Statement attributable to the Spokesman for the Secretary-General on the situation in the Andaman Sea and the Straits of Malacca

The Secretary-General is increasingly concerned about the plight of migrants and refugees stranded in the Andaman Sea and Straits of Malacca.
In recent days, the Secretary-General has spoken to the Prime Ministers of Malaysia, H.E. Dato’ Sri Mohd Najib bin Tun Haji Abdul Razak, and Thailand, H.E. Mr. Prayuth Chan-ocha. The Deputy Secretary-General has also spoken to the Foreign Minister of Bangladesh, H.E. Mr. Abul Hasan Mahmood Ali, and the Deputy-Minister for Multilateral Affairs of Indonesia, H.E. Mr. Hasan Kleib.
In their discussions with leaders in the region, they reiterated the need to protect lives and uphold international law. Furthermore, they stressed the need for the timely disembarkation of migrants. They also urged leaders to uphold the obligation of rescue at sea and maintain the prohibition on refoulement.
The Secretary-General and Deputy Secretary-General also encouraged leaders to participate in the upcoming regional meeting in Bangkok on the migrant situation. They hope that the meeting will lead to comprehensive outcomes at the regional and international levels.
The United Nations stands ready to assist all efforts to address the situation, including at the proposed meeting.
New York, 17 May 2015

Myanmar Celebrates Historic World Press Freedom Day 2015

04 May 2015, Yangon – The symbolic celebration of World Press Freedom Day (WPFD) organised by UNESCO Yangon Office and the Ministry of Information was held for the fourth consecutive year on 03 May 2015 in Yangon. The joint commemorative event which, for the first time, brought together the Union Minister for Information, H.E. U Ye Htut, and opposition leader and Chair of Rule of Law and Tranquillity Committee of Parliament, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, along with representatives of the Interim Myanmar Press Council, Myanmar Journalist Association, Myanmar Journalists Network, and Burma News International/Ethnic Media. The event was very well-attended by Ambassadors, Development Partners and other media stakeholders, including young journalists, students and faculty members of the Department of Journalism, and members of Civil Society Organisations.

In his remarks, Union Minister for Information, U Ye Htut emphasised on the security of journalists especially in conflict affected areas, noting that “There is not only a physical threat but also a psychological threat to journalists that impedes them from performing their duties freely and in accordance with their code of conduct, and everyone must play his part in ensuring safety of journalists.” The Minister also reaffirmed the Ministry’s commitment to building an inclusive media environment, where the voices of women, children, ethnic minorities and people with disabilities are also heard.

Daw Aung San Suu Kyi urged Myanmar Journalists to help ensure that the upcoming 2015 General Elections is held in a transparent, free and fair manner through unbiased reporting. She also called on journalists to increase efforts to bring press freedom through social media but to equally insist on greater ethics with dignity. She emphasised the importance of media freedom by highlighting the types of media censorship, stating: “Myanmar dropped pre-publication censorship in 2012. Self-censorship is not a good thing. In accordance with the code of ethics of journalism, reporters should not self-censor but be brave enough to point out the wrongdoings in our society. We do agree that media freedom has increased in recent years but it is not yet perfect.”

The joint statement by UN Secretary General Mr. Ban Ki-moon, UNESCO Director-General Ms. Irina Bokova and United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Mr. Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein on World Press Freedom Day was read by Mr. Sardar Umar Alam, UNESCO Myanmar Head of Office. In line with the theme of this year’s celebration, Mr Alam added that “in this election year, we urge authorities to make special efforts during the election period to ensure that the media community has free and full access, and reports freely without fear and intimidation from anyone.”

U Kyaw Min Swe, Secretary of the Interim Myanmar Press Council, emphasised the role of the Council in upholding freedom of expression and protecting the rights of journalists in Myanmar, and announced that the by-law for the establishment of the permanent council has already been drafted. Acknowledging the great progress achieved by the country in terms of freedom of expression, U Thiha Saw, Vice-Chairman of the Myanmar Journalists Association, mentioned in his statement “We are now among the top three freest countries in Freedom of Press in the ASEAN community. We did climb up substantially but we all know that we still have a long way to go.” For U Myint Kyaw, Secretary General of the Myanmar Journalists Network, closer collaboration between media and the Government is needed in order to pursue greater freedom of the press.

Representing Ethnic Media, Daw Thair Thinzar Oo from Burma News International, highlighted the role that media is playing in monitoring the peace process and stated that “Ethnic media can serve as a bridge between the ethnic armed groups, the government and civilian population to establish lasting peace in the country”.

Young journalists were also represented in the event by U Loom Sign Aung, student from the Department of Journalism at the National Management College. His said that “Five years ago who would have believed that the people of Myanmar would be able to practice “freedom of expression” like today? However we have all realised the importance that the media has for the ongoing process of the country’s development. It is vital that all youth must know use and abuse of media. We must have awareness of the power of the media and the danger of hate speech.”

UNESCO is supporting the Ministry of Information and media stakeholders in undertaking media development reforms in Myanmar and serves as Co-chair of the Media Development Thematic Working Group in Myanmar.

Thingyan message of the Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator, Renata Lok-Dessallien, on Skynet

Mingalarbar! It is a very great pleasure and an honour for the United Nations, to reach out through Skynet to the people of Myanmar on this very special occasion of Thingyan, the Water Festival. Thingyan is such a happy and joyful occasion. It is one of the most wonderful New Year celebrations that I know of. During Thingyan, everyone gets out and sprinkles water on people, old and young, people they know, people they don’t know, Thingyan makes us happy, Thingyan is a great equalizer. We can make fun of ourselves; we can make fun of others; we break down hierarchies and we have a great time altogether. So Thingyan is a fantastic time of year and the United Nations is so happy to be here to be able to join you in this water festival.

Especially this year. The United Nations here in Myanmar, is working with the people of Myanmar and the Government in the course of reform and opening up process. We’re very happy to be here, very privileged, maybe because Myanmar holds a very very special place in the heart of the United Nations. Myanmar was one of the very first countries, that actually recognized the United Nations way back in the 1940s. Only three years after the United Nations was established, Myanmar came forward to sign our Charter. So Myanmar recognized very early on the importance of a world body that could bring countries of the world together to find peaceful solutions to their problems. So first early recognition, we’re very grateful to the people of Myanmar. Thank you Myanmar.

Myanmar also holds a very special place in the heart of the United Nations. It was Myanmar, that offered us our third Secretary-General, U Thant. U Thant was the first ever Asian Secretary-General we had and he joined us in 1961, when the world was a very very different place. We didn’t have cellphones; we didn’t have TVs for many of us; we didn’t have all the communications and transportation that we have today, so when U Thant joined us, many of us were exposed for the first time to an Asian leader. And U Thant taught us a lot about Asia and a lot about Myanmar. We learned about how Myanmar and how Asians go about solving problems; about promoting different views; about working together to solve problems together; so this was a tremendous asset to us and U Thant actually helped in the institution building of the United Nations and for this we are very very grateful. Thank you Myanmar.
We’re also very very close to Myanmar because actually we’re a very diverse body. A very diverse body of a 194 member States and so we know the value of unity and diversity. And Myanmar also knows the value of unity and diversity. Myanmar is a country with many different ethnic groups and is working very hard now to build that unity and to build unity within the respect for the diversity. To understand the points of views and to understand the histories and the cultures of all these different ethnic groups under one unifying umbrella. So for promoting and for pursuing this very very important value in our world today, of unity and diversity, we’re very grateful to Myanmar. We thank you Myanmar.

Thingyan is also about renewing ourselves as we throw water around and we splash everyone and we throw away our tensions and we throw away our troubles from last year. Its also about welcoming in the new year. It’s about renewing our energy and it’s about building our hope; and about refreshing our minds and our spirits so that we can embrace the new year with new energy and new dynamism.
The year ahead will be a very very important one for Myanmar and its also important for the United Nations. In Myanmar, we hope that we will be seeing the signing of the nationwide ceasefire in its final form and that the country will be able to move towards this very important next chapter of the peace process, which is the political dialogue, which will really set down the foundations for what it needs to be the Myanmar State today. Next year will also be an election year for Myanmar and we look forward to this with great enthusiasm. We know that the Myanmar people are also looking forward to it. We hope that the election will meet the expectations of the people; it will be free, fair, inclusive and credible and that the Myanmar people can stand proud after it.

Next year is an important year for the United Nations, because we see the transition from the Millennium Development Goals to a new set of goals. Right now all the members States of the United Nations are working hard to define those goals, Myanmar included. And next year will see the rolling out of this new set of goals called the Sustainable Development Goals. We look forward to partnering with the people of Myanmar and the Government of Myanmar to basically internalize these goals and to help Myanmar prioritize them.

Next year’s also the 70th anniversary of the UN and during this year, this time, the United Nations would like to work hand in hand with the people of Myanmar to celebrate and promote the fundamental and founding values of the UN. The values of the peace and solving problems through dialogue, not through conflict. The values of development, but not just any development – inclusive development. Development for all. Development that’s respectful of the environment. And the values of human rights and basic fundamental human dignities for everyone. For justice and for fairness. So during this 70th anniversary, we’d like to reach out and partner with people of Myanmar who we know resonate so strongly with these principles and these values. And together we to recommit ourselves to them, hand in hand.

So, in this very special Water Festival and Thingyan, we wish you happy times. We wish you all your troubles to be washed away and that you can face the new year with newness, with freshness and with a new sense of energy and commitment.
And I would like to conclude by wishing you, Pyawzaya Thingyan hpyit bar zay (Happy Thingyan)!

တစ္ႏုိင္ငံလုံုး ပစ္ခတ္တုိက္ခိုက္မႈရပ္စဲေရးစာခ်ဳပ္မူၾကမ္း လက္မွတ္ေရးထိုးျခင္းႏွင့္ပတ္သက္၍ ကုလသမဂၢဌာေနကုိယ္စားလွယ္ႏွင့္ လူသားခ်င္းစာနာမႈဆိုင္ရာ ညွိႏိႈင္းေရးတာဝန္ခံ Ms. Renata Dessallien ၏ သတင္းထုတ္ျပန္ခ်က္

၂၀၁၅ ခုႏွစ္ မတ္လ ၃၁ ရက္

တစ္ႏုိင္ငံလုံုး ပစ္ခတ္တုိက္ခိုက္မႈရပ္စဲေရးစာခ်ဳပ္မူၾကမ္း လက္မွတ္ေရးထိုးျခင္းႏွင့္ပတ္သက္၍ ကုလသမဂၢဌာေနကုိယ္စားလွယ္ႏွင့္ လူသားခ်င္းစာနာမႈဆိုင္ရာ ညွိႏိႈင္းေရးတာဝန္ခံ Ms. Renata Dessallien ၏ သတင္းထုတ္ျပန္ခ်က္

ျမန္မာ့သမိုင္းတြင္ မွတ္ေက်ာက္တင္မည့္ ယခုကဲ့သို႔ေသာ တစ္ႏိုင္ငံလံုး ပစ္ခိုက္တိုက္ခုိက္မႈ ရပ္စဲေရးစာခ်ဳပ္တြင္ ပါဝင္မည့္ အခ်က္မ်ားအားလံုးကို သေဘာတူညီႏိုင္ခဲ့သည့္ အခ်ိန္အခါသမယတြင္ ပါဝင္ခဲ့ၾကသူမ်ားအားလံုးကို ကုလသမဂၢဌာေနကုိယ္စားလွယ္ရံုးအဖြဲ႕အေနျဖင့္ ကုလသမဂၢအေထြေထြအတြင္းေရးမွဴးခ်ဳပ္၏ အထူးအႀကံေပး Mr. Vijay Nambiar ႏွင့္အတူ လႈိက္လဲွစြာ ဝမ္းသာမိပါသည္။ ယခုရလဒ္မွာ ျမန္မာျပည္သူမ်ားအတြက္ ေပ်ာ္ရႊင္ၾကည္ႏူးရမည့္ အထိမ္းအမွတ္တစ္ခု ျဖစ္ပါသည္။

ျမန္မာႏို္င္ငံတြင္ ထာဝရတည္ၿငိမ္ေအးခ်မ္းေရး ရရွိေအာင္ သႏၷိဌာန္ခ်မွတ္ၿပီး လေပါင္းအတန္ၾကာ ညွိႏႈိင္းေဆြးေႏြးခဲ့ၾကေသာ ျပည္ေထာင္စု ၿငိမ္းခ်မ္းေရး ေဖာ္ေဆာင္ေရးလုပ္ငန္းေကာ္မတီ (UPWC) အဖြဲ႕ဝင္မ်ား၊ တစ္ႏိုင္ငံလံုးဆိုင္ရာ အပစ္အခတ္ရပ္စဲေရးညွိႏႈိင္းေရးအဖြဲ႕(NCCT)၊ အႀကံေပးမ်ားႏွင့္ ေထာက္ခံသူမ်ားအားလံုးကို အားရေက်နပ္မိပါသည္။ ယခုသေဘာတူညီခ်က္မွာ ျမန္မာႏိုင္ငံအစုိးရႏွင့္ တုိင္းရင္းသား လက္နက္ကိုင္အဖြဲ႕အစည္းမ်ားအၾကား အႏွစ္ ၆၀ ေက်ာ္ ၾကာခဲ့ၿပီျဖစ္သည့္ လက္နက္ကိုင္ ပဋိပကၡ၊ အတားအဆီးမ်ားႏွင့္ သေဘာထားကြဲလြဲမႈမ်ားအေပၚ စိတ္ရင္းေစတနာေကာင္းႏွင့္ ခိုင္ၿမဲသည့္ ႀကိဳးပမ္းအားထုတ္မႈမ်ားက ေအာင္ျမင္ေက်ာ္လႊားႏုိုင္ခဲ့သည့္ သာဓက ျဖစ္ပါသည္။ ထုိ႔အျပင္ ထာဝရ ၿငိမ္းခ်မ္းေရးအုတ္ျမစ္အတြက္ သက္ဆိုင္သူမ်ားအၾကား ယံုၾကည္မႈ အေျခခံကို ကို္ယ္ပိုင္အမ်ဳိးသားေရး လုပ္ငန္းစဥ္ျဖင့္ တည္ေဆာက္ႏုိုင္ေၾကာင္း သက္ေသထူလိုက္ျခင္းလည္း ျဖစ္ပါသည္။ သက္ဆိုင္ရာအဖြဲ႕မ်ားမွ ခက္ခက္ခဲခဲ လုပ္ကိုင္ခဲ့ၾကသည္မ်ားမွာ ဤေနရာတြင္ ၿပီးျပတ္ျခင္းမရွိေသးသည္ကို သိရွိေၾကာင္း၊ ျမန္မာႏိုင္ငံႏွင့္ ျပည္သူမ်ား အနာဂါတ္ ထြန္းလင္းေတာက္ပၿပီး ႀကီးပြားခ်မ္းသာေစရန္ ျမန္မာႏိုင္ငံရွိ ကုလသမဂၢရံုးအဖြဲ႕မွ ဆက္လက္၍ ကူညီပံ့ပိုးသြားပါမည္။

Statement by the UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator in Myanmar, Ms. Renata Dessallien on the Signing of Draft Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement

31 March 2015

Statement by the UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator in Myanmar,
Ms. Renata Dessallien on the Signing of Draft Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement

At this historic juncture in Myanmar’s history, on behalf of the United Nations Country Team in Myanmar, I wish to join Mr. Vijay Nambiar, the Special Advisor to the Secretary General to offer our heartfelt congratulations to all parties on reaching the agreement on the text of the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement (NCA). This achievement is an occasion for celebration for all people in Myanmar.

We take the opportunity to express our admiration to individual members of the Union Peacemaking Working Committee (UPWC) and the Nationwide Ceasefire Coordination Team (NCCT) and their respective technical advisors and supporters throughout the many long months of determined negotiations to set the ground for lasting peace in Myanmar. Following more than 60 years of armed conflict, this agreement between the Government of Myanmar and Ethnic Armed Organizations represents the triumph of perseverance, good will, and commitment over the obstacles and differences of the past. Furthermore, as a nationally owned process, the agreement is a testament to the ability of all parties to build a basis of trust that will serve as the foundation for durable peace. While we fully acknowledge that the hard work done by all parties does not end here, the United Nations System in Myanmar is committed to continuing our support to Myanmar and its people to build a bright and prosperous future.

Statement on behalf of Special Adviser Vijay Nambiar

Today, on the 31st of March 2015, after more than a year of negotiations, the Union Peace Working Committee (UPWC) and Nationwide Ceasefire Coordination Team (NCCT) have agreed on the text of a Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement (NCA) for Myanmar. For the government of Myanmar and 16 Ethnic Armed Groups to reach a ceasefire agreement after more than sixty years of conflict is a historic and significant achievement. The United Nations welcomes this milestone in Myanmar’s history, and congratulates President U Thein Sein and his negotiators as well as leaders of the Ethnic Armed Organizations and the NCCT.

As Observers to the process alongside China, the United Nations, through the Office of the Special Adviser to the Secretary-General, have followed the proceedings closely and through difficult as well as lighter moments. Throughout, we have been deeply impressed by the hard work, true determination, genuine commitment and goodwill shown by the UPWC and NCCT. We are deeply honored and humbled to have been invited to observe the parties through their historic deliberations.

The signing of an NCA is a first step towards a larger dialogue for settling the political and military issues that will pave the way for an inclusive and harmonious future for Myanmar. However it is a crucial first stage that must be crossed before embarking on the next chapter.

Myanmar is still in a nascent stage of its transition. Today’s agreement is a signal that new levels of trust, confidence and cooperation are possible between former enemies and that the seeds of change in Myanmar are beginning to sprout.

Today’s achievement is also remarkable and unusual as a process completely initiated and executed by national stakeholders. While many concerns and difficulties will remain on the ground in Myanmar, this is a day to celebrate as a great achievement and as one that provides a solid basis from which to continue the hard work that will be necessary to achieve a genuine and lasting peace in the country. The United Nations will continue to support and work with the peoples of Myanmar.

Ends

UN rights expert calls on Myanmar to address worrying signs of backtracking in pivotal year

GENEVA (18 March 2015) – The United Nations Special Rapporteur on the human rights situation in Myanmar, Yanghee Lee, called on the country’s authorities to rapidly address ongoing challenges to the democratic reform process “before they undermine the success achieved so far.”

“I was very disturbed by reports on 10 March that excessive and disproportionate force had been used against students and other civilians and that 127 people were subsequently arrested,” Ms. Lee said during the presentation of her first report* to the UN Human Rights Council. While welcoming the release of some detainees, she called for “the immediate release of all the others.”

Focusing on key issues surrounding democratic space, the expert drew special attention to the pressure on human rights defenders and journalists, including reports of regular surveillance, as well as prosecutions under outdated defamation, trespassing and national security laws, which have a severe “chilling effect on civil society activities.”

“A free and independent media has a vital role to play in any democratic society,” she said welcoming the Government’s efforts to reform media governance. “However, I am concerned that journalists are still being interrogated and arrested, and that 10 journalists were imprisoned in 2014. This needs to stop if Myanmar wants to create a meaningful democratic space.”

While noting that economic development had benefited some in the country, the independent expert urged the Government to ensure that “others are not left out” and called for “a human rights-based approach to development programmes.”

The Special Rapporteur expressed concern about the alarming escalation of fighting in the Kokang region, where over 100 civilians are reported to have died and tens of thousands have been displaced. “Even during a state of emergency, the Government has an obligation to strictly uphold fundamental human rights,” she highlighted.

“Far too often the people of Myanmar have suffered from the resurgence of violence and human rights violations in ethnic border areas,” the expert said, noting that there has been limited success in addressing the underlying issues at the heart of the conflicts, including control over and benefit from natural resources and accountability for human rights violations.

Ms. Lee warned that discrimination against ethnic and religious minorities was another factor fuelling conflict and expressed alarm on the package of four bills currently before Parliament that risks increasing tension.

“During my last visit in January 2015, I witnessed how dire the situation has remained in Rakhine State. The conditions in Muslim IDP camps are abysmal and I received heart-breaking testimonies from Rohingya people telling me they had only two options: stay and die or leave by boat,” she said.

The expert also cautioned against any provision in the Rakhine Action Plan that would classify Rohingyas as ‘illegal aliens’ and subject them to possible prolonged internment in camps or removal from the territory. “The expiry at the end of March 2015 of the temporary white cards held by many Rohingyas as identity documentation raises more uncertainties and further increases their vulnerability,” she stressed.

The Special Rapporteur made a call for collective efforts to find “meaningful ways to improve the human rights of all in Rakhine State.”

(*) Check the Special Rapporteur’s full report to the Human Rights Council (A/HRC/28/72): http://www.ohchr.org/EN/HRBodies/HRC/RegularSessions/Session28/Pages/ListReports.aspx

ENDS

Ms. Yanghee Lee (Republic of Korea) was appointed as Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar by the UN Human Rights Council in 2014. Ms Lee 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. Learn more, log on to: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/HRBodies/SP/CountriesMandates/MM/Pages/SRMyanmar.aspx

The Special Rapporteurs are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, is the general name of the Council’s independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. Special Procedures’ experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent from any government or organization and serve in their individual capacity.

Read the Special Rapporteur’s statement to the Human Rights Council: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=15713&LangID=E

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

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Statement by Ms Yanghee Lee, SPECIAL RAPPORTEUR ON THE SITUATION OF HUMAN RIGHTS IN MYANMAR, 28th session of the Human Rights Council, Item 4, 16 March 2015, Geneva

Mr. President,
I thank you for this opportunity to address the Human Rights Council for the first time, at a pivotal time in the reform process in Myanmar.
Before I start, I would like to express my deepest sadness at the recent sinking of the ferry last Friday near Sittwe. My prayers are with all the families of those affected by this tragic event.
Since taking up this mandate, I conducted two missions to Myanmar in July 2014 and January 2015. On both occasions, I have seen enormous potential in the country, which has come a long way since its transition began. As in any major process of change, there remain significant challenges, which must be addressed to ensure that everyone can enjoy the benefits of democratisation and development.
I would like to acknowledge the very good cooperation I received from the Myanmar Government during my missions, including efforts to ensure my safety and that of my team. The visits took place in a collegial and constructive atmosphere, enabling open and engaging discussions.
I was disappointed therefore by references by the Government that my visit could leave the people of Myanmar with discord, distrust and incitement. This has never been my intent, nor the intent of this Council in establishing my mandate. As a friend of Myanmar, my only priority is to be able to work with the Government and other stakeholders to contribute to a climate of unity and enjoyment of human rights for all.
While highlighting some positive developments, my report to this Council describes continuing challenges indicating worrying signs of backtracking on key human rights issues.
I would like to begin by updating the Council on the recent events in Latpadan involving students protesting for changes to the National Education Law. I was very disturbed by reports on 10 March that excessive and disproportionate force had been used against students and other civilians and that 127 people were subsequently arrested. This seems to be the largest crackdown by police on protesters since the clashes at Letpadaung copper mine in 2012. I hope these events will be thoroughly and impartially investigated. According to international standards, the use of force must be strictly necessary and proportional. I am further disturbed by reports that plain-clothed individuals were operating alongside the police and emphasize the dangers of using irregular personnel in law enforcement functions if they are not adequately trained and fully accountable. I welcome the release of some protesters and call for the immediate release of all the others.
A free and independent media has a vital role to play in any democratic society. I welcome the Government’s efforts to reform media governance. However, I am concerned that journalists are still being interrogated and arrested, and that 10 journalists were imprisoned in 2014. This needs to stop if Myanmar wants to create a meaningful democratic space.
During my visit, I was informed that human rights defenders faced regular surveillance and monitoring and that some are imprisoned along with journalists under outdated defamation, trespassing and national security laws. This worrying trend has a chilling effect on civil society activities.
I welcome the release of political prisoners Dr. Tun Aung and U Kyaw Hla Aung, but am concerned by the numbers of political prisoners who continue to be detained under the Law on the Right to Peaceful Assembly and Peaceful Procession and article 505 (b) of the Penal Code. For instance, last month 14 protestors from the Michaungkan community, demanding the return of land allegedly confiscated by the military, were sentenced to six months imprisonment. I have also received reports of 78 farmers serving sentences for trespassing on confiscated land with a further 200 activists on bail and awaiting trial.
Government and ethnic minority groups have made efforts to restore peace and ensure national reconciliation. However, I am concerned at the alarming escalation of fighting last month in the Kokang region, north-eastern Shan State, which has resulted in the declaration of a state of emergency. Reportedly, over 100 people have died and tens of thousands have been displaced. I remind the Government that even during a state of emergency, the Government has an obligation to strictly uphold fundamental human rights.
Far too often the people of Myanmar have suffered from the resurgence of violence and human rights violations in ethnic border areas. I continue to receive reports of sexual violence, which go unreported through fear of reprisals. Humanitarian access is still limited in some areas with large displaced populations, including in non-government controlled areas in Kachin State. I remind all parties to the conflict of the need to protect civilians and facilitate lifesaving humanitarian assistance. There has also been limited success in addressing the underlying issues at the heart of the conflict, including control over and benefit from natural resources and accountability for human rights violations.
I commend the Government for the significant steps it has taken to eliminate the use of child soldiers, including the identification and release of 553 children. However, I understand that recruitment of child soldiers continues both within the military and non-state armed groups, and I urge the strengthening of age verification and independent monitoring and oversight mechanisms.
Mr. President,
Discrimination against ethnic and religious minorities is another factor, which fuels conflict. I am concerned by the progress of a package of four bills currently before Parliament, which risks fuelling further tensions between ethnic and religious minorities.
The situation in Rakhine State remains dire. The atmosphere between communities is hostile. There have still been no credible investigations into the serious human rights violations that took place in 2012 and 2014.
The justification given by the Government to the confinement of Muslims in camps for their own protection is troubling. During my visit to the region, I met with local authorities and community leaders and visited camps for Buddhists as well as Rohingya Muslims. I witnessed the ongoing discriminatory restrictions on the freedom of movement of Muslim IDPs, which also impacts the enjoyment of other basic fundamental rights.
Conditions in Muslim IDP camps I visited were abysmal. People said they had only two options: “stay and die” or “leave by boat”. Distinguished delegates, no one should ever feel faced with such a choice.
The use of the term “Rohingya” continues to be met with strong resistance. I believe that the focus on terminology has paralysed progress and we should now collectively find meaningful ways to improve the human rights of all in Rakhine State.
I have not yet received a copy of the latest version of the Rakhine Action Plan. I would be concerned, however, about any provision that would classify Rohingyas as “illegal aliens” and subject them to possible prolonged internment in camps or removal from the territory. The expiry at the end of March 2015 of the temporary white cards held by many Rohingyas as identity documentation raises more uncertainties and further increases their vulnerability.
While the development of the economy has benefitted some in the country, it is important that others are not left out. A human rights-based approach should guide all development programmes. I welcome the creation of a legal framework requiring environmental impact assessments before development projects are implemented but I am concerned by reports of illegal land confiscation and forced evictions and the difficulty to hold powerful interests to account.
I commend the Government on the work being undertaken to improve education, health, livelihoods and the collaboration with the international community in this area. However, I was deeply disturbed to hear that around 300 students were unable to graduate from Yangon University in December 2014 as they did not hold Citizenship Scrutiny Cards. Education is a right for all and I hope this situation can be remedied soon as per the assurance I received from the Deputy Minister for Education.
Mr. President,
2015 is a tipping point for the reform process, with the prospect of democratic reforms to the 2008 Constitution and the holding of a free and fair General Election.
During my visit, I was encouraged to see that international electoral advisors were providing technical assistance to national election bodies. I am however concerned by amendments to the Political Parties Registration Law in September 2014, according to which only full citizens are able to form political parties. The recent decision of the Constitutional Tribunal on the ineligibility of temporary white card-holders to vote in the upcoming referendum on the Constitution reform is also concerning.
I am troubled by information that criminal proceedings for defamation and provision of “false information” are being brought against those making allegations against the military. This includes the conviction last month of Brang Shawng, who called for an investigation into the fatal shooting in 2012 of his 14 year old daughter, Ja Seng Ing.
Ladies and gentlemen, it is important to welcome the positive developments in Myanmar, but also to honestly highlight the areas of risk and the numerous challenges that must be addressed rapidly before they undermine the successes achieved so far.
In closing, let me inform you of the latest attack against me by the same U Wirathu in response to my report to this Council: “The beastly woman has done it again. It looks like she hasn’t learnt a lesson. This time I will not say it verbally. I will say it with my slipper. (…) Oh dear patriots, let us find ways and means to teach the beastly woman a lesson.”
Thank you for your attention.

“Invitation to Press Conference” – Media Advisory

 ASEAN-UN Workshop: Regional Dialogue II
on “ASEAN-UN Collaboration in Support of the ASEAN Institute for Peace and Reconciliation”

From 25 to 26 February, the Government of the Union of Myanmar, the United Nations and the Myanmar Institute for Strategic and International Studies will jointly organise a two-day workshop in Nay Pyi Taw, Myanmar. The Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Government of the Union of Myanmar, H.E. U Wunna Maung Lwin and the Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs, Mr. Jeffrey Feltman will host the event, which will also be attended by the Special Adviser of the Secretary-General on Myanmar, Mr. Vijay Nambiar.
Participants will include government officials from ASEAN countries; members of the ASEAN Institute for Peace and Reconciliation (AIPR), senior UN officials; and regional experts from strategic think-tanks and civil society organisations.
The workshop is organized within the framework of the implementation of the ASEAN-UN Joint Declaration on Comprehensive Partnership, intended to strengthen ASEAN-UN relations through collaborative activities in the areas of political-security, economic and socio-cultural cooperation as well as cooperation between the ASEAN Secretariat and the United Nations. The workshop aims to discuss collaboration activities related to conflict prevention, preventive diplomacy, pacific settlement of disputes and the maintenance of peace and stability and to identify areas of collaboration for the AIPR and the UN.

The media is cordially invited to Press Conference as per following program;
When – 10:00 AM to 11:00 AM, 25th February 2015
Where – Grand Amara Hotel
No.(5,6), Jade Villa, Dakkhina Thiri Township, Nay Pyi Taw, Myanmar
Ph: +95 (67) 810 5174

STATEMENT BY THE UNITED NATIONS RESIDENT AND HUMANITARIAN COORDINATOR IN MYANMAR, MS. RENATA DESSALLIEN

(Yangon, 18 February 2015): “I am saddened to hear of the attack on a Myanmar Red Cross Society (MRCS) convoy en route between Laukkai and Chin Schwe Haw in northern Shan State on 17 February. Two MRCS volunteers were wounded in the attack. The convoy was carrying civilians from the conflict area in the Kokang self-administered zone to safe areas.

An attack on humanitarian aid workers and on civilians is a violation of International Humanitarian Law. I call on all parties to the conflict to ensure the safety and security of humanitarian staff and remind them of their obligations under International Humanitarian Law, and to allow humanitarian convoys safe passage out of the conflict area.

I am also concerned by reports of thousands of people displaced by fighting between the Government of Myanmar Army and Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army and other armed groups in the Kokang self-administered zone, north-eastern Shan State.

I appeal to all parties to the conflict to ensure that civilians are protected, and to allow civilians who remain in the conflict zone safe passage out of the Kokang area.”