Medécins Sans Frontières 'deeply shocked' as Burma expels charity over claims of bias in its medical treatment

Contract to provide health care to some of the country’s most deprived communities has been terminated

Asia Correspondent

A leading international charity has been told it can no longer work in Burma after it was accused of providing preferential treatment to Rohingya Muslims.

Medécins Sans Frontières (MSF) Holland has been told that its contract to provide health care to some of the country’s most deprived communities has been terminated.

“Medécins Sans Frontières Holland has been ordered by the government of Myanmar to cease all activities in the country. MSF is deeply shocked by this unilateral decision and extremely concerned about the fate of tens of thousands of patients currently under our care across the country,” the charity said in a statement.

It added: “Today, for the first time in MSF’s history of operations in the country, HIV clinics in Rakhine, Shan and Kachin states, as well as Yangon division, were closed and patients were unable to receive the treatment they needed. TB patients were unable to receive their life-saving medicine.”

The announcement followed claims by MSF that it had treated more than 20 people with knife and gunshot wounds after an attack by a Buddhist mob on members of a Rohingya community in January that left 40 dead. The government had repeatedly denied any such massacre took place.

On Friday, Burma’s Myanmar Freedom newspaper reported that Ye Htut, a spokesman for President Thein Sein, had said MSF’s contract to work in Rakhine state, where the vast majority of the Rohingya are located, would not be extended. He said MSF had been illegally employing Rohingya members.

MSF has worked in Burma for almost 20 years and has been active in Rakhine since the summer of June 2012 when a series of clashes between Buddhists and Muslims led to more than 150,000 Rohingya being forced to flee their homes. Villages were set alight and scores of people were killed.

The Rohingya Muslims say they have been present in Burma for hundreds of years. Yet most Burmese politicians fail to recognise them as one of the country’s dozens of indigenous groups and refer to them as “Bengalis”. They face widespread persecution both in Burma and across the border in Muslim-majority Bangladesh.

In its statement, MSF said talks between MSF Holland and the government were continuing. Some reports suggested other affiliates of MSF may be able to continue operating in Burma, though it was unclear.

MSF had worked in 15 camps for displaced people in Rakhine, often providing the only healthcare available to the refugees.

Yet in recent days, Buddhist groups have been protesting against the group and holding regular demonstrations, calling upon the government to get rid of it. MSF says its work has been severely hampered as a result.

“MSF’s actions are guided by medical ethics and the principles of neutrality and impartiality,” said the charity. “MSF is in discussions with the government of Myanmar to allow our staff to resume life-saving medical activities and continue addressing the unmet heath needs of its people.”

Mark Farmaner of the Burma Campaign UK said he believed the decision would cost lives. “The Burmese government seem to be gambling that based on the weak response from the international community regarding human rights abuses against the Rohingya, they can get away with this without facing serious consequences,” he added.

Since Thein Sein released most political prisoners and set Burma on a course to greater democracy at the end of 2010, activists have repeatedly raised concerns about the plight of the country’s ethnic and religious minorities.

Few have suffered more than the estimated 1.3m Rohingya. Earlier this week, the group Fortify Rights released a report based on leaked government documents it said showed how official policies restricted the Rohingya community’s “movement, marriage, childbirth, home repairs and construction of houses of worship”.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Office / Sales Manager

£22000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Established and expanding South...

Recruitment Genius: Administrative Assistant / Order Fulfilment

£14000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An exciting opportunity to join a thrivi...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Uncapped OTE: SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consulta...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Uncapped OTE: SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consulta...

Day In a Page

Refugee crisis: David Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia - will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi?

Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia...

But will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi, asks Robert Fisk
Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Humanity must be at the heart of politics, says Jeremy Corbyn
Joe Biden's 'tease tour': Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?

Joe Biden's 'tease tour'

Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?
Britain's 24-hour culture: With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever

Britain's 24-hour culture

With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever
Diplomacy board game: Treachery is the way to win - which makes it just like the real thing

The addictive nature of Diplomacy

Bullying, betrayal, aggression – it may be just a board game, but the family that plays Diplomacy may never look at each other in the same way again
Lady Chatterley's Lover: Racy underwear for fans of DH Lawrence's equally racy tome

Fashion: Ooh, Lady Chatterley!

Take inspiration from DH Lawrence's racy tome with equally racy underwear
8 best children's clocks

Tick-tock: 8 best children's clocks

Whether you’re teaching them to tell the time or putting the finishing touches to a nursery, there’s a ticker for that
Charlie Austin: Queens Park Rangers striker says ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

Charlie Austin: ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

After hitting 18 goals in the Premier League last season, the QPR striker was the great non-deal of transfer deadline day. But he says he'd preferred another shot at promotion
Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

The Arab Spring reversed

Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

Who is Oliver Bonas?

It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

60 years of Scalextric

Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones