Medecins Sans Frontieres has been ordered to suspend operations in Myanmar, following alleged bias towards Rakhine’s Muslim Rohingya minority. The non-profit organization claims that the forced shutdown will deny healthcare to thousands of people in Myanmar.
Medecins Sans Frontieres has been very active in Mynamar and is one the largest providers of medical care in the Rakhine region, which has recently suffered from waves of violence as Buddhist and Muslim peoples have come into conflict.
Medecins Sans Frontieres has stated that it was shocked by the forced shutdown and claims that its actions are guided by principles of neutrality and medical ethics. Given that Muslims in Myanmar are regularly denied access to healthcare by the government and government affiliated organizations, it wouldn’t be surprising, however, if Medecins Sans Frontieres allocated more resources to them.
Conflict rooted in racism
Rakhine’s Rohingya population allegedly suffers from widespread discrimination across the country. The minority is Muslim and shares common ancestry with people from Bangladesh. As such, they are often considered to be transplanted Bangladeshis by other Burmese citizens.
Bangladesh has also turned away from the Rohingya people, leaving them to be effectively stateless. Local hospitals, government institutions, and other state-affiliated organizations will often deny access to the minority. Leaked documents suggest that the government is intentionally conspiring against the Rohingya.
Outbreaks of violence targeting the minority have resulted in numerous casualties and required military intervention in recent months. Tens of thousands of Rohingya people have been forced from their homes and are now living in refugee camps.
Medecins Sans Frontieres trying to resolve issue
Representatives from Medecins Sans Frontieres are meeting with the government to try and resolve the issue. MSF provides healthcare to thousands of Burmese citizens, both Muslim and Buddhist. With operations ceased, thousands will lose access to vital care.
The organization has pointed out that the closure will severely affect its efforts to combat Malaria and other diseases now prevalent in the country. Whether the company will cave to government demands, however, remains uncertain.
Generally speaking, MSF works hard to avoid getting tangled up in political issues, and to maintain neutrality. Caving to the government might suggest that this neutrality is in danger. As MSF is a crisis relief organization, donors and the international community likely wouldn’t question it allocating extra resources towards the Rohingya.
Meeting government demands, on the other hand, might actually be more controversial. With the international community taking notice, however, the government may be forced to soften its stance.