In a statement on May 1, the Arakan Rohingya National Organisation (ARNO) critiqued the scale of international aid being provided unconditionally for the Burmese government’s Covid-19 response in Rakhine State, accusing donors of condoning and subsidizing the regime’s ongoing genocide against the Rohingya. While the World Bank has provided a USD 50 million loan and the multi-lateral Access to Health Fund has raised 6.2 million dollars for Burma’s national pandemic response, ARNO questions whether government-channeled aid is reaching all the displaced in Rakhine State, and why there is no pressure to end the ongoing Burma Army offensives which are causing fresh displacement, and increased vulnerability to the pandemic.
ARNO is “gravely concerned that the international community’s uncritical buy-in of the Myanmar government’s efforts against the virus, will further embolden it to continue its genocidal operations against the Rohingya and other ethnic peoples of Rakhine – which are bound to worsen the spread of the virus”.
ARNO argues that the Rohingya “confined to concentration camps, and newly displaced from the Burma Army’s relentless air and ground offensives, are far more vulnerable to the virus than the general population. As IDPs, they cannot practice social distancing, have limited access to water for washing, and have weakened immunity due to lack of adequate food and shelter”
According to ARNO, “The best way to protect these IDPs would be for the government to immediately end all military operations and withdraw troops so that the newly displaced can return home, and to immediately grant citizenship and full rights to the Rohingya, so that they are no longer confined to concentration camps”
While welcoming the April 2 statement of 19 foreign ambassadors calling for a cease-fire in western Burma, ARNO questions why they did not identify the Burma Army as the main aggressors, and are continuing “business as usual” despite the ICJ’s ruling in January that the Rohingya must be protected from genocide
“It is hard not to conclude that the international community is continuing to prioritize its own short-term business and strategic interests in Myanmar over the fate of the country’s ethnic peoples,” says ARNO.
The statement ends by urging governments around the world review their engagement with Myanmar, as the current policy of “unconditional support to a government that is driving large sectors of its population into the arms of a pandemic will, finally, be a risk to all”.
ARNO is a worldwide Rohingya political opposition group, set up since 1986.