The Government of Burma has ordered Medicines Sans Frontières (MSF), the primary health care provider to the Rohingya ethnic minority, to cease its activities in the country. MSF provides HIV/AIDS and TB treatments to people in several parts of Burma and primary care to tens of thousands in the western state of Rakhine, who have been described by the United Nations as one of the most persecuted minorities in the world.
MSF has come under increasing criticism by the Burmese government since it reported treating 22 people near a site where the United Nations says over 40 people were killed in mid-January. The government of Burma continues to deny any massacre occurred.
I’ve kept my trip to Burma under wraps, knowing the Burmese government doesn’t want people like me visiting. But I was in Rakhine State yesterday, visiting IDP (internally displaced persons) camps housing more than 90,000 Rohingya Muslims.
Today’s action by the government of Burma to shut down the health services of Medicines Sans Frontières (MSF) is outrageous.
MSF has a long history in Burma, with operations running continuously for the last 22 years. Their expulsion threatens the lives of 30,000 HIV/AIDS patients and more than 3,000 TB patients they are currently treating.
The international community cannot turn its back on the latest assault by the government of Burma on the most persecuted and neglected people in the world. Their only crime is their ethnicity and religion.
Amid widespread hate propaganda, anti-Muslim violence, particularly against Rohingya in Arakan State in western Burma, has killed some 300 people and displaced another quarter million since 2012. Reports by Human Rights Watch document ethnic cleansing and warn that the Burmese government is “systematically restricting humanitarian aid and imposing discriminatory policies on Rohingya Muslims in Arakan State.”
A strong and immediate response by the U.S. government and the international community is imperative. This is not only a matter of right and wrong but life and death.