News / Asia

Medical Group Warns of Emergency in Burma's Rakhine State

Muslim refugees stand near their tents in Awetawgyi refugee camp in Sittwe, Rakhine State, western Burma, January 8, 2013.
Muslim refugees stand near their tents in Awetawgyi refugee camp in Sittwe, Rakhine State, western Burma, January 8, 2013.
Daniel Schearf
Doctors Without Borders is warning of a growing humanitarian crisis in Burma's western Rakhine state, where communal fighting last year displaced more than 100,000 people, most of them Muslims.  The medical aid group says threats against its staff have hampered efforts to improve sanitation and health care and that the situation is likely to worsen with the next monsoon.

Doctors Without Borders says tens of thousands of people living in relief camps in Burma's Rakhine state are still unable to access much-needed medical care.  

The medical aid group, known by its French abbreviation MSF (Medcins sans Frontiers), issued a statement Thursday saying medical support and sanitation for the camps need to be stepped up.

It says months after communal fighting devastated Rakhine state, too many people are still living in makeshift tents and lack access to clean water and basic provisions.

Speaking from Rangoon, Arjan Hehenkamp, general director for MSF, says the upcoming monsoon season is likely to worsen the situation.

"Particularly as we're approaching the rainy season, that will come up, we're very concerned that [if] this [help] does not scale up, an immediate scale-up of the activities today, then we'll face even a much worse situation in the next weeks and months," said Hehenkamp.

Communal fighting in western Burma broke out last year between the mainly Buddhist Rakhine and Muslim minorities, the Kaman and Rohingya.

Clashes erupted after a busload of Muslims were murdered by a Rakhine mob in a revenge for the rape of a Buddhist girl, allegedly by Muslims.

Tit-for-tat violence left close to 200 people dead, thousands of homes burned and more than 100,000 people displaced into relief camps, most of them stateless Rohingyas.  

Hehenkamp says the biggest obstacle to helping those in need in Rakhine is not the number of foreign staff or even funding, but in getting enough local hires to help out.  He says, since the communal violence broke out last year, MSF has lost 150 national staff who left because of intimidation and communal tensions.

"They felt affected.  They were affected by the conflict and by the tensions between these communities," said Hehenkamp. "And, therefore, yes, they felt it was impossible for them to continue with their work with MSF because we are trying to serve both communities.  But, we are also serving the Muslim community the most because there are many more Muslims displaced and they are living in worse conditions than the Rakhine displaced."

MSF is urging Burmese authorities to publicly voice support for their work to reduce threats against it and other foreign aid organizations.

Burma does not recognize the Rohingya as citizens, despite an estimated 800,000 of them living in Rakhine, many of them for generations.

They are considered illegal migrants from Bangladesh, where they are also rejected.  

Many Rohingya take to boats to escape the conflict and find work in Malaysia.  Some end up in Thailand as illegals and can get arrested or pushed back out to sea by the military.

Thailand's Internal Security Operations Command Thursday said nearly 6,000 Rohingya have arrived in the country since October.

The Bangkok Post says more than 4,000 of them were "pushed out", a practice rights group and the United Nations refugee agency have criticized as inhumane.

Colonel Jakkrit Tangjittaporn is with the spokesperson's office of ISOC.  He would not comment on whether Rohingya were pushed back to sea or how many remained in Thailand, but says they do their best to help.

"We help also on basis of human right(s) to give Rohingya people to have food, drinks and accommodation," said Jakkrit.

More than 1,400 Rohingya were detained in Thailand's south, last month.  

Jakkrit says Thailand is working with the U.N. refugee agency for a regional, long-term solution.

The United Nations says the Rohingya are among the most persecuted minorities in the world.

The U.N. special rapporteur on human rights in Burma, Tomas Ojea Quintana will visit Rakhine state next week to assess the situation.

Quintana will also visit northern Kachin state where heavy fighting between Burma's military and Kachin rebels has displaced more than 80,000 villagers.

You May Like

Turkey's Controversial Reform Bill Giving Investors Jitters

Homeland security reform bill will give police new powers in search, seizure, detention and arrests, while restricting the rights of suspects, their attorneys More

Audio Slideshow In Kenyan Prison, Good Grades Are Path to Freedom

Some inmates who get high marks could see their sentences commuted to non-custodial status More

'Rumble in the Jungle' Turns 40

'The Champ' knocked Foreman out to regain crown he had lost 7 years earlier when US government accused him of draft-dodging and boxing officials revoked his license More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Victorious Secularists Face Challenge to Form Government in Tunisiai
X
Henry Ridgwell
October 30, 2014 11:39 PM
Official results from Tunisia show the Islamist Ennahda party has failed to win the second free election since the so-called "Arab Spring" uprising in 2011. Ennahda, which handed power to a government of technocrats pending the elections, lost out to the secular party Nidaa Tounes. Henry Ridgwell reports from London that the relatively peaceful poll offers some hope in a volatile region.
Video

Video Victorious Secularists Face Challenge to Form Government in Tunisia

Official results from Tunisia show the Islamist Ennahda party has failed to win the second free election since the so-called "Arab Spring" uprising in 2011. Ennahda, which handed power to a government of technocrats pending the elections, lost out to the secular party Nidaa Tounes. Henry Ridgwell reports from London that the relatively peaceful poll offers some hope in a volatile region.
Video

Video Africa Tells its Story Through Fashion

In Africa, Fashion Week is a riot of colors, shapes, patterns and fabrics - against the backdrop of its ongoing struggle between nature and its fast-growing urban edge. How do these ideas translate into needle and thread? VOA’s Anita Powell visited this year’s Mercedes Benz Fashion Week Africa in Johannesburg to find out.
Video

Video Smugglers Offer Cheap Passage From Turkey to Syria

Smugglers in Turkey offer a relatively cheap passage across the border into Syria. Ankara has stepped up efforts to stem the flow of foreign fighters who want to join Islamic State militants fighting for control of the Syrian border city of Kobani. But porous borders and border guards who can be bribed make illegal border crossings quite easy. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Law

China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rules

European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video Kobani Refugees Welcome, Turkey Criticizes, US Airdrop

Residents of Kobani in northern Syria have welcomed the airdrop of weapons, ammunition and medicine to Kurdish militia who are resisting the seizure of their city by Islamic State militants. The Turkish government, however, has criticized the operation. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from southeastern Turkey, across the border from Kobani.

All About America

AppleAndroid