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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Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR)
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:
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/unitednationshumanrights
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Google+ gplus.to/unitednationshumanrights
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Check the Universal Human Rights Index: http://uhri.ohchr.org/en

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

UNFPA Concerned about Decision Not to Allow Census Respondents to Self-Identify as Rohingya

1 April 2014
YANGON–UNFPA, the United Nations Population Fund, is deeply concerned about the Myanmar Government’s decision not to allow census respondents who wish to self-identify their ethnicity as Rohingya to do so.

In its agreement with the United Nations on the 2014 census, the Government made a commitment to conduct the exercise in accordance with international census standards and human rights principles. It explicitly agreed with the condition that each person would be able to declare what ethnicity they belong to, including those who wish to record their identity as of mixed ethnicity. Those not identifying with one of the listed ethnic categories would be able to declare their ethnicity and have their response recorded by the enumerator.
Just before the start of the census, however, senior officials announced that people who wish to define their ethnicity as Rohingya will not be able to do so.
UNFPA is deeply concerned about this departure from international census standards, human rights principles and agreed procedures. We are concerned that this could heighten tensions in Rakhine State, which has a history of communal violence, as well as undermining the credibility of census data collected.
UNFPA looks to the Government to give the highest priority to protecting lives and preventing violence from occurring, and to fully respect and protect the human rights of everyone, including people who choose to define their ethnicity as Rohingya.

For more information contact:

William A. Ryan, ryanw@unfpa.org, mobile +95 925 427 8108; or
Malene Arboe-Rasmussen, arboe-rasmussen @ unfpa.org, tel. +95 1 5429 109 ext. 146, mobile +95 9 2500 26961

Statement on events in Sittwe by United Nations Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator in Myanmar (27 March 2014)

United Nations Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator in Myanmar (a.i)
Mr. Toily Kurbanov

Statement on events in Sittwe

(Yangon, 27 March 2014) I am deeply concerned about the attacks starting 26 March 2014 on UN and INGO premises in Sittwe by unidentified groups of demonstrators.

I call upon the Government to ensure the protection of the humanitarian and development community in Rakhine State. The United Nations and its partners remain determined to continue providing life-saving humanitarian assistance.

I reiterate concern that any reduction of humanitarian presence could negatively affect the protection of vulnerable people.

I urge the authorities to ensure an appropriate response is provided and perpetrators are held accountable.

For more information please contact:

Pierre Peron, Public Information Officer, UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, peronp@un.org , Tel. (+95) 9250198997

Caroline Vandenabeele, Head of Office, Office of the UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator, caroline.vandenabeele@one.un.org, Tel, (+95) 9420 320 791