Myanmar + 1 more

Humanitarian assistance to vulnerable population in Myanmar and to Burmese refugees along the Myanmar-Thai border

Location of operation: Myanmar & Thailand
Amount of decision: 11,650,000 euro
Decision reference number: ECHO/-AS/BUD/2004/02000

Explanatory Memorandum

1 - Rationale, needs and target population:

1.1. - Rationale:

Myanmar is being ruled by a military regime which is reported to have one of the world's poorest human rights records. Forced village relocations and on-going armed resistance have led in the past years to a flux of refugees (around 150,000 of which 120,000 in Thailand(1) and 20,000 in Bangladesh(2)) and internally displaced people (estimated at around 600,000 according to the Burmese Border Consortium, of which 365,000 live in 180 relocation sites under the control of State Peace & Democracy Council (SPDC) and 268,000 in hiding or temporary shelter), most of them located along the thai-burmese border. In addition to these between 1 and 2 million Burmese illegal immigrants are living in Thailand. While most of the ethnic groups have signed cease fire agreements with the government in the past fifteen years, others like the Karen National Union (KNU) have not, and this group forms the biggest part of the refugees still living in camps in Thailand. At the end of 2003, the KNU entered into a dialogue with the Myanmar government on the terms of a ceasefire agreement; for the time being these discussions are suspended. If fruitful, they could lead to a return of refugees from Thailand in a short/medium term. In the meantime, assistance to these refugees remains vital to their survival. The SPDC announced last year a road map to democracy and a National convention started last 17 May 2004 with the aim of drafting a constitution and leading to parliamentary elections. However, the main opposition party (the National League for Democracy-NLD) refused to participate. NLD leader and Nobel Prize Laureate Aung San Suu Kyi is still under house arrest and NLD has not been allowed to reopen offices throughout the country. The National Convention is in recess since July 2004. In this context, on 26 April 2004 the Council rolled over the EU Common Position and the Regulation renewing sanctions against Burma/Myanmar. These sanctions were further tightened on 25 October by expanding the visa ban list to include serving members of the military of the rank of Brigadier-General and above and members of their families. The revised Common Position also prohibits the financial participation of EU registered companies in Burmese state-owned enterprises. In addition to proscribing the extension of credit facilities and the acquisition by EU registered companies and EU citizens of debt instruments issued by Burmese state-owned enterprises, the Common Position also widely proscribes the acquisition of equity by EU registered companies and EU citizens in these enterprises. Under the EU Common Position, non-humanitarian or development programmes remain suspended with exceptions for programmes in support of

(a) human rights, democracy, good governance, conflict prevention and building the capacity of civil society,

(b) health and education, poverty alleviation and in particular the provision of basic needs and livelihoods for the poorest and most vulnerable populations,

(c) environmental protection, and in particular programmes addressing the problem of non-sustainable, excessive logging resulting in deforestation.

The programmes and projects should be implemented through UN agencies, non-governmental organisations, and through decentralised cooperation with local civilian administrations.

In this political environment Myanmar continues to be one of the poorest countries in Asia and ranks in the position 132 of the UN Human Development Index: 25% of the population is living under the poverty level (UNICEF) and 70% of household expenditure is on food (UN Survey, 1997). Only limited international assistance is granted. Total ODA for 2002 represented around 2€ per capita (compared with €30 for Cambodia and €42 for Laos). The situation in the health sector is particularly worrying, and WHO's World Health report 2004 shows that Myanmar's per capita government expenditure on health is (together with the Democratic Republic of Congo) the lowest in the world. Some humanitarian indicators like under five mortality rate -108 per 1,000 live births- triple the rates in neighboring Thailand.

This decision will aim at addressing some of the basic humanitarian needs of the most vulnerable populations, who do not have sufficient access to basic services mainly because they are being discriminated against by the central authorities on ethnic (Mon and Karen minorities opposed to the central governement) or religious grounds (the Muslim Rakhine in Northern Rakhine State). It will also target the humanitarian needs of Burmese refugees along the Myanmar-Thai border who are almost entirely dependent on international aid.

The proposed decision also fully responds to ECHO's annual strategy in 2004, which continues to focus on forgotten needs (Myanmar is, together with western Sahara, the most forgotten crisis in ECHO's Global Needs assessment for 2004). The decision will also have clear components covering two of the key cross cutting issues mentioned in that strategy: water and children.


(1)UNHCR reports that there are close to 120,000 officially registered refugees in nine camps along the Thai-Burma border and 22 000 unregistered refugees, the Thai authorities having ceased to officially register new arrivals since the end of 2001. 75% of them are of Karen origin.

(2)Remaining caseload