Aid group complains of threats, intimidation in Myanmar's Rakhine
Yangon - A leading medical aid group on Thursday called on Myanmar authorities to help end intimidation that has hindered its efforts to provide aid to Muslims in Rakhine State.
"On-going insecurity and repeated threats and intimidation by a small but vocal group within the Rakhine community have severely impacted on our ability to deliver life saving medical care," said Arjan Hehenkamp, general director of Medecins Sans Frontieres.
Hehenkamp described the situation in western Myanmar’s Rakhine State as a "humanitarian emergency," where thousands of mainly Rohingya Muslims have been deprived of sufficient aid for months.
Rakhine State was the scene of bloody communal clashes between June and October that claimed more than 100 dead and displaced up to 75,000 people, the majority of them Rohingya.
"It is among people living in makeshift camps in rice fields or other crowded strips of land that Medecins Sans Frontieres is seeing the most acute medical needs," Hehenkamp said.
During a recent visit to these camps, Medecins Sans Frontieres found that skin infections, worms, chronic coughing, diarrhoea and child malnutrition were common.
The aid group blamed the lack of proper access to camps in part on an intimidation campaign waged by Rakhine Buddhists, many of whom want the Rohingya to be removed permanently from the state.
Medecins Sans Frontieres medical teams faced threats and hostility, and were the targets of pamphlets, letters and Facebook postings which accuse the group of having a pro-Rohingya bias, Hehenkamp said.
"Medecins Sans Frontieres urges supportive community leaders andgovernment authorities to do more to counteract the threats andintimidation so that humanitarian aid can be delivered to those whourgently need it," he said.
Myanmar is predominantly Buddhist. The Rohingya, most of whom have lived in Rakhine for generations, are mainly descendents of Bengalisfrom what is now neighbouring Bangladesh.
An estimated 800,000 Rohingya live in Rakhine State’s three northern townships. They are not eligible for citizenship under the 1982 Citizens Law.//DPA