Myanmar Protesters surround Sittwe in Rakhine late February – Photo credited to CNN.com
In the following article, Julian Omidi discusses the expulsion of Doctors Without Borders from the Rakhine region of Myanmar. The organization was dismantled due to the government’s assertion that Rohingya Muslims were being favored over the Rakhine Buddhists, but tensions between the two groups extends far beyond access to medical services. Julian Omidi is cofounder of the organization No More Poverty with his brother, Dr. Michael Omidi.
The activities of the nonprofit organization Doctors Without Borders have been suspended in Myanmar, due to governmental accusations that Rohingya Muslims were receiving preferential treatment over Rakhine Buddhists. The two ethnic groups have been in conflict since the British colonial era, and the hatred of the Muslim population is widespread and generally accepted. It has been theorized that, by shutting down Doctors Without Borders, there will be fewer international witnesses to violent outbursts against Rohingya Muslims.
The medical services provided by Doctors Without Borders are the only treatments available to the Rohingya Muslims. They have been denied citizenship in Myanmar by order of law, and in 2012 were forced to relocate to internment camps and ethnic ghettos. Although Doctors Without Borders has been accused of giving Muslims special favor, there are no medical facilities available to the Rohingya Muslim population, as the government-run clinics are situated outside of the districts in which the Muslims are allowed to live.
Although the International Red Cross is still permitted to operate, Doctors Without Borders is the largest healthcare provider in the Rakhine region. More than a quarter million people receive treatment from Doctors Without Borders facilities. Since the restriction of services began, it has been estimated that 150 people have died due to having been denied medical care.
Doctors Without Borders was the only resource for chronically ill Rohingya Muslims. Those with tuberculosis, malaria and H.I.V. who have depended upon medications supplied by Doctors Without Borders might not have a reliable supply for the foreseeable future. Government officials have stated that medications donated by Doctors Without Borders will continue to be distributed, but exactly how this is to be achieved has not been made clear.
For the past several years, anti-Muslim actions have been intensifying. Monks regularly include anti-Muslim rhetoric in their sermons; local politicians are lobbying to prohibit the Rohingya from identifying themselves as such on the national census for fear of confirming the numbers are higher than governmental estimates. However, the most disturbing trend is the violence against whole families – including children. One gruesome incident involved the slaughter and decapitation of 10 Rohingya men, whose heads were left in a water tank. While the violence is not technically sanctioned by the government, little has been done to prevent it or punish those who have perpetrated it.
Because Myanmar is working to gain international acceptance, it is critical that the United Nations as well as both western and eastern governments make it perfectly clear that ethnic cleansing will neither be encouraged nor tolerated. The lessons of Rwanda, Bosnia and Sudan have been recently learned – we can only hope that they have also not been quickly forg  Perlez, Jane: Ban on Doctors’ Group Imperils Muslim Minority in Myanmar New York Times 3/13/2014 http://www.nytimes.com/2014/03/14/world/asia/myanmar-bans-doctors-without-borders.html?src=recg&module=Ribbon&version=context®ion=Header&action=click&contentCollection=Recommended&pgtype=article&_r=0 By Julian Omidi