Bangladesh Orders Aid Groups to Suspend Services to Rohingya Refugees

Posted August 2nd, 2012 at 12:30 pm (UTC-5)
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Bangladesh is ordering international humanitarian groups to stop providing aid to ethnic Rohingya refugees who have fled deadly communal violence in neighboring Burma.

Local administrator Joynal Bari confirmed Thursday to VOA Bangla Service that the groups Doctors Without Borders, Action Against Hunger and Muslim Aid have been instructed to stop their activities in the southeastern district of Cox's Bazar, which borders Burma.

Bari said the directive came in a letter from Bangladesh's NGO Affairs Bureau in which the groups were told they were “working beyond their mandate.” The local official would not give details, including how many Rohinyga refugees were being helped by the aid agencies.

Diderik Van Halsema, a spokesperson for Doctor's Without Borders, (MSF) told VOA his organization has received the directive.

“At MSF we do confirm that we have received a letter from the Bangladeshi authorities requesting us to stop our activities at our project in Cox's Bazar district in Bangladesh. We are currently discussing this matter with the Bangladeshi authorities, so obviously we don't want to influence those conversations and we await the outcome of that.”

Muslim Aid UK, told the French news agency that officials ordered them to stop their so-called “illegal” services in the same area because they were supposedly “encouraging an influx of Rohingya refugees” from Burma.

Sectarian violence between Buddhists and Rohingya Muslims in Burma's western Rakhine state has left dozens dead since June. Rights groups say Burmese security forces have also carried out a campaign of killings and mass arrests against the Rohingya population.

The Rohingya are considered by most Burmese to be illegal immigrants from Bangladesh and most are denied citizenship there. But they are also denied citizenship in Bangladesh, which argues the group has been living in Burma for centuries.

Despite pressure from the United States and rights groups, Bangladesh has turned away boats carrying scores of Rohingyas who are trying to escape the violence in Burma.

On Wednesday, Human Rights Watch released a report saying that Burmese security forces have committed killings, rape, and mass arrests against Rohingya in the aftermath of the communal violence.

Burma's government, which has a long history of violence against ethnic minorities, has denied that security forces have committed abuses against the Rohingya, saying they exercised “maximum restraint” in dealing with the conflict.