under charges of arson in the Maungdaw police station detention centre.
I listened carefully to the views expressed by both communities in order to better understand their different perspectives and grievances. I recognize that Rakhine State is one of the poorest in Myanmar and for many years, has suffered from neglect and underdevelopment. I visited Ohn Yay Paw Village and saw a glimpse of how some in the Rakhine Buddhist community lived – with no toilets, no electricity and with a minimum of basic services. I was pleased to hear that the United Nations was cooperating with the Rakhine State Government to provide development assistance and I would encourage similar support and cooperation in other areas of Rakhine State.

In visiting the IDPs in and around Sittwe during the rainy season, I gained first-hand impressions of the difficult conditions in which men, women and children of both communities live. The situation is deplorable. Many have remained in the camps for two years and I do not believe that there is adequate access to basic services. In Set Yone Su (Rakhine Buddhist) camp, I was told that while children attended primary school in the camp, older children had to make their own travel arrangements to attend the middle school some distance away from the camp. A number of the IDPs also highlighted the lack of access to livelihoods, with women selling craft work and men performing day labour in order to earn an income.
Yet, it is undeniable that the situation is worse in the Baw Du Par camp I visited, given the sheer number of IDPs in the camp – around 10,000, the comparatively fewer latrines per person than in the Set Yone Su camp (around 40 persons to one latrine by my count), and the lack of a health clinic or adequate access to health services (particularly given the departure of certain INGOs providing crucial health services). Restrictions on the freedom of movement have a severe impact on basic rights, including access to livelihoods, food, water and sanitation, health services and education. One young woman told me that she had passed her matriculation exams and wished to go to university. Yet, she could not physically leave the camp in order to pick up the university application forms. In Aung Mingala, the only Muslim quarter in Sittwe, I was also told that the residents were only allowed to leave the camp twice a week to go to the market. Students were prohibited from attending Sittwe University and were told that they could only pursue distance learning if they wished. Many merchants wished to return to their shops in order to reopen their businesses.
The health situation in the Muslim IDP camps is of particular concern. With the departure of INGOs providing critical health services and the operation of humanitarian organizations not yet at full capacity after the attacks in Sittwe in March, health provision still falls far short of needs. While the local health authorities have deployed additional medical professionals and provided mobile clinics, I have received disturbing reports of people dying in camps due to the lack of access to emergency medical assistance and due to preventable, chronic or pregnancy-related conditions. There are frequent daily reports of illnesses, yet there is now limited access and limited capacity by INGOs and the United Nations to provide the necessary services, undertake the necessary monitoring of the situation, and collect the necessary data.

The operational environment for INGOs and the United Nations remains difficult with continuing reports of threats, intimidation and attacks against staff. At the same time, representatives of the Rakhine Buddhist community spoke often of the perceived bias and discrimination in the assistance provided over decades and currently.

In listening to all views from both communities, I am concerned about the prevalence of inaccurate rumours and false information about the conditions of camps, the quality of assistance provided and the perceived intentions and behaviours of members of different communities, which subsequently become accepted as reality. More must be done to stop misinformation which only serves to heighten tensions and hostility and to increase the sense of discriminatory treatment. The conditions of both camps and the situation of both communities must be accurately reflected and seen for what they are.

I understand the sense of grievance and perceived discrimination by the Rakhine Buddhist community. And I do believe that their concerns should be taken into account when trying to address the underlying causes of the intercommunal violence. We need to call a spade a spade.

By virtue of their legal status (or lack of), the Muslim community has faced and continue to face systematic discrimination, which include restrictions in the freedom of movement, restrictions in access to land, food, water, education and health care, and restrictions on marriages and birth registration. Since the 1993 report of the first Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar, the various forms of human rights violations faced by the Muslim community has been regularly documented by successive Special Rapporteurs. These include enforced disappearances, torture, forced labour and forced displacements, as well as rape and other forms of sexual violence.

In addition, I have received continuing allegations of violations against the Muslim community, including arbitrary arrests, torture and ill-treatment in detention, death in detention, the denial of due process and fair trial rights and rape and sexual violence. I believe these allegations are serious and merit investigation, with perpetrators held to account.

I also was provided information about the status of the three INGO national staff who were arrested in connection with the 2012 violence and who remain in detention. I believe that they have been denied fair trial and due process rights and were arrested under spurious charges. I call for their immediate release.

In my discussions on possible solutions with the Rakhine State Government, I was provided a brief overview of the Rakhine State Action Plan but was not able to actually study the Plan myself. I noted with concern, however, that the Government’s plan for long-term peaceful coexistence may likely result in a permanent segregation of the two communities. As an immediate priority, more must be done to reduce tensions and hostility, and promote reconciliation between the two communities.

Issues around terminology and citizenship are particularly sensitive. I was repeatedly told not to use the term ‘Rohingya’ as this was not recognized by the Government. Yet, as a human rights independent expert, I am guided by international human rights law. In this regard, the rights of minorities to self-identify on the basis of their national, ethnic, religious and linguistic characteristics is related to the obligations of States to ensure non-discrimination against individuals and groups, which is a central principle of international human rights law. I also note that various human rights treaty bodies and intergovernmental bodies, including the Committee on the Rights of the Child, which I chaired for four years and of which I was a member for ten years, the Human Rights Council and the General Assembly use the term ‘Rohingya’.

In my discussions on the question of citizenship for the Muslim community, I was repeatedly told that the rule of law should be respected; in this regard, strong opposition was voiced by many against the review and reform of the 1982 Citizenship Law. Yet, laws by nature are forever evolving. As the reforms process in Myanmar has demonstrated, they can be and should be amended whenever there are deficiencies and are not in line with international standards. The 1982 Citizenship Law should therefore not be an exception.

Kachin State
I also visited Kachin State – Myitkyina and Bhamo – and I wish to thank the State Government for its cooperation and logistical facilitation. In Myitkina, I met with the Chief minister and members of the State Government, as well as representatives of civil society organizations. I also visited Waimaw IDP camp and Myitkina prison where I met with U Brang Yung. In Bhamo, I met with the District Administrator and members of the District Administration. I also met with Kachin and Shan civil society organizations and with organizations working on women’s issues. Additionally, I visited the AD 2000, Robert Church and Shwe Kyi Nar IDP camps. I also visited Bhamo Prison where I met with U Mali Tan.
It has been three years since the resumption of conflict in Kachin and Northern Shan States and many IDPs have lived for years in camps that were only meant to be temporary. Many of the IDPs I spoke with highlighted the fervent desire for peace so that they could simply return to their homes. Yet, there was a general fear for their safety and security upon return, as well as uncertainty over what they would return to – with homes and farmland possibly destroyed or riddled with mines. Some noted the lack of access to livelihoods; in one camp, the majority of the IDPs were entirely dependent on amber polishing and the production of amber jewellery as the only means of income. The youth do not have any options for employment or livelihoods and many are turning to drugs.
While there has been progress in the peace negotiations, with another round of talks resuming this weekend in Laiza, almost all with whom I spoke were unaware of developments and had neither been informed nor consulted. Greater efforts must be made, therefore, to inform, involve and consult displaced populations or local communities. Greater efforts must also be made to inform and consult IDPs about the possibility of return. Any initiative to return IDPs to their places of origin has to be done with the free, prior and informed consent of those concerned, and also involve consultation with humanitarian actors including the United Nations.

Despite assurances by the Chief Minister of improved international humanitarian access to non-government controlled areas (where roughly half of the 100,000 displaced by the conflict are living in camps or with host families), in reality, access remains limited and there are concerns regarding the access of people in these areas to adequate food, water and sanitation, health care and education. The humanitarian situation thus has clear human rights dimensions – with consequent impact on basic rights. It is imperative therefore that the United Nations and international humanitarian actors be provided with more regular and systematic access to areas outside government control.

During my visit, I received information about human rights violations committed by both the Kachin Independence Army and the Tatmadaw, including attacks against civilian populations, sexual violence, the recruitment of child soldiers, as well as forced labour. These allegations are serious and must be addressed as a matter of priority, with perpetrators taken to account. All parties to the conflict must do more to ensure respect for international human rights and humanitarian law.

Also during my visit, I met with two prisoners who had been convicted under the Explosive Substances Act and the Unlawful Associations Act (for alleged ties to the Kachin Independence Army). Both allege that they had been interrogated continuously for several days and subjected to torture and ill-treatment. One individual noted that he had been forced to commit homosexual acts with another male prisoner. Both also allege that photographic evidence showing them handling explosives had been fabricated. These cases are similar to information I have received from civil society sources regarding the arbitrary arrest and torture during interrogation by the military of Kachin men accused of belonging to the Kachin Independence Army. When raising these issues in Nay Pyi Taw, I was told unequivocally that the Ministry of Defence was not aware of any such cases and that it did not have any information on the use of torture or ill-treatment during interrogation. I must state, however, that the disturbingly similar pattern of abuse in the cases I have received merits investigation by the Government. The allegations are serious and should be taken up accordingly.

Mandalay
In Mandalay, I visited the sites where the murders of two men were committed and where incidents of violence took place. I met with the Chief Minister and members of his cabinet, the police chief and the Division Administrator. I also met with members of a non-governmental Peacemaking Committee. I was given detailed information on the actions taken by the Government to quell the violence, including outreach to religious leaders, and on the numbers of people arrested in connection with the murders and with the destruction of parts of a Muslim cemetery. In contrast, the information I received from civil society actors alleged state inaction in stopping the violence and highlighted the lack of transparency in the investigations conducted and in the arrests made. Additionally, many with whom I spoke suggested possible criminal and organized instigators of violence – deliberately timed to destabilize or undermine political movements or reforms. I was also given similar information regarding the events in Meiktila last year, particularly with how the violence was instigated and progressed, and how the authorities responded. I am, however, not in a position to verify these allegations.

In my meetings with various interfaith groups and civil society actors, Myanmar’s history of religious pluralism and tolerance was repeatedly highlighted. Yet the violence in Mandalay and previously in other parts of the country demonstrate that amicable relations and harmony between different religious and ethnic communities can never be taken for granted. In fact, the recurring outbreak of intercommunal violence reveals deep divisions and a growing polarization between Muslim and Buddhist communities. In this regard, I am concerned by the spread of hate speech and incitement to violence, discrimination and hostility in the media and on the Internet, which have fuelled and triggered further violence. I understand that the Government is making efforts in working with religious and community leaders, as well as the media and civil society, but more needs to be done to counter this negative trend. A comprehensive series of measures is needed as a priority; this should include the adoption of specific legislation to prohibit and combat hate speech – one that is compliant with international human rights standards, carefully construed and applied by the judiciary so as not to excessively limit the freedom of expression. Such legislation should be accompanied by a set of policy measures to address the root causes and underlying grievances, foster dialogue and bring about a change in mindsets and discourse. This should include education and awareness-raising measures, as well as intercommunal and interfaith dialogue and cooperation initiatives. Political leaders and public officials have a special responsibility and in this regard, I welcome President Thein Sein’s clear and public call against hate speech and incitement earlier this month. Others in positions of influence should also clearly speak out against hate speech.

Finally, I would encourage the Government of Myanmar to fully utilize and implement the Rabat Plan of Action on the prohibition of advocacy of national, racial or religious hatred that constitutes incitement to discrimination, hostility or violence. The Plan of Action sets out a series of measures to prevent and respond to incidents of incitement to hatred while upholding the rights to freedom of opinion and expression, freedom of religion or belief and other freedoms.

Conclusion
These are some of my preliminary observations from my first official mission to Myanmar as Special Rapporteur. As noted previously, I will elaborate upon these and other issues in greater detail in my forthcoming report to the General Assembly. Allow me to note that I am very much guided by the work of my predecessor and in this respect, I am of the view that many of his priorities and concerns remain valid and will be carried forward during my tenure.
Upon my appointment as Special Rapporteur last month, I stated that it was my intention to discharge my duties and responsibilities under this mandate in an objective and impartial manner. It is indeed my wish to be able to contribute to the efforts Myanmar has undertaken in its path towards democratization, national reconciliation and development. As Special Rapporteur, I look forward to working closely with the Government and the people of Myanmar, in a spirit of cooperation and dialogue, towards the promotion and protection of human rights in the country.
Thank you.

New UN Special Rapporteur on Myanmar launches her first official country visit

GENEVA (14 July 2014) – The new United Nations Special Rapporteur on
Myanmar, Yanghee Lee, will undertake her first official visit to the
country from 17 to 26 July 2014 to gather first-hand information on the
current human rights situation in Myanmar.

The new independent expert appointed by the UN Human Rights Council to
monitor, report and advise on the situation of human rights in Myanmar will
visit Nay Pyi Taw, Yangon, Rakhine and Kachin states. Ms. Lee also intends
to visit Mandalay following the recent outbreak of violence there.

The Special Rapporteur, who visits the country at the invitation of the
Government, looks forward to engaging constructively with a broad spectrum
of stakeholders, including Government officials, political, religious and
community leaders, civil society representatives, as well as victims of
human rights violations and members of the international community during
her visit.

“A frank and open exchange of views will be vital to help me better
understand the realities on the ground,” Ms. Lee said. “And it is my
intention, as Special Rapporteur, to work closely with the Government and
people of Myanmar, towards the promotion and protection of human rights in
the country.”

The new Special Rapporteur served as member and chairperson of the UN
Committee on the Rights of the Child (2003-2011). She is currently a
professor at Sungkyunwan University, Seoul, and serves on the Advisory
Committee of the National Human Rights Commission of Korea. Ms. Lee is the
founding President of International Child Rights Center, and serves as
Vice-chair of the National Unification Advisory Council.

The human rights expert will submit her first report following the country
visit. It will be presented to the 69th session of the UN General Assembly
in October.

A press conference will be held at the end of the Special Rapporteur’s
visit. Details on time and venue will be announced during the course of the
visit.

ENDS

Ms. Yanghee Lee (Republic of Korea) was appointed by the United Nations
Human Rights Council in June 2014, succeeding Mr. Tomás Ojea Quintana, who
completed his six-year term on the mandate in May 2014. As Special
Rapporteur, Ms. Lee is independent from any government or organization and
serves in her individual capacity. Learn more, go to:

http://www.ohchr.org/EN/HRBodies/SP/CountriesMandates/MM/Pages/SRMyanmar.aspx

UN Human Rights, country page – Myanmar:

http://www.ohchr.org/EN/countries/AsiaRegion/Pages/MMIndex.aspx

For more information and media requests, please contact:
In Geneva: Ms. Azwa Petra, Human Rights Officer (+41 22 928 9103 /
apetra@ohchr.org)
In Yangon (during the mission, 16 July p.m. to 26 July a.m.): U Aye Win,
National Information Officer (+95 94 210 60343 / wina@un.org)
In Bangkok (27-28 July): Ms. Ann Syauta, Human Rights Officer (+66 98 969
7672 / syauta@un.org)

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Regional Office for South-East Asia
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ASSISTANT SECRETARY-GENERAL AND DEPUTY EMERGENCY RELIEF COORDINATOR, KYUNG-WHA KANG

New York  17 June 2014

As delivered

I am pleased to have this opportunity to brief you on my trip last week to Myanmar to take stock of the humanitarian challenges there. This trip coincided with the second anniversary of the terrible inter-communal violence in Rakhine State and the third anniversary of the conflict in Kachin State.

In both Rakhine and Kachin, humanitarian access is an issue, but for very different reasons. In Kachin, half of the 100,000 or so people displaced by war are living in camps beyond Government control, and where international access is limited to irregular cross-line humanitarian missions.

In Rakhine, I witnessed a level of human suffering in IDP camps that I have personally never seen before, with men, women, and children living in appalling conditions with severe restrictions on their freedom of movement, both in camps and isolated villages. Many people have wholly inadequate access to basic services including health, education, water and sanitation.

Two years into the crisis in Rakhine, hundreds of thousands of people continue to rely on humanitarian aid because they cannot rebuild their lives and livelihoods. Farmers can’t go to their fields, fishermen can’t go to the sea, and traders can’t go to the markets.

Humanitarian workers in Rakhine are carrying out their work under extremely difficult circumstances and I was humbled by their commitment to stay and deliver. However, unless the Myanmar authorities ensure that the perpetrators of the attacks on UN and NGO premises in late March are brought to justice, the safety and security of our staff will continue to be at risk.

The context in Kachin is very different. I was only able to visit an IDP camp in the Government-controlled area, but I met local NGO staff who are central to humanitarian work in areas held by the Kachin Independence Army. Access by international humanitarian organizations is improving through cross-line missions but aid agencies need regular, predictable, and sustained access to all IDPs.

In the capital Nay Pyi Taw, I met with the Vice President, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, the Minister of Social Welfare, Relief, and Resettlement, and the Deputy Minister of Border Affairs and I reiterated the UN’s commitment to support the Government’s efforts to meet humanitarian needs and reminded them of their responsibility to bring the perpetrators of the March attacks to justice.

With regular earthquakes, floods, and cyclones, Myanmar is one of Asia’s most disaster-prone countries and I thanked the authorities for their strong engagement in working with humanitarian organizations in improving disaster preparedness and response.

The priority for both the Government and the international community must be to improve the lives of the most vulnerable people in the country, regardless of ethnicity, nationality, religion, gender or class.

With those very brief introductory remarks, I’m ready to take your questions now.

UN DEPUTY HUMANITARIAN CHIEF CALLS FOR GREATER HUMANITARIAN ACCESS TO PEOPLE AFFECTED BY CONFLICT AND INTER-COMMUNAL VIOLENCE IN MYANMAR

(Yangon/New York, 13 June 2014): Assistant Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Deputy Emergency Relief Coordinator, Kyung-wha Kang, today concluded her field missions to Rakhine and Kachin States, stressing the need for improved access to people in need of humanitarian assistance in Myanmar.

“During my trip, I witnessed the serious challenges that humanitarian workers face in delivering aid to the estimated 421,000 people in urgent need of life-saving assistance in Myanmar,” said Ms. Kang. “Despite substantial progress in Myanmar’s reform agenda over the past years, humanitarian conditions have deteriorated in some areas where people are in greatest need, but where access continues to pose a challenge.”

In Rakhine State, Ms. Kang travelled with the Deputy Minister of Border Affairs to Sittwe and Pauktaw to visit IDP camps and host communities affected by inter-communal violence. She met with local authorities, community leaders, and humanitarian workers to evaluate progress in resuming and scaling up the humanitarian response following the 26-27 March attacks on UN and NGO premises in Sittwe. Despite the strong support of the Union authorities in this regard, the current capacity of the humanitarian community in Rakhine is still less than 60 per cent of previous levels.

“The safety and security of our staff, both national and international, must be guaranteed in order for the UN and NGOs to continue to support the Myanmar Government in responding to the vast humanitarian and development needs of all the people in Rakhine State,” said ASG Kang.

Despite considerable humanitarian efforts, many people in isolated villages and remote IDP camps continue to live in dire conditions, coupled with severe restrictions on their freedom of movement. “The situation that I witnessed in Nget Chaung IDP camp was appalling, with wholly inadequate access to basic services including health, education, water and sanitation,” said the ASG.

Ms. Kang also visited IDP camps in Kachin State, where communities recently marked the third anniversary of the conflict between the Kachin Independence Army and the Myanmar Army, which has displaced more than 100,000 people. About half of these internally displaced people, including women and children, are hosted in camps in areas beyond Government control, where access by international organizations is limited to irregular cross-line humanitarian missions.

“Local NGOs have been, and will continue to be, central to the humanitarian response in Kachin, but more regular, predictable, and sustained access by international organizations is needed to reach the required levels of assistance in all IDP areas,” stressed ASG Kang. She noted that renewed fighting over the past months in southern Kachin and northern Shan State led to the displacement of many people for the second, third, or fourth time. “It is essential that all parties ensure the protection of civilians and the full respect of international humanitarian law, while looking ahead in the long-term to develop durable solutions for displaced people and host communities.”

During her visit, Ms. Kang held a series of meetings with Union and State-level officials, including the Vice President, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, the Minister of Social Welfare, Relief, and Resettlement, the Deputy Minister of Border Affairs, the Chief Minister of Rakhine, and the Chief Minister of Kachin. Ms. Kang reiterated the UN’s continued commitment to support the Government in responding to humanitarian needs in Myanmar and reminded the authorities of their responsibility to ensure that justice is rendered and that the perpetrators of the 26-27 March attacks are brought to justice.

The 2014 Humanitarian Response Plan for Myanmar has received 39 per cent of the US $192 million required. $66 million would provide humanitarian assistance to 111,000 people across Kachin and northern Shan States, while $126 million would provide humanitarian assistance to 310,000 people across Rakhine State.

_____________________________________________
UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs – Myanmar
No. 5 Kanbawza Street
Shwe Taung Kyar (2) Ward / Bahan Township
Yangon, Myanmar

Myanmar: “Build on achievements and reach for democracy” – Outgoing UN Special Rapporteur

GENEVA (30 May 2014) – The United Nations Special Rapporteur on the human rights situation in Myanmar, Tomás Ojea Quintana, today calls on the Government and people of Myanmar to build on the many achievements of the last three years in laying a solid foundation for a robust democracy.

Mr. Ojea Quintana completes his six-year term as the Special Rapporteur on the human rights situation in Myanmar at the end of this month. His successor, Ms. Yanghee Lee (Republic of Korea) will take up the position as of June:

“During my six-year term as Special Rapporteur, Myanmar has been undergoing an historic transition which has already significantly expanded freedoms in the country, helped to consolidate peace and promises a better human rights future for all.

Throughout my work, I emphasized on four core human rights elements in assessing Myanmar’s democratic transition: the establishment of the rule of law and the institution of an impartial and independent judiciary; constitutional and legislative reform; reform of the armed forces; and the progressive release of political prisoners.

Rule of Law
The release of over 1,100 prisoners of conscience has been, for me personally, the most welcome step taken by the Government and I commend President Thein Sein for his leadership in this regard. I remain concerned for the remaining political prisoners numbering at least 59, and hope their release will be expedited too, and that all those who have served unjust sentences will receive redress accordingly.

Myanmar is to be commended for the recent adoption of a law on the establishment of an independent human rights commission, for the vibrant work of its Parliament, for initiating police reforms, and for seeking to ensure better development, health, education and social protection for its population. But its state institutions in general remain unaccountable, and the judiciary is not yet functioning as an independent branch of Government.

In order for the rule of law to prevail, the laws of the land must be in line with international human rights standards and they must apply equally to all persons. There must be civilian control and oversight over the military. The 2008 Constitution needs to be amended in line with the overall transition to a democratic system of civilian governance.

Without the rule of law, the process of economic development will have a corrosive effect on Myanmar society and its environment, leading to exploitation and the reinforcement of the position of privileged elites. The international community, particularly those that engage in trade and investment with Myanmar, have a tremendous responsibility.

Democratic Freedoms
Despite the notable widening of space for freedom of expression and the development of political freedoms, many laws still remain which do not conform to international human rights standards.

Such laws if not revised will continue to be used to stifle freedom of expression and opinion, and interfere with the people’s rights to peaceful assembly and association. Legislative reform must be accompanied with better protection for human rights defenders, an enabling environment for civil society, and a change of mind-set within all levels of Government, to allow civil society, political parties and a free media to flourish beyond current limited freedoms.

The expansion of freedom of expression and the proscription of hate speech are complementary. I am deeply concerned about the spread of incitement of racial and religious hatred, especially from some religious leaders, which appear to be left unchecked by the authorities.

This, and proposed legislation that would put obstacles in the way of interfaith marriages and religious conversions, can have a chilling effect on a multi-cultural, pluralist democratic society as well as being in contravention of international treaty obligations. This cannot be the model to which Myanmar will want to aspire as the current ASEAN Chair.

Humanitarian Access and Rakhine State
No one has yet to be made accountable for the mob attacks against international humanitarian actors in Sittwe, Rakhine in late March this year; and although some organizations have been allowed to return, the humanitarian situation remains dire especially for the Muslim communities in Rakhine State which rely the most on services delivered by international actors.

Local Rohingya leaders and three INGO humanitarian workers continue to be in detention, and others face intimidation and harassment by local groups in the provision of healthcare to the Muslim communities, worsening their limited access to healthcare. I have also received reports of deaths in particular of women and children caused by preventable, chronic or pregnancy-related conditions which could have been avoided had adequate and timely medical services been provided to these communities.

This situation, as well as the recent denial of self-identification during the Census process, is reflective of the wider and systematic discrimination against and marginalization of the Rohingya community. As I warned in my last report to the UN Human Rights Council, the pattern of widespread and systematic human rights violations in Rakhine State may constitute crimes against humanity as defined under the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court.

I reiterate my call to the Council to engage the Government of Myanmar in accounting for these violations through the establishment of an independent and credible investigative mechanism.

The Government as well as the international community, particularly neighbouring member states and ASEAN, must urgently address the human rights situation in Rakhine State. To do otherwise would not only risk local and extremist groups taking complete control over the situation there, and compromise the entire democratic transition for Myanmar. It will ultimately mean the extermination of the Rohingyas.

Kachin State and Peace Process
I have also received reports regarding resumed clashes and increased fighting in Kachin and Shan states. More worryingly, the army has been further accused of attacking civilians particularly internally displaced people (IDPs) in southern Kachin State.

The Government has made commendable progress towards a national ceasefire accord, but whatever the course of these negotiations, military and non-state actors need to abide by international humanitarian and human rights law. Access to humanitarian aid in Kachin State is also critical.

Securing peace in Myanmar’s ethnic border areas is fundamental to Myanmar’s transitional process. The monitoring of ceasefire agreements would be vital and addressing the resettlement of IDP and refugee communities is just one of several challenging issues at stake. For these issues to be resolved in a sustainable way, the voices of all parties, especially of women, the youth and minority groups, must be allowed to be heard in the national process of peacebuilding and reconciliation.

There also needs to be transparency in negotiations to allow for entire communities, and not just their leaders, to benefit from development projects and profitable business deals, and ensure that the interests of the communities are at the heart of such negotiations.

Accountability and Participation
A truthful account of past human rights violations is needed in order to inform and solidify the ongoing process of national reconciliation. A lasting reconciliation can only be achieved through the fulfillment of the rights to truth, justice and reparation. Impunity, which is deeply entrenched in Myanmar institutions, should be confronted.

Evolving from a state of military rule of five decades to one of civilian democracy obviously requires a change in attitude and thinking for all especially the military. While the civil society enjoys a long history of activism, the military retains a prevailing role in the life and institutions of Myanmar.

The energy and enthusiasm of the younger generation and of women should be fully developed to help reinvigorate the reform process and ensure that Myanmar secures a successful transition.

The international community will be watching closely for the conduct of free and fair elections in 2015. The upcoming elections provide a unique opportunity for the military rulers of the past to allow the people of Myanmar to freely choose their future leaders and President.

Closure
I hope that my time on this mandate has helped to improve the human rights situation for the people in Myanmar, and to keep human rights high on its reform agenda. I praise the cooperation extended by the Government of Myanmar to this mandate as well as by other political and civil society actors. I call on the support of the international community towards the fledgling democracy in Myanmar through technical assistance and capacity development. I particularly encourage the establishment of a country office by the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights with a full mandate.

I hope that through this mandate I have assisted in elevating the voices of those who have suffered as well as expressing their needs and expectations to the United Nations and beyond, and I wish my successor Ms. Yanghee Lee ever success.”

ENDS

Mr. Tomás Ojea Quintana (Argentina) was appointed by the United Nations Human Rights Council in May 2008. As Special Rapporteur, he is independent from any government or organization and serves in his individual capacity. He has worked at the Inter-American Commission of Human Rights. He was also the Executive Director of the OHCHR Programme for Protection and Promotion of Human Rights in Bolivia. Most recently, Mr. Ojea Quintana has represented the Argentinean NGO “Abuelas de Plaza de Mayo” in cases concerning child abduction during the military régime. Learn more, log on to: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/HRBodies/SP/CountriesMandates/MM/Pages/SRMyanmar.aspx

Check the Special Rapporteur’s latest report on Myanmar, log on to: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/HRBodies/HRC/RegularSessions/Session25/Pages/ListReports.aspx

UN Human Rights, country page – Myanmar: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/countries/AsiaRegion/Pages/MMIndex.aspx

For more information and media requests, please contact Ms. Azwa Petra (+41 22 928 9103 / apetra@ohchr.org) or write to sr-myanmar@ohchr.org

For media inquiries related to other UN independent experts:
Xabier Celaya, UN Human Rights – Media Unit (+ 41 22 917 9383 / xcelaya@ohchr.org)

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Myanmar: Constitutional Reform, a crucial step in the transition to a more democratic nation

Myanmar: Constitutional Reform, a crucial step in the transition to a more democratic nation

GENEVA (23 May 2014) – The United Nations Special Rapporteur on the human rights situation in Myanmar, Tomás Ojea Quintana, today called on Myanmar to press forward with the on-going process of constitutional reform.

“A country’s Constitution should be a reflection of its people’s collective
aspiration, and it should embrace fundamental principles of democracy and human rights,” Mr. Ojea Quintana’s said. “Constitutional reform in Myanmar is a crucial step in the transition to a more democratic nation.”

The independent expert’s call comes as the 31-member Parliamentary
committee reviews proposed constitutional amendments to the 2008
Constitution with a view to drafting an amendment bill for submission to
Parliament.

“I hope for the amended Myanmar Constitution to be one which respects the fundamental human rights of all people living in Myanmar and not just its citizens, and one which recognizes the will of the majority but also protects the rights of the individual and minorities,” the independent expert said.

For the Special Rapporteur, the current constitutional reform process
offers a key opportunity to address serious shortcomings which might become further entrenched and destabilize the reform process.

A healthy Constitution must be amended to strengthen democratic attitudes and values, to facilitate national reconciliation and the peace process, and also address the needs of the Myanmar society, as remarked by the country’s President in January this year.

However, Mr. Ojea Quintana cautioned that Myanmar is only at the beginning of a transition and that the rule of law has yet to take root, and warned that the current Constitution contains a number of provisions which undermine the rule of law and fundamental human rights.

“In order for the rule of law to prevail, the laws of the land must be in line with international human rights standards and they must apply equally to all persons,” he said. “There must be accountability of all State institutions and there must be civilian control and oversight over the
military.”

“Leaving the military with an effective veto over constitutional changes, among others, does not augur well with Myanmar’s democratic ambitions especially leading up to the 2015 elections,” the human rights expert stressed. “The right of the people of Myanmar to choose their own
Government and President must also be respected and upheld.”

The Special Rapporteur noted that concerns have been raised that the reform process could be upset by peaceful gatherings and rallies calling for certain constitutional amendments to be made. He believes, instead, that “such exercise of the right to freedom of expression and the right to
public participation is not only a healthy sign of human rights principles at play, but that it is also a necessity for Myanmar in its transition to a more democratic nation.”

Mr. Ojea Quintana completes his six-year term as the Special Rapporteur on the human rights situation in Myanmar at the end of this month.

ENDS

Mr. Tomás Ojea Quintana (Argentina) was appointed by the United Nations
Human Rights Council in May 2008. As Special Rapporteur, he is independent
from any government or organization and serves in his individual capacity.
He has worked at the Inter-American Commission of Human Rights. He was also
the Executive Director of the OHCHR Programme for Protection and Promotion
of Human Rights in Bolivia. Most recently, Mr. Ojea Quintana has
represented the Argentinean NGO “Abuelas de Plaza de Mayo” in cases
concerning child abduction during the military régime. Learn more, log on
to:

http://www.ohchr.org/EN/HRBodies/SP/CountriesMandates/MM/Pages/SRMyanmar.aspx

Check the Special Rapporteur’s latest report on Myanmar, log on to:

http://www.ohchr.org/EN/HRBodies/HRC/RegularSessions/Session25/Pages/ListReports.aspx

UN Human Rights, country page – Myanmar:

http://www.ohchr.org/EN/countries/AsiaRegion/Pages/MMIndex.aspx

For more information and media requests, please contact Ms. Azwa Petra (+41
22 928 9103 / apetra@ohchr.org) or write to sr-myanmar@ohchr.org

For media inquiries related to other UN independent experts:
Xabier Celaya, UN Human Rights – Media Unit (+ 41 22 917 9383 /
xcelaya@ohchr.org)

UN Human Rights, follow us on social media:
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HUMANITARIAN SITUATION DETERIORATES IN MYANMAR’S SOUTHERN KACHIN STATE AND NORTHERN SHAN STATE

United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA)

HUMANITARIAN SITUATION DETERIORATES IN MYANMAR’S SOUTHERN KACHIN STATE AND NORTHERN SHAN STATE

Renewed clashes displace over 3,000 people since early April 2014

(Yangon, 16 May 2014): Humanitarian organisations remain seriously concerned by an increase in insecurity and the displacement of thousands of people over the past weeks in southern Kachin State and northern Shan State. Fighting between the Myanmar Army and the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) broke out on 10 April 2014 in Man Win Gyi in southern Kachin State. Security incidents have been reported regularly in the area over the past month, making humanitarian access increasingly difficult and raising concerns for the protection of civilians trapped along the borders of China, Kachin State, and Shan State.

The deteriorating security situation has affected several villages and camps for internally displaced persons (IDPs) in the area, causing over 2,700 people to leave their homes and an unconfirmed number of people to flee across the border into neighbouring China. Clashes also erupted in the area of Muse in northern Shan State on 30 April and caused the displacement of more than 600 people. Fighting in both areas subsided over the past week while talks were held in Myitkyina between the Union Peace-Making Work Committee and the Kachin Independence Organisation.

Local NGOs represented by the Joint Strategy Team for Humanitarian Response in Kachin and Northern Shan States declare that: “We urge all parties to cease all hostilities in close proximity to IDP camps and villages and call upon them to respect international humanitarian laws and human rights. The distinction between civilians and combatants must be observed and precautions must be taken to avoid civilian casualties and the further displacement of people.”

International organisations are supporting local NGOs in the humanitarian response to meet urgent needs such as food, drinkable water, emergency latrines, and tents. However, securing areas of land to build temporary shelters remains a key challenge. There are particular concerns for the safety and security of several hundred people who temporarily returned to Lagat Yang camp in Kachin State, but who were again forced to move due to security concerns.

“The support brought by humanitarian agencies has enabled aid to reach thousands of people, some of whom have been displaced for the second or third time,” said Florent Turc, Field Coordinator for Solidarités International in Kachin. “The approaching rainy season will bring higher risks of flooding and water-borne diseases, so water, sanitation, and hygiene will increasingly be a priority in humanitarian interventions over the next weeks. The deteriorating security situation is already hampering access to the affected areas and the poor conditions of the roads during the rainy season will make it even more difficult to respond from now on.”

Since June 2011, fighting between the Myanmar Army and the KIA has displaced more than 100,000 people who now live in IDP camps and host communities on both sides of the frontline. Some 96,000 people currently remain displaced from their homes and are accommodated in over 160 different locations and host communities. Over 50 per cent of the displaced are housed in camps located in areas beyond government control.

“Since the beginning of the conflict, local organisations have been at the forefront of the humanitarian effort in Kachin, covering the most urgent needs within the displaced and affected communities,” said Mark Cutts, Head of Office for OCHA in Myanmar. “We are pleased that international organisations have been able to conduct periodic joint missions across frontlines more regularly since September 2013, but in the long run we need full and sustained access by international actors to all affected communities to adequately support the response of local humanitarian NGOs.”

Notes:
The Joint Strategy Team for Humanitarian Response in Kachin and Northern Shan States is composed of BRIDGE, Kachin Baptist Convention, Kachin Development Group, Kachin Relief and Development Committee, Kachin Women’s Association, Karuna Myanmar Social Services, Metta Development Foundation, Shalom Foundation, and Wunpawng Ninghtoi. Local NGOs estimate that they will require $25 million in 2014 in order to fund their Joint Strategy for Humanitarian Response in Kachin and Northern Shan States.

International NGOs and UN agencies responding to the humanitarian crisis in Kachin and Shan States include the Danish Refugee Council (DRC), Oxfam, Save the Children, Solidarités International, the UN Population Fund (UNFPA), the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR), the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), and the World Food Programme (WFP). OCHA is coordinating humanitarian responses at local and national level. The 2014 Myanmar Humanitarian Strategy calls for $192 million and is currently funded by 29%.

For further information, please contact:
Pierre Péron OCHA Myanmar, peronp@un.org, Mobile +95 (0) 9250198997
OCHA press releases are available at www.unocha.org/roap or www.reliefweb.int.

Press Release – Special Adviser to the UN Secretary- General on Myanmar

The Special Adviser welcomes the constructive dialogue held between the Government of Myanmar’s Union Peace-making Work Committee and the Kachin Independence Organization in Myitkyiana on 13 May. The meeting was held against the backdrop of concerns about recent clashes between the Armed forces of Myanmar and the Kachin Independence Army.
 
  The Special Adviser is encouraged by the commitment on both sides to build on previous agreements aimed at de-escalating the conflict, particularly the decision to establish a joint Conflict Resolution Committee to facilitate communication between them and to prevent further violent clashes.  He urges all stakeholders to desist from any further violence and to work continuously and purposively to reach a Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement and the start of a political dialogue. He also notes the call in the joint statement issued at the conclusion of the dialogue urging the media to play a constructive role to help advance the peace process.
 
  In response to an invitation to attend the talks as an Observer, Ms. Mariann R. Hagen, Assistant Special Adviser was present during the most recent deliberations. The Special Adviser reiterates the readiness of the United Nations to continue to provide all necessary assistance and support in the future in accordance with the agreement of all concerned.
 
                                                                                                               Yangon, 13 May 2014

Statement on Investigation Commission on Incidents in Sittwe on 26-27 March 2014 (Yangon,

United Nations Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator in Myanmar Ms. Renata Dessallien

Statement on Investigation Commission on Incidents in Sittwe on 26-27 March 2014 (Yangon, 9 April 2014)

I welcome the response of the Government of the Union of Myanmar to the attacks against the UN and INGO premises in Sittwe, in particular the Government’s public condemnation of the violence, the rapid establishment by the President of the Investigation Commission chaired by the Deputy Minister of Border Affairs, and the recognition that the incident which sparked the attacks was purely unintentional.

I echo the Investigation Commission’s concern that the security services were unable to respond effectively and rapidly enough to the incidents on the 26 and 27 March to protect UN and NGO properties in Sittwe.

I welcome the Government’s commitment that the perpetrators of violence will be brought to justice. The international humanitarian operations were hit hard and I am very concerned about the impact that the disruption of critical life-saving services is having on vulnerable on the IDPs and other vulnerable communities we serve. I welcome the Investigation Commission’s assurances to facilitate an immediate return of humanitarian workers to Rakhine State.

I commend the significant efforts by the Union and State authorities to provide assistance in water, food, and health services in the past two weeks, even if they fall short of meeting the full needs of all people requiring humanitarian aid in Rakhine State. We would like to support the Government in building their capacity to provide further humanitarian assistance, if requested. It is important that Government take more responsibility for the provision and management of the humanitarian operation.

I welcome the Government’s assurances that the safety and security of humanitarian staff will be significantly improved and urge that the same be ensured for all communities in Rakhine State. I echo the call for better coordination, relationships, and communication between the Union-level Government, State-level Government, international organisations, civil society, and communities in Rakhine. The Government has extended its hand to us and we have taken it; now we must jointly deliver a better humanitarian response.

As international humanitarian and development organisations return to Rakhine, we need to take the opportunity to build back better, with the full cooperation and engagement of the authorities at all levels. In building back better, we must reframe the entire humanitarian and development operations in Rakhine. The UN will be undertaking a thorough review for this purpose.

If we are perceived as being culturally insensitive, we need to build back better with more cultural and conflict sensitivity. If we are perceived as not transparent, we need to find ways to be more transparent without hampering vital humanitarian services. If we are perceived as being biased, we need to explain better what we do and why, both in our humanitarian and development work, and we must increase our development assistance to Rakhine communities.

I join the Investigation Commission in expressing deep sorrow for the death of the 11 year old girl during the violence of the 27 March. It is so often the innocent who suffer most by violence. We look forward to a building back better with the full support and understanding of the Government and Rakhine communities so that such violence never recurs.

For more information please contact: Aye Win, UN Information Centre Yangon (UNIC), aye.win@unic.org, Tel, (+95) 9421 060 343 Pierre Peron, UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), peronp@un.org , Tel. (+95) 9250198997