Medical Aid to Arakan State Rohingya Blocked, MSF Says

A makeshift Rohingya camp in Arakan State last year. (Photo: Reuters)

RANGOON — A medical aid group says its access to camps with tens of thousands of Muslims who fled the inter-communal violence in Arakan State, is being blocked by government forces and local leaders. As a result, the displaced are suffering and at times dying from preventable diseases.

Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) General Director Arjan Hehenkamp told a press conference on Thursday that Muslim groups were being confined to sites in muddy rice fields or narrow strips of land without access to health care, clean water or sanitation.

Government security forces restrict MSF visits and limit the movement of Muslim patients, even if they are critically ill, Hehenkamp said, adding that local Arakanese were reluctant to cooperate with MSF due to the authorities’ attitude, or because they resent efforts to help the Muslim camps.

“If we transport a sick Muslim patient to Sittwe Hospital, it often happened that the captains of the boats did not dare to take the patient,” he said.

MSF (also known as Doctors without Borders) is only is allowed to visit camps just once a week and its staff cannot stay overnight. As a result, common ailments like skin infections, diarrhea, coughing, worms and diarrhea go untreated, Hehenkamp said, adding that the situation severely impacts the villagers’ health, especially among children.

“The morning we arrived at a camp, a child who was one- and half-year old had died from a common cold. This disease is preventable, but it can be a death sentence at these camps,” he said.

Since June 2012, Arakan State in west Burma has been the scene of repeated outbreaks of inter-communal violence between Arakanese Buddhist groups and local Muslims, who are called Rohingya. Scores of people have been killed, villages have been burned down, and 110,000 people have fled their homes. The majority of the displaced are Rohingya.

This group is not recognized as ethnic minority by the Burmese government and local Arakanese authorities are accused by international rights groups of being complicit in the violence against the Rohingya, who are referred to locally as “Bengalis.”

MSF said the main challenge to its support operations was the hostility the group encountered from local Arakanese community, which objected to MSF operations for Muslims in northern and eastern Arakan State.

“In pamphlets, letters and Facebook postings, [MSF] and others have been repeatedly accused of having a pro-Rohingya bias, by some members of the [Arakanese] community. It is this intimidation, rather than formal permission for access, that is the primary challenge,” MSF said in a release.

Its General Director made a direct appeal to the national government and local state leaders to publicly support the group’s aid work.

“I would like to ask the government and the community in Arakan State, to stand up and support our medical mission, affirming this is a medical mission that is neutral and works for every community,” Hehenkamp said.

Ye Htut, a spokesperson for Burmese President Thein Sein, said he had not yet read MSF’s remarks and could therefore not comment on the group’s appeal.

Several months ago, MSF also complained of being hindered by local Arakanese community members and government security forces, and in June MSF and UN staff were even briefly detained by security forces.

An MSF press release warned that in some camps rapid screenings had found “alarming numbers of severely malnourished children.” It also quoted several Muslim villagers, who described the hardships they faced.

“We are very worried about our women; we have more than 200 pregnant women in our camp. For their delivery they cannot go to a health center and they will have to deliver here… in the mud without a doctor,” said a Muslim man living in a camp in Pauktaw Township.

7 Responses to Medical Aid to Arakan State Rohingya Blocked, MSF Says

  1. In thailand, Ministry of Interior wants all INGOs to do some things for the local inhabitants when ever they do some things for th refugees; for example setting up a library in the Myanmar refugee camps, INGOs have to set up a library to the local people as a token.
    To appease local people (Arakanese) , give some medicines to them.

  2. Why Irrawaddy didn’t mention how many children and wives a muslim man from that camp have? In a single camp, they have 200 pregnant women at the same period. What kind of people are they? No wonder people of Myanmar and Rakhine feel threaten for their own existence by these Bengali and refuse to accept them as citizens.

  3. In the past, MSF itself made mistakes in Arakan state for several years. Their work was not fair between two groups in the state Their humanitarian aids and health care focused only on the Muslim group in the state but not on the local Rakhine community who also urgently need such assistance in the country at that time. Their callous conduct in the state, i believe, makes them lose local community’s support. If their intention was sincere in the past, there is no reason why their assistance can’t be welcome for the local people. First try to build confidence among local people.

  4. Humanitarian crisis and humanitarian assistance must be handled in human way no matter illegal immigrants or legal citizens. Every human has the right to access to medicare and food to survive. We the people of Burma can do better than that. Deport illegals but before deporting to their country, we have the responsibility to take care of them.

  5. It has all along been the plan of so called Rohingya to create a new Islamic country out of Rakhine state and parts of Bangladesh with the help of Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) and other UN and international organizations by publicizing that that the so called Rohingya are tortured and living in dire situations. Bangladesh publications “Weekly Blitz” of 6th Sept 2012 and “dainik purbokone” (with English translation available in Scribd) 7th Sept 2012 revealed that the conspiracy to create independent Islamic “Newrosia” country with Sharia law is getting fullest support from some of the Muslim nations in the world.

    It is curious to note that along with The Irrawaddy, Financial times and numerous publications published the same article at the same time from the same source. Was there a puppet master behind the scene?

    However, the investigative reporters never bothered to obtain any response from the Myanmar security forces and local administration regarding the allegations.

    After all, is it not the responsibility of Foreign Organizations to work with the host nation? Every nation has laws and security issues. Do MSF want unfettered access because some of their members have ulterior motives?

    Finally, it appears that any allegation that furthers the cause of so called Rohingya to create independent Islamic “Newrosia” country with Sharia law are taken as correct that requires no further query by the news organizations.

  6. MSF has been working with the rohingyas for more than a decade, though Arakan State and therefore the majority non-rohingya people are in dire need of medical aid. some staff members of MSF on the Burmese and Bangladesh side have been engaged in inciting trouble and aiding and abetting in activities disliked both by the Burmese and Bangladeshi people and their governments. If MSF want to work with no siding to any parties, they must serve all the people irrespective of race or religion, besides their much favoured rohingya bengalis. time and again we have seen the siding and inciting trouble that even led to the riots, and its resultant false and fabricated propaganda for the rohingyas and their islamist groups based in the Middle East, UK, US, etc.


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