Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Rohingya face ongoing humanitarian crisis


Wednesday, 27 March 2013 17:59 Rosie Gogan-Keogh

Human Rights Watch (HRW) has accused the Myanmar government of restricting humanitarian aid to Rakhine State and discriminating against Muslim Rohingyas in a report released on March 27.

Displaced people in one section of Ah Nauk Ywe makeshift camp in Rakhine state. (PHOTO: UNHCR/V.Tan)

“Burmese [Myanmar] government restrictions on aid to Rohingya Muslims are creating a humanitarian crisis that will become a disaster when the rainy season arrives,” said Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director at HRW. “Instead of addressing the problem, Burma’s leaders seem intent on keeping the Rohingya segregated in camps rather than planning for them to return to their homes.”

Several international aid organizations operating in the region have continually made calls for Rohingya camps located in low-lying paddy fields to be urgently relocated before the rainy season begins and fears of flooding and the spread of waterborne diseases become a reality. HRW has reported that in some sites a handful of latrines are shared by several thousand Rohingyas.

“The government seems untroubled by the dire humanitarian conditions in the camps in Arakan [Rakhine] State, but it will be responsible for the lives unnecessarily lost,” Robertson said. “Concerned donor governments should be demanding that the Burmese government produce an action plan to resolve the crisis because continued inaction will only make the crisis worse.”

On March 20, President Thein Sein’s spokesman, Ye Htut, rebutted the claims of discrimination and told Australia Network’s Newswire: “They [Rohingyas] have enough shelter and food supply for the rainy season.”

However, the Myanmar government has reportedly refused to relocate the Rohingya camps; has restricted Rohingya people from accessing local hospitals; and has failed to register tens of thousands of displaced Rohingyas, denying them both freedom of movement and humanitarian aid.

Unregistered Rohingya have told HRW that they lack food, shelter, medicine, potable water, clothing, and other necessities. A Muslim man in Yangon’s Aung Mingalar Township told HRW that UN agencies had not been able to deliver any aid since June, saying, “We only want permission to bring food from outside to Aung Mingalar.”

HRW said that these ongoing issues mean that the Myanmar government is ultimately failing the test of reform.

The Rohingya population faces widespread hostility from the majority Burmese Buddhist society in Myanmar. The latest violence in the state erupted last June between Buddhists and Rohingya Muslims and was followed by further attacks in October.

Following a visit to Myanmar last month, Tomás Ojea Quintana, the UN’s Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in Myanmar, said that nearly 120,000 people are now living in camps in Rakhine State with a lack of adequate healthcare, and noted that conditions were worse in camps sheltering Rohingyas and other Muslims.

“The situation in this area is extreme,” he warned.
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