Showing posts with label EV Myanmar News. Show all posts
Showing posts with label EV Myanmar News. Show all posts

UNA members to contest 2015 elections

The United Nationalities Alliance (UNA) member parties will contest the upcoming 2015 general election, according to UNA member parties.
UNA member parties will participate in the 2015 general election with the objective of amending the 2008 constitution, according to Nai Kyaw Win, Mon National Party (MNP) Central Executive Committee member.
“Because [the] UNA does not like the 2008 constitution, and does not trust it, the UNA has not contested in elections. But now, although we do not like it and do not trust it, once we are Hluttaw (parliament), we will amend it. We compete in this election with the objective of being able to amend the constitution,” said Nai Kyaw Win.
The UNA was founded by eight ethnic political parties which contested the 1990 elections; the group boycotted the 2008 constitution and refused to participate in the 2010 general elections.
At the association’s conference, the UNA and its alliance organizations urged [for] all political parties to participate in the 2015 general elections, in accordance with the democratic system of free, fair, and transparent elections.
According to Sai Nyunt Lwin, general secretary of the Shan Nationalities League for Democracy (SNLD), the UNA and other organizations are calling upon all political parties to contest the upcoming election because there is the possibility that the government may not hold the elections.
“It is necessary to hold the elections, according to the constitution; this cannot be avoided. But, it is possible that they [the government] will give other reasons. Generally, in some countries across the world, if the current government cannot win, it just draws back to the past. If they [the government] wins, they will step forward… there is the possibility that the government will just continue to run without holding elections,” said Sai Nyunt Lwin.
The UNA held its 2nd conference from February 17-19th, at the Royal Rose [Restaurant] Hall in Rangoon. More than 33 organizations attended the conference, including UNA member parties, ethnic armed resistance groups, and civil society organizations. The attended representatives discussed topics surrounding politics, ceasefire, Laukkai armed conflict, the national education law, and worker and farmer issues.
The UNA is comprised of political parties that were formed before the 1990 elections, including the Shan Nationalities League for Democracy, the Kayah National Party, the Zomi Democracy League Party, the Mon National Party, the Shan State Kokand Democratic Party, the Rakhine National Party, the Kachin National Democracy Congress Party, and the Karen National Party.

Mining Firms Line Up for Chin State Operations

The Irrawaddy Business Roundup (Jan. 10, 2015)


Burma Offshore Gas Project Faces Axe
One of Burma’s most promising offshore oil and gas projects is on an investment cancellation list drawn up by developer PTTEP if global oil prices continue their fall.
The Thai state-owned oil company said its M3 Block in the Gulf of Martaban, where promising gas discoveries have been made, is one of five foreign investments now facing the axe.
“If average oil prices fall to $55 a barrel, PTTEP and the PTT group may adjust investment plans. We could put a brake on [Burma’s] M3 projects,” PTTEP chief executive Tevin Vongvanich told a Press briefing in Bangkok this week.
PTTEP signed a production-sharing contract with Myanma Oil & Gas Enterprise in 2004 and has carried out surveys and some exploratory drilling in the 6,200 square kilometre (2,400 square mile) sea block.
As the operator of the block with an 80% ownership PTTEP was scheduled to “continue a drilling campaign preparation for 5 appraisal wells and 1 exploration well” in 2015, the firm said on its website.
PTTEP’s minority partner with 20% is Mitsui Oil, a Japanese company.
The M3 Block is in the same area as the Zawtika gas field which is also managed by PTTEP and began producing natural gas in 2014. Burma is receiving about 50 million cubic feet of gas per day from Zawtika but the bulk of production, about 250 million cubic feet per day, goes to Thailand.
Uncertainty over PTTEP’s M3 project coincides with concerns that the 5-year low global oil price may also affect some of the production sharing contracts currently being negotiated in Burma for 20 new offshore blocks. Licenses were granted last March to a number of foreign oil companies but to date only one has been converted into an actual exploration contract.
Japan ‘Ignores Land Rights Issues’ in Haste to Invest in Burma
Japanese companies have been accused of putting business before local rights in Burma in Tokyo’s “attempt to curtail China’s influence in Asia”.
Aided by the government-funded Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), companies have brushed aside land ownership rights, notably at the Thilawa Special Economic Zone (SEZ), a report in the Wall Street Journal said.
“Haste and irresponsibility have so far undermined Japan’s reputation as a friendly regional neighbor and have the potential to derail Burma’s fragile peace process while exacerbating human rights concerns,” it alleged, under the headline ‘Japan’s Misadventures in Burma’.
The report was written by two analysts with the Burma Partnership, a collection of Burmese and foreign rights groups campaigning for democratic development.
The Thilawa SEZ involves Japanese corporation heavyweights Marubeni, Mitsubishi and Sumitomo, but “villagers have been forced to make way…often through coercion by Burmese authorities”.
“Around 300 people have already been relocated and thousands more will have to move during future phases of the project in return for inadequate compensation, poor quality housing, reduced livelihood opportunities and worsening access to essential services,” said report authors Rin Fujimatsu and Alex Moodie.
The report said the Burmese business partners in Thilawa working with the Japanese corporations are led by a man still on the US sanctions list, Dagon Win Aung.
JICA is also involved in industrial project plans in Karen and Mon states where “resources remain heatedly contested,” the report said.
UN human rights representative Yanghee Lee will include issues relating to theft of land, or poor compensation for land taken for commercial developments, as well as the suppression of public protests against development projects, during her visit to Burma. She is in the country until Jan. 16.
Mining Firms Line Up for Chin State Operations
Surveys by a “joint task force” are being carried out in Chin State following applications for mining operations, a report said.
“We are surveying the areas where about 26 mining companies have applied to conduct exploration in Chin State. If the companies ensure transparency, and the operations are beneficial to the local communities which also give their consent, we intend to approve them,” state mining and forestry minister Kyaw Nyein, was quoted by Myanmar Business Today saying.
Chin State has nickel, chromite, iron, copper, aluminium and limestone reserves, the minister said. However, he conceded that only the Naypyidaw government has authority to issue mining permits.
There is ongoing local opposition to a project by a Chinese firm to extract nickel from the Mway and Phar mountains in the Tedim township area.

Myanmar government has announced that the full report of census will be released in May 2015


The provisional census data which came out on 30 August had nothing to say about the “135” national races of the country. In fact, Minister U Khin Yi, who is responsible for the March-April census, had clarified the figure was “just for quoting,” according to a seminar participant, who is involved in the monitoring of the official head count.


It was deliberately left out because it entails a lot of controversies, he says, such as:
•    Some disagree being in the same grouping (For instance, Dawei in Burmese group: If we are in Burmese group, so should Arakanese.)
•    Some national races find themselves in more than a grouping (For instance, Kebar is in both Karen and Kayah groups)
•    Some national races are named differently as separate national races (For instance, Shan,  Shan Gyi and Tailong, which are synonymous)
•    Some sub- families of the same national race may also want to be separately registered (For instance, Zomi from Chin, and Burmese speaking Shan Ni from Shan)
•    Some are originally from one race but registered as another (“Even U Myint Kying, a census official, admits he is Mon but registered as Burmese”)
•    Designating people who wish to be known as Rohingya as “Bengali” may be technically in error, as one remarks, because it belongs to people in West Bengal of India, though they may be from the same linguistic group like Shans, Thais and Laos are
 “The current mess is the outcome of the top-down planning without consulting those concerned,” he concludes.
The government has announced that the full report will be released in May 2015. A participant also speaks of the government’s plan to hold a conference to clarify the “135” national races “jumble”. No one seems to be sure whether it will be in May  or before that.
Another participant’s suggestion is that waiting for Naypyitaw to clear the mess will not spell the end of the problem. “We must initiate a pre-emptive conference of our own to make sure what the government does is all in order,” he counsels.
The seminar ends with recommendations from the participants. One is to form an Assembly of Civil Society, as during the 1986-96 Guatemalan peace process, to assist in the consensus building, social cohesion; to offer relevant proposals to both sides; to facilitate dialogues; to monitor the process and assist in protective measures. “For the peace process to reach the point of no return, I believe the participation of the people is a must,” says one.
To mark the event, a dinner party was thrown at the House of Memories, where Gen Aung San used to have his office.

N.B
If the reader thinks the journal doesn’t do justice to the seminar, please look out for the full report from TNI which should be coming out soon.

Zomi Congress for Democracy (ZCD) Political Party Condemn Army Shelling of KIA Training School

Zomi Congress for Democracy (ZCD) and many other Political Parties, NGOs Condemn Army Shelling of KIA Training School.

RANGOON — A group of 54 civil society organizations and ethnic political parties on Thursday jointly condemned the Burma Army’s deadly shelling of a Kachin rebel training school two weeks ago, saying that it could threaten the country’s national ceasefire process.
“The military must take responsibility to prevent surprise military attacks during the nationwide ceasefire process,” a joint statement by the groups said, adding that the army should take the initiative to announce a unilateral nationwide ceasefire to further the peace process.
The government should launch an independent investigation into the shelling incident, according to the group, which includes All Burma Students’ Democratic Front (ABSDF) Taunggyi Branch, civil society organizations such as the Karen Women’s Union and the Farmers Network, and political parties such as the Democratic Party for A New Society and the United Nationalities Alliance.
The latter is alliance of eight ethnic parties, including the Shan Nationalities League for Democracy, the Mon Democracy Party, Zomi National Congress and the Karen National Party.
The government and the army, the statement, said “should stop the war and urgently hold a political dialogue based on peace, democracy and national reconciliation and development, which involves the government, the army, democratic forces and the people.”
On Nov. 19, the Burma Army surprised cadets carrying out exercises when it fired several shells at a Kachin Independence Army (KIA) training school, killing 23 cadets, most of who came from KIA allies, such as the ABSDF, the Arakan Army and the Ta’ang National Liberation Army.
The attack has proven a setback for the talks between the government and the army and an alliance of 16 ethnic armed groups, which have been discussing a nationwide ceasefire accord since mid-2013.

“Only if the one who has power, the military, announces a ceasefire first and holds honest and frank discussions with the ethnics then we will have peace,” Zaw Lian, from the Farmers Network, said during a press conference in Rangoon.

Taunggyi, Shan State, Myanmar Big Fire Balloon Accident 2014




Zomi Newspapers Shut Down in Burma/Myanmar

RANGOON — Two ethnic language newspapers in Tedim Township, Chin State, have been shut down by the regional government, making them the third and fourth in a month to be shuttered by authorities citing the publications’ lack of registrations.
Editors for the Tedim Post and Zo Lengthe newspapers said they received letters from Tedim Township authorities to cease operations under the instruction of the Chin State government.
“The township authority issued a statement that the Tedim Post is not allowed to publish without a registration on Oct. 16,” Thang Van Lian, chief editor of the Tedim Post, told The Irrawaddy.
Nang Fian Buang, editor of Zo Lengthe, said his publication was also informed that it would need to halt operations on Oct. 16, with township authorities saying publishing would be permitted once the required registration is obtained.
However, Dai Dim, an assistant information officer for the Tedim Township government, said authorities had simply entered into negotiations with the publishers.
“We are negotiating with publishers to register and we haven’t ordered them to stop publication,” she told The Irrawaddy. “We don’t have the authority to do that.” Asked whether the publications would be allowed to continue publishing while they applied for registrations, Dai Dim said she did not know.
The Tedim Post, a Zomi-language weekly founded in July 2014, covers local news ranging from government activities to social issues, as well as Chin cultural topics. It runs a circulation of about 2,000 copies and is distributed in Tedim and Thunzan townships, and near the border with northeast India. Zo Lengthe, a Zomi-language bi-monthly, was founded in 2004 and covers similar subjects, as well as running a circulation of about 2,000 copies.
The publications are the latest victims of a crackdown by regional authorities on the Chin State media.
The Hakha Post was the first unregistered newspaper to earn the ire of the Chin State government,which ordered the biweekly to cease operations at the end of September. The Falam Post, a Falam-language daily, was ordered to shut down in mid-October. The registration process can be an onerous one for publishers in Chin State, who must travel from the remote and rugged western state to Rangoon in order to apply.
The Zo Lengthe editor Nang Fian Buang said that the township authority issued one statement ordering media to register at the end of September and saying that publications would be given one month to comply. Prior to that, Zo Lengthe had been publishing for nearly 10 years without a registration and without incident, he said.
“First they said in the statement that they would give one month and now they ordered operations shuttered on October 16. I want to ask: Is there only 16 days in a month?” Nang Fian Buang said, adding that he had arrived to Rangoon and was preparing to register the publication.
Thang Van Lian told The Irrawaddy that the Tedim Post had asked township authorities about how to register when it began publishing earlier this year, but did not get any information about the application process. The Tedim Post editor said the newspaper was making renewed inquiries on how to go about registering.
The Chin Media Network, a non-governmental alliance of journalists, says there are more than 20 ethnic-language publications produced in the state, four of which are officially registered with the central government.
Salai Hoang Htun Gay, a member of the Chin Media Network, said the crackdown on ethnic language publications was akin to efforts by Burma’s former military regime to suppress the instruction of ethnic Chin languages in schools.
“Because of the ethnically written newspapers, the people can improve their ethnic language skills and gradually understand to value their language,” he said, adding that the Chin Media Network would be monitoring the situation as the shuttered publications apply for registrations.
“We will watch the registration process to see that the newspapers are able to register smoothly and, after they have registered, whether there is any interference from government,” Salai Hoang Htun Gay said, adding that “if the situation is not good, we will hold a press conference or request the support of the Press Council of Burma.”

Burma’s Election Commission Rejects Opposition Call for Longer Campaigns

The Union Election Commission (UEC) has rejected a request from the National League for Democracy (NLD) and ethnic parties to double the length of time parties will have to campaign for Burma’s crucial 2015 elections.
The official election regulations will continue to restrict campaigning to 30 days before the polls, according to an election official, although exceptions may be made in remote states where the logistics of campaigning are expected to be difficult.
The UEC met on Wednesday with representatives of the NLD—Aung San Suu Kyi’s opposition party—and five ethnic parties, which proposed amendments to the election rules laid out by the commission last month.
Thaung Hlaing, a director at the UEC, told The Irrawaddy on Thursday that the parties’ proposal to allow 60 days of campaigning before voting day would not be adopted.
“Our chairman has discussed it,” said Thaung Hlaing, referring to the UEC’s chair, Tin Aye, a former military official who was elected as a lawmaker for the ruling Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) before stepping down to head the supposedly impartial commission.
“The NLD and the ethnic parties asked to extend the date to 60 days but we have set it out to international standards.”
Thaung Hlaing added that candidates in states like Chin or Arakan, where travel is difficult, can ask for more time to campaign.
“We don’t want the political parties to have to spend more [money] due to a long campaign period. It will also prevent any unnecessary problems which might occur amongst rival parties,” he said in explanation of the decision.
The regulations will govern the 2015 parliamentary election, which is expected to be the first national vote the NLD has contested since Burma moved to a nominally democratic form of government. The rules will also decide how by-elections expected late this year are conducted. The UEC says it will announce the date of those elections three months before the polling day.
Tun Tun Hein, an NLD executive committee member, said the party would follow the commission’s decision.
Ten political parties, including the NLD, suggested amendments to the electoral guidelines published by the UEC in July. On Wednesday, only six parties joined the meeting—the Zomi Congress Democracy Party (ZCD Party), the Human Rights and Democracy Party, the Mon National Party, the Wa National Unity Party, the Kaman National Progressive Party and the NLD.
Tun Tun Hein said the UEC still had to clarify regulations on parties meeting with the media; the definitions of campaigning and rallying; and the time campaigning can begin.
“The commission said an unclear media section has been removed in their amended guideline,” said Htun Htun Hein.
He said that some proposals made by opposition parties had been agreed by the UEC, and that Chairman Tin Aye had promised elections would be free and fair.
“He [Tin Aye] said: ‘Don’t look just back to the 2010 experience, but wait for the 2014 by-election,’” said Tun Tun Hein.
May Sitt Paing contributed to this report.

Burma Govt, Ethnics Discuss Roster of Eligible Ceasefire Groups

MYITKYINA, Kachin State — Ethnic armed groups and the Burmese government’s peace delegation met on Sunday to discuss who would qualify to sign a long-sought nationwide ceasefire agreement, with Naypyidaw seeking to limit the number of signatories while ethnic groups have expressed wariness at such exclusion.
Leaders of the Nationwide Ceasefire Coordination Team (NCCT) held talks with representatives of the Union Peace Working Committee (UPWC) in Myitkyina, the Kachin State capital, in northern Burma after concluding an ethnic summit in the Kachin rebel-held border town of Laiza last week.
The NCCT comprises representatives of 16 ethnic armed groups in Burma, while the UPWC is led by President’s Office Minister Aung Min.
Saw Kwe Htoo Win, a member of the NCCT who also serves as general secretary of the Karen National Union (KNU), said the two sides were trying to set criteria that ethnic armed groups must meet in order to sign a nationwide ceasefire accord.
“For example, those who meet the standard are organizations that previously reached individual ceasefires with the government and ethnic armed groups who have engaged in armed hostilities with the government for their political beliefs,” Kwe Htoo Win said.
He said organizations based abroad that are active in Burma-related campaigns and advocacy work, and overseas groups critical of the government or “anti-government,” would be excluded from the list of qualified organizations.
Currently, the government recognizes 16 ethnic armed groups and the All Burma Students’ Democratic Front (ABSDF) as meeting the criteria for signing a nationwide ceasefire accord, while the NCCT recognizes more than 20 ethnic armed groups as potential signatories.
The government has said two large ethnic rebel groups outside the NCCT, the United Wa State Army (UWSA) and the Restoration Council of Shan State (RCSS), would be eligible to sign, but some members of the NCCT would not.
“We will carefully check existing armed groups and negotiate with the government over the criteria and standards that they [the government] lay out. During the Panglong Conference [in 1947], some groups were excluded from signing the [Panglong] Agreement and that ultimately led to civil war. We will try to include all respective ethnic groups [as signatories],” said Salai Lian Hmong Sakhong, an NCCT member and leader of the Chin National Front rebel group.
Only Shan, Kachin and Chin ethnic minorities signed the Panglong Agreement with Burma’s central government led by the late Gen. Aung San on Feb. 12, 1947, while ethnic Karen insurgency leaders were present as observers.
Currently, armed groups recognized by the government as eligible signatories are the KNU, ABSDF, UWSA, National Democratic Alliance Army, Democratic Karen Benevolent Army, Restoration Council of Shan State, Chin National Front, Kachin Independence Army (KIA), Shan State Progressive Party, New Mon State Party, Karen Peace Council, Karenni National Progressive Party, Arakan Liberation Party and Arakan Army, as well as ethnic Pa-O, Ta’aung, and Naga rebel groups.
Smaller, politically oriented ethnic groups such as the Wa National Organization (WNO), Lahu Democratic Union (LDU) and Arakan National Council (ANC), as well as ethnic Kokang and Zomi organizations, are not recognized by the government as eligible ceasefire signatories.
“We can’t exclude any of them [unrecognized ethnic groups]. We don’t want civil war again. Even if they [the government] can’t accept the rest of the groups to sign the agreement individually, we proposed to the government that they accept these groups to sign the agreement under the UNFC [United Nationalities Federal Council],” said Khun Okkar, an NCCT member.
He said the NCCT delegation told the government team on Sunday that it could not accept some of the demands made by the chief of Burma’s armed forces, Snr-Gen Min Aung Hlaing. Particularly unpalatable to rebel groups was a requirement that they disarm, demobilize and reintegrate (DDR) with the military, also known as the Tatmadaw, Khun Okkar said.
The six-point statement from the military, which includes demands on DDR and acceptance of the controversial 2008 Constitution, first came to light in April.
Asked about the DDR provision, Hla Maung Shwe of the government-affiliated Myanmar Peace Center (MPC) said the issue would have to wait.
“We can’t say anything about how to proceed with it [DDR] right now. It is too early to talk about it now. Both the government and Tatmadaw are now focusing efforts on the peace process. We have to think about it carefully later.”
The informal meeting between ethnic armed groups and the government in Myitkyina was also attended by government army officials including Lt-Gen Thet Naing Win, Burma’s minister of border affairs, members of the MPC and local authorities from the Kachin State government.
Despite the efforts of ethnic leaders and the government to develop a common position, military-related matters and political terminology have emerged as sticking points to a nationwide ceasefire accord, which the two sides hope to sign in September.
The Tatmadaw has objected to ethnic groups’ demands for autonomy within a federal union, while ethnic groups have signaled that they cannot agree to the military’s six-point demands.
Ashley South, a Burma watcher who also acts as a senior advisor to the Myanmar Peace Support Initiative (MPSI), a Norwegian government-backed project to mobilize international support for Burma’s peace process, said there has been progress in negotiations over the past year, but added that the window was shrinking to achieve an agreement before elections expected by the end of next year.
“I think the biggest challenge is for the Myanmar government and Army to acknowledge ethnic groups’ demands, and demonstrate commitment to resolving these. One of the other challenges is to recognize the legitimacy of the main ethnic armed groups as representatives of ethnic nationality communities, while at the same time deepening participation in the peace process to include civil society and political parties,” South said.
He added that some of these issues would need to be discussed in multi-stakeholder political negotiations that would include not only the government, Tatmadaw and ethnic armed groups, but also representatives of civil society and political parties.
“It will be a huge challenge to hold such discussions and reach preliminary agreement on at least some key issues, before the elections,” South said.
More than a dozen ethnic armed groups have signed bilateral ceasefires with the government since President Thein Sein took office in 2011, but the KIA and the Ta’ang National Liberation Army have yet to do so, and have frequently clashed with government troops in recent months.
Saw Yan Naing reported from Chiang Mai, Thailand.

Government to launch second ethnic TV channel

The Ministry of Information plans to launch another ethnic affairs television channel before the end of next year, a senior official said last week.
The new channel follows the launch of the National Race Channel, which broadcasts in 11 minority languages, in October 2013.
However, recruiting and training journalists and presenters for the new channel is likely to be a challenge, said U Tint Swe, director general of Myanma Radio and Television (MRTV).
“Our priority is to expand the national races section [of MRTV],” he said last week. “But we have human resources difficulties. We have to recruit staff who can speak ethnic languages well and we have to train them to work for a TV channel. That can’t be done overnight. But it will be possible to launch [the new channel] at the end of 2015.”
MRTV has not yet decided which ethnic groups will be represented on the new channel.
When the station launched last year, applicants were barely vetted before being appointed to the sections, he said. The only requirement was they could speak the particular ethnic language and held a bachelor degree, U Tint Swe said.
“We appointed all applicants,” he said. “We just gave them basic journalism training and information on being a public servant and gave them cameras worth K20 million to K30 million.”
The National Races Channel broadcasts ethnic programs in 11 languages from eight groups, namely Kachin, Kayah, east Poe Kayin, west Poe Kayin, Sgaw Kayin, Zomi Chin, Asho Chin, Mon, Rakhine, Shan and Wa.
Each gets two hours a day, except for the Kayin groups, which get one hour each. By early next year it will move to 24-hour programming with the introduction of Pa-O, Kokang and Danu sections.
“We are now recruiting ethnic staff. The additional programs will be on air in January 2015 at the latest,” said MRTV director U Myint Aung.
Each section has 13 staff each and is creates its own programs according to the ministry’s editorial guidelines.
U Myint Aung said that these guidelines include requirements includes to focus on the preservation of the ethnic culture. News about political parties is banned but public protests held with permission from the Ministry of Home Affairs can be broadcast.
Naw Su Mon, a staff member on the Sgaw Kayin program, said a basic principle at the National Races Channel is to steer clear of politics.
“However, I would like to broadcast political news that [is in] the interest of people, both targeted ethnic groups and other viewers,” she said.
While the National Races Channel is currently under MRTV, the ministry plans to make it a separate department before the 2015-16 fiscal year, U Myint Aung said. This should enable the department to expand and ensure language sections are better equipped.
“We have created the basic principles of the new department. Each [ethnic group section] will be led by a gazette officer,” he said, adding that the officer will be from the relevant ethnic group.
Naw Su Mon said she welcomed the plan. “At the moment we are very short-staffed,” she said. “And currently staff mostly have the same rank and position, so there should be an officer who can lead.”

CSOs find deceased on electoral roll

The electoral roll pilot project involved 17 civil society groups separately visiting three locations in July and August to assess electoral knowledge and the state of the rolls. Ahlone township in Yangon, Tedim township in Chin State and Myitkyina township in Kachin State were chosen to respectively represent urban, rural and ceasefire areas.
“In some places, the voters’ name lists contain many errors, including a mismatch between residents’ names and their National Registration Card numbers. In one ward we observed that the lists mistakenly included those who has passed away,” said U Thant Sin of the New Myanmar Foundation.
“In one case, we found that the names of the voters had been written in very small font and it could not be seen if viewed from even a little distance,” he said.
Outdated electoral rolls were problematic in both the 2010 general election and 2012 by-elections, resulting in thousands of eligible voters not being able to cast a ballot.
In March, UEC chair U Tin Aye promised that the commission would work with civil society organisations to ensure the 2015 general election is free and fair, adding that they would help to raise awareness about the election process.
The pilot project was first announced in May, with assessments taking place throughout August.
The groups said they also found that while there is information available about the election in Myanmar language, the UEC has yet to provide any written information in ethnic minority languages.
“We suggested to the UEC that it publish pamphlets containing information about the election in the languages of ethnic residents,” U Thant Sin said.
And, in an indication of the logistical challenges the authorities face in preparing for the election, the groups said that their work, which covered just three of Myanmar’s 330 townships, was constrained by a lack of both time and resources.
“In Tedim in Chin State the main challenge is transportation … It took us two to three days to travel from one village to another village,” said U Chan Lian of the civil society group Hornbill.
Research revealed that few voters had previously checked they were on the electoral roll: in Ahlone, 1000 of about 40,000 voters had done so.
“We also found out that in some villages in Tedim township, the election sub-commissions at township and village level didn’t know the electoral do’s and don’ts. Volunteers were not familiar with the vote counting system,” said U Thant Sin.
The groups met with the UEC at the end of August to discuss their findings, as well as the suggestions from the International Federation of Electoral Systems (IFES).
One IFES suggestion is to set up a formal system for the UEC to better coordinate its work with civil society groups.

Myanmar releases population count from census

UNFPA Press Release: Myanmar releases population count from census

Date: 30/08/2014

Myanmar releases population count from census

YANGON — Myanmar has a population of 51.4 million people, according to provisional census data released today by the Minister of Immigration and Population.
The country conducted its first census in 30 years between 29 March and 10 April of this year. Preliminary results show there are 51,419,420 people in Myanmar, 26,598,244 females and 24,821,176 males, and a male/female sex ratio of 93.3 per cent. This includes 50,213,067 persons counted during the census and an estimated 1,206,353 persons who were not counted in three areas. 

The provisional data include numbers of females and males in each state, division and township, and the average household size for each division and state. 

The data released today have been collected and analysed according to international standards with technical support and guidance from foreign experts. UNFPA, the United Nations Population Fund, has given technical, logistical and financial support to the census since 2012, and a number of countries have provided funds. 

Minister of Population U Khin Yi announced the preliminary census results at a meeting here today. 

“The census is a valuable national resource,” said Janet Jackson, UNFPA Representative in Myanmar. “For the first time in decades, the country will have data it needs to put roads, schools, health facilities and other essential infrastructure where people need them most.” 

“These preliminary data reveal that Myanmar’s cities are becoming denser. They are also expanding quickly, with many living along the edges of cities that have grown without any planning whatsoever,” she added. 

At today’s launch the Government also gave initial estimates of the segments of the population that were not counted in parts of northern Rakhine, Kachin and Kayin States. 

The estimate of 1.09 million uncounted people in northern Rakhine State is based on pre-census mapping of households by immigration officers. Most of those who wanted to self-identify their ethnicity as Rohingya were not enumerated. 

In Kachin State, where census data collectors could not access 97 villages under control of the Kachin Independence Organization, estimates were based on the demographics of surrounding villages. 

In Kayin State, the Karen National Union for one area under their control, only provided data on the number of women and men in households, which they collected themselves. This information was checked against neighbouring areas and found to be consistent. 

The data released today are based on “enumeration area summary sheets”, which the 115,000 census data collectors filled out by hand in addition to their detailed household questionnaires. These summary sheets recorded the number of households in a given area and how many females and males lived in each. The country was divided into 81,700 enumeration areas, each with an average of 150 households that a single data collector covered in the 10-day data collection period. 

The more detailed data to be released in May 2015 will be based on computer scanning and detailed analysis of the actual questionnaires. Experience from other countries suggests that the final results may vary marginally from the preliminary numbers.

To view and download a short video and sound clip from Ms. Janet Jackson, UNFPA Myanmar Representative during the launch, click here.

For more information, contact:
  • in Yangon, Ben Manser, manser @ unfpa.org, mobile +95 9 211 70861
  • in Bangkok, William A. Ryan, ryanw @ unfpa.org, mobile +66 89 897 6984

Govt Still Studying Controversial Nickel Mine in Chin State: Minister

Burma’s Deputy Minister for Mines Than Tun Aung has told the Upper House on Wednesday that his ministry has yet to approve a controversial nickel mine project, located on the border of Chin State and Sagaing Division, state-owned media reported.
Than Tun Aung said his ministry was still studying the result of a feasibility study conducted with the permission of the Myanmar Investment Commission by North Mining Investment Co Ltd, a Hong Kong-based firm, according to The New Light of Myanmar newspaper.
In 2012, the firm began carrying out a feasibility study into nickel deposits at Mwe Mountain, which cover parts of Sagaing’s Kalay Township and Chin State’s Teddim Township, areas located close to the Burma-India border, and in 2013 it reportedly submitted the results to the Ministry of Mines and the Environment Ministry.
Than Tun Aung told lawmakers “that the mining project will be implemented only after approval by the experts in a transparent consultation with the state government, the regional government and the local people to avoid future problems,” state media reported.
The deputy minister said the feasibility study estimates that there are 42 million tons of metal ore at the proposed mining site, composed of 1.37 percent nickel, 16.32 percent iron, 0.88 percent chromium, 21.72 per cent magnesium dioxide and 39.46 percent silica.
Chin political parties and activists have spoken out at against the massive project since last year. They demand that the government releases more project information, ensures that environmental safeguards are put in place for the project and allocates a share of its profits to Chin State, which is considered Burma’s most impoverished region.
In January, China activists and residents of Teddim Township said they were growing increasingly concerned about the project and its potential environmental impacts on communities, after company representatives visited more than 15 villages and met with the locals to explain the project.
North Mining Investment Co Ltd told locals that it expected the project—which reportedly requires financing of close to US$500 million—would begin this year. Hand-outs and posters distributed by the firm claimed the mine would benefit local communities, contribute $500,000 a year to the development of Chin State, and bring jobs to the area.
In addition to the mine, the firm would also build two smelters to process the nickel ore and a dock at Kalaywa on the Chindwin River in Sagaing Division, from where the ferronickel concentrates would be transported on to Rangoon and China, where there is a strong demand for nickel.

Chinese-Backed Nickel Mining Project Draws Concerns in Chin State

TEDIM TOWNSHIP, Chin State — A planned nickel-mining project in the mountains of Burma’s poorest state is causing concern among locals worried about its environmental impact.
Activists and people living in the area in Chin State’s Tedim Township say the Chinese-owned North Mining Investment Company, which began conducting surveys for the project in 2012, is not giving concrete information about the impacts mining would have.
“The company just said that the mountain and the environment will not be harmed due to the mining process,” Cin Tang, a local village chief, told The Irrawaddy.
“On the other hand, they said they will use an open cut mining method, and will dig 45 meters deep. How can they say the environment will not be harmed in the region if they will dig and produce many tons of rocks and stones over years?”
According to Burma’s Ministry of Mining, a preliminary survey for the nickel mining project on an area covering Mwe Mountain and Phar Mountain was completed December 2012, and construction on two purifying factories is scheduled to start in early 2014.
Representatives of North Mining Investment have reportedly visited more than 15 villages and met with the locals to explain the project. Hand-outs and posters distributed by the mining company make grand claims for the benefits of the project to the local area, and play down any potential downsides.
The posters also say that the $486.7 million project will produce purified nickel and iron, and will contribute US$500,000 a year to the development of Chin State, and bring jobs to the area, once it is up and running.
Electricity produced that exceeds the needs of the project will be distributed for free for a year to people living within 5 kilometers of the project.
They claim the process of purifying the nickel will not use chemicals or acid.
While omitting mention of any negative impacts, the materials say the company’s factories will use about 530,000 tons of coal per year for heating and to produce electricity. And in order to filter sulphur dioxide, it will use about 50,000 tons of limestone, the literature says.
The company also says it will build a dock at Kalaywa on the Chindwin River in Sagaing Division. The mine will produce ferronickel concentrates, which will be transported to the port, and shipped, via the Irrawaddy River, to Rangoon and then to China, the company says.
Despite the public relations efforts, locals are concerned they will face the same problems as the residents affected by the controversial Chinese-backed copper mining project at Letpadaung in central Burma. That project was recently restarted, with more favorable terms for the Burmese government, after public outrage and protests led to its suspension.
“They [North Mining Investment] said the first contract of project is just for seven years and six months. After that, the region will get everything that is left from the project. But who knows, maybe this Mwe Mountain will disappear, just as Sabae and Kyaesin mountains did at the Letpadaung copper mine,” said Cin Tang.
“I can’t imagine how much the air, water and our land will be polluted. They said our villages will not be displaced, but if the forest is destroyed and if our lands are polluted, we will have to find a new place on our own. Then there is no difference between this and being forcibly displaced.”
No clear-cut guarantees have been made by the company or the local government about environmental conservation efforts.
“The company repeatedly just says how much and what kind of help it will give to the region, and how their project will develop the region,” said Har Tuang, a member of Chinland Natural Resources Watch Group. “But they have failed to give a guarantee on how they will deal with the pollution, which would affect the economic, health and social life of the region.”
Locals and activists filed complaints to the Chin State government in 2013, urging it not to allow mining in the area.
“The state government said that they do not have the power to decide on this matter, only the Union government has,” said Zam Thuam, also a member of Chinland Natural Resources Watch Group.
The group has submitted a complaint to Naypyidaw after meeting with the state government in end of 2013 to review the project.
Meanwhile, the illegal trading of stone from Mwe Mountain and Phar Mountain has fueled a popular market in Kalay Myo, upper Sagaing Division, since mid-2013 as some Chinese traders have already begun moving into the area.
“Actually, the state government must handle such illegal trade. We can only educate the locals but we also do not want them to be arrested for unlawful acts. But this is just for their living, so we have nothing to say about this. It is like the state government is creating misunderstanding between the locals and the activists,” said Liantuang, another member of Chinland Natural Resources Watch Group.
About 1.5kg of stone is priced from 2,000 Kyats to 4,000 kyats ($2-$4) and is reportedly traded through Shan State and across the Sino-Burmese border.
“If the project is for the development of the country, we have no reason to oppose. But we see nothing concerning the development of our country or the region in this project,” Liantuang said.
“That’s why we don’t want this mining project. We don’t want the nature to be spoiled. We don’t want our people to suffer. We don’t want our region to be harmed. We want the responsible authorities to review this project.”
Apart from the environmental matters, locals, who are ethnic Chin, also worry about people of different cultures flooding into the region.
“There’s no one here who will be qualified to do the proposed work on the project. So, they will hire foreign laborers and many other people from outside,” said a chief of Zonumzam village.
“We are just afraid that our unspoiled culture will be affected and ruined by strangers who do not value it.”

Survey finds communities distrustful of Chinese mining companies

17 September 2013: A survey report by four Chin political parties on the Gullu nickel project in Chin State shows that local communities are expressing a new level of distrust of the Chinese companies.
The report said villagers around the Gullu Hill in Tedim Township are aware of theChina-Burma mining project but are not informed of the details of the plans and possible outcomes.
Khin Mar Lar, from Myalin village in Sagaing Region, said: "We read their flyer but it was very unclear. We don't see transparency or accountability in their practice."
Community representative Pu Tuai Cho said local communities should have been consulted with detailed documents and papers related to the project.
The report said the local communities prefer mining companies from a democratic country to those from China if the project must proceed, although the majority object to its implementation.
Pu Kam Za Hmung, retired university rector from Kalay Town, said: "The project should be implemented only after we have had a federal system and a clear picture of shares from it. This shouldn't happen before 2015 elections."
The Chin parties also met with the Chin State government in Hakha, presented their findings, and held discussions with cabinent members.
However, the Chin State government said they don't have the authority to deal with the mining matter which should be discussed with the central government.
The statement by the Chin parties also said no contract had been signed between Burma and the North Mining Investment Company of China, citing sources from the government of Chin State.
Last April, the Chin State government informed the central government that local communities agreed with the mining project based on a survey result conducted with 20 villages.
Contrary to that, the Chin parties' report indicates that at least fourteen villages, five from within Chin State and nine in Kalay of Sagaing Region, disapprove of the project.
Furthermore, it places stress on the importance of implementing the project in accordance with the international standards and norm should it go ahead.
The Chin National Party (CNP), Chin Progressive Party (CPP), Ethnic National Development Party (ENDP) and Asho Chin National Party (ACNP) had met with more than 700 people from 14 villages and over 10 organizations in both Chin State and Kalay Town of Sagaing Region from 2-9 September.
In Kalay town of Sagaing Region, the team also held a meeting with representatives of the National League for Democracy (NLD), Zomi Congress for Democracy, 88 Generation, MPs, universities students and youth groups

Chin parties to meet with State govt over Gullu nickel projects

04 September 2013: The government of Chin State and representatives of four Chin political parties are to hold a meeting on Gullu nickel projects in Hakha this Saturday.
Salai Ceu Bik Thawng, CNP General Secretary, said the team would conduct a survey on the ground with local communtinies until Thursday and would have proper discussions with the State government.
He also said a series of discussions would be held with Burma's Ministry of Mines, Chinese Embassy, and North Mining Company of China in addition to meeting with Chin State government, according to the Hakha Post.
Eleven representatives of the Chin parties, led by Pu Zo Zam, CNP Chairman, makes a trip to Gullu Hill in Tedim Township, Chin State, meeting with the local communities.
Meanwhile, about 100 people from political parties, university students, communities and civil society organizations, and media as well as religious groups held a meeting regarding the Gullu nickel projects at Shin Hong Hall in Kalaymyo of Sagaing Region yesterday

Major events of Gullu Mual (Mwetaung) nickel exploration projects

04 September 2013: The following is a short record of major events pertaining to the China-Burma venture over a mining contract of nickel found in Gullu Mual, aka Mwe Hill or Mwetaung in Burmese, of Tedim Township, Chin State.

  • Initial studies were conducted by the Mineral Exploration Corporation of the Ministry of Mines in 1965-66, followed by the Geological Survey and Mineral Exploration Department in 1973, 1982, and 1999.
  • The Kingbao (Jinbao) Mining Ltd of China signed an agreement on nickel mineral exploration and feasibility study with No. 3 Mining Enterprise of the Ministry of Mines of Burma in August 2005. The work could not be operated and the contract was cancelled.
  • New Top Hong Group Ltd of China held a meeting at the Ministry of Mines in March 2011. A preliminary observation field trip was made in July 2011.
  • Two field groups of Geological Survey and Mineral Exploration Department launched the exploration and test of chromites at another location, west of Mwe Hill beginning on 30 July 2011.
  • North Mining Investment Co Ltd of China, China Nonferrous Metal Industry’s Foreign Engineering & Construction Co Ltd and Guiling Research Institute of Geology for Mineral Resources held discussions on exploration and production of the deposit.
  • Chin MP Pu Zung Hlei Thang raised a question at the second regular session of the first Amyotha Hluttaw at Nay Pyi Taw in September 2011.
  • North Mining Investment Co. Ltd is incorporated under the Burma Companies Act by the Ministry of National Planning and Economic Development in May 2012.
  • North Mining Investment Co. Ltd submitted its feasibility study reports on 'Mwetaung Nickel Smelting Project' to the Ministries of Mines, and Environmental Conservation and Forest in February and March 2013.
  • U Kyaw Nyein, Chin State Minister of Forestry and Mines said a proposal for mining work permits has been submitted to the Union Government early 2013.
  • Community-based campaigns and demonstrations against the projects have been active since January 2013.
  • Representatives of four Chin political parties, Chin National Party (CNP), Chin Progressive Party (CPP), Asho Chin National Party (ACNP) and Ethnic National Development Party (ENDP), conduct a survey on the projects with local communities in September 2013. 
  • About 100 people from political parties, university students, community and civil society organizations, and media as well as religious groups discussed issues related to the Gullu nickel projects in Kalaymyo of Sagaing Region on 3 September 2013.
  • Based on their findings, representatives of the Chin political parties will discussthe issues with the government of Chin State on 7 September 2013.