For­eign NGOS hit back at prof­i­teer­ing charge

The Myanmar Times - Weekend - - News - NYAN LYNN AUNG nyan­lin­[email protected]­times.com

IN­TER­NA­TIONAL non-gov­ern­men­tal or­gan­i­sa­tions (INGOS) hit back at ac­cu­sa­tions that they are block­ing the repa­tri­a­tion of refugees to north­ern Rakhine State be­cause they make money off the peo­ple liv­ing in crowded camps in Bangladesh.

Phil Robert­son, deputy Asia di­rec­tor for Hu­man Rights Watch, de­scribed the ac­cu­sa­tion by a Myan­mar gov­ern­ment spokesman on Novem­ber 23 as dis­in­for­ma­tion, in­sist­ing that the INGOS and UN agen­cies fo­cus solely on meet­ing the ba­sic hu­man­i­tar­ian needs of the refugees.

“When the Myan­mar gov­ern­ment and mil­i­tary have noth­ing good to present in terms of ac­com­plish­ments, they man­u­fac­ture at­tacks against NGOS and other in­ter­na­tional agen­cies to di­vert at­ten­tion,” he said.

Last Fri­day, U Zaw Htay, spokesper­son of Pres­i­dent’s Of­fice, claimed that the refugee cri­sis on the Myan­mar bangladesh bor­der is ac­tu­ally a huge money-mak­ing ven­ture for the INGOS that pro­vide as­sis­tance to over 700,000 Mus­lims who fled vi­o­lence in north­ern Rakhine State last year, and these groups strongly op­pose the re­turn of the refugees to north­ern Rakhine.

“INGOS do not want [the refugees] to re­turn to Myan­mar. Only then will they get these huge projects. This is a mas­sive busi­ness for the INGOS, so they are telling [the refugees] not to re­turn,” he told a brief­ing in Nay Pyi Taw on Novem­ber 23. He of­fered no proof of his ac­cu­sa­tions.

Anna Schaaf, pre­ven­tion and com­mu­ni­ca­tions man­ager of the In­ter­na­tional Com­mit­tee of the Red Cross (ICRC) in Bangladesh, said the ICRC takes al­le­ga­tions of fi­nan­cial ir­reg­u­lar­i­ties se­ri­ously.

“We have ro­bust sys­tems in place to en­sure that the aid we pro­vide reaches the peo­ple it is in­tended for,” she said.

Schaaf said the ICRC works on both sides of the bor­der be­tween Bangladesh and Myan­mar and has as­sisted al­most 300,000 peo­ple in Rakhine and 50,000 in Bangladesh.

She added that the ICRC fo­cuses on peo­ple who need pro­tec­tion and as­sis­tance from a purely hu­man­i­tar­ian stand­point and will con­tinue help­ing all vul­ner­a­ble com­mu­ni­ties in ac­cor­dance with its man­date.

‘’While we are pro­vid­ing sup­port for peo­ple liv­ing in the camps in Bangladesh, we be­lieve that their re­turn rep­re­sents a pos­i­tive step if it is done un­der the right con­di­tions. Re­turns should be vol­un­tary, safe and take place with dig­nity,” Schaaf said.

Mark Far­maner, di­rec­tor of Burma Cam­paign UK, de­scribed as “non­sense” the gov­ern­ment’s ac­cu­sa­tion that NGOS are try­ing to pre­vent refugees from re­turn­ing to Myan­mar be­cause they are mak­ing money.

He said refugees are re­fus­ing to re­turn be­cause nei­ther the gov­ern­ment nor the mil­i­tary re­spect their hu­man rights.

“The gov­ern­ment only wants refugees to re­turn as a pub­lic re­la­tions move to try to avoid more in­ter­na­tional pres­sure,” Far­maner said.

The first batch of over 2000 refugees was sup­posed to be repa­tri­ated on Novem­ber 15, but Bangladesh can­celled it at the last minute after a protest by about 1000 refugees.

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