Myanmar: A brutally honest note about the situation from an aid worker

Photo credit:  Carlos 
A brutally honest note from the ground in Rakhine state:

You really want to know what kind of game Thein Sein Government is playing with the international community, so-called? And how culpable the UN and foreign interests have come to be in the slow burning genocide?

You may disapprove of the 'big' word' Genocide or ethnic cleansing or what have you.
The fact is nearly 4-decades of systematic persecution and destruction of Rohingya as a group have continued. (Lemkin, the Polish Jewish lawyer and a prosecutor assistant at Nuremberg, who gave us the term 'genocide' and pushed for the Genocide convention is most certainly turning in his grave).

The text of a grounded note from Rakhine, Western Myanmar begins:

"So now the holidays have started. Aid worker are leaving for a break. Government virtually shuts down for 10 days. The head of the health cluster (WHO) is already on leave. Peace talks only have a couple of sticking points apparently and mostly wording. International officials are telling the Myanmar gov how concerned about the Rohingya situation (but we usually use Muslim so not to upset them. Some internationals even use Bengali) while congratulating them on their progress (letting foreign business in). Locals get ready for a week of fun at the water festival.

In the meantime Rohingyas suffer and die. The gov lies about the health care, water and food coverage. Ethnic cleansing is taking place and now a humanitarian crisis and we say we are very concerned. That must really upset the gov and/or those pulling strings. So the national gov can't control Rakhine? They use it as a convenient distraction whenever they wish. Heard anything much about the Chinese pipe line recently? How about land grabs? The gov dislikes Roihingya and a little more Rakhines but they are useful. One joke I heard is that if you see a snake and Rakhine in the road kill the Rakhine first.

And in kachin IDPs are on the move again due to heavy shelling by the gov forces at the same time as peace talks are supposed to be close to finalization. Either Tien Sein has very little control over the army or he is playing games. Perhaps Tan Swe and friends still has a lot of control of military.

The 11 commitments made by Tien Sein need to be addressed by Obama and a new commitment to forfill them with deadlines and consequences for lack of compliance need to be in place. Perhaps this is being done behind closed doors or am I dreaming. Sanctions and loss of reputation internationally may work. UN military observers are needed in Rakhine. TAs should be abolished and free movement of aid workers. Aid workers should not be controlled and directed to suit gov interests.

Unfortunately after Tinjan aid workers may be allowed slowly back in to Rakhine in a controlled way but the gov is likley to dictate more of what they do, where and how. MOH has stated they want 50/50 aid to Rohingya and Rakhine which is contrary to the humanitarian imperative. Some Rohingya are likely to die as aid workers play politics with the gov to ensure access which will be denied if they don't. TAs are not issued at all for Tinjan and existing ones are not respected. This is for the 'safety and security' of aid workers which is very considerate. Also for safety and security travel authorization goes to the central gov and then to the Rakhine state gov for approval. Central gov also plays the it is not us it is them game. We would love to but you know what they are like. Very convenient.

Another great gift to Myanmar from the international community is the census. What a great success and we have at least until the end of April for it to spark even more suffering and violence. There are reports everywhere of them for example just taking information form peoples ID cards at hotel receptions. They sparked the escalation of violence and a humanitarian crisis in Rakhine and fighting in Kachin but UNFPA tell us they were very useful and a success and never mind they can extrapolate the figures for areas not covered; if the enumerators have not completed them from a few answered questions. UNFPA did advise the gov to take ethnicity out ( they did not think question about religion was controversial) but the gov insisted so what could they do? Refuse to validate it and withdraw funding it the obvious answer but that may not be too diplomatic and making waves does not help ones career so lets keep ones head down. We are only giving technical support anyway so it is not our responsibility. That's a relief.

I hope the aid workers have a good holiday, locals have a good Tinjan (Burmese New Year) and not too many Rohingya die."


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