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Burmese Muslim Association Statement on Violence Against Aid Agencies in Arakan State and the Census

By Burmese Muslim Association  •  March 31, 2014

Burmese Muslim Association (BMA) is deeply concerned by the recent attacks on international aid agencies in Sittwe, Arakan State, on 26th and 27th March 2014. BMA condemns these attacks in the strongest possible terms.

BMA has documented that the attacks were carried out after the visit of U Wirathu (969 Buddhist extremist leader) to Arakan State from 10th March to 21st March 2014. The attacks were made against both expatriate and local staff of the aid agencies. 14 organisations were directly attacked, with their staff threatened and numerous offices, guesthouses and warehouses damaged, raided and looted. The attack is the latest evidence of both a systematic targeting of international humanitarian and development agencies byanti-Rohingya Rakhines and the continued unwillingness on the part of the authorities to provide adequate protection and security to agencies working in Arakan State. We demand the authority of Arakan state for immediate action against perpetrators.

Last February, BMA alerted the international community that international humanitarian aid agencies that operating in Arakan state would become the latest target of attacks. The aim is to expel all aid agencies providing assistance to the most vulnerable peoples in Arakan State. The absence of international humanitarian aid agencies would allow the Rakhine mobs to attack the Rohingya population freely without any impartial eyewitnesses. That is the main purpose why these international NGOs were targeted and attacked. Possibly, this is also an early sign of genocide or mass ethnic cleansing in Arakan State. The massacre in Du Chi Yar Tan village in January, the unwillingness of the authorities to properly investigate this and other incidents of human rights violations, and the subsequent expulsion of MSF after they reported that they treated 22 victims of the violence has sent a clear message to anti-Rohingyaextremists that they will not be punished for acts of violence either against the Rohingya and the international community. Surprisingly, Burmese government first denied the incident and then later committed to conduct an inquiry.

The entire Rohingya population in Arakan State is totally dependent on international aid agencies for essential humanitarian assistance such as clean water, medicine, food and shelter. BMA also wishes to highlight that health conditions in Arakan State, especially for Rohingya people, are shockingly poor and that the expulsion of aid agencies will lead to a further deterioration of an already dire humanitarian crisis. BMA condemns the unethical and inhumane behaviour of some Rakhine doctors and nurses who deliberately refuse to provide life-saving medical treatment to Rohingya patients in Arakan State.

This latest incident clearly shows that the international community needs to take concrete step to ensure the safety of aid agencies in Arakan State at the same time to do more to protect the Rohingya population in Burma from further violence. The international community has obligation to protect Rohingyas, one of the most oppressed population in the world. With humanitarian space in Arakan State clearly under threat, the international community must rethink its strategy of engagement with the Burmese authorities and consider the deployment of presence of international security observers to ensure the safety of aid agencies as well as the security of Rohingya peoples in Arakan State.Therefore, BMA strongly demand international community and people of conscience to practice its best possible authority to ensure the security of Rohingya and the safety of aids agencies in Arakan state, Burma.

BMA is also deeply concerned over the implementation of the controversial census in spite of clear indications that it has exacerbated tensions and even triggered violence. BMA has received reports of violence related to the census, including that authorities have tortured and threatened to torture Rohingyas in Buthidaung for identifying themselves as Rohingya. Many groups, including BMA, have expressed concern about the census being conducted at a time when tensions in Arakan State remain high, anti-Muslim sentiments are growing, and the ethnic peace process facing numerous challenges. However, warnings have been largely ignored. BMA has urged the United Nations, donor countries and all the partners involved conducting the census to prioritise the safety of minorities and vulnerable groups rather than simply rationalising that the census is necessary for the future development of Burma.

BMA also learned that UN did not have contingency plan to deal with potential violence in relation to the controversial census, including in Arakan State. Shockingly, in spite of the violence in Arakan State and the statement by the President’s spokesperson U Ye Htut on 29th March, the term “Rohingya” will not be recognised in the census exercise, UN and donors have decided to continue to support the flawed and dangerous census exercise even though the implementation is clearly discriminatory and in violation of international standards. We demand accountability from the United Nations and donors of the census for not heeding early warnings of violence and urge them to now declare the census invalid.

Media Contact:

Kyaw Win +44-740-345-2378(UK) kyawwin78@gmail.com; Ko Myo Win +95 9 507 0304 (Burma) starmywin@gmail.com; Ms. Yasmin +1 408 250 6227(USA) yasnohana@sbcglobal.net; Ms. Molly +1 416 516 7383 (Canada) law4women@gmail.com;

 

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This post is in: Press Release

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