International Campaign for Freedom of Aung San Suu Kyi and Burma


Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Weekly Highlights: Burma Government’s Decision to Ban MSF from Arakan State is Deplorable and Risks an Even Greater Humanitarian Crisis

 

3 - 9 March 2014

Weekly Highlights

Burma Government's Decision to Ban MSF from Arakan State is Deplorable and Risks an Even Greater Humanitarian Crisis

On 27 February, the Burma government decided to suspend all operations of Médécins Sans Frontières (MSF) inside Burma.  Subsequently, MSF was told that it could resume its operations throughout the rest of the country as of 3 March, but critically not in Arakan State, where there is already a severe humanitarian crisis and where its work is thus most vital.

MSF appears to have incurred the wrath of the state and national authorities for two reasons: first, for allegedly displaying bias towards Muslims – and the Rohingya in particular – in its medical treatment of patients over a period of time.  Yet MSF has vociferously dispelled this first accusation, emphasizing in a 28 February statement that its "actions are guided by medical ethics and the principles of neutrality and impartiality."  Proving an unbiased approach does not entail treating equal numbers of people from each ethnicity or religious affiliation; humanitarian organizations such as MSF treat those in the greatest need and in the direst circumstances.  The fact that MSF treats Christians in Kachin State and Buddhists in the central Burman regions and Shan State – as well as a huge range of different people around the world, regardless of religion or ethnicity – should put paid to any accusations of bias towards Arakan Muslims.  Nevertheless, MSF has clearly enraged local Arakan State authorities, who have in turn pressured the national government to take such drastic and repressive action.

The second accusation, altogether more grave and sinister, is that MSF has supposedly been "fuelling tensions [in Arakan State] and [being] detrimental to the rule of law," according to Deputy Information Minister and Presidential Spokesman, Ye Htut.  The specific – and controversial – action that MSF took was to report its treatment of victims of violence in the vicinity of Du Char Yar Tan Village, near Maungdaw Township, northern Arakan State, in January of this year.  The Burma government has thus correctly identified two key drivers to the ongoing violence in Arakan State, namely incitement to violence and the lack of rule of law, but it is disingenuously manipulating these concepts in order to disguise the reality on the ground.  People are not perpetrating religious violence because of MSF's words or actions, but because they are being encouraged and allowed to do so.  If the Burma government clamped down on hate speech and rigorously tackled impunity, that would go a long way to halting the violence.

In fact what MSF actually did wrong in the Burma government's eyes, where they went too far, was to question the official narrative.  The Burma government's line, as supposedly corroborated by the Myanmar National Human Rights Commission in its highly dubious and cursory investigation in the immediate aftermath of widespread accusations of a massacre, is that there was no anti-Muslim violence in Du Char Yar Tan Village in January.  MSF's reports that it treated "22 patients for violence-related injuries" were therefore clearly problematic for the Burma government.

President Thein Sein's government evidently craves international acceptance, credibility and legitimacy, not to mention fully-fledged financial and corporate investment in Burma, which is why suggestive reports such as MSF's are a threat and therefore demand to be stifled.  Yet, at the same time, there are evidently complex and dark forces at play which mean that the Burma government is unwilling to tackle the violence head-on and protect those at risk.  The first step to solving this dangerous situation is admitting that there is a problem and asking for international assistance.  Kicking MSF out of Arakan State shows that there is an awful long way to go.

In the meantime, tens if not hundreds of thousands are in grave danger, not only from further violence that is more likely to occur when no one is watching, but also from treatable illnesses which MSF was playing such a valuable role in addressing – in the face of extreme challenges and provocations.

The international community must immediately review all engagement with the Burma government, and all financial and corporate investment in the country, and pressure the Burma government to comply with international legal obligations and best practices on humanitarian issues.  It is imperative that MSF is allowed to continue its indispensable work in Arakan State, and that the Burma government shows genuine political will in tackling the violence and protecting all people in Arakan State.  Things might yet get a lot worse, and the international community will be held complicit unless it says that enough is enough.

News Highlights

 

Parliament approves parallel media laws – the journalist-drafted Press Law and the government-drafted Printers and Publishers Registration Law – leaving media licensing under the control of the Ministry of Information despite ensuring legislative protection for some press freedom

 

Inside Burma


Burma Army increases its offensives in northern Shan State
, prompting an ethnic leader to warn of derailment of the peace process

The controversial census begin in Burma's Kachin State despite opposition from ethnic groups
while those living in areas controlled by Kachin Independence Organization,  approximately 80,000 people, will not be participating in the census and the Karen Women Organization (KWO) calls for the delay in census stating that the differences in recognition of ethnic classification must be resolved prior to the census

Leaders of the United Wa State Army, the largest ethnic armed group in Burma, maintain their demand for an autonomous state in a meeting with President Thein Sein


Four farmers in Mandalay charged with Articles 447 and 427 of the Penal Code after staging a protest on confiscated land


Human Rights Defenders and Promoters Network urges the Burma government to create counselling and rehabilitation programs for the victims of the military regime and that progress is hollow without full reconciliation regarding the past


Over 50 people from the Moehti Moemi goldmine who were staying at a nearby monastery after being evicted are arrested


A report measuring global adherence to the rule of law finds Burma at the bottom of the ranking, 89th out of 99 nations studied


The Lower House passes amendments to Burma's Peaceful Assembly Law, if Upper House's Bill Committee passes the bill protesters will only be required to "inform" the township administrators about planned demonstrations


Several policemen and villagers insured as police begin uprooting toddy plants in the seize land in Sagaing Division, Yinmarbin Township, with 200-300 policemen present

 

Regional


Singapore company wins tender to lead a consortium to consult and develop plans for Kyaukphyu Special Economic Zone in Arakan State


UN Office on Drugs and Crime warns that ASEAN integration is likely to lead to a rise in drug trafficking

Jungle camps of trafficked Rohingya and subsequent abuse spreads to Malaysia
 

International


The private sector arm of the World Bank, the International Finance Corporation (IFC), pledges investment in the Yangon Electricity Supply Board, as it seeks to corporatize electricity supply in Rangoon


A US report highlights Burma's ongoing arms deals with North Korea


Trafficking of Rohingyas into Malaysia intensifies as some flee Burma by boat into the hands of traffickers

 

Opinion

A Political Anatomy of Land Grabs

By Kevin Woods
The Myanmar Times

Burma's Upcoming Census Could Spark Anti-Muslim Violence

By Patrick Winn
Mint Press News

Despite Norway's Best Efforts, Peace Remains Elusive

By Karen News

Latest from the Blog

Burma Army Sets Out a Pattern of Offensives for 2014

By Burma Partnership

 

Actions

A prayer ceremony is held near the Latpadaung Copper Mine site to protest the removal of religious buildings


Over 100 farmers from Kyauksarit-North village in Mandalay till the land with 15 ox-pulled ploughs in protest of land confiscation 

 

Statements and Press Releases

It's "All Systems Go" for Largest ASEAN Civil Society Conference in Myanmar

By ACSC/APF 2014 Steering Committee

British Government Downplaying Human Rights Abuses In Burma – New Briefing

By Burma Campaign UK

PWO Condemns Burma Army Shelling of Village, Killing Headman and Injuring Two Women

By Palaung Women's Organization

Burma Army Expansion Attacks and Abuses Cause Increased Displacement in Palaung Areas

By Ta'ang Women's Organization

A Call for Women's Solidarity on the 103rd International Women's Day: Making Women's Rights & Meaningful Participation in Burma (Myanmar) and in ASEAN a Reality

By Initiatives for International Dialogue, Philwomen on ASEAN, Women's Legal and Human Rights Bureau, and Asia Pacific Solidarity Coalition

Joint Statement in Honor of International Women's Day: Equality for Women is Progress for All 

By Karen Women's Organization (KWO) and Karen Women's Empowerment Group (KWEG)

 

Reports

Slavery at Sea: The Continued Plight of Trafficked Migrants in Thailand's Fishing Industry

By Environmental Justice Foundation

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As Daw Aung San Suu Kyi proclaimed,

As Daw Aung San Suu Kyi proclaimed,
"Justice is a dream. But it is a dream we are determined to realize."