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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

Myanmar: UN rights expert hails changes, but highlights remaining challenges

YANGON (19 February 2014) – United Nations Special Rapporteur Tomás Ojea  Quintana today welcomed important changes in Myanmar “that have brought  improvements to the human rights situation,” but raised alarm on a number  of challenges which, if left unaddressed, “could jeopardize the entire  reform process.”   “I believe there is limited space for backtracking, though -as a senior  Government official admitted to me in Nay Pyi Taw- the democratic  transition is still fragile,” he underscored.   Mr. Ojea Quintana’s comments come at the end of his last official mission*  to the country, after six years as the independent expert mandated by the  UN Human Rights Council to monitor, report and advise on the human rights  situation in Myanmar.   The Special Rapporteur praised key positive changes achieved in recent  years, like the release of prisoners of conscience, the opening up of space  for freedom of expression, the development of political freedoms, and  important progress in securing an end to fighting in the ethnic border  areas.   He warned, however, that “the military retains a prevailing role in the  life and institutions of Myanmar for the time being. State institutions in  general remain unaccountable and the judiciary is not yet functioning as an  independent branch of Government.”   “Moreover, the rule of law cannot yet be said to exist in Myanmar,” Mr.  Ojea Quintana stated, noting that the current situation in Rakhine State  still represents a particular obstacle and a threat to the reform process.   Regarding the recent police operation in Du Chee Yar Tan, northern Rakhine  State, he said that if an independent investigation does not take place, “I  will urge the UN Human Rights Council to work with the Government of  Myanmar to establish a credible investigation to uncover the truth…and to  hold anyone responsible for human rights violations to account.”   During his last mission to Myanmar, Mr. Ojea Quintana visited the capital  -Nay Pyi Taw-, Yangon, Rakhine State, Sagaing Region and Kachin State  including Laiza. This is the first time that a human rights rapporteur has  been able to visit Laiza.   “During my drive up from Myitkyina to Laiza, I saw villages that had been  abandoned over the previous years by those fleeing advancing military  troops,” he said. “The visit to Laiza brought home to me how closely  related the fighting is with serious human rights violations, and the  importance of securing a national ceasefire accord in the coming months.”

The Special Rapporteur commended progress towards this national ceasefire  accord, which could be signed by April.  “A critical challenge will be to  secure ceasefire and political agreements with ethnic minority groups, so  that Myanmar can finally transform into a peaceful multi-ethnic and  multi-religious society,” Mr. Ojea Quintana said. “Whatever the course of  these negotiations, military and non-state actors need to abide by  humanitarian and human rights law.”   On the Constitution, he said that reform was necessary to “embrace the  aspirations of the ethnic communities”, and to “address the undemocratic  powers granted to the military and further democratize parliament,  upholding the right of people to choose their own government and  president.”   The human rights expert called for a change of mind-set within all levels  of Government, to allow civil society, political parties and a free media  to flourish beyond the limited freedoms that have currently been granted.  “Detaining journalists for the coverage of sensitive stories is something  that belongs in Myanmar’s past,” he stressed.   He visited Thilawa Special Economic Zone, south of Yangon, and met with  communities who had been displaced by the development project and spoke  with members of the Thilawa management committee. The expert also visited  the copper mines in Monywa in Sagaing Region, and met with opponents of the  mine as well as the State Government and members of Wanbao, the Chinese  company active in developing the copper mine at Letpadaung.   “I am finishing my time on this mandate with a clear and visible human  rights agenda to be followed up on by the Government, civil society and the  international community,” the Special Rapporteur concluded.   His full report on the visit will be presented to the Human Rights Council  on 17 March 2014.   (*) Check the full end-of-mission statement by the Special Rapporteur:  http://www.ohchr.org/EN/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=14263&LangID=E

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.  Learn more, log on to:  http://www.ohchr.org/EN/HRBodies/SP/CountriesMandates/MM/Pages/SRMyanmar.aspx

Read the Special Rapporteur’s latest report to the UN General Assembly  (October 2013): http://www.ohchr.org/Documents/Countries/MM/A-68-397_en.pdf

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 Bangkok: Daniel Collinge, (+41 79 444 3707 / dcollinge@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  Twitter: http://twitter.com/UNrightswire  Google+ gplus.to/unitednationshumanrights  YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/UNOHCHR  Storify:        http://storify.com/UNrightswire   Watch Navi Pillay’s Human Rights Day message: http://youtu.be/dhX-KbVbEQ0

 

Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR)  Regional Office for South-East Asia  ESCAP, UN Secretariat Building  6th Floor, Block A  Rajdamnern Nok Avenue, Bangkok 10200  Tel. (662) 288 1235, Fax. (662) 288 1039  Website: http://bangkok.ohchr.org  Email: ohchr.bangkok@un.org

Statement of the Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights in Myanmar

By Tomás Ojea Quintana, 19 February 2014, Yangon International Airport, Myanmar

I have just concluded my mission to Myanmar, which lasted for six days – my ninth visit to the country, which is also my final visit since I have now served the maximum of six years on this mandate.  I would like to express my sincere appreciation to the Government of Myanmar for its invitation and organisation of this visit, and the cooperation it has shown me during the past six years.

Summary of meetings:

In Naypyitaw, I met with the Minster of Foreign Affairs; the Minister of Home Affairs; the Ministers of the President’s Office; the Minister of Information; the Minister of Education; the Minister of Health; the Minister of Environmental Conservation and Forestry; the Attorney General; the Chief Justice and other members of the Supreme Court; parliamentarians and members of parliamentary committees, including the Bills Committee and International Relations Committee of the Amyotha Hluttaw; the Election Commission; advisors to the President; and the Chief of Police.  I also met with Daw Aung San Suu Kyi.

In Yangon, I met with former prisoners of conscience; members of the prisoner review committee; members of the media; members of the 88 Generation; a range of civil society organisations, including those campaigning for civil liberties, land rights, and a human rights approach to development; the Myanmar National Human Rights Commission; lawyers; and members of interfaith organisations.  While in Yangon, I visited Insein Prison and met with two prisoners of conscience, and made a tour of the female quarter.  And I met with the INGO community and members of the United Nations Country Team and briefed the diplomatic community.  I would like to thank the Resident Coordinator and the Country Team for the support provided to me during my mission.

During this mission, I visited Rakhine State, including Sittwe Prison, Shwe Kyaung Monastery, IDP camps and Aung Mingalar quarter.  I went to Kachin State, and met with state authorities in Myitkyina as well as Kachin Independence Organisation (KIO) officials and civil society representatives before proceeding up to Laiza for the first time.  In Laiza, I met with KIO officials at their headquarters and visited Je Yang IDP camp.  I visited Thilawa Special Economic Zone, south of Yangon, and met with communities who had been displaced by the development project and spoke with members of the Thilawa management committee.  I also visited the copper mines in Monywa in Sagaing Region, including the Letpadaung copper mine, and met with opponents of the mine as well as the State Government and members of Wanbao, the Chinese company active in developing the copper mine at Letpadaung.

Kachin State:

Let me start with the ongoing efforts to secure peace and national reconciliation between the state and Myanmar’s ethnic armed groups.  The State and Union government and the Kachin Independence Organisation agreed on my visit to Laiza in Kachin State, a non-State controlled area.  This is the first time that a human rights rapporteur has been able to visit Laiza.  I believe that allowing this visit will help to support the integration of human rights elements in the negotiations for peace in Kachin State, and that the Government’s permission for my visit was a good gesture to help build trust with the KIO.

In Laiza I met with the KIO authorities, including the Chairman and the Chief of Staff, who expressed their willingness to agree on a ceasefire but with guarantees of political dialogue.  They also expressed their wish to see reflected in the ceasefire an agreement on a code of conduct for troop behaviour, including troop withdrawal, which I believe would have an immediate positive impact on the human rights situation.

During my drive up from Myitkyina to Laiza, I saw villages that had been abandoned over the previous years by those fleeing advancing military troops.  In Je Yang Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) camp in Laiza, I spoke with people who had been violently displaced during the military advances into their villages in August 2011, and listened to descriptions of human rights violations suffered by their families and communities.  I received allegations of more recent human rights violations following military clashes in Kachin State and Northern Shan State, including cases of rape, arbitrary detention and torture during interrogation, which I later raised with the authorities in Nay Pyi Taw.  I also raised my concerns with the KIO over human rights violations allegedly committed by the Kachin Independence Army, including the reported ongoing recruitment of child soldiers.  In general, the visit to Laiza brought home to me how closely related the fighting is with serious human rights violations, and the importance of securing a national ceasefire accord in the coming months.

The IDPs I visited in Kachin State described how vital humanitarian assistance had been provided by the UN as well as by local religious groups.  This highlights the need for the State and Central authorities to provide regular and predictable access to non-government controlled areas by humanitarian organisations.

National ceasefire talks:

Positive progress towards a national ceasefire accord continues, with 14 individual ceasefire agreements now signed with the ethnic armed groups and only two oustanding.  There is the prospect that a national ceasefire accord will be signed by April.  I continue to commend and support this progress.  What is now needed is further trust building between the Government and the ethnic armed groups.  The implementation of ceasefire agreements has been poor due to the absence of monitoring mechanisms.  Rather than drawing back troop numbers, in many areas, including in Kayin State, the military has reinforced existing outposts and confiscated land.  The KIO told me that while the Union Government negotiates a ceasefire agreement, the army continues to push forward and attack outposts.  In my meetings in Nay Pyi Taw, relevant senior Government officials acknowledged that greater internal coordination was needed to address this.  Furthermore, the lack of grass roots participation in ceasefire negotiations means that people lack confidence in the implementation of agreements that have been signed.  The lack of transparency in negotiations has also enabled ethnic leaders to benefit from profitable business deals, which has led communities to question whether their interests are at the heart of negotiations.

Inclusive political negotiations need to proceed quickly following ceasefire agreements, so that underlying grievances can be addressed.  This will do much to bridge the gaps in trust.  In my meeting with Aung Min, Minister in the President’s Office leading the peace negotiations, he reassured me of the Government’s commitment to promptly pursue political dialogue following the signing of a national ceasefire accord.  The Government should also consider the involvement of international mediators in these political negotiations to help address the lack of trust.

Whatever the course of these negotiations, military and non-state actors need to abide by humanitarian and human rights law.  This has been a persistent call of mine throughout the course of my mandate.

During my visits, I have continued to meet with refugees and internally displaced persons and listen to their stories, concerns and hopes for a better future.  They desire to return to their land, but continue to fear and mistrust the military that caused them to flee in the first place.  In places such as Kayin State, the Union and State authorities needs to ensure the provision of land and guarantee the rights to education, healthcare and livelihoods to reassure these refugees on return.  I also encourage the Government to send out clearer messages of reconciliation to these communities to welcome them back.

Constitutional reform:

At some point, addressing the underlying grievances of Myanmar’s ethnic groups will require changes to the Constitution.  Constitutional reform is inseparable from the process of national reconciliation.  Reform will need to embrace the aspirations of the ethnic communities to have a say over their own future and benefit from the resources held within their lands.  Constitutional amendments are also needed for the democratic transition to proceed.  Reforms will need to address the undemocratic powers granted to the military and further democratise parliament, upholding the right of people to choose their own government and president.

Other Legislative Reforms:

Other legislative reforms in Myanmar need to accompany constitutional reform to create an environment where the rule of law is established and human rights are upheld.  This includes reform of section 18 of the Peaceful Assembly and Peaceful Procession Act, and the passing of an Associations Law and Printing and Publishing Law that meet international human rights standards.  It is notable that the laws from which charges were dropped and persons released during the President’s Amnesty at the end of December 2012 remain on the books and continue to be used to violate human rights, including the right to freedom of expression and assembly.  During my meetings with the authorities, I was again reassured that these and other laws were being amended, but I have yet to see much by way of clear outcomes.  I realise the process of legal reform will take time, but Parliament needs to prioritise the reform of laws which are leading to ongoing human rights violations.

Freedom of the Media:

I have previously praised the progress Myanmar has made towards greater press freedom.  However, for the time being, media freedom is only being allowed to go so far.  During this mission, I met journalists who described a prevailing climate of uncertainty and fear of arrest, particularly if reporting dealt with issues too close to the interests of the military or other powerful elites.  Over the past weeks, four journalists and the CEO of the journal Unity have been detained for investigating stories on chemical weapons factories.  A Daily Eleven reporter is currently serving a three months sentence in Kayah State related to a story she was pursuing on corruption.  I tried to visit the Unity journalists during my visit to Insein Prison, but was informed that they had been transferred to another prison two days previously.  When I met with the Minster of Information, I encouraged him to engage more with the interim press council, including to help mediate on cases where journalists are in dispute with the authorities.  Detaining journalists for the coverage of sensitive stories is something that belongs in Myanmar’s past.

Rakhine State:

In Rakhine State I had a long meeting with the chief of the state’s police.  He informed me that in Du Chee Yar Tan, on the 13 and 14 January, the police conducted a large security operation involving over 100 police officers armed with live ammunition to search for a police officer who was taken by the villagers and reportedly killed.  He denied that there had been any incident that had compromised the physical integrity or property of the villagers.  However, I have continued to receive allegations of serious human rights violations being committed during this police operation, which also involved Rakhine mobs, including allegations of the brutal killing of men, women and children, sexual violence against women, and the looting and burning of properties.

So far, the domestic investigations have failed to satisfactorily address these serious allegations. The Government of Myanmar has shown a willingness to engage with the international community on key issues such as forced labour, economic development and even training in international human rights standards for the police and military.  This cooperation now needs to extend to one of the most important challenges that Myanmar is facing, which is to address its long history of impunity.  If the President’s recently established Investigation Commission on Du Chee Yar Tan fails to carry out an investigation that meets international standards, I will urge the UN Human Rights Council to work with the Government of Myanmar to establish a credible investigation to uncover the truth of what happened in Du Chee Yar Tan and to hold anyone responsible for human rights violations to account. An investigation conducted with the involvement and support of the international community, including in relation to technical assistance, represents an opportunity to turn the tide of impunity in Myanmar.

In this respect, I was encouraged by the openness of the Minister of Home Affairs during my meeting with him on receiving suggestions on how to make an investigation into the incident independent, including suggestions of international technical experts.

The situation of the IDPs in Rakhine State is still concerning.  Muslim communities remain segregated from Buddhist communities and completely restricted in their freedom of movement.  I again visited Aung Mingalar quarter, which I can only describe as a ghetto in the heart of Sittwe.  These targeted restrictions on freedom of movement impacts a range of other human rights including access to livelihoods, healthcare and education, and entrenches the pattern of systematic discrimination against the Rohingya community.
Particularly concerning are the campaigns to incite hatred against the Rohingya community.  Ordinary Rakhine Buddhists have a genuine and legitimate desire to have their economic, social and cultural rights respected, promoted and protected after years of neglect.  The grievances of the Rakhine Buddhist community must be heard.  However, some community and political groups are manipulating this community for political and extremist ends by instigating campaigns of hatred, the consequences of which can be seen with acts of extreme violence against Rohingya communities which have also spread outside of Rakhine State.
Humanitarian organisations providing life-saving assistance to Rohingya as well as Rakhine Buddhist communities are also being increasingly threatened and prevented from doing their work.  State and local authorities need to draw a line in the sand, and tackle incitement of hate speech and the violation of human rights in accordance with the rule of law.

Prisoners of Conscience:
Myanmar has made great progress in the release of prisoners of conscience.  15 Presidential amnesties since May 2011 have resulted in the release of over 1,100 prisoners of conscience; a major achievement of the Thein Sein administration.  I also commend the work of the prisoner review committee set up last February to identify remaining prisoners of conscience.
Some prisoners of conscience remain.  In Nay Pyi Taw, I met with U Soe Thein, who reassured me of his commitment to continue working for the release of all prisoners of conscience.  I urge the Government to continue working with the Prisoner Review Committee to bring the release of these prisoners and ensure that future persons are not arrested for political reasons.
Furthermore, the necessary legislative and institutional reforms have not yet taken place to prevent the future arrest of prisoners of conscience.  The Presidential Amnesty of 30 December 2013 included cases under the Peaceful Assembly and Peaceful Procession Act.  But this and other problematic laws remain on the books.  Since the Presidential Pardon, others have been detained under section 18 of this act, including land rights activists.
Parliament needs to prioritise the reform of these laws, which also include the Unlawful Associations Act, and in the meantime the Government needs to ensure that the police and judiciary stop applying these laws, which fall below international human rights standards.
In Sittwe Prison I met with a Rohingya prisoner of conscience, named Than Shwe, who was detained because he had tried to come and meet me last August during my visit to Buthidaung.  Such human rights violations also compromise the integrity of my mandate by preventing the human rights rapporteur from meeting with the people to listen to their concerns.  I met with Kyaw Hla Aung in Sittwe prison and Dr. Tun Aung, who had recently been transferred to Insein Prison, and reiterate the need for the authorities to release these elderly prisoners of conscience immediately as well as the remaining 3 INGO workers.  In Insein Prison, I also met with Mr. Chit Ko, who had made contact with the ILO to seek release from military service.  This showed me that former soldiers have not benefitted from the President’s amnesties for prisoners of conscience, which the Government also needs to address.  I raised these cases in Nay Pyi Taw with the Minister of Home Affairs.

Torture in Police Detention:
I remain concerned over the ongoing practice of torture in places of detention in Myanmar.  In my meeting with the Chief of Police, he informed me that CCTV cameras were now placed in all city police stations across the country.  This is a positive step forward.  However, accountability for the perpetrators of torture remains elusive.  In Yangon, I met with the family of U Than Htun, who had been tortured to death while in police custody.  Despite the perpetrators being known, they have not been held accountable through the criminal justice system.  Only administrative sanctions have been applied.

Development:
The importance of human rights standards and principles shaping the process of economic development in Myanmar needs to remain a priority concern.  In Yangon, I visited Thilawa Special Economic Zone, which is being supported by the Japan International Cooperation Agency.  A large number of villagers are being relocated to make way for this development.  When I met with the Thilawa management committee, they showed a keenness to address the human rights implications of this large scale development project.  After meeting with the committee, I visited some of the relocation sites and talked to the farmers, who were struggling with the loss of their livelihoods and adjusting to a new life which they had not chosen.  One of the biggest challenges will be to provide them with long-term livelihood assistance, where their opportunities expand, which the management committee admitted it was struggling with and asked for support and fresh ideas.  The international community should support the committee’s work so that it can ensure that Thilawa can help establish the precedence of large scale development projects being required to abide by human rights standards.
I also visited the copper mines in Monywa, Sagaing Region, including Letpadaung copper mine.  While I commend the earlier initiative of the Government to set up a committee to help address the concerns of affected local communities, the Government has not mustered the political will to implement many of its key recommendations.  Subsequently, local grievances remain over compensation, forced relocation, livelihoods and health problems related to the proximity of the project.  In Monywa, I also heard from two monks left scarred by the excessive use of force by authorities to remove protestors from the site in November 2012, who expressed their concerns over the moving and destruction of religious sites.  Instead of oppressing these voices, the concerns of the local community need to be addressed with more systematic and sustained dialogue, and the political will needs to be found to address the human rights dimensions of the project.
The rights of land users in Myanmar are currently not secure.  The absence of legally secure tenure means that people are vulnerable to forced evictions, which constitutes a gross violation of a range of human rights related to housing, health, education, livelihoods and security of the person.  During my visit, I met with residents of a village in northern Yangon, who had recently been forcibility evicted and their homes demolished after being told they were living in a military zone.  The operation reportedly involved about 2,000 Government officials.  Issues over land rights will be one of the major challenges of the Government over the years to come.  During my visit, there was a recognition of this at the most senior levels of Government.

Rule of Law:
The need to establish the rule of law underlies all of Myanmar’s human rights challenges and is integral to the process of democratic transition and national reconciliation.  In Nay Pyi Taw, I met with the Chief Justice and the Attorney General, and was encouraged to hear about initiatives to develop the capacity of the judiciary and other relevant Ministries.  However, the judiciary is a long way from being an independent institution.  With no independent judiciary there is no rule of law.  Furthermore, 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.  After decades of military rule, this state of affairs is perhaps inevitable, but establishing the rule of law needs to remain a focus of this transition.

Conclusion:
Throughout my six years on this mandate, I have seen important changes in Myanmar that have brought improvements to the human rights situation, including the release of prisoners of conscience, the opening up of space for freedom of expression, the development of political freedoms, and important progress in securing an end to fighting in the ethnic border areas.  I believe there is limited space for backtracking though, as a senior Government official admitted to me in Nay Pyi Taw, the democratic transition is still fragile.
For the time being, the military retains a prevailing role in the life and institutions of Myanmar.  State institutions in general remain unaccountable and the judiciary is not yet functioning as an independent branch of Government.  Moreover, the rule of law cannot yet be said to exist in Myanmar.  Tackling the situation in Rakhine State represents a particular challenge which, if left unaddressed, could jeopardize the entire reform process.
A critical challenge will be to secure ceasefire and political agreements with ethnic minority groups, so that Myanmar can finally transform into a peaceful multi-ethnic and multi-religious society.
A change of mind-set still needs to take place within all levels of Government, to allow civil society, political parties and a free media to flourish beyond the limited freedoms that have currently been granted.  The energy and enthusiasm of the younger generation and of women needs to be allowed to come through to reinvigorate the reform process and ensure that Myanmar secures a successful transition.  Review of the past will also become increasingly important.
It will be important for Myanmar to build on its progress of engagement with the international community, which should include the establishment of an OHCHR Country Office with a full mandate.
I hope that my six years on this mandate has helped improve the human rights situation of the people of Myanmar.  It is important that this mandate remains well known and respected in the country, because it has helped to keep human rights on the agenda of reform and should continue to do so.  Throughout my term and particularly during this mission, I have noticed how people from different parts of Myanmar value this human rights mandate.  I am finishing my time on this mandate with a clear and visible human rights agenda to be followed up on by the Government, civil society and the international community.
I have to praise the cooperation extended by the former and current Government of Myanmar to this mandate.  I believe this cooperation represents a good example of how States can progress on human rights through engagement with the international community as envisioned in the UN Charter.

__________________________

Statement of the Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator a.i., Mr. Bertrand Bainvel, on the occasion of International Human Rights Day, 10 December 2013

This year’s global theme for Human Rights Day – ‘working for your rights’ enables us all to take stock of achievements since the adoption of the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action 20 years ago.
Worldwide, there have been advances in international human rights law, with national and international institutions adopting standards and monitoring compliance, and stronger action from civil society and human rights defenders. There have also been setbacks – inadequate political will and a lack of capacity and resources to acknowledge and address human rights violations, to protect defenders and to provide justice to victims.
These global developments are mirrored in Myanmar as part of the current, rapid transition process. There are encouraging signs that the political, economic and social reforms could lead to a lasting improvement of the human rights situation.. New policies, legislative reforms and practical action on the ground are strengthening institutions so they can work in accordance with international norms and standards. Civil society and the media have more space. Many political prisoners have been released, and after many decades, prospects for peace and reconciliation are real.
Yet here as at the international level, work remains to be done to transform human rights from abstract promises to genuine improvement in the daily lives of all people, especially those who are currently marginalized, disadvantaged or excluded. In recalling the Vienna Declaration, we emphasize the principle of non-discrimination and protection for all individuals and groups regardless of nationality, ethnicity, religion, disability, gender, sexuality or other status.
Human rights are the rights of all people. This is particularly crucial in areas in which conflict still shapes daily lives, whether this is armed conflict in border areas such as Kachin State, inter-communal violence such as Rakhine State, where segregation, discrimination and violence prevent thousands of individuals- children, women and men- to realize their full potential
In the measures that are now being taken by the Government, non-state groups, civil society and many others to support national peace and reconciliation, human rights will have to play an important role –without respect for human rights there can be no justice, no peace and no prosperity.
Human rights must also guide solutions for ending inter-communal violence in Myanmar, otherwise it may threaten reform. Gains in the area of freedom of expression, association and assembly must be preserved and strengthened, and the space for human rights defenders vigorously defended. Capacity development and changes in the mindset are required.
As the United Nations family in Myanmar, we work with our national partners across many areas, whether in social protection, local governance, ending forced labour and child soldier recruitment, providing humanitarian aid to displaced persons, supporting the rule of law, on police and prison reform, or engaging with civil society and strengthening the media. We also support inclusive and participatory sector reforms to build better systems- especially in health and education- to provide higher quality services for all, and address inequities.
Our joint action and our advocacy on critical human rights issues aims to safeguard the rights of every person in Myanmar to life and liberty, development, education, health, freedom of expression, association and assembly, freedom of movement and adequate housing. As the UN, we contribute to working for these rights in support of the State. We also work with the civil society whose tireless human rights work deserves the fullest support, and with the women, men and children of Myanmar who contribute to the protection and promotion of human rights every day.
On the occasion of this International Human Rights Day, the UN looks forward to continuing to collaborating with all of you in Myanmar society, to ‘work for your rights’.

Myanmar Private Sector Take Action Against Malaria in Yangon

25 November – Yangon, Myanmar – The first-ever Myanmar Malaria Forum to engage the corporate sector was held today at the UMFCCI Conference Hall in Yangon. Two-thirds of the more than 130 participants represented the private sector to discuss actionable steps to assist in reducing and treating malaria infections, with a focus on addressing emerging cases of malaria infections resistant to treatment. Myanmar carries one of the highest burdens of the disease in the Asia-Pacific region, with approximately 400,000 cases of malaria reported each year, and more than half of the population at risk of infection.
“We…recognize that malaria is not only a health issue, but also an issue that affects our most productive workforce and economic development of our country,” said U Win Aung, President of the Union of Myanmar Federation of Chambers of Commerce and Industry (UMFCCI) during the Forum’s opening plenary session. ” The private sector is a key partner to play an important role in delivering services to its workforce. This meeting is an opportunity to understand better how we can collectively work together to support this important initiative.”
There is a strong business case for the private sector to invest in malaria, including: maintaining a healthy workforce; improved access to markets; strengthened relationships with government decision-makers; support for long-term economic growth of new markets; expansion of distribution channels; and development of stable and positive business conditions.
Supported by the Ministry of Health and Roll Back Malaria Partnership (RBM), the Forum was organized by the Union of Myanmar Federation of Chambers of Commerce and Industry (UMFCCI), in association with the Myanmar Health and Development Consortium (MHDC) and Myanmar Business Coalition on AID (MBCA), to engage large private employers in efforts to control resistance to the most effective antimalarial medicine on the market – Artemisinin-based Combination Therapies (ACTs) – which has been identified in the country.
“Now that Myanmar is increasingly open for business, it is important that the private sector protect their labor force and their surrounding communities from malaria. It will not only save lives, it is also a good investment, as the 400,000 annual cases of malaria have a direct impact on the nation’s productivity,” said Mr. Herve Verhoosel, Representative of the Roll Back Malaria Partnership to the United Nations (New York). “Myanmar must hold all sectors accountable, including the private sector, to ensure that artemisinin resistance is contained, in accordance with WHO guidelines.
The Asia-Pacific region continues to carry the second largest burden of malaria globally – behind Africa – with 20 malaria-endemic countries accounting for approximately 30 million cases and 42,000 deaths in 2010. The fight against malaria has forged one of the most effective global health initiatives, but the emergence of resistance to ACTs in areas of the Greater Mekong sub-Region threatens global progress. If artemisinin resistance spreads to other regions, the public health consequences could be dire.
Participants of the Forum, which also include representatives from NGOs, and bilateral and multilateral organizations, will meet tomorrow for the second and final day to identify a way to support the Myanmar Artemisinin Resistance Containment strategy (MARC) – which is based on the World Health Organization’s global Emergency Response to Artemisinin Resistance (ERAR).
***

Robert Valadéz, MSW
Roll Back Malaria Partnership (Secretariat)
External Relations Team
Office at the United Nations, New York
rvaladez@rbmny.org

Corporate Sector and Non-state Actors to convene in Yangon to discuss joint efforts to contain drug-resistant malaria

Corporate Sector and Non-state Actors to convene in Yangon to discuss joint efforts to contain drug-resistant malaria

The Union of Myanmar Federation of Chambers of Commerce and Industry (UMFCCI),
The Myanmar Health and Development Consortium (MHDC), and
The Myanmar Business Coalition on AID (MBCA) to host
“Malaria Forum on Private Sector Response to Artemisinin Resistance in Myanmar”

(21 November 2013; Yangon, Myanmar) Approximately 200 private sector leaders, government officials and health and development experts are expected to gather at the UMFCCI Conference Hall in Yangon 25-26 November for the first ever private sector-focused conference to address drug-resistant malaria in the country. Supported by the Ministry of Health, the meeting is being organized by the Union of Myanmar Federation of Chambers of Commerce and Industry (UMFCCI), in association with the Myanmar Health and Development Consortium (MHDC) and the Myanmar Business Coalition on AID (MBCA), to engage large private employers in efforts to control resistance to the most effective antimalarial medicine on the market – Artemisinin-based Combination Therapies (ACTs) – which has been identified in the country.

Throughout the two-day forum, participants will hear from health and development experts, government officials, donors and private sector leaders to identify and develop an accreditation scheme that would incentivize employers to act in support of the Myanmar Artemisinin Resistance Containment strategy (MARC) – which is based on the World Health Organization’s global Emergency Response to Artemisinin Resistance (ERAR). Co-chaired by Daw Khine Khine Nwe (Joint Secretary General, UMFCCI) and Mr. Martin Pun (Chairman MBCA), participants will also welcome the President’s Economic Advisor, Professor Dr. Aung Tun Thet, and other global and regional partners.

“MBCA and partners are pleased to facilitate this first malaria forum in Myanmar for corporate sector involvement. We hope that this meeting can serve as a platform in bringing together the private and public sectors to discuss how private sector and other non state actors can play a critical role in supporting malaria control and artemisinin resistance containment effort” said Mr. Martin Pun, Chairman of MBCA.

With rapid economic growth and increasing foreign direct investment in Myanmar, business and development ventures have attracted large local and foreign labor forces, many of which are financed through Foreign Direct Investments (FDI) in a Build-Operate-Transfer (BOT) arrangement. These large-scale infrastructure and business developments are key economic and health investment areas for the broader population, and with an increasingly mobile workforce, private employers stand to play a pivotal role in the advancement of public health strategies and policies by reaching populations at risk.

“The Roll Back Malaria Partnership welcomes this important initiative to engage the private sector to support the prioritization of malaria by the UN Secretary-General and to promote the WHO’s strategies to contain artemisinin resistance in the region,” said RBM Representative at the United Nations in New York, Mr. Herve Verhoosel. “With increasing economic investment in Myanmar bringing a mobile workforce to a country with nearly 17,000 malaria-related deaths each year, there is a serious risk that artemisinin resistance will spread. By investing in malaria, the corporate sector could protect the communities in which they operate and play a critical role in the success of containment efforts in the country.”

The Asia-Pacific region continues to carry the second largest burden of malaria globally – behind Africa – with 20 malaria-endemic countries accounting for approximately 30 million cases and 42,000 deaths each year. Myanmar carries one of the highest burdens of disease in the region, with more than half of the population at risk of infection.

The fight against malaria has forged one of the most effective global health initiatives, but the emergence of resistance to ACTs in areas of the Greater Mekong sub-Region threatens global progress. Artemisinin resistance has been detected in Cambodia, Myanmar, Thailand, Laos and Vietnam, and if it spreads to India or sub-Saharan Africa, the public health consequences could be dire, as no alternative antimalarial medicine is available with the same level of efficacy and tolerability as ACTs. With increased inter-country investment and an expanding ASEAN Free Trade Area, population movement continues to increase in the region and could quickly expand the geographic scope of resistance, posing a health security risk for many countries in the region that have ongoing malaria transmission.

In addition to addressing national, regional and global concerns, there is also a strong business case for the private sector to invest in malaria, including: maintaining a healthy workforce; improved access to markets; strengthened relationships with government decision-makers; support for long-term economic growth of new markets; expansion of distribution channels; development of stable and positive business conditions.

# # #

Media Contact:
Ms. Liat Levy
Myanmar Business Coalition on AID
+95 9 310 44 191; liat.levy@mbconaid.org

Mr. Robert Valadez
The Roll Back malaria Partnership
+1 626 253 0997; rvaladez@rbmny.org
**From 23 November, Mr. Valadez will be reachable in Myanmar at +95 (9) 732 37852 or at the Trader’s Club hotel

MHDC is a locally established and managed firm with the aim to promote linkages with international and local networks and collaboration partners; capacity building; application of innovative approaches in
health; private-public partnerships; and resource mobilization efforts for health.

MBCA is a local NGO focused on private sector mobilization to involve the business community in the health sector, with the aim to mobilize local township businessmen into establishing independent township business coalitions.

UMFCCI is Myanmar’s largest not-for-profit business federation, representing 10,854 local companies, 1,656 enterprises, 770 foreign companies, 185 co-operatives and 2,898 individuals. In the
international arena, UMFCCI is a member of the Paris-based International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) and the ASEAN Chamber of Commerce and Industry (ASEAN-CCI), the (BIMST-EC), Greater Mekong
Sub-region Business Forum (GMS-BF), Joint Economic Quadrangle Committee (JEQC).

The Roll Back Malaria Partnership (RBM) is the global framework for coordinated action against malaria. Founded in 1998 by UNICEF, WHO, UNDP and the World Bank and strengthened by the expertise, resources and commitment of more than 500 partner organizations, RBM is a public-private partnership that facilitates the incubation of new ideas, lends support to innovative approaches, promotes high-level political commitment and keeps malaria high on the global agenda by enabling, harmonizing and amplifying partner-driven advocacy initiatives. RBM secures policy guidance and financial and technical support for control efforts in countries and monitors progress towards universal goals.

Record-high methamphetamine seizures in Southeast Asia in 2012, UNODC reports

Bangkok (Thailand), 8 November 2013 – Methamphetamine remains the top illicit drug threat in East and Southeast Asia, according to a UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) report released today. Seizures of methamphetamine in both pill and crystalline forms reached record highs there in 2012, with 227 million methamphetamine pills seized – a 60 per cent increase from 2011 and a more-than seven-fold increase since 2008 – along with 11.6 metric tonnes of crystalline methamphetamine, a 12 per cent rise from 2011.

The report, Patterns and Trends of Amphetamine-Type Stimulants (ATS) and Other Drugs – Challenges for Asia and the Pacific 2013, says that methamphetamine is now the first or second most used illicit drug in 13 of the 15 Asia Pacific countries surveyed. The use of methamphetamine increased in Cambodia, China, Japan, Lao PDR, Myanmar, the Republic of Korea, Thailand and Viet Nam.

Transnational organized criminal groups active in the region’s illicit drug trade continue to diversify their approach, the Report says. Drug trafficking is dominated by regional syndicates, while groups from Africa and the Islamic Republic of Iran have continued to expand their trafficking of methamphetamine and other drugs into East and Southeast Asia. Indian and South Asian networks are playing an increasing role in smuggling precursor chemicals and pharmaceutical drugs containing precursor chemicals necessary to manufacture methamphetamine in East and Southeast Asia, including Myanmar.

“The worsening illicit drug situation has a domino effect on governance, greatly taxing criminal justice and health systems and threatening human security in countries throughout Asia and the Pacific,” said Mr. Jeremy Douglas, UNODC Regional Representative, Southeast Asia and the Pacific. “While regional integration positively facilitates the free flow of goods, services, investment, capital and labor, it is also being exploited by transnational organized crime to expand its activities in our region.”

Myanmar remains the primary source of methamphetamine pills in East and Southeast Asia, according to the UNODC report, which notes the first-ever dismantling of a crystal methamphetamine laboratory there and the seizure of four pill pressing operations in 2012. Besides Myanmar, large quantities of ATS continue to be manufactured in China, Malaysia, Indonesia, the Philippines, Cambodia, as well as Australia and New Zealand.

China (102 million pills seized), Thailand (95 million), Myanmar (18 million) and Lao PDR (10 million) accounted for 99 per cent of all methamphetamine pills seized in the region in 2012. Malaysia and Viet Nam also reported “significant increases” in seizures in 2012.

In Myanmar, the report says that seizures of most illicit drugs and their precursor chemicals increased significantly in 2012. During the year, a record amount of pharmaceutical preparations containing pseudoephedrine, one of the primary precursors used for illicit methamphetamine manufacture, was seized in Myanmar while the number of methamphetamine pills seized in Yangon was the highest total ever reported. Moreover, seizures, arrests and drug treatment data indicate that the use of methamphetamine pills in Myanmar is on the rise.

UNODC also notes a resurgence of the ‘ecstasy’ market in East and Southeast Asia, with ecstasy pill seizures more than tripling in 2012 to over 5.4 million pills from 1.6 million pills seized in 2011.

The Report warns that the neighboring regions of South Asia and the Pacific Island States and Territories are being “targeted” for illicit ATS manufacture and trafficking.

“International drug trafficking groups seek to use South Asia as a major base, given the high availability there of the precursor chemicals necessary to manufacture illicit synthetic drugs,” said Mr. Douglas. ”They also continue to use the Pacific region as a transit point for trafficking methamphetamines and precursor chemicals to and from Asia.”

The Report may be viewed online at http://www.unodc.org/southeastasiaandpacific/en/ats-2013.html.

Background – the Global SMART Programme
The UNODC report, Patterns and Trends of Amphetamine-Type Stimulants and Other Drugs – Challenges for Asia and the Pacific 2013, was produced by the UNODC Global Synthetics Monitoring: Analyses, Reporting and Trends (SMART) Programme.

UNODC launched the Global Synthetics Monitoring: Analyses, Reporting and Trends (SMART) Programme in September 2008. The objective of the Programme is to enhance the capacity of Member States and relevant authorities to generate, manage, analyze, report and use synthetic drug information, in order to design effective, scientifically-sound and evidence-based policies and programmes.

For further information please contact:
John Bleho, Media and Communications Specialist,
UNODC Regional Office for Southeast Asia and the Pacific
T: (+66) 2288.2091 | M: (+66) 81.750.0539 | E: john.bleho@unodc.org

Statement by the Special Adviser to the Secretary-General on Myanmar, Vijay Nambiar, on the Kachin Peace Talks.

Yangon 5 November 2013 – Special Adviser to the Secretary-General on Myanmar, Vijay Nambiar participated as observer in the peace talks between the Myanmar Government and Ethnic Armed Organization in Myitkyina on November 4-5.
As agreed between the Kachin Independence Organisation and the government in October, a meeting between Ethnic Armed Groups took place in Laiza, Kachin where a Nationwide Ceasefire Coordination Team was established to represent the Ethnic Armed Groups in a dialogue to reach a Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement. Following that meeting a dialogue was held between the Ethnic Armed Groups and the Government in Myitkyina from 4 – 5 November 2013.
The meeting in Myitkyina was the first meeting between the combined Ethnic Armed Organizations and the Government in decades and as such represents a significant move forward in the national reconciliation process. The fact that such a meeting could take place within the country testifies to the distance that the Government and Ethnic Armed Groups has traversed since the beginning of the reform process in Myanmar.
Both sides agreed to hold a political dialogue by undertaking: a Nationwide Ceasefire; development of the Framework for Political Dialogue; and the inauguration of the Political Dialogue Process. Given the need for the Government and the various armed ethnic armed groups to have further consultations, the next meeting will be held in December 2013.
The Special Adviser was encouraged by the constructive spirit that characterized the deliberations and by the fact that so many groups have been able to come together on a common platform for their dialogue with the government. The commitment shown by all parties in bringing peace to all corners of the country was particularly commendable.
As stated earlier, the Special Adviser believes that a peaceful solution to the conflicts in Myanmar is a critical priority for the future of the country and its people. The United Nations will continue to assist and support the people of Myanmar as the country continues on its path towards peace and democracy. ENDS