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Thread: Burma: Rights groups insist Rohingya in more danger than ever

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    Burma: Rights groups insist Rohingya in more danger than ever

    Burma: Rights groups insist Rohingya in more danger than ever
    By Asian Correspondent Jun 03, 2014 12:11PM UTC




    A Rohingya girl who was displaced following 2012 sectarian violence carries a baby at Nga Chaung Refugee Camp in Pauktaw, Rakhine state, last year. Pic: AP.

    By Kyle Lawrence Mullin

    The riots have ceased and the machetes are sheathed, but Maung Kyaw Nu says Rohingya are in more danger now than ever before. In his eyes, the 2012 knife attacks inflicted on his fellow Burmese Muslims pale in comparison to their current lack of scalpels, medicine and qualified doctors.

    “The attacks were big, but they aren’t always happening. The health problems that the Rohingya face are their biggest concern now,” says Maung, president of the Burmese Rohingya Association of Thailand, of the dismal conditions his people are contending with, during a recent telephone interview with Asian Correspondent.

    Maung (whose association helps Rohingya refugees settle in Thailand) adds that the issue stems all the way back to the summer of 2012 when more than 100,000 members of Burma’s Muslim minority were displaced by mobs of torch toting, knife wielding Rakhine Buddhists. Since then, those homeless Rohingya have taken refuge in small camps in Sittwe, the capital of Rakhine State, on the nation’s west coast. But critics compare those facilities to detainment centers, where the Rohingya are restricted in both movement and supplies.

    “The Rohingya are effectively locked down in their settlements and IDP camps, without adequate access to health care,” Phil Robertson, the deputy director for the Asian division of Human Rights Watch, says during a recent interview with Asian Correspondent. He adds: “The severe restrictions that prevent Rohingya from getting to hospitals and other health care facilities are killing people.”

    Fears of a humanitarian crisis have been mounting since February when the government of Burma (Myanmar) ousted Medecins Sans Frontiers-Holland (MSF-H), the chief aid group offering health care to the refugees. Activists like Maung say the thousands of Rohingya refugees in Rakhine face a brutal dilemma: risk another Buddhist attack while venturing out to nearby hospitals; or huddle in the camps as resources dwindle, diarrhea becomes fatal for more children, and fewer pregnant mothers survive childbirth. (MSF-H declined to be interviewed for this story as negotiations with Burmese authorities are ongoing. Burmese health officials were also unresponsive to requests for comment).

    Ko Aung, of the Rohingya Association of Thailand, says the expulsion of MSF-H made the government’s intentions clear.

    “The Rakhine state government and Buddhist extremists made plans to kick out NGOs including MSF, giving different unacceptable excuses,” he says, adding that he disputes government claims that some of these aid organizations provided weapons to the Rohingya during the 2012 riots, or that their hiring policies are biased toward Muslims. He goes on to say: “These are their policies to repress the Rohingya, giving many poor excuses to the international community and keeping the Muslims in a difficult situation so that they will flee wherever they can. It’s long-term ethnic cleansing.”

    International organizations are, for the most part, more tactful in their statements about the issue. But they mostly agree that the Rohingya are being repressed, with a statement from the United Nations saying at least 40 members of the Muslim minority were killed by rioting Rakhine Buddhists early this year. The Burmese government, however, says no such murders took place.

    Meanwhile, Rakhine state officials say the Rohingya share much of the blame for their current healthcare ails. State spokesman Win Myaing, in a recent interview with Reuters, said: “There is a group of people in one of these camps that shows the same sick children to anyone who visits. Even when the government arranges for treatment, they refuse it.”

    But Robertson doubts Win’s claims, saying the government spokesperson has lied about the state’s handling of the Rohingya matters on numerous occasions (Win could not be reached for comment before press time).

    “Win Myaing has been deliberately deceitful on a regular basis when it comes to… his past denials of obvious facts, such as the existence of racist, discriminatory policies like the two-child policy enforced on stateless Rohingya,” Robertson says, adding: “Fortunately, his statements are so ludicrous and divorced from reality that they inspire ridicule, and expose the Rakhine state government’s ethical bankruptcy when it comes to how they deal with the Rohingya.”

    And yet Win is not the only one who says the Rohingya refused treatment. Dr. Liviu Vedrasco, health cluster coordinator for the World Health Organization (a branch of the UN overseeing medical collaborations in the region between the Red Cross, the Myanmar Nurse and Midwife Association, and other groups) agrees that some of the Rohingya have declined aid, and the situation is far more nuanced than it appears.

    “Some patients on a number of occasions over the last month have indeed refused to be referred to the Sittwe General Hospital,” Vedrasco said in an interview with Asian Correspondent, adding that he estimates at least a few dozen Rohingya have declined treatment in the last month.

    Vedrasco went on to say that despite rampant criticism from many international organizations, the government has stepped up its healthcare efforts at the camps as of late.

    “Access to health care in the IDP camps in Rakhine has improved in May compared to April. And most of the camps are visited regularly by mobile clinics organized jointly by the Ministry of Health and NGO partners,” he says, adding that the number of patient consultations in May has jumped to 13,000, compared to April’s 6,000.

    That encouraging trend has not been enough to sway all of the Burmese government’s critics. Robertson (of Human Rights Watch) says many Rohingya may be refusing treatment because their afflictions won’t be as deadly as the commute to the nearby Sittwe hospital.

    “I suspect many Rohingya would fear that they cannot receive any real guarantee of protection if they were transferred to Sittwe General Hospital,” Robertson says of the Rakhine attacks that are still fresh in the Muslims’ minds, especially since Buddhist rioters escalated the situation by lashing out at foreign aid workers in late March. He adds that a lack of management on the authorities’ part is also a serious concern: “The delays that the Rakhine dominated state government and security forces impose on such transfers likely leads to many preventable deaths.”

    But even some of the government’s harshest detractors admit that it has taken steps to amend some of its worst missteps, especially at the federal level.

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    I'm amazed that Su Khyi has not had anything to say about the whole ethnic issue in Burma. I don't need telling that it's an issue I can't possibly understand, I accept that, but she's been so vocal and so widely listened to that she could surely have a massive impact just by saying it's wrong.

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    But shes now a politician !!!
    JimCA2 likes this.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Steve@thaib View Post
    I'm amazed that Su Khyi has not had anything to say about the whole ethnic issue in Burma. I don't need telling that it's an issue I can't possibly understand, I accept that, but she's been so vocal and so widely listened to that she could surely have a massive impact just by saying it's wrong.
    Why?

    I'd be astonished if Su Kyi said anything substantive about the Rakhine - The Bamar (of which she is one) majority truly hate them and real hatred of the Rohingya is a unifying factor amongst the complicated ethnic groups of Myanmar. In Ngapoli all the Buddhists I spoke to there truly hated them with venom and such attitudes are hard to overcome.

    I see no solution thats agreeable to western sensitivities - I know its not ideal but repatriating them to Bangladesh where they originate would probably be the best outcome as Myanmar will NEVER give them autonomy as this area is oil/mineral rich and represents highly coveted access to the Bay of Bengal,
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    Quote Originally Posted by K2 View Post
    Why?
    Because her whole life has been devoted to working for the opressed masses. When you listen to her speak, the series the BBC did with her was fascinating, she talks about non-violence and 'loving kindness'.

    It looks ( from a distance ) like the political hypocrisy we see everywhere else. Lots of people, me included, thought she was better than that. We had her in the rarefied company of the Dalai Llama and Gandhi.

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    Quote Originally Posted by LivinLOS View Post
    But shes now a politician !!!
    Probably exactly correct, she's a player now...

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    Quote Originally Posted by Steve@thaib View Post
    Because her whole life has been devoted to working for the opressed masses. When you listen to her speak, the series the BBC did with her was fascinating, she talks about non-violence and 'loving kindness'.

    It looks ( from a distance ) like the political hypocrisy we see everywhere else. Lots of people, me included, thought she was better than that. We had her in the rarefied company of the Dalai Llama and Gandhi.
    The western media has loved up to Su Kyi and indeed she is a positive force within Myanmar politics ... BUT you have to look at her background .... her idolised father who 'liberated' (then) Burma from British rule was no saint and she is part of a political dynasty which is not atypical in Asia (cf the Ghandi's in India). I'll go further an from some of the more educated - connected Myanmar people I have talked with - there is little admiration for the leadership below Su Kyi in the NLD. When (its not even an 'if') the Su Kyi led NLD win the election next year (Nov/Dec) dont have too high expectations of radical shifts in policy. Su Kyi needs to keep the generals appeased - that is NOT going to change.
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    Quote Originally Posted by K2 View Post
    Why?

    I'd be astonished if Su Kyi said anything substantive about the Rakhine - The Bamar (of which she is one) majority truly hate them and real hatred of the Rohingya is a unifying factor amongst the complicated ethnic groups of Myanmar. In Ngapoli all the Buddhists I spoke to there truly hated them with venom and such attitudes are hard to overcome.

    I see no solution thats agreeable to western sensitivities - I know its not ideal but repatriating them to Bangladesh where they originate would probably be the best outcome as Myanmar will NEVER give them autonomy as this area is oil/mineral rich and represents highly coveted access to the Bay of Bengal,
    Guess they still need them as slaves to build the country.......The Burmese are as big nationalists as their Thai neighbors, and as you say it will probably never be a solution for the Rohingyas
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    Just seems odd that a population opressed for so long is willing to see a minority opressed.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Steve@thaib View Post
    Just seems odd that a population opressed for so long is willing to see a minority opressed.
    Myanmar Buddhists launch boycott of Muslim-owned telecoms firm - The Nation

    Dislike of muslims runs pretty deep .... Myanmar's Buddhists are a lot less tolerant than in Thailand.
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    Rohingya - A Final Solution?

    A spokesman for Rakhine State insisted the Rohingya did not belong in Myanmar and defended the Rakhine Action Plan as necessary because the higher Muslim birthrate threatened the Buddhist majority.
    Not surprised in the least about this development - article from a western bias, I'm sure most Myanmar people will be pleased to see this put into action.

    http://www.nytimes.com/2014/11/07/wo...ysia.html?_r=1
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