Doctor from MSF medical team asking for the history of illness of a child with diarrhoea at MSF clinic in a refugee camp on the outskirts of Pauk Taw township, February 3, 2013. (Photo: Kaung Htet / MSF)

By Kyal Pyar and Kay Zue
Mizzima News
February 17, 2014

Residents of Rakhine State have sent a petition to President U Thein Sein asking him to expel Medicins Sans Frontieres, the head of a women’s group told Mizzima on February 15.

The President has been asked to expel MSF from the state by the end of the month because Rakhine people were dissatisfied with its work, said the chair of the Rakhine Women’s Network, Daw Nyo Aye.

The demand follows a series of protests held in big towns in Rakhine State since February 3 at which Myanmar and foreign non-government organizations were accused of showing discrimination in providing assistance to victims of communal violence.

The protests had also demanded that all NGOs leave the state within a week.

The decision to write to the President to seek the expulsion of MSF had come after no NGOs left the state, Daw Nyo Aye said.

“MSF wrongly reported after the incident in Du Chee Yar Tan village [in early January] that it treated 22 people for injuries, which was a fabrication aimed at creating trouble,” she said.

“They don’t want to help; it’s clear they have other purposes and that’s why we decided to write to the President.”

A spokesperson for MSF, Daw Aye Pyi Sone, confirmed that it had treated 22 people for injuries after the Du Chee Yar Tan village incident and expressed regret that the NGOs role, of providing medical assistance, had been misunderstood.

“We have never released information aimed at causing trouble; we reported what we have done to the Rakhine State Ministry of Health as well as to the media,” said Daw Pyi Sone.

“We have been impartial wherever we work and we have been providing medical assistance in some of the most difficult places in the world for 40 years,” she said of MSF, which was awarded a Nobel Peace Prize in 1999 in recognition of its “pioneering humanitarian work on several continents”.

A spokesman for the Rakhine State Government, U Win Myaing, told Mizzima that the memorandum of understanding under which MSF operated in the state was believed to have expired.

“The Ministry of Health is checking it,” U Win Myaing said.

MSF is reported to be negotiating with the Union Government for an extension of its MOU to operate in Rakhine State.

MSF has been working in Myanmar since 1992 and has provided medical assistance in Rakhine, Kachin and Shan states and Yangon and Tanintharyi regions.

Since communal arrest erupted in Rakhine State in June 2012, MSF is reported to have opened clinics in the state capital, Sittwe, and in eight other townships.