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”.

News
John Travolta is a qualified airline captain and employed the pilot with his company, Alto
people'That was the lowest I’d ever felt'
Life and Style
healthIt isn’t greasy. It doesn’t smell. And moreover, it costs nothing
News
i100

Other places that have held independence referendums
Arts and Entertainment
Jack Huston is the new Ben-Hur
film

It scooped up an unprecedented 11 Academy Awards when it was first remade in 1959

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Life and Style
fashion

Olympic diver has made his modelling debut for Adidas

Arts and Entertainment
Blossoming love: Colin Firth as Stanley and Emma Stone as Sophie, in 'Magic in the Moonlight'
film

Actors star in Woody Allen's 'Magic in the Moonlight'

News
news

News
peopleThe Times of India said actress should treat it as a 'compliment'
Arts and Entertainment
Maxine Peake plays Hamlet at Manchester's Royal Exchange
theatreReview: Maxine Peake brings emotional ferocity to Shakespeare's starring part
News
London's New Year's Eve fireworks event is going to be ticketed this year for the first time at £10 a head
news

Revellers will have to pay to see New Year's Eve fireworks in London

News
news

Watch this commuter wage a one-man war against the Circle Line
Property
Home body: Badger stays safe indoors
lifeShould we feel guilty about keeping cats inside?
Travel
travel

...and the perfect time to visit them

Sport
Jonas Gutierrez (r) competes with Yaya Toure (l)
football

Newcastle winger reveals he has testicular cancer - and is losing his trademark long hair as a result

News
A male driver reverses his Vauxhall Astra from a tow truck
news

Man's attempt to avoid being impounded heavily criticised

Life and Style
tech

Try putting that one on your Christmas list
Arts and Entertainment
While many films were released, few managed to match the success of James Bond blockbuster 'Skyfall'
filmsDaniel Craig believed to be donning skis as 007 for first time
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

English Teacher

£110 - £130 per day: Randstad Education Preston: The Job ? This is a new post...

Primary Teacher EYFS, KS1 and KS2

£85 - £130 per day: Randstad Education Preston: Randstad Education are urgentl...

Teacher

£85 - £140 per day: Randstad Education Preston: Rapidly developing and growing...

KS2 Teacher

£105 - £120 per day + Expenses: Randstad Education Maidstone: Randstad Educat...

Day In a Page

Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week