Humanitarian Aid for IDPs and Refugees Must Continue until Myanmar Army’s Terror Campaigns Stop

The crisis in Rakhine State needs international action, not only to stop the campaign of terror inflicted upon innocent civilians, but also in the form of humanitarian aid for the 410,000 people who have fled into Bangladesh. The need for support to the victims of the Myanmar[1] Army’s military offensives and human rights violations, however, is not limited to the Rohingya from Rakhine State, as more civilians in Shan and Kachin States continue to flee their homes due to armed conflict. Meanwhile, support for existing refugees and internally displaced persons (IDP) camps in eastern Myanmar and along the Thailand-Myanmar border must be maintained while the security situation throughout the country remains fragile and war is ongoing.

As Rohingya civilians flee the Myanmar Army, it is now reported that 214 Rohingya villages have been destroyed, many of which have been burned to the ground, as satellite imagery from Human Rights Watch confirmed. Reports of human rights violations committed by the Myanmar Army continue to emerge. Despite the violence, the international community has yet to make any substantive efforts to stop the violence. A UN Security Council statement condemning the violence, while welcome, is not sufficient to stop what the UN Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres, has called “ethnic cleansing.”

For people displaced, conditions are desperate. Already Bangladesh is home to 300,000 Rohingya refugees who have fled previous violence and persecution. Many of the new arrivals are residing in open air shelters with a lack of food and water, a situation compounded by the rains of the monsoon season. The Bangladesh Country Director for Save the Children warned of the dire consequences of this humanitarian crisis, “I‘m particularly worried that the demand for food, shelter, water and basic hygiene support is not being met due to the sheer number of people in need. If families can’t meet their basic needs, the suffering will get even worse and lives could be lost.” A further 30,000 ethnic Rakhine and other minorities have also been internally displaced while human rights abuses have also been committed by the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA) on Rakhine villagers as well as Rohingya civilians suspected of being Government informants.

“I‘m particularly worried that the demand for food, shelter, water and basic hygiene support is not being met due to the sheer number of people in need. If families can’t meet their basic needs, the suffering will get even worse and lives could be lost.”

Bangladesh Country, Director for Save the Children

In northern Myanmar, the long-running armed conflict between the Myanmar Army and ethnic armed organizations (EAOs) is also continuing to create displacement. In Shan State, on 10 September, 300 villagers were forced to flee after Myanmar Army soldiers fired indiscriminately around their village, arbitrarily arresting three local villagers, beating and forcing them to be porters. The violations and military operations in northern Myanmar may not get the attention that Rakhine State does due to the scale and intensity of the bouts of violence there, yet the unrelenting offensives and abusive actions have stricken fear in ethnic nationality villages for decades. In Kachin State and northern Shan State, nearly 100,000 people are living in 168 IDP sites as the Myanmar Army has been launching offensives against the Kachin Independence Organization since 2011 as well as against the Ta’ang National Liberation Army, the Shan State Army – North and the Shan State Army – South. On the Thailand-Myanmar border there are 100,000 refugees living in camps while a further 200,000 IDPs live in southeast Myanmar.

Yet in many of these camps, support for essential food, medical and other supplies is dwindling. The Joint Strategy Team, a network of nine humanitarian organizations working in IDP camps in Kachin State, issued a statement last month outlining how “securing substantial funding support to ensure the dignity of the IDPs and meeting their basic needs become increasingly difficult.” In Ei Htu Hta IDP camp in Karen State, home to 2,670 people, food rations will end as of the end of this month – September 2017 – while education and health services will be significantly cut. With conditions for return still unsafe, only one third of the residents feel that it is appropriate to return. The Ei Htu Hta IDPs Supporting Committee have issued a letter of appeal for support, stating that “eliminating food assistance and cuts to education and health, pose the risks of starvation, spread of disease, and children going uneducated and hungry,” and have called for emergency donations.

“Securing substantial funding support to ensure the dignity of the IDPs and meeting their basic needs become increasingly difficult.”

The Joint Strategy Team, Kachin State

The displacement in such a short time that the Myanmar Army has caused in northern Rakhine State is unprecedented in terms of scale and numbers. Yet forced displacement of ethnic and religious minorities and egregious human rights violations including rape, torture and extrajudicial killing committed by the Myanmar Army have been ongoing for decades. The pattern of abuses by the Myanmar Army faced by these various ethnic and religious minorities has been constant with various degrees of intensity in different periods of time. These atrocities must stop.

Meanwhile, it is vital that the international community provides urgent and essential support to those fleeing Rakhine State, and commits to supporting the victims in the long-term. This is true of other minorities who are living in protracted displacement conditions in the borderlands around Myanmar. If the international community’s trust in Daw Aung San Suu Kyi’s Government remains absolute, and no further action is taken against the institution that is causing the displacement – the Myanmar Army – then further displacement is inevitable and these IDPs and refugees will rely on the provision of humanitarian aid by international actors. This is a price that the international community must pay for its lack of punitive measures against Myanmar Army. That Governments around the world continue to sell weapons to the Myanmar Army and the Commander-in-chief, Min Aung Hlaing is received warmly in European capitals is almost unthinkable given what the military does with these weapons to innocent civilians. Rather, targeted sanctions and a global arms embargo must be imposed by the UN Security Council. The international community must not shirk its responsibility by allowing the Myanmar Army to continue its violence against innocent civilians without sanction, nor must it reduce or end support for the victims of its decades-long abuse and power.

_________

[1] One year following the 1988 pro-democracy uprising, the former military junta changed the country’s name from Burma to Myanmar overnight. Progressive Voice uses the term ‘Myanmar’ in acknowledgement that most people of the country use this term. However, the deception of inclusiveness and the historical process of coercion by the former State Peace and Development Council military regime into usage of ‘Myanmar’ rather than ‘Burma’ without the consent of the people is recognized and not forgotten. Thus, under certain circumstances, ‘Burma’ is used.

Resources from the past week

actions

Statements and Press Releases

Myanmar: Scorched-Earth Campaign Fuels Ethnic Cleansing of Rohingya from Rakhine State
By Amnesty International

Indonesian MPs Join Across Party Lines to Call for Immediate Action to Halt Atrocities in Rakhine State
By ASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights

HRC36 Oral Statement on Human Rights Situations in Several Asian Countries
By Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development

UN: Burma Army Committing Ethnic Cleansing: UK Must Stop Training Programme
By Burma Campaign UK

MSF Statement Regarding the Humanitarian Crisis in Rakhine State, Myanmar
By Doctor Without Borders

Burma: Ensure Aid Reaches Rohingya
By Human Rights Watch

1971 All Over Again
By Human Rights Watch

Burma: Military Torches Homes Near Border
By Human Rights Watch

Burma: Targeted Sanctions, Arms Embargo Needed
By Human Rights Watch

Chairman Crowley, Rep. Chabot Call for Suspension of Military Training in Burma
By House Democratic Caucus Chairman Joe Crowley (D-NY) and Congressman Steve Chabot (R-Ohio)

Myanmar: Rakhine State Crisis Demands Full Government Commitment to Protecting Human Rights of All
By International Commission of Jurists

National Human Rights Commission of Thailand Holds Initial Hearing for Ban Chaung Coal Mine Project
By Inclusive Development International and Taka Paw

IPPFoRB Steering Group Condemns Appalling Violence in Myanmar’s Rakhine State
By International Panel of Parliamentarians for Freedom of

EBN Statement on Rohingya Crisis
By Members of the European Burma Network

Indiscriminate Burma Army Shelling, Shooting Cause 300 Villagers to Flee in Mong Yai, northern Shan State – Three Villagers Arrested, One Beaten
By Shan Human Rights Foundation

မိုင္းရယ္ျမိဳ ရွမ္းျပည္နယ္ေျမာက္ပိုင္း အတြင္းအစိုးရစစ္တပ္၏ေသနတ္၊ လက္နက္ႀကီး ျဖင့္မဆင္မျခင္ပစ္ခတ္ခဲ့ေသာႀကာင့္ အနီးနားရွိေဒသခံမ်ားမိုင္းရယ္ျမိဳ့ေပၚသို့ထြက္ေျပးေနရ- ၃ ဦး ဖမ္းဆီးထိန္းသိမ္းခံရျပီး တဦးရိုက္ခံခဲ့ရသည္။
By Shan Human Rights Foundation

Statement by the Press Secretary on the Violence in Burma
By The White House Press Secretary

Secretary-General’s Press Conference Prior to the Opening of the 72nd Session of the General Assembly
By United Nations Secretary-General

SASC Chairman John McCAIN Seeks to Remove Burma Military Cooperation From NDAA
By  U.S. Senator John McCain

Opening Statement by Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights
By Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, United Nations High Commissioner for

Burma/Myanmar Civil Society Urges US Congress Not to Deepen Military-to-Military Ties
By 85 Myanmar Civil Society Organizations

ျမန္မာအရပ္ဘက္လူထုအဖြဲ႔အစည္းမ်ားမွ အေမရိကန္ ႏွင့္ ျမန္မာ စစ္တပ္ခ်င္းပူးေပါင္းေဆာင္ရြက္ေရးအား အတည္မျပဳရန္ အေမရိကန္ျပည္ေထာင္စု ေအာက္လႊတ္ေတာ္ကုိ တုိက္တြန္း
By 85 Myanmar Civil Society Organizations

ICC declines to protect Stateless Rohingya from Genocide and Crimes Against Humanity
By 19 Rohingya Organisations Worldwide

reports

Reports

Briefing Paper for the ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights (AICHR): “Update on the mass displacement of people from Rakhine State”
By Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development and Asia Pacific Refugee Rights Network

Life Disrupted: Burma Army Targets Civilian Family in Danai
By Free Burma Rangers


Progressive Voice is a participatory, rights-based policy research and advocacy organization that was born out of Burma Partnership. Burma Partnership officially ended its work on October 10, 2016 transitioning to a rights-based policy research and advocacy organization called Progressive Voice. For further information, please see our press release “Burma Partnership Celebrates Continuing Regional Solidarity for Burma and Embraces the Work Ahead for Progressive Voice.”

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