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US and UNFPA Concern Over Rakhine Mob Violence Against INGOs

29th March 2014

Foreign aid workers-arrive in Yangon's airport after flying in from Sittwe where mobs have been rampaging through streets (Photograph Gemunu Amarasinghe- AP)
Foreign aid workers-arrive in Yangon’s airport after flying in from Sittwe where mobs have been rampaging through streets (Photograph Gemunu Amarasinghe- AP)

US Embassy in Yangon released a statement on Thursday expressing US Government’s ‘Deep Concern’ over the Rakhine extremists’ violence targeting International NGOs in the violence-hit Arakan state, Myanmar. The U.S. Department viewed the violence “the continued lack of adequate security forces and rule of law on the ground in Sittwe (Akyab),” the capital of Arakan state.

There has been ongoing state-backed violence through Rakhine extremists against Rohingyas in Arakan, the western-most state of Myanmar. It has seen Thousands of Rohingyas killed and more than 140,000 Rohingyas displaced since June 2012.

Census Controversy

Some see that the upcoming census programmed by the Myanmar government has triggered further unrest amidst fears that it could exacerbate Rakhines’ hostile stand towards the Rohingya- a (made) stateless Muslim minority systematically deprived of its ethnic status throughout the decades. Myanmar’s government has come under incresed pressure for reportedly backing the Rakhines against Rohingyas and failing to take action to ease the unrest, and recently sent more troops to the region.

The attacks this week in Sittwe, which targeted the offices and facilities of a number of international aid agencies working in the city, were triggered by reports that a foreign aid worker had treated a Buddhist flag disrespectfully.

The worker in question, a staffer with the Europe-based humanitarian group Malteser International, had removed the flag from its building. Many flags have been hung on buildings across the state ahead of the census as a sign of opposition to the Rohingya population — who are blatantly accused to be as intruders from across the border in Bangladesh.

In a statement posted on their website Friday, Ingo Radtke, Secretary General of Malteser International, wrote: “Malteser International is committed to the humanitarian principles and therefore the absolute ethnic and political neutrality of our work is our highest priority. We therefore avoid any form of political, religious or ethnic partisanship. That is the reason why our program coordinator has removed the Buddhist flag which — in the local context — might be seen as a symbol for a political positioning. She did not act in any degrading manner or express any cultural misconduct.”

Similarly, UNFPA (United Nations Populations Funds) released a statement expressing it serious concern about the mob attacks on international NGO and UN offices in Sittwe on 27th August 2014, supporting the call by the UN Resident Coordinator/Humanitarian Coordinator (a.i.) on the Government to ensure the protection of the humanitarian and development community in Rakhine State.

However, it has since been reported by BBC Burmese that an 11-year-old Rakhine girl, standing on a balcony, was hit by a bullet in the melee. Local media has reported that she later died in hospital. However, the reports by local media are highly dubious and can’t trusted taking their reports in past two years into account. It has always reported that in favor of the government and their co-religionists, Buddhists, and against the minority Rohingyas.

WFP's Ration Store Room Looted and Vandalize by Marauding Rakhine (Magh) Mobs (Photo: FB)

WFP’s Ration Warehouse Looted and Vandalize by Marauding Rakhine (Magh) Mobs (Photo: FB)

Aid Groups AccusedBias’

But foreign aid groups have come under fire in Myanmar for allegedly showing bias towards the Rohingya. Last month, Medecins Sans Frontieres (Doctors Without Borders) was banned from operating in the volatile state following protests by ethnic Rakhine nationalists against the organization and other international NGOs. While the reality is that these International Humaniatrian NGOs have been heping all the displaced the people in Arakan state. Since around 98% of the displaced people are the Rohingyas that are forced to live in inhumane conditions at the outskirt of Sittwe, they receieve more assistances. However, the Rakhines that strive to ethnically cleanse Rohingyas are dissatisfied with the aids provided to the displaced Rohingyas.

However, Myanmar’s government said the organization had been banned for consistently showing bias towards the state’s Muslim minority and breaching the terms of its agreement to operate in Rakhine, where it provided services to tens of thousands of patients. MSF said it was “deeply shocked by this unilateral decision.”

As the major NGO healthcare provider in Rakhine, it ran clinics in nine townships across the state, “treating anyone who was unable to access the medical care they required,” including tens of thousands of vulnerable people who had been displaced into camps by recurrent communal violence.

Myanmar Government pledges that it will investigate the Sittwe mob violence. It remains to be seen who will they investigate and whom will be punished. There is a high possibility that the government has sponsored this violence so as to get rid of international observers during the population census. Absence of International Observers will enable them to do all the dirty plays during the census period. In Myanmar, it is still difficult for people to even breathe without the consent of the regime, let alone carrying out violence on such a large scale.

(Source Referred: CNN)

*Modicafications have been done as necessary. Modications should not be considered to be parts of the original CNN article.