MSF, Human Rights Commission at Odds Over Maungdaw Violence

Myanmar, Burma, The Irrawaddy, Maungdaw, Arakan State, Rakhine, Médecins Sans Frontières, MSF

The headquarters of the former Nasaka border guard security force is seen in Maungdaw Township, Arakan State. (Photo: JPaing / The Irrawaddy)

RANGOON — Burma’s National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) and the medical aid organization Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) are at odds over the latter’s statement that it treated 22 people injured during clashes between Buddhists and Muslims in Arakan State’s Maungdaw Township, near the Burma-Bangladesh border.

MSF, sometimes called Doctors Without Borders, said in January that it “treated at least 22 patients, including several wounded, that are believed to be victims of the violence that erupted in Du Char Yar Tan village, in southern Maungdaw Township.”

But in its newly published account of a recent investigation into the alleged Jan. 9-13 killings of 48 Muslim Rohingya, as well as a policeman said to have been killed by Rohingya, the NHRC said “it was learned from 2 doctors of the MSF that their clinics did not treat any such patients.”

MSF Burma Head of Mission Peter-Paul de Groote, however, told The Irrawaddy on Monday that “MSF is not in a position to comment on the findings of the Myanmar National Human Rights Commission, however we can confirm that our staff treated 22 patients in the area near Du Char Yar Tan village from a variety of violence-related injuries in the days after January 14.”

The United Nations has said it gathered “credible evidence” that between 40 and 50 Rohingya were killed either side of the disappearance of the policeman on Jan. 13. The Burma government has repeatedly denied that any massacre took place, scolding news organizations for reporting claims of a massacre, while Burma’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs suggested that Islamic militants were involved in the disappearance of the policeman.

An NHRC delegation visited the site of the alleged murders between Jan. 30 and Feb. 3, where the commission said that it met with local police, state officials, UN representatives, as well as Arakanese and Rohingya living in and around Du Char Yar Tan, saying the various statements it obtained “contained no information that substantiate the alleged news of killings,” and later noted what it termed “discrepancies” with regard to “the news of the alleged killings of Bengalis.”

Burmese government bodies use the term “Bengali” to refer to Rohingya, who are regarded by many Burmese as illegal immigrants from Bangladesh—though people will be allowed register as “Rohingya” in Burma’s census, which is scheduled for the end of March.

The NHRC said it “urged Bengali religious leaders and women to frankly come forth with their views,” but said no proof was forthcoming to back up the allegations of a massacre.

The NHRC was set up in September 2011 and is headed by Win Mra, an Arakanese former diplomat. It is due to be replaced by a new Parliament-approved human rights commission that proponents say will be more in step with international standards for national human rights commissions, known as “The Paris Principles.”

The NHRC report comes as a separate government investigation into the Maungdaw violence gets underway in the affected region. Arriving on Feb. 15 for a six-day visit and headed by Dr. Tha Hla Shwe, chairman of the Myanmar Red Cross Society, the delegation “will tour Bengali villages, Rakhine [Arakanese] national villages and the suspected places reported by some international news agencies and organizations, and meet with responsible persons of UN agencies and those of foreign and local social organizations.”

The commission, said to be accompanied by “a team of legal and forensic experts,” is focusing on the disappearance of a policeman on Jan. 9 and makes no mention of investigating the alleged Rohingya deaths. The Burma government set up the commission after dismissing calls for an independent international inquest into the alleged massacre, though it did permit a delegation of European ambassadors to visit Maungdaw.

Tomás Ojea Quintana, the UN “special rapporteur” on human rights issues in Burma, was followed by Arakanese protestors after arriving in the regional capital Sittwe late last week, where he later met with local politicians and people affected by sectarian violence that has plagued Arakan State since mid-2012.

Arakanese regard Quintana—who is making his final visit to Burma as UN rapporteur—as biased toward Muslims, a view that also seems to color local perceptions of foreign aid organizations such as MSF. Around 3,000 Arakanese protested in Sittwe on Feb. 3, calling for MSF and other aid groups to cease operations in the region.

MSF’s De Groote countered that his organization gives assistance based on medical needs. “Our clinics and services are open to anyone to that needs them, regardless of ethnicity or religion,” he said.

Arakan State has seen several bouts of violence between Muslims and Buddhists since June 2012, mostly pitting Arakanese against Rohingya, though other Muslim groups have been attacked. The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA) says that 138,800 people are in camps in Arakan State, according to figures provided to The Irrawaddy. Of that total, around 5,000 are Arakanese, the rest Rohingya.

5 Responses to MSF, Human Rights Commission at Odds Over Maungdaw Violence

  1. Current Burmese Government assigned Dr. Tha Hla Shwe as head of the investigation team . Though he is Rkahine , still we should trust him as neutral, as Burmese government wishes us to do so. I think it should be more appropriate for Burmese Government to assign the job to police forces who committed the murders in Rakhine state. Why trying to fool the world?. Why blaming Quintana , MSF and NGO as biased for Rohigyas. Are members of those organizations are Muslims?. No. They stand for truth. They are witnessing the cruelty on Rohingyas by Burmese Government and Rakhine extremists.

  2. We Burmese need to develop PR skills. Urgently. If we are in the opinion that the MSF, which is purely an NGO and very reputable charitable organization worldwide, is being manipulated by the Muslim organizations by giving misinformation, the onus is on us to expose the perceived conspiracies transparently by using soft skills and civilized manner, not by hating them or using violence. Our worldwide reputation and Buddhism’s image is at stake. We may be causing harm to ourselves, local Arakans, civil servants assigned there, who are the very people we want to protect and whose rights and interest we want to preserve.

  3. Burma is testing the will of the International Community by barring the international Commission to find out the truth that happened on the ground concerning the recent Maungdaw Massacre. Shall we call it the Burmese act of terrorism or a sequel to the Adolf Eichmann’s ‘gas chamber’ or the Sabernica Massacre of Bosnia or perhaps the killing field of the Pol Pot’s Cambodia. It is nothing but the revival of the Burmese govt lawless barbarity or what, which is trying to blindfold the entire world to conceal its immense brutality and the racial vengeance towards the Rohingyas who win the favour and sympathy every time of the International community. We can comprehend the breathtaking racism and balant religious discrimination and hatred towards the Rohingyas and the Muslim community as a whole, is plaguing the entire nation. This should not happen in a civilized society and the International Community should not give the Burmese govt a blank check to exterminate the Rohingya population. Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that. And this is the Universal truth which the Burmese govt should embrace. We must learn to live together as brothers or perish together as fools. .

  4. Bangladesh dumped her unwanted people into Arakan State of Burma for generation as she saw the loopholes under the reign of idiot generals for decades. Bangladesh is successful. Today, her people who came home from Myanmar to Bangladesh are considered as refugees by their native nation, Bangladesh. At the same time, UN and other NGOs cannot see what is happening in Arakan State. UN and MSF must stop disrespecting the Arakanese people. Because they have the right o expel anyone who disrespects them like Bengali illegal aliens.

  5. Based according to the United Nation’s credible evidences it is no doubt that 40-50 or much more Rohingyas were massacred by the Rakhine terrorists and the brutal govt security forces. And I wonder where did the NHRC find 2 MSF stooges who denied any Rohingya patients been treated in their clinics. Since NHRC being appointed by the govt without any International expert in their team, it lacks credibility. We have every confidence and it is out of question that the UN will ever decieve the world about the 40-50 or much more carnage of the helpless Rohingyas. The world knows that the Du Char Yar Tan massacre took place with a heavy casualities although the Burmese govt rejects the accusation. Their duty is to make a fair and unbiased probe and bring the perpetrators to justice. If the Burmese govt is truthful and sincere, they should work with International community to find out the real culprits. But this is not happening and the govt is
    accusing the victims instead. This is their way of life to cover up the truth that always happened with the Rohingyas on the ground. NHRC went to the Du Char Yar Tan to focus only on the disappearance of a policeman. What about the killing of 40-50 or more Rohingyas and this number is underestimated and the toll exceed many folds. The Burmese govt always rejects the Independent International Inquiry and this raises questions of inviting escalation of further violence if the criminals are given the License to Kill the Rohingyas by the state. It should be fair and transparent and the inquiries should be done in collaboration with the Independent International Inquest into the alleged massacre. This violence and injustice is going on in Arakan since June twenty-twelve and the death toll is in hundreds and thousands and the IDPs are staggering one hundred and fifty thousand Plus, left to die in squalid crowded ‘Concentration Camps’ of the Nazi era revived. There is little or no access to International Aid, food, fresh water. sanitation. malnutrition among the children and toddlers with little or no medication facilities for the Rohingyas. As far as the MSF and the international NGOs are concerned, they are doing excellent job for the destitutes Rakhines and Rohingyas alike with limited resources.
    I want to send this message to our adversaries : Let them know that we Rohingyas will pay any price, bear any burden and face any hardship to live in peace and harmony in our ancestral homeland of Arakan. We have been here in our native land from time immemorial. We have solid historical proof and credible evidences that we and our forefathers were born here and we will die here as well. As long as Arakan survives, we Rohingyas will survive too. Because the Destiny of Arakan and the Destiny of Rohingyas is ONE.
    We are not Bengalis, and I would like to emphasize again that we are NOT Bengalis although we share a common border with Bangladesh.

    Saif Ali Khan, Hamlet West Arakan. My Ancestral Homeland.

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