Humanitarian Exchange Magazine 41 – The Cyclone Nargis response in Myanmar

This edition of Humanitarian Exchange focuses on the humanitarian situation in Myanmar, with special reference to Cyclone Nargis, which struck the country on 2 and 3 May. In all, over 140,000 people were killed and 20,000 injured. The homes, communities and livelihoods of around 2.4 million people were affected, with the damage caused to infrastructure, commerce and agriculture estimated at $4 billion.

Articles in this issue explore the roles played by major international institutions in organising the response, in particular the UN and the Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN); issues of access for expatriate aid workers and assistance; needs assessment; and the importance of prior presence in enabling an emergency response. Other articles focus on the role of national civil society in the initial response, and initiatives to support national civil society through grants, training and capacity-building support. Taken as a whole, the articles suggest that the initial restrictions on access perhaps forced international actors into a more creative and flexible response, one which valued local and regional capacities more than is often the case.

Away from the Nargis response, a set of more general articles examine conflict-related displacement in eastern Myanmar, landmines and chronic health issues – a salutary reminder that there is a wider humanitarian crisis in Myanmar that deserves greater attention.

Other articles in this edition revisit Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF)’s approaches to accountability, the need for health agencies to take chronic diseases into account in their response and the immensely challenging security environment for humanitarian agencies in Chad. One article examines the exclusion and neglect facing Aravanis (people who may be born inter-sex or apparently males, dress in feminine clothes and generally see themselves as neither women nor men) in the response to the tsunami in Tamil Nadu, India. We also have a topical examination into how humanitarian assistance is being targeted in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Finally, Maurice Herson challenges the idea of dependency in relief.

As always, we welcome any comments or feedback, which can be sent to hpn@odi. or to The Coordinator, Humanitarian Practice Network, 111 Westminster Bridge Road, London SE1 7JD, UK. read all

Prisoners in Lentlang concentration camp are being forced to work in re-building a motor road in Tidim Township, Chin state, Myanmar.

The prisoners are working everyday repairing the Indo-Myanmar trade road, Tiau-Tidim-Kalemyo from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., a local told Khonumthung News.
The military government has sanctioned enough funds for repairing roads, but the local authorities are using prisoners, instead of spending money to hire daily workers.
“We heard that the government used to sanction Kyat 20 lakh every year to repair the border trade road. But now the authorities are not using the sanctioned money. They are forcing the prisoners to work without money” he added.
Besides, prisoners are working with leg-cuffs and they are watched by at least five military personnel.
“They are in a pitiful state working with no rest under the blazing sun or heavy rain. When we pass them on the way they ask us for cigarette and betel nuts. Travelers drop some money, cigarettes and betel nuts from vehicles,” said a Burmese trader.
The Indo-Myanmar trade road, Tiau-Tidim-Kalemyo is mainly used for all kinds of transportation. But it is in a bad state in the rainy season and it causes delays in journey and accidents as the authorities did not build the road well.
At the same time, prisoners in Mantaw concentration camp, Kalemyo, Sagaing Division also being forced to clean bushes in Jethropha plantations area on a daily basis


Naypyidaw to Launch New Daily Burma’s Ministry of Information plans to launch a new daily newspaper in January, according to sources in Naypyidaw.

As with other state-run newspapers published by the Ministry of Information, the new Burmese-language daily, which will reportedly be named “Nay Pyi Taw,” will cover the official routines of the country’s ruling generals and feature propaganda articles about the military regime.

“The coverage in this newspaper will not be much different from other state-owned publications,” a source close to the ministry told The Irrawaddy. “But it will focus more on news related to the 2010 election.”

Russia Urges Burma to Cooperate with UN

Russia’s ambassador to Burma has told Burmese Foreign Minister Nyan Win that Moscow will be in a better position to support the Naypyidaw regime if it cooperates with UN special envoy Ibraham Gambari, according to a leaked written account of their meeting.

The secret document, leaked to The Irrawaddy by a Burmese Foreign Ministry source, said the Russian ambassador, Mikhail Mgeladze, reassured Nyan Win of Moscow’s continuing support, while urging cooperation with the UN. The two met on December 6 at Nyan Win’s office in Rangoon.

Bangkok International Migrant Day

main13 Mekong Migration Network (MMN) hosted the 2008 International Migrant Day in Bangkok on December 21. It was attended by a human rights high commissioner from the International Labor Organization, the advising officer for workers of ASEAN, the Thai Lawyer Council, International NGOs working in Thailand, many of local worker associations, and Burmese Migrant Workers.
Ms. Khun Su Ni, the high commissioner of the Thai Human Rights Council, said, “Anything is possible with everyone and every organization working closely together to improve the rights of migrant workers”. During the celebration, she greeted and encouraged Burmese migrant workers. read all

China”s CNPC lines up five new oil, gas projects

TOKYO, Dec 23 (KUNA) — China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC), the country’s largest oil and gas producer, has approved five new projects, which include oil and gas pipelines, an oil refinery and chemical production, state-run China Daily reported Tuesday. It did not disclose any further details on the five projects, but they could include an oil refinery in Chengdu, southwest China’s Sichuan Province and an oil and gas pipeline linking Yunnan province and Myanmar, the daily said. The Chengdu plant will have an oil refining capacity of 10 million tons per year and ethylene production capacity of 800,000 tons per year.
Construction of the China-Myanmar pipeline is expected to start in the first half of 2009, the newspaper said. The long-awaited pipeline will provide an alternative route for China’s crude imports from the Middle East and Africa and ease the country’s worries of its over-dependence on energy transportation through the Strait of Malacca. The Middle East, Africa and Asia-Pacific are the three main regions from which China imports oil. China is the world’s second-biggest oil importer after the US.
The project included a USD 1.5 billion oil pipeline and USD 1.04 billion gas line, said the report. Driven by rapid economic development, China’s oil imports have grown in recent years. In 2007, China imported nearly 200 million tons of oil, up more than 10 percent from 2006.
According to the daily, analysts said China should further diversify its sources of oil imports to find more sustainable supplies. China plans to extend its oil and gas pipelines by nearly 60 percent by 2010. CNPC General Manager Jiang Jiemin earlier said the company’s investment in 2009 will focus on finding more oil and gas resources. (end) mk.ajs KUNA 231810 Dec 08NNNN

Than Shwe and team to tour cyclone-hit Irrawaddy delta

by Mizzima News
Tuesday, 23 December 2008 19:18

New Delhi (Mizzima) – Several ministers and businessmen have reportedly rushed to the cyclone-hit Irrawaddy delta in preparation of welcoming Burma’s military Chief Snr. Gen Than Shwe and his team, who will be touring Rangoon and the Irrawaddy divisions in end December, during a holiday trip.

A source in Naypyitaw, Burma’s new jungle capital, said Than Shwe along with a team comprising Thura Shwe Mann, Prime Minister Thein Sein and secretary (1) Thiha Thura Tin Aung Myint Oo arrived in Rangoon on Monday and will visit cyclone-hit townships in Rangoon on Wednesday.

Than Shwe along with his team on Wednesday are to tour Daedeye, Kun Chan Kone, and Kyaitlatt townships in Rangoon division to inspect recovery and relief work in cyclone ravaged areas.

Than Shwe is scheduled to head for Ngwe Saung beach in Irrawaddy division on holiday with his family, the source said.

Ethnic militia accuses junta of forcing opium cultivation

y Mizzima News
Tuesday, 23 December 2008 20:40

New Delhi (Mizzima) – An ethnic armed militia group operating in Southern and Eastern Shan State has alleged that poppy-opium cultivation in the area has increased off late as the Burmese Army is compelling local villagers to cultivate it in order to garner tax from them.

Ailong Khammwe, chairman of the Lahu Democratic Front (LDF), an ethnic militia group operating in the region said, while the Burmese Army is directly involved in growing poppy-opium they are also forcing local people to cultivate it.

Khammwe, who is in Thailand told Mizzima in an interview that poppy cultivation, has been on the rise in Mongsart and Mongtong in eastern Shan State as a result of the Burmese Army’s involvement and encouragement of local villagers to grow poppy-opium.

Forced labour in army rubber plantation

Many villagers in Ponna Kyunt Township, 16 miles north of Arakan state capital Sittwe, have been forced by Burmese Army authorities to work in rubber plantations without any wages, said a villager who worked in the plantation.

“The army summoned us through the village chairmen as of the second week of December to work in army rubber plantation. We have to work there every morning from 6 a.m. to 10 a.m.,” he said.

The rubber plantation is located at the foot of Bae Nga Rar Mountain range between Ponna Kyunt and Kyauk Taw Township. The rubber plantation is owned by the Light infantry 550 based in Ponnan Kyunt and the military training school No 9 and it stretches to over 200 acres.

“We have to pay 2000 Kyats to the army authorities per day if we are absent and cannot make it to the rubber plantation. As farmers this is a busy period for all of us for harvesting paddy. But we have to go there everyday because we cannot give money to the army as fine for being absent,” he added.
The villagers are forced by army authorities to clean bushes and grass in the rubber plantation. Then the bushes are swept under trees for burning. We have to burn the bushes sometimes in the rubber plantation in order to drive out insects by smoke.

Many of the villagers are from Aung Pru Byint, Yaw Ngu. Pan Ni Lar, Kran Khin, Yaw tayoke, Kyauk Sitm That Rat Cho and Kan Zouk villages, which are located in the northern part of Ponna Kyunt Township.

“The Burmese military government has declared again and again that there is not forced labour in Burma but the army authorities still use forced labour in Arakan state, especially in rural area of Arakan. Many people have been forced by the army into construction of roads, army camps, army paddy farms, army rubber plantations among others,” the villager added.

Travelers hit the Three Pagodas Pass Motor Road

All motor roads from the Thai-Burma border to Ye, Thanbyuzayat in Mon States and from Kya-In Seikkyi in Karen State are opened, according to local sources. Even though the distance from the border is the same, many travelers prefer the roads to Thanbyuzayat. Most of the roads run through difficult terrain involving crossing over streams and through narrow valleys, but the motor road to Ye township climbs up more mountains than the others.

According to truck owner Nai Yar, all vehicles pay various fees on the route where there are no less than 35 gates (Check Points) to Thanbyuzayat from the Three Pagodas Pass to pass through.