UNAIDS:Cross-political support for accelerated HIV response in Myanmar-Burma

21 May 2012

UNSG Special Envoy on AIDS in Asia, Dr Nafis Sadik with Vice President H.E. Dr Sai Mauk Kham.
Credit: UNAIDS

A high-level United Nations delegation led by Secretary-General’s Special Envoy on AIDS in Asia, Dr Nafis Sadik visited Myanmar to take stock of the progress made and challenges remaining in the AIDS response.

During the visit, representatives from across the political spectrum in Myanmar underlined their commitment to speed up and enhance the country’s response to HIV to ensure that HIV services reach the communities most affected by the epidemic.

Vice President H.E. Dr Sai Mauk Kham, in conversations with Dr Sadik and her delegation, emphasized the need for an inclusive response to AIDS. “To deal with this epidemic, one of the top health challenges in Myanmar, the government, UN, non-governmental organizations and civil society need to work together,” said Vice President Kham.

Representatives from the networks of people living with HIV stressed their willingness to work in close collaboration with government and other partners to ensure effective results. They also highlighted the need to involve people living with HIV during the planning, design and implementation of AIDS programmes. “People living with and affected by HIV know better than anyone else what works and how to get the best impact,” said Myo Thant Aung, Chair of the national network for people living with HIV, Myanmar Positive Group.

To deal with this epidemic, one of the top health challenges in Myanmar, the government, UN, non-governmental organizations and civil society need to work together

Vice President H.E. Dr Sai Mauk Kham

The reduced funding available for HIV treatment and prevention was of major concern for Nobel laureate and General Secretary of the National League for Democracy, Aung San Suu Kyi. During a meeting with Dr Sadik, Ms Suu Kyi stressed the importance of a sustained, well-managed response to AIDS in the country. “All the work needs to be closely monitored to assure accountability” said Ms Suu Kyi. She also highlighted the “importance of openness and compassion in government and the community” in the provision of HIV prevention and care programmes.

Dr Sadik called for a rapid increase in resources to ensure the sustainability of AIDS programmes in Myanmar. “Investment on AIDS in Myanmar from international and domestic sources needs to increase dramatically to assist people living with HIV and to prevent more people from becoming infected,” said Dr Sadik.

“In addition, laws, policies and practices that block access to HIV services for people living with and most affected by HIV need to be revised and removed. Only this will enable the provision of effective and sustainable HIV prevention and treatment services,” she added. The official visit to Myanmar was Dr Sadik’s last country missions as Special Envoy before the end of her tenure in July 2012.

In 2011, there were an estimated 216 000 people living with HIV in Myanmar and more than 40 000 adults and children received antiretroviral treatment of an estimated 120 000 people in need. According to the 2011 HIV Sentinel Surveillance data, HIV prevalence was 9.4%, among female sex workers, 21.9%, among people who inject drugs, 7.8% among men who have sex with men and 0.9% among pregnant women attending antenatal care services.

UNSG Special Envoy on AIDS in Asia, Dr Nafis Sadik with Nobel laureate and leader of the National League for Democracy, Aung San Suu Kyi.
Credit: T.M. Aung

The United Nations delegation noted the significant progress made in the national AIDS response where despite limited resources, HIV prevalence among key populations at higher risk has begun to decline and the number of people receiving antiretroviral treatment has grown substantially. However, the delegation also highlighted that two thirds of people living with HIV do not yet have access to life saving treatment and that available financial resources for AIDS in the country are expected this year to fall below levels of 2011.

“Additional resources are needed to build upon the progress made to date,” said the member of the delegation and UNAIDS Director of the Asia Pacific Regional Support Team Steven Kraus. “The necessary scale-up of HIV services will not be possible without this accelerated response.”

During the seven-day country visit, Dr Sadik and the delegation also met with the Union Minister of Health, Union Minister for Labour and for Social Welfare, Attorney-General and chairpersons of parliamentary committees.

Aung San Suu Kyi to address the ILO’s International Labour Conference

The International Labour Organization (ILO) has announced that Ms Aung San Suu Kyi – Chairperson of the National League for Democracy (NLD) in Myanmar – will attend the 101st International Labour Conference.

News item | 22 May 2012
GENEVA (ILO News) – The International Labour Organization (ILO) has announced that Ms Aung San Suu Kyi – Chairperson of the National League for Democracy (NLD) in Myanmar – will attend the 101st International Labour Conference.

Ms Suu Kyi has accepted the invitation of ILO Director-General Juan Somavia to address the plenary of the conference on the morning of 14 June.

The 101st session of the International Labour Conference will be held in Geneva from 30 May to 15 June. It will bring together more than 4,000 government, union and employer delegates from the ILO’s 183 Member States.

For more information on the International Labour Conference, please visit: www.ilo.org/ilc

For media interested in covering the conference, please check the media accreditation information note.

Demonstration Planned to Protest ZNC Registration Refusal

23 May 2012: Zomi communities in Australia, Malaysia and Thailand are to protest in front of the Burmese embassy next Monday against recent rejection by Burma’s government to ZNC’s (Zomi National Congress) application to register as a political party.

The Monday rally will demand an official recognition of ‘Zomi’ as an ethnic tribal group, equal rights and freedom entitled to ethnic nationalities in the country from the new government of Burma, according to ABC Radio Australia yesterday.

The Zomi Association Australia Inc. (ZAA) said Zomis residing in Melbourne, Brisbane, Adelaide, Coffs Harbour and Wollongong cities would meet in Canberra and stage a protest in front of the Burmese Embassy and the house of Australia’s Parliament.

Burma’s Union Election Commission turned down party registration application of ZNC on the basis that the term ‘Zomi’ is not included in the 130-plus ‘national races’ officially recognized by the Burmese government.

ZNC, a political party that won two seats from Chin State during the 1990 Elections, has been asked to change the name of the party and to submit a new application before the end of this month.

ZNC Chairman Pu Chin Sian Thang, 74, said the party is calling an emergency meeting soon to discuss issues relating to the ‘unexpected’ requirements set by the Election Commission to get registered as a legal political party.


UNHCR – Refugee status depends on Thailand’s permission

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees office in Mae Sot told refugees at Umpiem Mai camp their registration depends on permission from the Thai government even if the UN agency is willing to grant UN refugee status to people.

Umpiem_Mai-refugee-campStaff from the UNHCR Mae Sot office were in Umpiem Mai refugee camp on May 16 to explain the refugee registration process to the camp residents.

A member of the refugee camp committee who attended the meeting with UNHCR told Karen News.

“The UN said the refugee registration process depends on the Thai government. The UNHCR said they couldn’t register refugees without Thailand’s permission. The meeting also discussed family immigration and resettlement issues concerning help for refugees in the camp whose family members have already resettled in a third country.”

Three refugees from each of the 16 resident sections in Umpiem Mai camp attended the UNHCR meeting.

Ko Kyi Win, a refugee who lives in section 13 told Karen News.

“Most of the refugees in our section are new arrivals [since 2005]. We only get the refugee rations, we cannot freely move around the area. No one officially recognize us as refugees. We have requested UNHCR to recognize us as refugee.”

People attending the meeting said the UNHCR representative gave assurances that there was no plans or procedures yet in place for repatriation of refugees. The UN agency staff told the meeting that there would not be any enforced sending refugees back to Burma. Refugees were told that they if they are not willing to return UNHCR would continue supporting the refugees.

This is second meeting between the UNHCR and Umpiem Mai camp refugees on the issue of refugee registration.
The Thailand Burma Border Consortium estimate that 15, 207 refugees live in Umpiem Mai camp that is located 87kms from the Thai border town of Mae Sot – 90% of the refugee population are Karen


Thailand: New wave of Burmese migrant deportations underway

Burmese illegal migrants are being rounded up in central Thailand and transferred to Mae Sot to be deported, according to reports.

Thai_myanmar_friendship_bridgeThai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra announced a crackdown on illegal migrant labourers in March.

Ten trucks were reported to have arrived in Mae Sot loaded with undocumented Burmese migrants on Tuesday.

Also, about 20 police trucks left Khon Kaen late on Tuesday filled with migrants who numbered around 1,000. Many were believed to be working at the Dechapanit fishnet factory, which was raided on May 10, according to reports. The trucks arrived in Mae Sot on Wednesday, and the migrants were immediately processed into camps controlled by the Democratic Karen Buddhist Army (DKBA), sources said. Nongovernmental organizations gave the migrants food and supplies prior to their deportation in the short time available and witnessed the deportations.

Worker advocates said information from the DKBA camps suggested many of the deportees would be processed through brokers and return to their jobs in Khon Kaen, Kanchanaburi and other areas. They said it was unclear if Thai authorities interviewed the deportees to establish cases of human trafficking or child exploitation prior to their deportation.

Advocates said many of the Khon Kaen workers were owed back wages and are destitute, which is likely to place them in deeper debt to brokers.

Sources said many of those arrested at the fishnet factory could potentially be classified as trafficking victims and up to 30 to 40 child workers between ages 13 to16 were also arrested in the raid.

Labour groups are concerned that the Burmese deportees could follow the usual path of being deported by Thai immigration officials into the hands of the DKBA armed group at the border gate. Workers deported to DKBA areas are often subject to human trafficking, re-trafficking, exploitation, violence, deceit and debt bondage. Usually, they have to pay between US $30 to $70 to obtain their release from DKBA-controlled camps, said labour advocates.

Thailand and Burma continue to have no systematic and protective mechanisms in place at borders to process Burmese deportees from Thailand.

Sources said many recently deported illegal Burmese migrants will soon arrive back at their jobs with the help of exploiting brokers


Union Election Commission denied the Zomi National Congress entrance into the country’s political landscape

The Union Election Commission denied the Zomi National Congress entrance into the country’s political landscape after the party’s registration request was rejected over a naming row.

The party, which represents the Zomi ethnic group in Chin State, won two seats in the 1990 general elections, but the results were later annulled by ruling State Law and Order Restoration Council in 1992.

The Zomi primarily live in Tedim and Tonzang townships in Chin state. However, the government does not recognise the group as a separate ethnic nationality and classify their language as a local dialect within the country’s western state.

Union Election Commission’s deputy director Hla Maung Cho said the ZNC was unable to register because the term ‘Zomi’ is not recognised by the Burmese government.

“We notified them to change their title because [Zomi] was not included on the list of ethnic nationalities recognised by the [Immigration and National Registration Department],” said Hla Maung Cho. Continue reading “Union Election Commission denied the Zomi National Congress entrance into the country’s political landscape”