Now, around 2 million square feet have burned, according to The Post’s analysis of available imagery. That represents roughly 30 percent of Thantlang, or about 600 of the town’s 2,000 buildings. Almost all of the town’s shops and businesses were destroyed, according to the Chin Human Rights Organization.
(VOA) BANGKOK — Rights groups say Myanmar’s junta is tightening its chokehold on humanitarian aid flows to thousands of families driven from their homes by fighting since a Feb. 1 coup, deliberately starving civilians of lifesaving supplies to try to crush a growing armed resistance.
The United Nations says fighting between the military and a patchwork of old and new armed groups is pushing more families out of towns and villages every month, with more than 284,000 people displaced by the post-coup violence as of early December.
Most of them are in Myanmar’s rugged and remote northwest and southeast, where armed resistance from ethnic minority armies and so-called people’s defense forces has been fiercest.
Local and international charities and aid groups are trying to reach families with food and medicine to stave off a wave of disease and starvation. But rights groups say soldiers and police are making it increasingly difficult by blocking routes, seizing and destroying supplies and arresting aid workers.
“What we’re seeing right now is the military, in its efforts to cut off supplies going to the ethnic armed forces and the people’s defense forces that they are in conflict with right now, they are also cutting off vital supplies to the people. And these are the ordinary things, the basic necessities,” Emerlynne Gil, deputy regional research director for Amnesty International, told VOA.
Amnesty released a brief report on the aid restrictions Friday, drawing on interviews with displaced families and local aid workers and volunteers.
In its own update on the humanitarian situation in Myanmar last week, the U.N. said delayed and denied travel approvals from authorities and increased scrutiny of aid supplies and staff were “hindering operations and prolonging suffering.”
Other local and international rights groups corroborated the trend.
“A lot of these areas where the junta has increased its presence are facing an increased militarization, so more checkpoints, which means that aid workers and other local responders in those areas are facing more harassment. Aid workers are being arrested and detained, aid convoys are being turned back, supplies are being confiscated,” said Shayna Bauchner, Asia researcher for Human Rights Watch.
“For the most part, all of these were tools that were certainly used pre-coup,” she added. “But they’ve sort of been … turned up to a new level both since the coup and then also more in recent months.”
Rights groups say that in blocking the aid the Myanmar military is drawing on its notorious “four cuts” playbook for denying armed rebel groups access to food, funds, intelligence and new recruits by cutting off surrounding communities that might sympathize with and support them.
Bauchner said that makes civilians not only collateral damage but deliberate targets.
“Whether they [junta leaders] use the term four cuts or not, this is obviously an effort to essentially punish civilians. I think it’s a very clear measure of the junta’s hostility toward the people of Myanmar, this way that it’s weaponizing lifesaving aid,” she said.
Some of the heaviest fighting has been taking place in the western states of Chin and Sagaing, along Myanmar’s border with India. The U.N. says clashes there have displaced more than 80,000 people since the coup.
Salai Za Uk Ling, deputy director of the Chin Human Rights Organization, said security forces have all but cut off parts of Chin state over the past few months, making aid deliveries from inside Myanmar practically impossible.
He said authorities have allowed the U.N. to ship aid to a few main towns but have refused to let staff travel into the surrounding hills, where they need to go to reach the families that have fled their homes. Local charities pleading with authorities for access to the families have had no luck, he added, and those trying to reach them with aid by skirting checkpoints have been arrested when caught or have gone missing.
“This is intended to obviously starve the people and incapacitate the communities so that … they won’t be able to support the resistance,” Salai Za Uk Ling said. “They are trying to impose a blanket policy affecting all the inhabitants of the area.”
Desperate to help, his team has in the past few weeks started reaching displaced families sheltering near the Indian border with rice, lentils and cooking oil the only way they can — by smuggling them in from India.
But he said their efforts were “just a drop in the ocean” and that some of those displaced by the fighting have already died because they could not risk a trip to the nearest hospital or clinic and because security forces won’t let food and medicine get to them.
“In terms of medical care, there’s no hospitals or anything that they can access, so many elderly people have died,” he said, “People died unnecessarily and from various kinds of treatable disease.”
Gil, of Amnesty International, warned that the death toll will rise if the junta’s stranglehold on aid does not let up.
“More and more people will die, not just because of hunger, but also because of the inability to access vital services, reproductive health care, really just the basics, the things that people who are outside Myanmar would take for granted,” she said.
A spokesperson for the junta could not be reached for comment.
Aizawl: Mizoram Chief Minister Zoramthanga on Monday said that his government would continue to make efforts to provide humanitarian assistance to Myanmar nationals who fled their country following a military coup and took refuge in the north-eastern state.
During his interaction with leaders of Myanmar nationals, Mr Zoramthanga gave an assurance that his government will try its best to assist them.
The chief minister said that his government has taken up massive efforts and will continue to do so in the future to help those Myanmar nationals.
Mr Zoramthanga said that he had also urged the Centre several times to provide political asylum to the Myanmar nationals.
During his meeting with Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Union Home Minister Amit Shah in Delhi, Mr Zoramthanga had urged them to provide assistance to the people of the neighbouring country.
Mr Zoramthanga had earlier said that the Centre assured the Mizoram government that it will take measures to ensure that the state government can continue to provide assistance to the Myanmar nationals.
“Though the Centre is very willing on its side, it can’t directly help the Myanmar refugees because India is not a signatory to the UN Refugee Convention of 1951 and its 1967 Protocol,” Mr Zoramthanga had told reporters earlier.
Thousands of Myanmar nationals are currently taking shelter in different parts of Mizoram.
While many live in relief camps or temporary shelters set up by villagers, others are accommodated by their relatives and some live in rented houses.
Most of the Myanmar nationals are from Chin state, who share ethnic ties with the Mizos.
Apart from the government, the NGOs, villagers and individuals provide food and shelter to the Myanmar nationals.
Mizoram shares a 510-km-long international boundary with Myanmar.
The north-eastern state is already home to thousands of Chin communities of Myanmar, who migrated to the state since the late 1980s fleeing the military junta in the neighbouring country.
On March 8, 2010 Burma’s military regime State Peace and Development Council (SPDC) announced that elections would be held on November 7. But it was immediately obvious that the ruling military junta would not allow independent observers to monitor the country’s first polls in 20 years. In response, the Chin Human Rights Organization (CHRO) developed a project in order to provide an alternative electoral monitoring mechanism, as well as to document the election situation in Chin State, one of the most isolated and difficult-to-access regions of Burma.
4 August 2015
The Myanmar government has appealed for international aid amid floods which have killed at least 46 people and affected more than 210,000.
Four areas in the country have been declared disaster zones with widespread flooding and landslides caused by heavy monsoon rain.
Many areas are still completely cut off by high waters or damaged roads.
The government has admitted giving a weak response to the disaster, according to state media.
The Global New Light of Myanmar newspaper quoted Information Minister Ye Htut as saying that flood warnings had not reached everyone, and there had been confusion over evacuations.
Myanmar experiences flooding every monsoon season but has been particularly badly hit this year.
‘We are co-operating’
The call for international aid stands in contrast to the stance in 2008 when Cyclone Nargis killed more than 130,000 but the government refused outside help.
The information ministry of Myanmar (also known as Burma) posted its appeal to UN agencies and donor countries for humanitarian assistance on its Facebook page late Monday night.
The statement also appeared in local newspapers on Tuesday.
“We are co-operating and inviting international assistance. We have started contacting possible donor organisations and countries,” Ye Htut told Reuters news agency.
The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (Ocha) said agencies were scaling up their emergency response.
It said the World Food Programme had started providing food rations to 47,800 people, with the aim of reaching 150,000 people eventually.
The UN children’s agency Unicef has distributed water purification and hygiene kits, and agencies are preparing to request for UN funds for financial support.
State media said the government had so far provided 1.5bn Myanmar kyats (£780,000; $1.2m) in emergency aid.
Ocha said that transportation, electricity and communication were disrupted across the disaster zones.
Access to these areas “remains a major challenge” with debris floating in rivers – a hazard for boats – and landslides that have blocked roads, it said in a statement.
The food supply over the long term will be problematic as well, with widespread flooding of farmland and the loss of grains and livestock, it added.
By Jaiden Coonan
On Thursday, 6 August 2015
The United Nations World Food Program is preparing to bring in much needed aid to the isolated Chin State, yet transportation is making it difficult, as Kalay myo has become an island.
A Member of the WFP’s Emergency Response Team, Johnny told Mizzima that the impoverished state is set to receive 87,904 metric tons of food aid including 2,724 metric tons of High Energy Biscuits.
Chin State Chief Minister, Hong Ngai, was meant to arrive in Kalay myo on August 5 to hold a meeting with the WFP’s emergency response team and Sagaing Region Chief Minister, Tha Aye, but was unable to attend as he was held up in Hakha.
Kalay myo residents predict that roads into Chin State will not open for over a week. Some people are also discussing new roads being built as most routes have been destroyed by landslides.
An ERT member met with Tha Aye, in Kalay myo on August 5 to discuss plans to move the goods into the isolated town which has been surrounded by the worst floods in what locals claim to be over 100 years.
The goods are to be delivered from Monywa to the small township of Kalaywa then speedboats will deliver goods to Kalay myo.
The WFP’s emergency response to Kalay myo started on 2 August with the delivery of 4 metric tons of high-energy biscuits, teamed with an assessment of urgent food needs of at least another 11 tons of food product, ranging from rice to oils, which is on the way.
Aid concerns for Kalaywa’s refugee population isn’t truly known as the government is still updating it’s needs, the population is out of telephone reach.
“Kalaywa is GSM only so it is very hard to contact the people there so the only means of contact at the moment is military radio contact. Information is very difficult at the moment, people have run out of battery on their GSM phones,” said Johnny.
Tha Aye is set to ask the Sagaing Regional Commander of the Tatmadaw for airlifts to move the 15-tone aid package into the flood stricken area, but this is uncertain as military aircraft are in high demand.
“For the recovery effort we have to make an assessment of the people’s needs, there will be an intervention to assist this, once we know, then we can work on a program more responsive to recovery needs,” said Johnny.
Pierre Peron of OCHA in Yangon said that OCHA will coordinate the modelling assessments of recovery needs as per the government’s request. This being the second phase to help assess the damage to farms, tainted wells, and loss of livestock, in order to help the affected population rebuild their lives and livelihoods.
The recovery needs assessment in Kalay myo will begin next week if not sooner, no date has been set.
Kalay myo’s urban refugees total 12,419 as of 3 August but this number is beginning to drop as people return to homes and begin to remove the thick mud that has washed into their homes.
20,187 refugees call the surrounding villages of Kalay myo home; unfortunately, the wait will be longer for them with dire consequences on their lives. Farming of pulse, peanuts and sunflowers will be delayed this year as some who have ventured out on the plains have discovered that at least 3 feet of mud is below the water, making farming anytime soon impossible.
Kalay myo consists of 19 wards, nine of which are flooded, with 156 villages around Kalay myo’s east side leaving 32,606 people in need of assistance.
By SALAI THANT ZIN / THE IRRAWADDY| Thursday, August 6, 2015 |
PATHEIN, Irrawaddy Division — Food is in short supply in much of northwestern Burma’s Chin State, where two main cities have been cut off by landslides caused by heavy monsoon rain in recent weeks.
Some supplies have reached the capital, Hakha, and Falam in the northernmost reaches of the state, aid workers said, but the deliveries dropped in by military helicopters are not sufficient for the sheer number of people displaced or trapped by storms.
“Around six choppers have come here,” said Pa Kap, who leads the Rone Taug rescue team in Hakha. “the government is providing rice and other supplies for relief camps, but it isn’t enough. The entire town is trapped and short of food—we need much more.”
The township of roughly 469,000 had been cut off by a July 29 landslide on the Union Highway, which links the remote state with central Burma. The government and independent donors have been sending intermittent relief shipments, but the deliveries are few and far between.
Adding to a general food shortage caused by transport disruptions, some 6,600 people have been moved to emergency shelters because of flooding and related dangers, local aid workers said. Pa Kap estimated that each of the township’s 13 emergency relief camps needed 70 to 100 sacks of rice per day.
“It is impossible to feed the entire town with a single helicopter [full of food],” he said.
Those further north in Falam are experiencing similar shortages as the Kale-Falam road is currently impassable due to landslides and other storm debris. Resident Tin Nan told The Irrawaddy that only small cars are able to make the journey. As trucks are unable to make deliveries, he said, “shops have nothing to sell.”
The shortages are far reaching, as landslides have also blocked all roads linking the town to five nearby villages, leaving thousands of people struggling for basic goods. Communication is scarce in the mountainous zone, though reports have surfaced of entire villages being washed away by flash flooding. According to the local chapter of the Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP), as many as 50 homes were destroyed in Tonzang Township’s Narl Zan village, sending families fleeing for refuge. Similar stories have emerged from Tedim Township, where local media has reported that scores of homes were swept away in Kaking and Laibone villages.
Transport in and out of the state—Burma’s poorest—is now all but impossible by land, while roads linking districts within the state have also become mostly useless after severe damage to several key bridges.
Bam Min Htan, chairman of the Tonzang chapter of the USDP, told The Irrawaddy that car travel was no longer possible because of erosion on the bridge linking his township to Tedim. Relief is coming elsewhere, however, as the state government has already begun clearing off the Hakha-Falam-Kale road with bulldozers to reopen access to the state’s central trading hub.
Ko Paung, joint secretary of the USDP in Chin State, said repairing the road “might need a lot of efforts as the dangers are serious,” but the job should be done within a week. Until then, he said, “we have to eat sparingly.”
Last Friday, Chin State, Arakan State, Magwe Division and Sagaing Division were declared disaster zones by the government after Cyclone Komen made landfall in neighboring Bangladesh, dropping torrential rain on some of Burma’s poorest and already inundated regions.
Figures from the state-run Global New Light of Myanmar on Tuesday said the nationwide flooding had damaged more than 426,000 acres of farmland and destroyed some 56,000 more. A total of 1,387 schools have been temporarily shuttered.
Some 217,000 people were directly affected by the crisis, which is said to be the worst flooding the country has seen in decades. At least 46 flood-related deaths have been reported by the Ministry of Social Welfare, Relief and Resettlement as of late Tuesday, though the toll is expected to rise.
Area-specific death tolls are not yet available, but aid workers in Chin State said they were aware of one death in Hakha and another in Falam Township’s Tamon village. More than 600 homes have been damaged, mostly by landslides, which remain an enormous risk in the days and weeks to come.
Vice President Nyan Tun reportedly visited the capital on Aug. 2, promising that food and other supplies would be delivered in a timely manner. The following day, several Burmese businessmen and celebrities brought food aid to the town. Among the high-profile donors were Ayayarwady Bank chairman Zaw Zaw; Shwe Thanlwin Media chairman Kyaw Win; Ayeyar Hintha chairman Zaw Win Shein; Aung Myin Thu chairman Hla Myo; Lu Min of the Myanmar Motion Picture Association; actor Wai Lu Kyaw and singer Sai Si Twan Khen.
BY KO AYE CHAN MAUNG, GUEST CONTRIBUTOR – 7 AUGUST 2015
POSTED IN: MYANMAR
Floods raise questions about the nation’s ability to meet the threats of climate change and natural disaster.
Large areas of Myanmar have been devastated in recent weeks, with heavy monsoon rains triggering flash floods and landslides that have destroyed thousands of homes, roads, bridges and farmlands.
Twelve states and regions of the country’s 14 are severely affected, leaving at least 69 causalities and thousands of people stranded in the flooded areas.
Four states and regions have been declared disaster zones and the Myanmar government estimates that more than 200,000 people are in need of lifesaving assistance, making it the largest natural disaster since Cyclone Nargis in 2008, which killed more than 100,000 people and affected as many as 2.4 million.
The Myanmar government is responding to the event with some outside assistance, but it lacks the capacity to deal with a catastrophe of this scale, as many of the worst affected communities are still cut off by the flooding and landslides.
Once the immediate impacts are accounted for, the people of Myanmar will once again face the daunting task of rebuilding, with the livelihoods of thousands of families from some of the poorest regions in the country likely to be affected by the large-scale destruction.
Deforestation, unstainable land-use practices, damming projects and lack of policy initiatives for disaster risk management have compounded the effects of these latest torrential rains.
With an annual deforestation rate of 1.4 per cent, Myanmar has lost an average of 466,000 hectares of forest annually between 1990 and 2005, meaning 18 per cent of total forest cover has disappeared during that period.
Land-use changes have led to dramatic deforestation in much of Myanmar, causing large-scale soil erosion that has cut ground water carrying capacity and left millions further exposed to landslides and floods. Barren lands are prone to land slides, and flash floods are highly likely with no tree cover to hold water and prevent surface runoffs.
Damming rivers and streams and blocking natural water ways contributed to unlikely floods in some parts of the country. This has worsened because of a lack of well-planned risk management strategies.
These practices, added to the effects of climate change, will continue to leave millions of our countrymen and women vulnerable to the impacts of future natural disasters.
Since Nargis, cyclones are more frequent in Myanmar, with the country experiencing Cyclone Giri in 2010, Cyclone Mahasan last year and Cyclone Komen now passing through and causing torrential rains. It is also evident that monsoon patterns are also changing, with the effect that monsoonal rain now occurs later and ends earlier.
Myanmar is also one of the countries most vulnerable to climate change with its environmental degradation and unsustainable livelihoods practices. Policy initiatives and actions are urgently required to mitigate future impacts of climate change and to reduce the vulnerability of communities to climate change impacts.
We need to learn from the past to help reduce the risks in the future.
Ko Aye Chan Maung, is a master’s student from Myanmar studying at the Australian National University’s Crawford School of Public Policy, and a member of the ANU Myanmar Students’ Association (ANUMSA).
ANUMSA is raising money for Myanmar’s rescue and rehabilitation efforts. As part of these efforts it is hosting an event at ANU on Monday, 10 August. For more details on how to donate see here. Details of the event are here.