Burmese Govt Reversed MSF Ban Because of ‘International Pressure’

A sign is seen outside a Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) clinic in a village in Maungdaw Township, Arakan State, on June 6, 2014. (Photo: Reuters)

A sign is seen outside a Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) clinic in a village in Maungdaw Township, Arakan State, on June 6, 2014. (Photo: Reuters)

RANGOON — A senior government official has reportedly told Arakanese community leaders that Burma’s decision to allow Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) to resume work in Arakan State was the result of significant pressure from the international community

The government last week invited the medical NGO to return to the state in western Burma after it was forced to leave in February amid opposition to the group’s presence from Arakanese Buddhist leaders, who believe MSF has shown bias in favor of Rohingya Muslims.

Before it was expelled, the NGO was a major health care provider in Arakan State, where inter-communal violence since mid-2012 has killed dozens of people and displaced about 140,000, mostly from the stateless Rohingya minority.

It is unclear on what terms MSF will return, but the move may spark opposition in the state, with a Twitter account linked to the President’s Office claiming a statewide protest is being planned.

President’s Office Minister Soe Thein met with more than 100 local leaders in the state capital, Sittwe, on Sunday, allegedly admitting that international pressure had forced the government’s hand.

“He [Soe Thein] told us that in order to give favor to the international community, our government has to let MSF come back to Arakan,” community leader Than Tun told The Irrawaddy.

“They [the international community] put a lot of pressure on our government about this. This is why our government had to invite MSF back.”

Soe Thein told the community leaders he wanted to “apologize to the ethnic Arakanese people” for the government’s decision, Than Tun said.

Burma has been criticized for its handling of the situation in Arakan State by the UN and Western governments, which are providing significant development aid to the reformist government that took power in 2011.

Prior to MSF’s expulsion, the aid group said it had treated patients wounded in a massacre of Rohingya in Maungdaw Township’s Du Chee Yar Tan village that the government said did not happen. Weeks later, riots broke out in Sittwe against other foreign aid organizations’ offices and staff, and since then a panel involving Arakanese leaders, including Than Tun, has scrutinized applications to conduct humanitarian projects in Arakan State.

Pe Than, a Lower House lawmaker for the Rakhine Nationalities Development Party, said that the government should find a compromise with the ethnic Arakanese community before allowing MSF to return.

“There will be no problem with our ethnic people if the government maintains that MSF must not act with bias when offering aid to refugees. Of course, our region needs help from MSF, but it’s important that the government listens to the desires of our people,” said Pe Than, adding that MSF, which has been accused of disproportionately hiring Muslims, must employ more Arakanese people.

A delegation led by Soe Thein, which also included Immigration Minister Khin Yi and US Ambassador Derek Mitchell, met with Muslim leaders in Sittwe on Sunday. Aung Win, a Rohingya rights activist in Sittwe, said that discussions centered on an ongoing citizenship verification process, rather than the return of MSF to the state.

When MSF left the region, the Ministry of Health said it would step up its delivery of medical services in Arakan State, but numerous reports suggest that many have been left without access to medical services.

MSF issued a statement on Friday in which it welcomed the government’s invitation to return to Arakan State.

“MSF is cautiously optimistic about this development,” said Marcel Langenbach, director of operations for MSF in Amsterdam in the statement.

“Given that for many people in Rakhine access to medical services remains a major challenge, we hope that MSF can restart treating patients as soon as possible.”

6 Responses to Burmese Govt Reversed MSF Ban Because of ‘International Pressure’

  1. All Media is a key player – mostly play it wrong in Myanmar – Rakhine.
    Last not least the media has a big tool and often uses it wrong or not equal sided, either they like to equal the sides with more here or there sided report or they are with a certain side already or just need readership and be in the streamline to sell the paper….
    There need to be in any article also highlights what the Bengalis can do / should do as well must do from their side to ease fear from normal Rakhines and there are many ways
    , many as , through educated and free will birth control, which the UN and same INGO s and media promote and active enforce in Africa,—same in Rakhine on one is able to start with, decry even when some one talks about this ……here is the major Key for peace in Rakhine State :”… is the Majority of North Rakhine in 20 years Muslim , Hindu or Buddhist, Christian,,, ??? which law needs than to be followed, which right will a minority have than…. “ the whole world fights religious extremism – so in North Rakhine and much supported from Pakistan is available there ….. eradicate these fear and the peace is already yours ….

    At the end each Rakhine also wants to secure only his family, his ancestors land and his business, his culture and religion to celebrate freely,– that is all.

  2. It is not the pressure of the international community it is the very high demand on medical and near any other aid needed for all Rakhine and every one living there. It is the general policy of President Thein Sein to lift through education, health care and job opportunities each state out of poverty. Regardless why and how a situation is as such since the past. Logic that with extremism on either side such positive thought development will be delayed or derailed. In Rakhine state it is delayed heavy since 3.6.2012 Taunguk sad events and there are minority groups mixed with the insufficient law and order ensured by the past Rakhine PM,- so also through several cabinet members which are more than close to extremist groups. Not to blame them as Rakhine has a special history of always left behind,- the international aid & UN community never draw a plan how the other side in Rakhine to come in and help to extinct the fire. Be it with right identification of citizenship and be it than that illegal entered to Myanmar need to go home,- so the real one should support this process. The Monogamy must be acknowledged and enforced by the other sides full support. All ethnic and any faith s children must enter the Government schools at first to grow together and give Madrasas’ a clear line what is ethical and what is not in a mixed faith state. Than fear can be reduced by Rakhine people which will over time change again to trust. Of course and here is the danger and maybe for some clear to see,- a Democracy bears the danger that politicians manipulate with wrong and over sized messages – propaganda the best not for the people but for them only. Here the Union Government sure made big mistakes not to call it intentionally – specially talking about the Ministry of Home Affairs which e=never ever was able to produce good or not even any results after dag and bad events happened in Rakhine State either on 3.6.2012 in Taunguk,8.6.2012 in Maungdaw, late July when Thandwe burnt first time and same on 29.9.2013 when Thandwe burnt the second time. Reluctant to have open trails against the 90 plus criminals – no results ever heard. Looks that if not an involvement from former or present Government officials than bargain behind the scenes rather than Justice looks as the name of the game. An up to any normal criminal case in Myanmar also by the people normal ” arrangements ” to solve problems and to have the least damage done after a crime was committed already.—- Whereby minor cases between Buddhists are dragged as long as possible and each time money flows to both or some times three directions for most mini cases which were in other countries to small to call. But at Thandwe Court make every one involved busy and earning the only real reason behind such system one will think.

  3. The great chance with MSF expelled and now with a chance to come back is to sit together and clearly address where one believes they do wrong,- have monitor person there and ensure in a transparent and no more fabricated news that all Rakhine Public knows the right info only. So one should think twice what the accusations are:
    – MSF treats near to only Bengalis,– I believe that is right, so important to see that simple village Rakhine are watched and fined to ensure they do not use MSF clinics, these were facts – Rakhine people change and use the facilities do not let you bully by a nationalistic small group.
    – MSF hires only or to many Bengalis,- as the main job with camps and North Rakhine are Bengali communities, one would not believe that a Rakhine which is not comfortable with the Bengali patients ( or wiser verses ) would or could be at the moment a good solution.
    Bringing back to your mind the incidents at Sittwe General Hospital reported by Myanmar Times,- where even top medical Drs ( Rakhine ) decide over dead or alive, one child operated or sent back into the camp as it happened this year and the MS had no chance just to follow. This is wrong and this is criminal and this needs to be stopped by the Government of Rakhine State before they can have a word on any subject concerning health treatment by others…..Or the young lady which were offered specialist Drs treatment
    but the Rakhine Surgeon dismissed the offer with the words “… No need as she is a woman, is poor and a Muslim…. “ live tone at Sittwe Hospital early this year. The Rakhine surgeon performed in his way the operation and was judges as “… he closed the wound as we would say “ Like a Rice Bag by a farmer “…. but not as a trained medical Dr & Myanmmar Surgeon …. except that is the most Myanmar surgeons are able to do…..
    Here it is right that the Union Government with full backing of new Rakhine PM invites all INGO s back to Rakhine and Northern Rakhine, specially MSF as they were the one most on the ground where medical help was and is now much more needed. Taking over what Rakhine Drs do not want to do and let die or purposely do bad to have bad medical results.
    It is not fabricated all on record and pictures taken. Here the Government is right to let MSF fill again the wide gap, so ensure that daily operations are transparent, how many patients came to a clinic how many where from which community, as they are free and open and with a majority on Rakhine people = the most patients should be Rakhine,m when allowed by these special internal nationalistic forces.

  4. Keep in mind that when MSF left over 450 AIDS HIV patients in Sittwe alone could not get the regular medical drugs anymore,—and all, all were Rakhine Nationals not one Bengali.
    Means a 100 % MSF for Rakhine People only in this Sittwe project and issue alone. Of course in Northern Rakhine it looks logically more mixed.
    So will the new PM get all the pending cases running, cleared and public,- will he stand to the Union s commends of “ Government will ensure the safety of all NGO – INGO staff… “ which means uses force and even shoot if the commends above are right that a mass strike is on the way already again, organized by the small minorities which also drive out MSF, most of them we saw are tri shaw driver, goods carry man from the market all the well educated in Sittwe we did not see….
    Or let alone all the Rakhine great people working in Malaysia, Singapore, USA and Thailand should be forced back home with all their knowledge, skill and funding power, sure Rakhine would not need the Union Governments support and most probably not a MSF existence — It is a Rakhine own peoples problem by shifting east and neglecting their Western front,- rubbish when U Thura Shwe Man stated a year ago he is proud the Rakhine save the Western Front,- these are only left behinds, either Farmers with work or people which would not make it anywhere,—the good people U Thura Shwe Man talked about ( if he did not mean the extremists and nationalists ) , the one he meant live long time in Yangon ( that’s why they need in Yangon Government a Minister for Rakhine Issues —- can you imagine equal rights one day in Myanmar, not in the Thein Sein time,—but later a Minister for Bengali Issues in the Sittwe Government ??? just the same – of course one which is proven there already since centuries through Family. ) And U Shwe Man s people are in other countries earning good money and would not come back for a 30.000 Kyat ( 28 $ US a month ) to work as a Rakhine under a greedy and stingy Rakhine boss and owner…
    As one can see the reality of the Rakhine peoples workforce in Sittwe and here it might explain also an MSF issue of having to many Bengalis hired. Go to a construction side and you will hear it all over again ”…first of all Rakhine do not want to work ,.. than if they come it should be 5000 Kyat and above ( 2000 to 3000 K is normal ) as day labor without skills…—what we do ??? we try to get the day labor from the Hindu community,- but the best and well working is to bring even the day labor from Yangon and have them living here for the construction time ……this is the daily reality…… “ not my view but could hear it where ever we asked at construction sites in Sittwe …..

  5. A hope is that the Rakine Party and all activists as well extremists find ways to promote their stand in a legal but more positive way to make sure people understand , love and support out of this Rakhine people and the state. Sure the Governments drive for INGO s and MSF to return was not out of International pressure, be assured they withstood very different pressure over the past 60 years – this here is peanuts. But this Government wants and we can see it in great developments of road, electricity, hospitals and many more construction and initiatives, they want Rakhine State to develop,- the best is before 2015 election to win the hearts of the people for a vote.
    Now the All Rakhine Parties should not believe that massing up their peoples state and demonstrate and boycott is a good way as an Election campaign, these times should be over
    in a transition to Democracy – which is of course not one, but on the way. Do not forget that Germany and its people created two world wars on their Journey to Democracy. Sure a journey a Rakhine and a Rakhine politician, even Dr Aye Maung can not want for their people. Best wishes for a smooth and peaceful transition let the people talk and decide alone
    do not organize such mass by a view only and Rakhine can prosper. Not Good Luck but Good Leadership is needed also and very much from the Bengali leaders as they are also on the wrong road,- actually with results against their own people.

  6. Dr. Cynthia Maung
    A Karen
    A Saviour…
    Thai/Burma Border
    Doctor Without Border

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