World Band approves loan for Azerbaijani internally displaced
Publisher: Xinhua News Agency
Story date: 16/11/2011
Language: English

BAKU, Nov. 16 (Xinhua) – Azerbaijan and the World Bank on Wednesday signed an agreement for a loan of 50 million U.S. dollars to finance the Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs Living Standard and Livelihood Project in the central Asian country.

According to the report of AzerTAc, Azerbaijan's state news agency, the agreement was signed by Ali Hasanov, Deputy Prime Minister of Azerbaijan and Chairman of State Committee of Azerbaijan for Refugees and IDPs, and the World Bank's representative Saida Bagirli in Baku.

The project, which is subject to conditions of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD) approved by the World Bank Director Board on Oct. 27, aims to support Azerbaijani Government's efforts to improve living conditions and increase the economic self-reliance of targeted internally displaced persons.

The government will allocate an additional 28.5 million dollars for the project, which will require a total of 78.5 million dollars. About 185,000 internally displaced persons (IDPs) in Azerbaijan will have better access to infrastructure, services, housing conditions and livelihood opportunities with the help of the project.

Azerbaijan accounts of seven percent of the IDPs in the world, as a result of the conflict with Armenia over the Nagorno Karabakh region. Up to 50 percent of its IDPs still live in harsh conditions.

Exiled Tibetan Abbot Rebukes China Over Monks’ Troubles
Publisher: the New York Times, USA
Story date: 16/11/2011
Language: English

The chief abbot and spiritual leader-in-exile of a Tibetan monastery at the epicenter of a series of self-immolation protests against Chinese rule spoke out forcefully in New York on Wednesday, detailing what he called new and harsh repressive measures taken against the monks at the monastery since the immolations started in March.

The abbot, Kirti Rinpoche, 70, said the Chinese authorities had completely isolated the monastery, Kirti, in a restive area of Ganzi Prefecture in Sichuan Province known as Aba, or Ngaba in Tibetan.

He said that in the past eight months, the Chinese had installed surveillance cameras and deployed as many as 800 security officials inside the monastery as part of an intense "patriotic re-education campaign" meant to prevent any more self-immolations. Although he did not have exact figures for the number of security officials there now or the monks they were supervising, he said it was possible that the security officials outnumbered the monks.

The abbot also said that senior monks had been removed from the monastery and that the other monks had been divided into 55 groups and subjected to random searches, re-education classes and frequent interrogations about their opinions.

He attributed the self-immolations and the harsh crackdown that followed to "something already reflected in a statement made by Mao Zedong himself: that wherever there is repression there will be resistance."

At least 11 Tibetans have set themselves on fire since March in visceral acts of protest over China's policies in Tibet and adjoining areas populated by ethnic Tibetans; six of them have died, according to documents compiled by Tibetan advocacy groups. Eight of the Tibetans, including the first, were monks or former monks of the Kirti monastery, which was a focal point of a violent uprising against the Chinese authorities in 2008.

The self-immolations, which have been described by human rights groups as troubling new evidence of desperation by aggrieved Tibetans in areas of Chinese control, have become an embarrassment to China. The government has called them a form of terrorism encouraged by the Dalai Lama, Tibet's spiritual leader-in-exile, who is regarded by the Chinese authorities as a subversive who agitates for Tibetan independence. The abbot, a contemporary of the Dalai Lama who fled with him into exile in 1959, rejected China's view.

"The reason why this situation is taking place in Tibet, and particular in Ngaba, is because of the drastic nature of the repression that the Chinese government has been waging all over Tibet, and in particular in Ngaba," the abbot said.

He spoke through a translator at a news conference organized by Human Rights in China, an advocacy group based in New York, and said he was doing so because of what he called the intolerable situation in Tibetan areas and China's suppression of news about it.

"China is hiding the truth from its own people," he said.

The abbot gave reporters a list of 40 Tibetans in Ngaba who he said had been killed or had committed suicide since 2008, and a second list of 693 who he said had been arrested or sentenced to prison since then.

Fears over funding for refugees owing to global economic situation
Publisher: The Hindu, India
Story date: 16/11/2011
Language: English

CHENNAI,TAMIL NADU The global economic situation is causing concern that funding for refugees from donor countries may be come down, the chief of mission of the UN refugee agency in India said here on Wednesday.

Chairing a panel discussion on the 'Changing International Scenario and the Refugees in South Asia' at the Department of Politics and Public Administration in the University of Madras, the Chief of Mission, UNHCR in New Delhi, Montserrat Feixas Vihe, said many countries that played host to refugees considered them an additional financial burden."In the current global economic situation, there is concern that less and less money is available for refugees," she said. Some countries, Dr. Vihe said, were reducing intake or suggesting third country resettlement options.

Later, answering a question from the audience, Dr. Vihe agreed that refugees returning to their homeland – the Sri Lankan Tamils, instance – needed support for resettlement, but there were funding constraints.

"With the end of the conflict in Sri Lanka in May 2009, other situations are also attracting donor attention. The longer the delay in the return of Sri Lankan refugees, the less money would be available to them from donor nations," she said.

The UNHCR was looking at 'sustainable return', as it believed that there had to be peace and reconciliation, and the appropriate socio-economic conditions, in the country to which the refugees returned.

Commenting on the impact that security concerns had on refugee protection, Dr. Vihe said, "Overall, there is a tendency to look at refugee issues from a geo-strategic point of view rather than a humanitarian one." The real or perceived threat of terrorism was influencing policy and the question of granting asylum.

She regretted that despite its record of being generous to refugees from different countries, India still had only an ad hoc approach to the issue in the absence of a national refugee law.

"There is no uniform system, and there is difference in the treatment of refugees based on the countries of their origin."

Dr. Vihe said the space for refugee protection must be preserved. "We should see to it that they can continue to seek asylum, have no threat of deportation, their human rights are protected and they can go home one day."

V. Vijayakumar, Vice-Chancellor, Tamil Nadu Dr Ambedkar Law University, felt that the law often placed hurdles in the way of complete refugee protection.

Tibetan refugees protest outside Chinese embassy in India
Publisher: Kyodo News, Japan
Story date: 16/11/2011
Language: English

NEW DELHI, Nov. 16 – A large number of Tibetan refugees held a protest march Wednesday outside the Chinese Embassy in India, demanding independence for Tibet.

The protesters also submitted a memorandum to the Chinese president through the embassy in New Delhi demanding China withdraw military and security forces from the Kirti Monastery in Tibet.

The memorandum also demanded respect for the fundamental rights of Tibetans and freedom of religion.

Tibetans living in exile in India gathered near the Nehru Museum and marched towards the embassy in the high security diplomatic enclave.

The protesters carrying anti-China placards were stopped outside the Chanakyapuri police station, which is close to the Chinese mission

Myanmar ethnic minorities under siege even as government embraces reform
Publisher: The Mainichi, Japan
Story date: 16/11/2011
Language: English

LAIZA, Kachin State, Myanmar – Democracy is on the march in Myanmar, or so it seems at first glance. The administration of President Thein Sein has recently released hundreds of political prisoners, included more civilians in the hardline military government, and has made reconciliatory moves toward the democracy movement led by Aung San Suu Kyi.

However, even as Thein Sein earns the world's praise and the ASEAN chair for 2014 for finally moving his country in a more democratic direction, Myanmar's minorities are seeing even greater repression. Already, more than 20,000 people belonging to these minorities are now refugees.

Early on the morning of Oct. 16, just four days after the much-publicized release of about 200 political prisoners, 47-year-old minister Jangma Awngli was at his church in the village of Namsan Yang, home to some 9,000 of the Kachin minority in Kachin State, on the Chinese border. He was preparing for his Sunday sermon when soldiers burst into the building, grabbed him by both arms and rammed his forehead into the concrete floor.

"Where are the weapons?" they demanded. "Where are the landmines buried?"

The soldiers were sweeping through the village and breaking into people's houses in search of members of the Kachin militia. The government troops granted no quarter, killing four and putting the village to the torch.

"Why are we being attacked like this?" an angry Jangma asked me when I spoke to him in the border town of Laiza.

In early November, I set out with a guide to visit the ruins of Namsan Yang, some 5 kilometers north of Laiza. We passed through the lines of the Kachin militia and, coming to a rise, we could see the charred remains of Jangma's church about 1.5 kilometers away. My guide was scanning the area with binoculars when his face suddenly drained of color.

"Government soldiers are looking this way," he said. "They might shoot us."

We headed for a camp in a logging area some 10 kilometers from Namsan Yang, where about 5,000 villagers who had fled the assault were now living under blue tarps stretched over bamboo frames. So far, they have seen no international aid.

"We couldn't plant rice this year," says 56-year-old Mwihpu Roi, who fled Namsan Yang with his daughter's family and now shares a small room with nine people. "How are we supposed to live now?"

About 70 percent of the population is ethnic Burmese, with the remaining 30 percent divided among over 130 ethnic groups. These have been grouped into seven large tribes divided between seven states on Myanmar's borders. These minority ethnic groups have been pushing for autonomy since the country's independence from Britain in 1948.

At the root of these movements is the widely revered General Aung San, father of democracy activist Aung San Suu Kyi, who was instrumental in leading Burma out of the British Empire. Assassinated in July 1947 – less than a year before his country became formally independent – he also signed the February 1947 Panglong Agreement with the frontier peoples granting them administrative autonomy within the new Burma.

However, successive administrations looking to harvest the rich natural resources in these frontier states have refused to recognize the rights of the ethnic minorities. By 1997 the government had agreed to ceasefires with most of the minority resistance movements pressing for implementation of the Panglong Agreement, granting the border people's local taxation rights and other concessions. However, armed conflict broke out again this year, with the Kachin militia in the thick of the fight.

"The government has suddenly started implementing a lot of support for the Burmese majority," says the Kachin militia's Vice Chief of Staff Sumlut Gun Maw, speaking from the border town of Laiza. "If the global community lifts the economic sanctions on Myanmar, the government army will get much more powerful, and the pressure on the minorities will get very severe.

"We believed in General Aung San," he continues. "His daughter Suu Kyi, on the other hand, is the leader in the fight for democracy for Burmese, but maybe not for the minorities." In other words, Sumlut suspects the world-famous democracy leader has thrown aside her statements for the protection of the minority peoples as she moves closer to the government.

I also met with Suu Kyi in Yangon. She praised the government's release of political prisoners, but when I asked her about the ethnic minorities, she said that she wanted to speak to their leaders but had trouble getting in touch with them.

And so as the fighting between the government and the minorities intensifies, a cold wind also blows between those besieged frontier peoples and the primarily ethnic Burmese pro-democracy movement that battled so hard to break the iron-fisted rule of Myanmar's dictatorship. (By Atsushi Iwasa, Mainichi Shimbun)

Opposition May Rejoin Political System in Myanmar
Publisher: the New York Times, USA
Story date: 16/11/2011
Language: English

BANGKOK — After more than two decades of persecution by Myanmar's military, the party of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi says it will decide Friday whether to rejoin the political system, a potential milestone for a country that appears to be gradually emerging from years of dictatorship and oppression.

Mrs. Aung San Suu Kyi's party, the National League for Democracy, was outlawed after it refused to take part in elections last year and has until recently characterized the changes in Myanmar as cosmetic. The new political system was conceived and is dominated by former generals, including President Thein Sein.

But Mrs. Aung San Suu Kyi, who was under house arrest for most of the past two decades until her release a year ago, is now more inclined to cooperate with the government, U Nyan Win, a spokesman for the party, said Wednesday by telephone.

"The lady said the president is willing to change," Mr. Nyan Win said, employing the polite term commonly used in Myanmar for Mrs. Aung San Suu Kyi.

Mr. Nyan Win, a top official in the party, said he favored rejoining the political system, which would mean that party members, including Mrs. Aung San Suu Kyi, would be eligible to run for office in coming by-elections.

"Change will be accelerated if we reregister our party and cooperate with the government," Mr. Nyan Win said.

Of late, Mrs. Aung San Suu Kyi has been invited to high-level meetings with officials. Portraits of her father, Gen. Aung San, founder of the country's modern military, hang prominently in government offices.

This month the government proposed amendments to the electoral laws that would include lifting a ban that prevented "convicts" from joining political parties, a move that observers said might help entice Mrs. Aung San Suu Kyi to reregister her party.

Yet a decision to rejoin the political system, which would carry enormous political significance inside and outside the country, is far from guaranteed. Mrs. Aung San Suu Kyi's party remains divided between those eager to rejoin the mainstream and a small group of hard-liners who are not convinced that the recent changes to the economy and the political system are real and permanent.

In addition, other crucial decisions have yet to be announced, including a response to Mrs. Aung San Suu Kyi's demand that more political prisoners be released.

The government released some prisoners in October, but many prominent dissidents are still detained. An open letter by the chairman of the country's human rights commission that was published in the state news media on Sunday urged the government to grant an amnesty to "prisoners of conscience." Such letters are rare in Myanmar, where until recently political discourse was almost always held behind closed doors.

For the government, a significant motivating factor for change appears to be international acceptance. In 2006, Myanmar, then run overtly by a military junta, renounced its turn for the rotating presidency of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, or Asean, in the face of foreign pressure over human rights abuses and the detention of political prisoners.

Myanmar, which is also known as Burma, is now lobbying to take on the chairmanship of Asean in 2014, a responsibility that carries prestige in the eyes of the Burmese leadership. Reports from Bali, Indonesia, where leaders of Asean are meeting through this weekend, suggest that Myanmar has significant support from other members on the issue of the chairmanship. But the group, which works by consensus, has not announced a decision.

Survey of Afghan refugees in Pakistan will help plot future course
Publisher: News Press, France
Story date: 16/11/2011
Language: English

Haji Saadat never imagined he would spend more than three decades in exile when he first fled Afghanistan and took refuge in Pakistan.

After leaving his home in Jawzjan in northern Afghanistan, Haji and his family spent nine years in a refugee camp in north-western Pakistan. In 1991, they moved to Attock, a small town in the Pakistani province of Punjab.

Haji's 13-member extended family is one of the more than 2,500 ethnic Turkman families in Attock, who make their living through carpet weaving. Two of the three rooms in the family's rented house are set aside for carpet making. Family members work in shifts from dawn until dusk seated in front of wooden frames on which they weave woollen strands into intricate patterns.

Despite his many years as a refugee, Haji does not yet feel the time is right to return home. Continuing insecurity in Afghanistan and better economic prospects in Pakistan have convinced him – like many other Afghan refugees – to postpone plans to repatriate.

Recently, Haji and his family took part in a UNHCR-supported survey which aims to gather information on the living conditions of Afghan refugees in Pakistan, their challenges and what, if any, obstacles are keeping them from returning home.

The Population Profiling, Verification and Response (PPVR) exercise began in August and survey teams belonging to a UNHCR partner agency have interviewed more than 60,000 Afghan households, about 50 per cent of the total targeted Afghan refugee population. The survey will continue until the end of 2011.

The findings of the PPVR exercise will inform the Pakistan government's new multi-year strategy to manage the world's most protracted refugee situation. Voluntary repatriation, which has seen more than 5 million Afghans return home, remains at the centre of the Afghan Management and Repatriation Strategy.

The government's strategy also envisages a system of stay permits that would allow a limited number of Afghans in Pakistan to remain in the country for a determined period of time. This includes various categories of Afghan refugees who may be granted permits as businessmen, students and labourers. Certain vulnerable groups, such as widows with children could also be given residency rights.

"For sure I want to go to Afghanistan, who wants to die and be buried in a land that does not belong to you," said Haji Sadaat. "I can only go when the situation there is stable, but I hear from my relatives that life there is very difficult."

Haji's daughter-in-law, Khadija, aged 38, said that she wants to remain in Pakistan and, if given a choice, she would not have to make carpets. "If had the opportunity, I would like to do tailoring," Khadia shyly told a visiting UNHCR team. "My whole body aches because of sitting long hours for carpet weaving."

But for now the family depends on the business. On average they complete at least two carpets a month, which brings in an income of around 40,000 Pakistan rupees a month, or about US$450.

Meeting recently with Haji and other members of the Turkman refugee group, UNHCR Deputy Representative to Pakistan Maya Ameratunga urged all Afghans to help the PPVR teams collect accurate data. "The data from the survey will very much help the government of Pakistan and UNHCR to make informed decisions on how to respond to the needs of Afghan refugees," she told the group.

Pakistan currently hosts some 1.7 million Afghan refugees with neighbouring Iran home to one million. So far this year, more than 60,000 Afghan refugees have returned home.

Refugees Daily
Refugees Global Press Review
Compiled by Media Relations and Public Information Service, UNHCR
For UNHCR Internal Distribution