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Abstract: The civil war that had debilitated Myanmar from 1947, had a break since the early 90’s consequent to a series of cease fire agreements entered into by the military junta with 17 ethnic armed groups between 1989-1997. The hopes of the ethnic groups for a political solution faded when the military started pressurising the ethnic groups from April 2009 onwards in an attempt to disarm and transform them into border guards under the Myanmar army.
They were also allowed to form political parties for contesting the elections in November 2010 to pursue their aspirations. Save for a few minor groups, most ethnic groups refused to disarm or become border guards. Some ethnic political parties did however contest the elections and were successful in getting some of their representatives elected especially at the state level.
The new “civilian” government formed in March 2011 now seems to be seeking a military solution, in total disregard of cease-fire agreements, by attacking the ethnic groups in selected areas especially in Kachin and Shan States in recent months. In going for military operations, the Government perhaps wants to safeguard the interests of its neighbours China and Thailand who have invested heavily in the areas occupied by ethnic groups and thereby have their concurrence for initiating military action against these groups. The ethnic groups are getting together by forming an alliance and gearing themselves up for a revived civil war.
Abstract: Burma has extensive biodiversity and abundant natural resources, which have in recent
years been threatened by militarization, large-scale resource extraction, and infrastructure
development. Burma has some laws and policies related to protecting people and the
environment, but the country lacks the necessary administrative and legal structures,
standards, safeguards and political will to enforce such provisions. The country is also a
party to several international treaties relating to the environment, including those on
protection of biodiversity and indigenous peoples, wildlife, and countering climate change.
It is unclear, however, how the contents of those treaties that have been ratified have been
incorporated into domestic law.
Control over natural resources is a major cause of conflict in ethnic areas, where the majority
of Burma’s natural resources remain. Foreign direct investment in Burma is concentrated
in energy and extractive sectors and often results in militarization and displacement. Recently there has been heightened interest from countries in the region for more investment
opportunities. Given the lack of sound economic policy and unwillingness of the state to
reconcile with ethnic armed groups, an increase in foreign investment could have a major
impact on the environment and communities living in these areas.
In order to take steps towards ecologically and socially responsible development in Burma,
Burma must have a sound policy framework for environmental protection and sustainable
development that enables citizens to take part in decision making about their own
development, and ensures responsible private sector investment. Until then, new foreign
investors investing in energy, extractive and plantation sectors should refrain from investing.
Existing investors should immediately cease all project-related work - particularly in sensitive
areas throughout Burma - until adequate safeguards are in place to ensure investment does
not lead to unnecessary destruction of the natural environment and local livelihoods. At
the same time, International NGOs and UN agencies should ensure people are recognized
as key actors in their own development, rather than passive recipients of commodities and
services; and civil society organizations should empower communities throughout Burma
to understand their rights.
Abstract: Over the last two decades, KHRG has documented the abuse of convicts taken by the thousands from prisons across Burma and forced to serve as porters for frontline units of Burma's state army, the Tatmadaw. In the last two years alone, Tatmadaw units have used at least 1,700 convict porters during two distinct, ongoing combat operations in Karen State and eastern Bago Division; this report presents full transcripts and analysis of interviews with 59 who escaped. In interviews with KHRG, every convict porter described being forced to carry unmanageable loads over hazardous terrain with minimal rest, food and water. Most told of being used deliberately as human shields during combat; forced to walk before troops in landmine-contaminated areas; and being refused medical attention when wounded or ill. Many saw porters executed when they were unable to continue marching or when desperation drove them to attempt escape. Abuses consistently described by porters violate Burma's domestic and international legal obligations. If such abusive practices are to be halted, existing legal provisions must be enforced by measures that ensure accountability for the individuals that violate them. This report is intended to augment Dead Men Walking: Convict Porters on the Front Lines in Eastern Burma, a joint report released by KHRG and Human Rights Watch in July 2011.
Abstract: This 70-page report details abuses against convict porters including summary executions, torture, and the use of the convicts as “human shields.” The military should stop forcibly recruiting prisoners as porters and mistreating them, and those responsible for ordering or participating in such treatment should be prosecuted, Human Rights Watch and the Karen Human Rights Group said.
Abstract: This paper is a gendered analysis of peacebuilding capacity in the context of forced migration. Scholars have tended to focus primarily on potential threats from conflict-generated diasporas1 rather than on how they contribute to peace processes in their homelands. Understanding how the millions of refugees affected by armed conflicts may, as non-state actors, help to facilitate peace making and peace building not only addresses some of the needs of refugees, but develops new policy and practices necessary to address contemporary ethno-political conflict. This study of women from Burma in exile reinforces the need to implement UNSCR 1325 in a way that strengthens the peace capacity of diaspora women‟s organizations in host countries as well as those at home.
Abstract: Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) moved into North Sudan's South Kordofan state capital Kadugli at the start of the month, triggering large-scale fighting with Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA) units from the region. The UN reported heavy bombardment of villages by the SAF, widespread civilian casualties and at least 73,000 people forced to flee. It also accused the government of blocking aid deliveries and intimidating peacekeepers.
Violence spilled over into South Sudan, with several villages bombed by the North. On 28 June the government and the Sudan People's Liberation Movement (North) signed an agreement on political and security arrangements for South Kordofan and Blue Nile states.
In Afghanistan, a standoff between parliament and President Hamid Karzai threatens to deepen the country's political crisis.
Proposals by Senegal's ruling party to amend the constitution were condemned by opposition politicians as undemocratic and sparked unprecedented violent protests.
Myanmar/Burma saw its worst clashes since 2009, as fighting broke out between government forces and the Kachin ceasefire group. Tens of thousands have been displaced and some 20 reportedly killed.
In Mexico, a number of incidents highlighted the deterioration in security around Monterrey, the country's second city, industrial hub and capital of Nuevo León state.
In Venezuela, speculation about President Hugo Chávez's health intensified, leading to infighting within his ruling PSUV party and highlighting the country's lack of alternative leadership.
Abstract: The World Drug Report documents developments in
global drug markets and tries to explain the factors that
drive them. Its analysis of trends and emerging challenges
informs national and international drug and
crime priorities and policies, and provides a solid foundation
of evidence for counternarcotics interventions.
Drug markets and drug use patterns change rapidly, so
measures to stop them must also be quick to adapt. Thus
the more comprehensive the drug data we collect and
the stronger our capacity to analyse the problem, the
better prepared the international community will be to
respond to new challenges.
Abstract: At least 8,885 villagers in 118 villages in Lu Thaw Township, Papun District have either exhausted their
current food supplies or are expecting to do so prior to the October 2011 harvest. The 118 villages are
located in nine village tracts, where attacks on civilians by Burma’s state army, the Tatmadaw, have
triggered wide scale and repeated displacement since 1997. As tens of thousands of civilians in northern
Karen State have been displaced, over-population in hiding areas where civilians can more effectively
avoid attacks has created shortages of arable land, depleted soil fertility and reduced potential crop
yields. Civilians forced to cultivate land or live near Tatmadaw camps, meanwhile, have faced recent
attacks, including indiscriminate shelling and attacks on food supplies, buildings and livelihoods. These
existing obstacles to food security were compounded by an unusually dry rainy season in 2010, coupled
with other environmental factors, causing the 2010 harvest to fail. The impact of acute food shortages on
the civilian population is magnified by budgetary constraints of local relief organisations, which can
access the affected area but are currently unable to provide emergency assistance to many of those
facing food shortages. This regional report is based on research conducted by KHRG researchers in Lu
Thaw Township in February and March 2011, including 41 interviews with villagers and village and village
tract leaders in the affected areas. This research was augmented by interviews with members of local
relief organisations in February, March and April 2011.
Abstract: Human Security Research is a monthly publication by the Human Security Report Project (HSRP) which compiles the latest human security-related research published by university research institutes, think-tanks, governments, IGOs and NGOs. This publication highlights recent research on the protection of civilians in armed conflict and the foundation documents underpinning the issues. The contents are:
TRENDS: Protection of Civilians in 2010: Facts, Figures, and the UN Security Council’s Response
RESPONSIBILITY TO PROTECT: The UN Security Council and the Responsibility to Protect: Policy, Process, and Practice
CIVILIAN CASUALTIES: Who Takes the Blame? The Strategic Effects of Collateral Damage
CHILDREN: In Their Words: Perspectives of Armed Non-State Actors on the Protection of Children from the Effects of Armed Conflict
INTERNATIONAL HUMANITARIAN LAW: Privileging Asymmetric Warfare?: Defender Duties Under International Humanitarian Law
MYANMAR: Self-Protection Under Strain: Targeting of Civilians and Local Responses in Northern Karen State
HUMANITARIAN RELIEF: Incorporating Protection into Humanitarian Action: Approaches and Limits
PEACE OPERATIONS: Challenges of Strengthening the Protection of Civilians in Multidimensional Peace Operations
CHAD: Protecting Civilians Against Sexual and Gender-Based Violence in Eastern Chad
PEACE OPERATIONS: Enhancing Civilian Protection in Peace Operations: Insights from Africa
ARMS: Meeting the Challenges: Protecting Civilians through the Convention on Cluster Munitions
Abstract: On 13th March 2011 the dictatorship in Burma broke
a 22 year long ceasefire agreement with the Shan
State Army – North. 3,500 Burmese Army soldiers
took part in a military offensive in north-central Shan
State, an area with a population of 100,000. Sixtyfive
clashes were reported in the first three weeks of
the dictatorship breaking the ceasefire. Civilians are
being targeted in the military offensive, with mortar
bombs fired at civilian villages. Abuses committed
by the Burmese Army include arbitrary execution,
arbitrary detention, torture, looting, rape, forced
relocation and forced labour. These abuses are
violations of international law.
More than 3,000 people have been forced to flee
their homes. Many are hiding in the jungle.
Local community organisations are calling on the
international community to condemn the attacks,
and take action to persuade the dictatorship to
implement an immediate nationwide ceasefire.
They are also calling for humanitarian assistance,
including cross-border aid, which, because of aid
restrictions by the dictatorship, is the only way aid
can be delivered in some areas.
Abstract: The world’s worst online oppressors are using an array of tactics, some reflecting astonishing levels of sophistication, others reminiscent of old-school techniques. From China’s high-level malware attacks to Syria’s brute-force imprisonments, this may be only the dawn of online oppression.
In reporting news from the world’s most troubled nations, journalists have made a seismic shift this year in their reliance on the Internet and other digital tools. Blogging, video sharing, text messaging, and live-streaming from cellphones brought images of popular unrest from the central square of Cairo and the main boulevard of Tunis to the rest of the world. Yet the technology used to report the news has been matched in many ways by the tools used to suppress information. Many of the oppressors’ tactics show an increasing sophistication, from the state-supported email in China designed to take over journalists’ personal computers, to the carefully timed cyber-attacks on news websites in Belarus. Still other tools in the oppressor’s kit are as old as the press itself, including imprisonment of online writers in Syria, and the use of violence against bloggers in Russia.
To mark World Press Freedom Day, May 3, the Committee to Protect Journalists is examining the 10 prevailing tactics of online oppression worldwide and the countries that have taken the lead in their use. What is most surprising about these Online Oppressors is not who they are—they are all nations with long records of repression—but how swiftly they adapted old strategies to the online world.
In two nations we cite, Egypt and Tunisia, the regimes have changed, but their successors have not categorically broken with past repressive practices. The tactics of other nations—such as Iran, which employs sophisticated tools to destroy anti-censorship technology, and Ethiopia, which exerts monopolistic control over the Internet—are being watched, and emulated, by repressive regimes worldwide.
Here are the 10 prevalent tools for online oppression.
Abstract: Malaysia has taken significant steps forward in improving refugee rights. In the past year, there have been no reported attempts to deport Burmese refugees to the border with Thailand and a decrease in immigration raids and arrests of registered refugees. But these advances have not yet been codified into written government policy, leaving refugees considered
“illegal migrants” and subject to arrest and detention. The Government of Malaysia should build on this progress by setting up a system of residence and work permits for refugees. The international community should mobilize additional funds for the UN Refugee Agency
(UNHCR) and non-governmental agencies to leverage this opportunity to improve refugee rights.
Abstract: The Mekong River – Southeast Asia’s largest river – runs from the Tibetan Plateau and through China’s
Yunnan province. This part of the river is heavily dammed. South of China, as it goes through Burma,
Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam, has been spared. That might soon be changing as Laos, backed by Thailand,
is set to start the construction of the 1260 megawatt Xayaburi hydroelectric plant. Vietnam opposes
this plan and claims that the future of the river, and the communities along it, will be threatened. National
interests are clearly pitted against each other. The split regarding the future of the Mekong River threatens
to damage the relations between Laos and Vietnam and increase regional insecurity.
Abstract: The eruption of conflict between the Burmese military and an ethnic rebel faction in
eastern Burma has forced over 30,000 people to flee to Thailand since November 2010. Skirmishes are ongoing and both parties have planted landmines in people’s villages and farmlands. While the Thai government has a long-standing policy of providing refuge for “those fleeing fighting,” the Thai army is pressuring Burmese to return prematurely and
restricting aid agencies. Unless the Thai Government strengthens its policy to protect those fleeing fighting and persecution, current and future refugees will have no choice but to join the ranks of millions of undocumented and unprotected migrant workers in Thailand.
Abstract: On the 31st of January, the Burmese parliament convened for the first time in over 20 years. However,
little has changed from before. The outcome of the election only slightly altered the political landscape; the
military junta, which has been in power since 1962, was already guaranteed a quarter of the seats and
not only that - 77 percent of the contested seats were won by the Union Solidarity and Development Party
(USDP), the party backed by the junta. Naturally, the election was deemed as rigged and nothing but a
poorly performed stage production in democracy.
Abstract: This briefer provides up-to-date information on the Burma-China gas and oil pipelines. Through firsthand accounts, leaked documents, and publicly available information, EarthRights International analyzes corporate responsibility and accountability with respect to the pipelines, according to international laws and standards, and Burmese law. It discusses how to mitigate harmful impacts and improve the benefits for the people of Burma, and concludes with practical recommendations for key stakeholders.
Abstract: Villagers in Te Naw Th’Ri Township, Tenasserim Division face human rights abuses and threats
to their livelihoods, attendant to increasing militarization of the area following widespread forced
relocation campaigns in the late 1990s. Efforts to support and strengthen Tatmadaw presence
throughout Te Naw Th’Ri have resulted in practices that facilitate control over the civilian
population and extract material and labour resources while at the same time preventing nonstate
armed groups from operating or extracting resources of their own. Villagers who seek to
evade military control and associated human rights abuses, meanwhile, report Tatmadaw
attacks on civilians and civilian livelihoods in upland hiding areas. This report draws primarily on
information received between September 2009 and November 2010 from Te Naw Th’Ri
Township, Tenasserim Division.
Abstract: In the past two years there has been an increasing
trend to look at Burma through the lens of
international law, rather than just as a civil liberties
or human rights issue. This approach gained
momentum in March 2010, when the United Nations
Special Rapporteur on Burma called for a UN
Commission of Inquiry into possible war crimes and
crimes against humanity in Burma.
Most attention on possible war crimes and crimes
against humanity taking place in Burma has focused
on attacks and persecution on ethnic minorities,
particularly crimes committed against the ethnic
Karen, Karenni and Shan in Eastern Burma, and
against the Rohingya in Western Burma, and the
Chin in the Northwest.
This briefing looks at an area which has so far
not received much attention, the detention and
treatment of political prisoners. This briefing is not
intended as a detailed legal analysis, but rather to
highlight this issue as one which should also be
looked at in the context of international law.
Abstract: The November 2010 elections in Myanmar were not free and fair and the country has not escaped authoritarian rule. Predictably, in such a tightly controlled poll, the regime’s own Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) won a landslide victory leaving the military elite still in control. Together with the quarter of legislative seats reserved for soldiers, this means there will be little political space for opposition members in parliament. The new government that has been formed, and which will assume power in the coming weeks, also reflects the continued dominance of the old order with the president and one of the two vice presidents drawn from its ranks and a number of cabinet ministers recycled.
Nevertheless, it would be a mistake to conclude that nothing has changed. The top two leaders of the former military regime have stepped aside, and a new generation has taken over. A new constitution has come into force, which fundamentally reshapes the political landscape, albeit in a way that ensures the continued influence of the military. A number of technocrats have been brought into the cabinet, and at the local level ethnic groups now have at least some say in the governance of their affairs.
These changes are unlikely to translate into dramatic reforms in the short term, but they provide a new governance context, improving the prospects for incremental reform.
Abstract: Militia, freedom fighters, rebels, terrorists,
paramilitaries, revolutionaries, guerrillas, gangs,
quasi-state bodies... and many other labels. In this
issue of FMR we look at all of these, at actors defined
as being armed and being ‘non-state’ – that is to say,
without the full responsibilities and obligations of the
state. Some of these actors have ideological or political
aims; some aspire to hold territory and overthrow a
government; some could be called organised groups,
and for others that would stretch the reality. Their
objectives vary but all are in armed conflict with the
state and/or with each other. Such actors, deliberately or
otherwise, regularly cause the displacement of people.
This issue of FMR
focuses more on the consequences of their violence and
its effects on people, and suggests ways in which these
might be mitigated. The articles included here reflect the
views of civil society groups and individuals in regular
contact with non-state armed groups, of academics and
governments, and of organisations that have years of
experience in engaging – creatively and productively –
with non-state armed groups.
This issue also includes a range of articles discussing
subjects as varied as the labelling of migrants, solar
energy in camps, gang persecution, and scoring states’
performance in respect of the rights of refugees.
Abstract: Aung San Suu Kyi once famously said, “We must hope for the best, but prepare for the worst”. As this report is
being written the first elected government for 20 years is being formed in Burma following the November General
Election. The convening of parliament, new and more complex political structures plus the freedom of Aung San
Suu Kyi herself, all offer hope of reconciliation and change; of a more constructive relationship with the international
community, increasing humanitarian space and resolution of decades of conflict. For the troubled border areas where
there are hundreds of thousands of displaced people, the hope must be that it might lead to peace building and the
refugees eventually returning home.
However, all the early indications are that the General Election has done nothing to weaken military control over the
country. The former junta and its proxy party, the Union Solidarity and Development Party, have a stranglehold on
parliament with a Constitution that empowers the military to resume control whenever it considers national security is
under threat. There seems little likelihood that there will be major changes in the way the ethnic conflict is viewed, more
likely that a military, rather than political, solution will continue to be preferred. Ceasefire groups and non-ceasefire
groups will probably be forced to accept Burmese Army control or suffer the consequences. Ethnic aspirations have not
been addressed in the new constitution and the most likely scenario is ongoing conflict.
Abstract: Burma remains a land in ethnic crisis and
political transition. In 2010 the military
State Peace and Development Council
(SPDC) laid out the landscape for a new era
of parliamentary government. In 2011 the
authorities face the challenge of introducing
the new political system. Ethnic
divisions and political exclusions, however,
are emerging in national politics, threatening
a new cycle of impasse and conflict.
Abstract: While the existing data available on landmine victims indicate that Burma/Myanmar1 faces one of the most severe landmine problems in the world today, little is known about the actual extent of the problem, the impact on affected populations, communities' mine action needs and how different actors can become more involved in mine action.
The Government of Burma/Myanmar has prohibited almost all forms of mine action with the exception of a limited amount of prosthetic assistance to people with amputated limbs through general health programmes. Some Mine Risk Education (MRE) is also conducted in areas which are partly or fully under the control of armed non-State actors (NSAs) as is victim assistance and some survey work, however, without Government authorisation.
Since starting operations in 2006, Geneva Call and DCA Mine Action, like other local and international actors wishing to undertake mine action, have been struggling to identify how best to do this in the limited humanitarian space available in Burma/Myanmar.
Lack of Government permission to start mine action activities and difficult access to mine-affected areas are two of the main obstacles identified by these actors. In response to this apparent conflict between interest and opportunity, Geneva Call and DCA Mine Action decided to produce a report on the landmine problem in Burma/Myanmar, which would pay particular attention to what can be done to address the identified needs. The report is based on research carried out between June and September 2010.
Abstract: Amidst ongoing conflict between the Tatmadaw and armed groups in eastern Dooplaya and Pa’an
districts, civilians, aid workers and soldiers from state and non-state armies continue to report a variety of
human rights abuses and security concerns for civilians in areas adjacent to Thailand’s Tak Province,
including: functionally indiscriminate mortar and small arms fire; landmines; arbitrary arrest and detention;
sexual violence; and forced portering. Conflict and these conflict-related abuses have displaced
thousands of civilians, more than 8,000 of whom are currently taking refuge in discreet hiding places in
Thailand. This has interrupted education for thousands of children across eastern Dooplaya and Pa’an
districts. The agricultural cycle for farmers has also been severely disrupted; many villagers have been
prevented from completing their harvests of beans, corn and paddy crops, portending long-term threats to
food security. Due to concerns about food security and disruption to children’s education, as well as
villagers’ continuing need to protect themselves and their families from conflict and conflict-related abuse,
temporary but consistent access to refuge in Thailand remains vital until villagers feel safe to return
home. Even after return, food support will likely be necessary until disrupted agricultural activities can be
resumed and civilians can again support themselves.
Abstract: As of January 2011, the situation along the Thai-Burma border remains highly unstable and
civilians face increased risks associated with the ongoing conflict and human rights abuses. Over
9,900 civilians displaced along the border are being assisted by humanitarian organisations and
local communities. These people are in hiding sites rather than in officially recognised temporary
shelters or holding centres. Large numbers of displaced civilians have now been sent back into
Burma, often several times, by Thai authorities. In addition, groups providing essential
humanitarian assistance have encountered increasing difficulties in accessing displaced civilians.
Since 31st of December, there has been fighting almost every day along the Thai-Burma border
between the Burma Army and Democratic Karen Buddhist Army (DKBA) or Karen National
Liberation Army (KNLA).