Government of Bangladesh Blocking Humanitarian Aid for Rohingya

Thai and Burmese press have reported that the Government of Bangladesh is cracking down on charitable organizations that offer assistance to Rohingya, an ethnic group that has faced endemic persecution and violence in Burma.

The Government of Bangladesh ordered the organizations to halt all delivery of humanitarian services, including health care and food provision, to Rohingya under the pretext that such services will encourage more Rohingya to flee to Bangladesh.

Over the past two months, an outbreak of violence in Arakan State, western Burma, between Rohingya and Arakanese has driven thousands of Rohingya across the border to Bangladesh. The violence has displaced an estimated 100,000 people, and thousands of homes have been destroyed. Instead of offering safety to those fleeing violence, as required under international law, Bangladesh returned many Rohingya to Burma, even those in desperate need of medical assistance.

The governments of both Burma and Bangladesh have flouted their international legal obligations to end violence against the Rohingya, to allow humanitarian organizations access to those in need, and to offer safe refuge to those facing violence. Burmese President Thein Sein announced that he wanted to expel Rohingya from the country, and asked for the entire Rohingya population to be placed in refugee camps or resettled abroad.

The persecution of Rohingya is nothing new; PHR documented abuses, including obstruction of humanitarian relief, against Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh in a 2010 report.

The denial of humanitarian services on the part of both governments exacerbates the harm caused by other human rights violations. Given the rising violence in Arakan State, the governments of both Burma and Bangladesh should allow humanitarian organizations open access to those in need. The Government of Burma should adhere to its responsibility to protect its citizens, not fan the flames of conflict as reported in human rights investigations. And the Government of Bangladesh should cease its practice of turning away refugees at the border, and instead offer refuge to those fleeing violence and ensure that refugees have access to essential services, including health care.

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