Doctors with Borders?

Doctors Without Borders, an organization that provides medical aid around the world, has been presented with a border. The government of Myanmar (or Burma) suspended the organization’s license to operate within the Rakhine state on the country’s western coast. The reason? For working with the Rohingya Muslim minority in the state. But let’s back up a bit.

Doctors Without Borders’ involvement in the area

According to Al Jazeera America, Doctors Without Borders (MSF as it’s known by its French initials) has been working in the Rakhine state for nearly twenty years. Beyond caring for the injured, MSF has been a key provider of HIV/AIDS and Tuberculosis treatment in the region.

An NPR article says that the area is one of the most difficult places in the world to receive HIV drugs, and that without the help of MSF it is unclear how residents will continue to receive treatment.

The government’s stance

A spokesperson for Myanmar’s government told the Myanmar Freedom newspaper that Doctors Without Borders did not get its contract renewed due to a lack of “transparency.” The spokeperson also criticized the group for hiring members of the Muslim minority, and for its handling of a situation in the state following an attack there last month.

According to the United Nations, at least 40 Rohingya were killed in the attack. MSF said it treated 22 injured Rohingya in the aftermath of the attack. The Myanmar government denies claims that the attack even took place. Furthermore, the government spokesperson said MSF refused to arrange a meeting between the government and the patients it treated. The entire incident created tension between the government and the organization.

“We see that their activities, instead of offering assistance in the region, are fuelling tensions and are detrimental to the rule of law,” the spokesman was quoted as saying in an article on The Democratic Voice of Burma website.

All of this comes not long after Myanmar ended many years of military rule. The country has been gradually implementing democratic reforms, but it clearly still has some ground to cover in that regard.


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