Threats Leave Thousands Without Access to Medical Care in Myanmar

 Médecins Sans Frontières (Doctors Without Borders) is finding it difficult to deliver assistance to Muslim refugees in Myanmar due to ongoing threats from what the New York Times calls “radical Buddhist groups.”

Ethnic tensions in the largely Buddhist country have been running high since June, when Muslims were charged with assaulting a Buddhist girl in Rahkine State. Since then, tens of thousands of Muslims have been forced out of their homes and are residing in camps across the state, an impoverished area that borders Bangladesh, and MSF/DWD aid workers have been warned not to provide them with care.

According to the Times, Buddhist groups have been distributing pamphlets and posters threatening anyone who gives assistance to a refugee. In addition to cutting off health services for inhabitants of the camps, the intimidation tactics have affected the organization’s longer-term activities in the country, which include opening a health center to provide primary care and AIDS treatment to residents of Sittwe, the capital of Rakhine. Drug supplies to the NGO’s malaria treatment centers in rural Kyauk Taw, Minbya, and Paletwa states also have been disrupted.

“I’ve never experienced this degree of intolerance,” MSF/DWD operations manager Joe Belliveau told the Times. “What we really need is for people to understand that giving medical aid is not a political act.”

Fuller, Thomas. “Charity Says Threats Foil Medical Aid in Myanmar.” New York Times 11/05/12.
“Myanmar: Violence and Threats Block Access to Medical Care in Rakhine State.” Doctors Without Borders Press Release 11/05/12. foundationcenter