International


Several foreign embassies in Myanmar have voiced support for the upcoming general elections set for November and have been providing technical, training and donor support to the Union Election Commission, according to a joint press release on March 3.
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(Unofficial Translation)

Myanmar’s civil war started in 1960 when Ne Wen grabbed power, established a military government, denied ethnic groups the right of self-determination and began the Burmanization of the ethnic minorities. Since then, Myanmar has endured a civil war lasting more than 5 decades without any sign of ending. The Burman ethnic group makes up about 2/3 of the 60 million population in Myanmar, with a few large ethnic minority groups including the Shan, the Karen, the Kachin, the Mon and the Wa. There are 25 public ethnic armed groups and more than 10 low-profile ethnic armed groups in the country. In Shan State, there are more than 10 such groups constantly engaged in operations. Some of these groups were descendants of KMT soldiers or of BCP. However, the ones fighting most fiercely with the government military are not those with deep ties in China, but rather the KIA, who have historic U.S. connections and support.  The U.S. has played an non-negligible role in the war between the Tatmadaw and the KIA.
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A delegation of refugees from Thailand-Burma border is visiting the UK this week, for a lobbying trip focusing on the situation of refugees and Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) along the Thai-Burma border, and the need for more humanitarian assistance.
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The United Nations human rights chief warned Wednesday that widespread abuses of minority rights in Myanmar threatened to undermine reforms in the country.
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A renowned United States university has pulled out of a project at Yangon’s arts and sciences campus after failing to secure a memorandum of understanding guaranteeing academic freedom.
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For many years, Canada’s since-rebranded Ivanhoe Mines was one of the very few Western mining companies involved in Burma through its stake in one of the country’s largest mines, located near Monywa. Recently disclosed documents reveal that during the period between April 2003 and January 2004, Ivanhoe’s local Burmese joint venture may have violated a number of Western sanctions by selling copper to internationally blacklisted military-affiliated entities.
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The leaders of Japan and five Southeast Asian countries along the Mekong River plan to craft a new strategy in July for Tokyo to contribute to sustainable development of the Mekong region beyond 2015, according to the Bangkok Post on February 19.
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Amid human rights concerns linked to the investment surge in Myanmar, too few companies publicly discuss their human rights policies and due diligence efforts, according to the findings of the Business & Human Rights Resource Centre on February 17.
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Amnesty International has slammed the attack on a Red Cross convoy near Kunlong in Shan State as “unacceptable” and noted that, as an intentional attack on humanitarian personnel, the incident may constitute a war crime.
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One week before the Chinese New Year, the former leader of the ethnic Kokang National Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA), Peng Jiasheng, launched ferocious attacks on the government military in Kokang. Peng was driven out of power during the Kokang Incident in 2009 and has since disappeared from public view. While it remains unclear at this moment whether Peng will regain control of Kokang, the renewed conflict and his reemergence have added major uncertainty to Myanmar’s peace process and could potentially affect the upcoming elections.
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ICRC/ IFRC/ MRCS – Yangon/ Kuala Lumpur/ Geneva – The International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement is deeply saddened to learn that two volunteers from the Myanmar Red Cross Society were wounded on Tuesday when a convoy transporting displaced families came under fire. The eight vehicle convoy, which was marked with the Red Cross emblem, was evacuating civilians displaced by fighting in the Kokang region of northern Shan state.
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SABMiller is exploring the possibility of snapping up a stake in Burma’s biggest brewer, a deal that would make it the partner of a conglomerate with ties to the former ruling military, sources familiar with the matter say.
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A top US State Department official has criticized the government’s decision to invalidate temporary identity cards and revoke the voting rights of hundreds of thousands of stateless Rohingya Muslims in western Burma’s Arakan State during an upcoming constitutional referendum.
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Forced evictions and violence at copper mines in northern Myanmar continue after decades of profit-making, report says.

Canadian and Chinese mining companies profited from human rights abuses at copper mines in Myanmar, according to a human rights group’s report released on Tuesday.
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A Myanmar-based United Nations official has criticised a recent Ministry of Foreign Affairs statement that said the UN special rapporteur on human rights had created “discord” during her latest visit.
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Local aid groups in Kachin State have been forced to increase their support to IDP camps in response to the government’s refusal to allow any United Nations aid convoys into Kachin Independence Army-controlled territory since September.
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Shell and its Japanese partner Mitsui Oil Exploration Company or MOECO have just signed exploration and production sharing contracts with Myanma Oil and Gas Enterprise of Myanmar for three deep-water blocks. (more…)

The European Union sees the need to continue providing humanitarian help to conflict-affected areas of Myanmar, namely the Rakhine, Kachin and northern Shan states, according to a press release issued by the European Commission’s Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection department or ECHO on February 6.
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Civic society organisations (CSOs) are going to compile a report on Myanmar’s human rights situation and send it to the United Nations for the first time.

The report will emphasise freedom of expression, the role of groups protecting human rights, farmland and development, the role of the human rights commission, legal reforms, the rule of law, freedom of religious rights and armed conflicts.
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The United States ended a decades-long era of isolation toward Burma when it restored full diplomatic relations about three years ago. Since that time, an ambassador was appointed for the first time since 1990, long-standing economic sanctions were eased and legislation has been amended to allow for more humanitarian aid and limited military engagement.
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