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Myanmar: ASEAN leaders are expected to sign a landmark migrant workers’ rights document; ministers still ponders on document’s legal binding effect

13 Nov 2017 — "ASEAN may boost aid for migrant workers", 10 November 2017 ASEAN leaders are expected to sign a landmark document that would further protect and promote the rights of migrant workers during the summit…. ...The ASEAN Consensus on the Protection and Promotion of the Rights of Migrant Workers will be one of the highlights of the…summit.... The new accord will further strengthen social protection, access to justice, humane and fair treatment as well as access to health service for the migrant workers in the region. Thailand, Malaysia and Singapore have millions of migrant workers in their countries from Myanmar…. …ASEAN ministers responsible for social and cultural pillars met and discussed in the Philippines to decide whether the new landmark document should be legally binding or not. Indonesia wants the new accord to have legal commitment. Other members would prefer the so-called morally binding.

Bangladesh: Rohingya refugee children suffer exploitation in camps; reports of poor working conditions and abuse continue

13 Nov 2017 — "Exclusive: $6 for 38 days work: Child exploitation rife in Rohingya camps", 13 November 2017 Rohingya refugee children from Myanmar are working punishing hours for paltry pay in Bangladesh, with some suffering beatings and sexual assault, the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) has found. The...probe...also documented accounts of Rohingya girls as young as 11 getting married, and parents saying the unions would provide protection and economic advancement. The IOM said children were targeted by labor agents and encouraged to work by their destitute parents amid widespread malnutrition and poverty... Boys work on farms, construction sites and fishing boats, as well as in tea shops and as rickshaw drivers... Girls typically work as maids and nannies... Reuters interviewed seven families who sent their children to work. All reported terrible working conditions, low wages or abuse. Muhammad Zubair...said he was offered 250 taka per day but ended up with only 500 taka ($6) for 38 days work building roads. His mother said he was 14 years old. Many parents also pressure their daughters to marry early, for protection and for financial stability... Some child brides are as young as 11... Kateryna Ardanyan, an IOM anti-trafficking specialist, said exploitation had become “normalized” in the camps. “Human traffickers usually adapt faster to the situation than any other response mechanism can. It’s very important we try to do prevention.” Ardanyan said.    

New report calls on internet cos. to do more to fight terrorist incitement & disinformation in line with responsibility to uphold human rights

7 Nov 2017 — "Harmful Content: The Role of Internet Platform Companies in Fighting Terrorist Incitement and Politically Motivated Disinformation", Nov 2017 Terrorist incitement and politically motivated disinformation…seek to distort…truth, discredit liberal institutions and… undermine “democratic values, human rights, and the rule of law”… [H]armful online expression can spread so…quickly that rebuttal…becomes ineffectual… Government regulation is often too blunt an instrument… Internet…companies assert…they are neither editors nor publishers and have no…ability to serve as arbiters… This long-standing position rests on an incorrect premise… [Their] own activities suggest that Facebook, Google, Twitter, and others can take effective action to counter…false information and terrorist incitement, even if they cannot be expected to develop impregnable defences. Google is experimenting with a…system that detects a user's interest in ISIS… YouTube…toughened its stance toward videos that contain inflammatory…content… [T]hey can do still more: Enhance company governance…, Refine the algorithms,… Introduce more “friction”,… Increase human oversight,… Reform advertising models,… Advance industry cooperation,… Identify government’s role… Given the peril of… government interference… major internet platforms ought to exercise the …governance authority of their own… This is not a responsibility to…act as an organ of government… [I]t is… consistent with their stated commitment to uphold human rights. [Refers to Alphabet, AppNexus, AT&T, Buzzfeed, Bing, GoDaddy, Instagram, Jigsaw, Johnson & Johnson, Messenger, Microsoft, LinkedIn, Pepsi, Signal, Skype, Snapchat, Telegram, WeChat, Walmart, WhatsApp].

Myanmar: Persecución del pueblo Rohingya vinculada a intereses empresariales, según académicos

31 Oct 2017 — “Persecución de la Minoría étnica en Birmania/Myanmar: otra perspectiva”, 20 de octubre de 2017 La persecución a que se ve sometida actualmente la etnia Rohingya en Birmania/Myanmar es objeto de creciente preocupación por la comunidad internacional…[El autor considera] que es la apetencia del estamento militar birmano por las tierras ocupadas ancestralmente por los Rohingyas… lo que realmente se encuentra en la base de este problema… [El poder militar] de Myanmar controla a través de sus propias empresas importantes intereses económicos y se halla presto a negociar con quien pueda financiar la adquisición del dominio de las tierras para actividades en el sector agroalimentario o el de obras públicas… Myanmar se encuentra entre dos colosos, India y China… [que] ven en …Myanmar - un foco preferente de interés. Así, no parece casual el que el conflicto con la minoría Rohingya se haya exacerbado tras la promulgación…en 2012, de [las] leyes sobre Tierras de Cultivo y Gestión de Tierras Vacantes, …que, en la práctica, han favorecido la especulación y los grandes intereses empresariales… 

Myanmar: Human rights groups call into question Facebook's role in Rohingya crisis

30 Oct 2017 — "A War of Words Puts Facebook at the Center of Myanmar’s Rohingya Crisis", 27 Oct 2017 Myanmar’s government has barred Ashin Wirathu, an ultranationalist Buddhist monk, from public preaching for the past year, saying his speeches helped fuel the violence against the country’s Rohingya ethnic group that the United Nations calls ethnic cleansing... So he has turned to an even more powerful...platform to get his message out — Facebook. International human rights groups say Facebook should be doing more to prevent the hateful speech, focusing as much on global human rights as on its business...Across the world, Facebook and other social platforms are being questioned about their expanding role and responsibilities as publishers of information. In Myanmar... the stakes of what appears on the site are exceptionally high...After the 2016 United States elections, Facebook rolled out a set of guidelines to help users identify fake news and misinformation. The company does not regularly remove misinformation itself... [C]ompany has worked with local partners to introduce a Burmese-language illustrated copy of its platform standards and will “continue to refine” its practices, said a spokeswoman, Clare Wareing, in an emailed statement.

Stakeholders press energy companies doing business with Myanmar to address Rohingya crisis

23 Oct 2017 — A group of investors and stakeholders has called on energy companies doing business in Myanmar/Burma to reassess their dealings in light of that country’s brutal military crackdown on its ethnic Rohingya minority... [L]etters signed by 31 investor organizations representing more than $53 billion in assets...were sent to executives at six oil and gas companies...Commodities make up a majority of Myanmar’s exports and are often the armed forces... International Campaign for the Rohingya said, "...The oil companies in Burma must take affirmative steps to avoid complicity in these crimes against humanity.” In addition to citing the moral obligation..., the letters express concern about the potential risks to investments in the country as well as harm to corporate reputations...The letter to oil companies states...:“We believe that [your] operations and investment in Myanmar... creates a special obligation for [your company] to both express its concern over recent events and to reassess its relationship with the government in light of the...recent military actions against Rohingya communities. We cannot maintain ‘business as usual’ in a country where allegations of crimes against humanity and genocide persist.” Companies receiving the letter were China National Offshore Oil Corporation, Daewoo, PetroChina, Petronas, Total, and Woodside Petroleum.

Australia: Woodside's chief executive to assess ramifications for company of abuses against Rohingya in Myanmar

23 Oct 2017 — "Woodside CEO Coleman to assess Myanmar Rohingya crisis", 20 October 2017 Woodside Petroleum chief executive Peter Coleman will travel to personally assess the humanitarian crisis affecting the nation, amid warnings from human rights experts that the company risks ethical and even legal damage from continuing to invest there. Woodside was among the first international oil and gas companies to enter the highly prospective nation after the country began to open its doors to the rest of the world. But the nation’s social and economic emergence has been threatened by the crisis surrounding Myanmar’s treatment of the Rohingya ethnic minority. There have been allegations of severe human rights abuses and even genocide against the Rohingya, with several governments and aid groups condemning the actions of the military and regime. The bulk of the company’s ground sits off the coast of Myanmar’s Rakhine state, where most of the alleged atrocities have taken place, and any pipeline connecting Woodside’s discoveries with Asian markets would almost certainly have to cross through the region... Mr Coleman said the company was watching closely to see how Myanmar worked through the “complex” situation. Keren Adams, the director of advocacy at the Melbourne-based Human Rights Law Centre, said Woodside was “walking a very fine line in terms of its human rights obligations”...

Union of Myanmar Federation of Chamber of Commerce and Industry commits to helping government’s Rakhine development

23 Oct 2017 — The Union of Myanmar Federation of Chamber of Commerce and Industry (UMFCCI) announced October 21 that it was setting up Nine Private Sector Task Forces for taking part in the Myanmar government’s [Enterprise of Humanitarian Assistance, Resettlement ad Development] UEHRD Project. Nine Task Forces formed will help the work of resettlement and development in Rakhine State in the sectors concerned with each task force by pooling all resources of the private sector, the UMFCCI said... The meeting...formed Nine Task Forces constituted with representatives of organizations and businesspersons, for complementing and taking part in the...project in selected nine sectors based on the expertise of the private sector. These task forces will do the immediate work of resettlement and providing humanitarian assistance in Rakhine State besides other short term and long term work of creating business and job opportunities, promotion of trade and attracting investments with detailed working plans and schemes...UEHRD...said, “We will prove that the private sector businesspersons can turn Rakhine State into a developed State amid the immense difficulties. We will invite all businesspersons and people across the country for taking part in this noble work through all sorts of platforms such as internet, and mobile phones and social media.” 

Myanmar: Labour confederation pushes for K6600 minimum wage to meet high cost of living

23 Oct 2017 — "Labour confederation wants new K6600 minimum wage", 19 October 2017 The Confederation of Trade Unions in Myanmar (CTUM), the country’s largest workers organisation, will fight for K6600 daily minimum wages despite warnings by some businessmen that a minimum wage of K4800 could lead to closures of some businesses….    …Workers could only keep up with the high cost of living if they are paid daily minimum wages of K6600. …Regional committees have proposed the new minimum wages to be between K4000 and K4800 during the meeting of the National Committee for New Minimum Wages…. …The proposed rate favour the employers and did not consider the difficulties faced by the workers due to high cost of living.  …CTUM…surveyed the daily expenses of workers such as eating, dressing, living, education…transportation, communications and for healthcare. The survey revealed a worker in Yangon has to spend at least K5634 per day, while workers from the Sagaing region needs K4690 daily to satisfy his or her daily needs. 

Commentary: “To influence the Myanmar military, we need to undermine their finances through sanctions & by targeting key industries”

20 Oct 2017 — "Myanmar: It’s time to bring back sanctions", 20 Oct 2017 ...To make a real impact, we should focus our leverage on Myanmar’s powerful army, who not only hold a strong grip over the country’s economy, but also make many key political appointments and reserve 110 seats in parliament for unelected soldiers. Council conclusions refer to suspending invitations to the military, but to influence the military, we also need to undermine their finances: both through more punitive sanctions and by targeting key industries like jade production, which have helped to finance the conflict.   When Parliament elected Htin Kyaw – a close confidant of State Councillor Aung San Suu Kyi – as president in February of last year, we welcomed the end to five decades of military rule. As a result, it is understandable that a lot of the anger in the international community has been directed at the inaction of Aung San Suu Kyi.  However, given that unelected soldiers still make up a quarter of the assembly and hold veto power, it is clear that she is not in total control. We must not let our disappointment in Aung San Suu Kyi cloud our impetus to act to undermine Myanmar’s army...