Sunday, March 2, 2014

More on MSF Suspension and Resumption in Myanmar

Due to worldwide condemnation of its decision to close down operation of MSF inside Myanmar, the pariah government has changed its mind and has allowed the organization to reopen its clinics in most of the country two days after suspending such. MSF said it had been allowed to resume operations in Kachin and Shan states, as well as in the Yangon region, also known as Rangoon. However, MSF cannot operate inside Arakan where the group's work is required more urgently than in any other part of Myanmar.

"Whilst we are encouraged by this and will resume these activities for now, MSF remains extremely concerned about the fate of tens of thousands of vulnerable people in Rakhine state who currently face a humanitarian medical crisis," the agency said in a statement.

So what to do with Myanmar? Was MSF wrong to voice its concern about government sanctioned discrimination and neglect of the Rohingya people that are barred from receiving basic healthcare?

In an email a concerned Burmese living in Australia suggested that what MSF needed was an ‘awareness survey’ to find out how the group’s humanitarian activities, esp. in relation to the Rohingya people, are viewed by Arakanese Buddhists. In my response I wrote, “I am not sure if an 'awareness survey' on the part of MSF is the only thing required to avoid such incidents. For a conscientious group that works in war-torn areas it is always a difficult task to work knowing that it would be criticized no matter how unbiased its actions are. When MSF went inside Arakan I am aware of the fact that their doctors were not too prone in providing due health care services to the Rohingya people. However, as they learned and grew up out of their ignorance and became more conscious of the race and religion based intolerance which had become the norm in places like Arakan they opened up, still mindful that their work within the victims would be interpreted with colored lens. In the last few years, they have become bold to say what is morally right, something that is irritating to the apartheid regime in Myanmar, let alone the RNDP which runs the Arakan state.

My serious reading of history of more than 4 decades suggests that a rogue government never sobers up with concessions made to it, which it takes as condescending. What is required is a stick policy. Just feeding carrots won't tame the rogue Myanmar regime. If the international community is looking for its Crimean moment to take a course of action, the suspension of MSF activities within Arakan has provided that seminal moment. It is up to them to act now and come strong on Myanmar. It still has some leverages including trying the thugs and war criminals in the Hague to change the regime’s pitiful record on human rights.”

The absence of MSF will be terribly felt within Arakan where hundreds of thousands of Rohingya Muslims have no other alternative for their healthcare needs. The international community should demand that the rogue regime rescinds its decision and allows access of MSF in Arakan to operate freely, as before. It should not allow itself to be hoodwinked by Myanmar’s sly attempt. Without MSF the lives of Rohingya are at stake. Simply allowing MSF to work in other parts of Myanmar is not enough!

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