News Update

 
 

POLITICAL NEWS UPDATE

 

June 2016 

Many things have happened since the parliamentary and presidential elections. A great many challenges lie ahead as the country moves on with the new government, and it is encouraging to see that people are able to talk openly about the many issues without fear. The country still has a long way to go, but it seems to be on the right track.  People who have suffered land confiscations have demonstrated demanding fair compensation, while talks continue regarding the safe return of refugees living along the Thailand border. However some armed ethnic groups have been excluded from the talks, because they are not recognised by the government. Armed conflict continues between the Burma army and ethnic rebel forces in some areas.  As the country attempts to embrace democracy, issues facing the new government include freedom of the press, religious tolerance, the release of all political prisoners, and the rule of law. It is hoped that with help from the UN and EU, these practices will spread throughout the country. Another encouraging sign is that people are emerging as civic leaders from within their own communities.  Burma's economic growth is expected by the World Bank to be 6.5%, down from 6.8% the previous year, with agriculture recovering and investment increasing.

 

 

 

 

December 2015

The news about the Burma election filled us with excitement as people voted overwhelmingly for changes and democracy in the country. They were there before in 1991 but the promises made then did not materialise. We hope and pray this time that the result will be honoured, a government can be formed and long awaited changes will become a reality. Pray that there may be leaders among different political parties who are worthy to lead people. There are still places where the government does not honour the ceasefire agreements amidst the election. Despite people in these areas not being able to vote, the result has been favourable nevertheless. Please keep in mind those people who were not able to vote and pray that the new government will be for all the people in the country.

 
 

Statement By Members Of The European Burma Network For Immediate Release 20th May 2014 Adequate Security And Assistance Needed Before Refugees Return Members of the European Burma Network are deeply concerned that refugees from Burma living in camps in Thailand are being pressured to return to Burma prematurely because of cuts in aid. The international community, and in particular the European Union, is pursuing policies which could in effect force refugees from Burma back into the country before it is safe for them to return, and without the support they will need. Reforms in Burma, including the peace process, have not progressed to a degree where it is safe for refugees to return. Even where ceasefires have been signed, full codes of conduct for the ceasefires have not been agreed. The Burmese Army is increasing, rather than decreasing, its presence in ethnic states. Human rights violations by the Burmese Army and associated forces, although reduced in some areas, are still taking place. Political dialogue which could lead to a lasting peace has still not begun, and there is little prospect of genuine dialogue starting in the foreseeable future. Despite these serious problems, many donors have used the reforms in Burma as justification for reducing funding for refugees, despite the fact that the number of refugees has not significantly fallen. This is resulting in cuts in rations, shelter, clothing and other essential services. In some instances funding has been diverted towards livelihood programmes designed to help refugees when they return to Burma. However, these programmes are so underfunded they do not come close to providing adequate programmes. It is also wrong for funding to be diverted from providing essentials such as food and shelter. Funding for these programmes should be additional to, rather than instead of, providing essentials for survival. Facing reduced rations and other support, many refugees feel that the international community is trying to force them back to Burma against their will, Refugees have even questioned if the cuts are designed to 'starve us back to Burma'. By using cuts in aid to try to force refugees back to Burma, donors such as the European Union are putting refugees at risk of being subject to human rights abuses, landmines, and living in extreme poverty. Members of the European Burma Network call on the European Union and other donors to reverse cuts in funding for food, shelter and other essential aid for refugees and internally displaced persons in Burma. We call upon all donors to recognise that reforms in Burma have not yet created a situation where it would be safe for refugees to return to Burma. Refugees consulted by members of the European Burma Network have expressed a desire for action in the following areas to enable them to be able to consider returning to Burma. Refugees are calling for troop withdrawal. Since ceasefires have been signed there has been increased militarisation, with significant increases in Burmese Army soldiers in ethnic states. Refugees do not feel that it is safe to return to their homes and villages while they are occupied by the Burmese Army responsible for committing war crimes and crimes against humanity against them. This is not an issue being prioritised by the international community despite their proclaimed support for the peace process. Refugees express concern about landmines in their old villages and farms. Although some limited landmine clearance has taken place, it is very small scale compared to the need. Refugees also want their land back. Many report that their land and even homes have been confiscated by the Army or Government. No efforts are being made to address this issue, and in fact, since reforms began, this problem has got worse. Refugees need much more than livelihood programmes to assist their return. Most refugees have lost everything they owned. Their homes have been destroyed, their property and livestock looted or destroyed. They need assistance to rebuild homes, replace tools, seeds and livestock. They want compensation from the Burmese government for property lost or stolen. No efforts are being made to address this issue. Many refugees want to return to their home villages, not be forced into special economic zones as the Burmese government proposes. They don't want to be cheap labour in factories. No significant pressure is being applied on the government of Burma to ensure it allows refugees to choose where they want to live. Refugees also stressed the need for justice and accountability. They want those who committed the abuses, who were responsible for what happened, to be held accountable. They say they don't want revenge, only justice. No action is being taken in this regard within Burma. The government of Burma does not even accept widespread human rights abuses have taken place. The international community, including the European Union, is not taking any action relating to past or present violations of international law. The European Union and its members largely approach the peace process by supporting Burmese government mechanisms and from the perspective of the Burmese government. Little support or attention is given to armed ethnic political groups, and almost no attention is paid to community based organisations and victims of human rights abuses by the Burmese Army and government. Peace and safe refugee return will not happen without the involvement of the communities affected. Their voices must be heard, and their concerns acted upon. Members of the European Burma Network call upon the European Union and its members to start to listen to and address the concerns of conflict affected communities in and from Burma, as outlined in this statement. Signed by Actions Birmanie - Belgium Austrian Burma Center Association Suisse Birmanie Building Social Democracy in Burma - A project under ASD Sweden Burma Action Ireland Burma Campaign UK Burmese Rohingya Organisation UK Christian Solidarity Worldwide European Karen Network Info Birmanie Norwegian Burma Committee Polish Burma Solidarity Society for Threatened Peoples - Germany Swedish Burma Committee Swedish Social Democratic Students´ Burma Project

 

 

June 2013

Since a nominally civilian government came to power in 2010, ceasefire deals have been reached with 10 major ethnic armed groups, but fighting continues in Shan State and Kachin State. The negotiations between Karens and the government are on going and recently peace negotiations with the Kachins have started.

It is of great concern that sectarian violence between Muslims and Buddhists continues and has spread to a new region of Burma, with a mob burning shops in the Shan State town of Lashio.

The withdrawal of almost all sanctions against Burma from the EU and the US has caused serious concern, as observers see these as giving wrong signals to the government, who have done so little to improve the situation both politically and economically.

 

December 2012

When Aung San Suu Kyi’s was released from house arrest in November 2011, great hopes were raised for political changes and improvements in the country. There was progress in some areas but still a great many areas need improving. People are more open and willing to talk about situations so there is some freedom of expression, but to what extent is still uncertain. Both Aung San Suu Kyi and President Thein Sein’s overseas trips were welcome and encouraging events but to what extent they contribute to the daily lives of people inside Burma and in the border areas is a big concern for those of us watching the situation. Karens are still in the process of peace negotiations. Unfortunately there is more unrest in Kachin State and in the past few months the sectarian clashes between Muslims Rohingyas and ethnic Buddhist Rakhines has drawn attention from the international media. How this is going to be dealt with is of great concern to all, as it needs great wisdom and sensitivity. Surprisingly, the President has denied the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) from opening an aid office to assist displaced Rohingya because of pressure from inside Burma. This is interesting as internal pressure in 1988 and the Saffron Uprising did not receive any such response from the government.

As some aid to refugees in the camps is prematurely withdrawn, organisations like Karenaid have to stretch their resources to meet the massive continuing needs of the people.