For the first time in twenty years, Myanmar (Burma) is preparing for elections. To prevent another loss to the National League for Democracy like in 1990, the military junta has begun its crackdown on opposition forces and passed new election laws in order to solidify a win this fall. The new laws have not only annulled the results of the 1990 election, but have also banned political prisoners, civil servants and monks from being affiliated with political parties and thereby standing in the polls. Much of the recent news coverage and the State Department’s release of the Human Rights country Report on Myanmar today, has focused on the domestic situation leading up to the elections and prospects for future engagement with the West. All the while, the often catastrophic situation for Burmese refugees in neighboring countries has largely gone unnoticed. Concerned about a large increase in refugees leading up to the election, the Bangladeshi government has decided to adopt questionable practices that violate human rights to dissuade an influx of Burmese coming across its border.
Refugees Face Humanitarian Crisis
Physicians for Human Rights’ (PHR) new Stateless and Starving report, calls attention to the campaign of discrimination being waged by the Bangladeshi government against Rohingya refugees and the humanitarian crisis faced by refugees. Although the number of Burmese refugees in Bangladesh is said to number between 200,000 and 400,000, there are only 28,000 officially registered refugees in jointly administered UNHCR and Government of Bangladesh camps. Since Rohingya refugees were not granted protective status after 1993, the “illegal” refugees have been subject to arbitrary arrest, illegal expulsion, and forced internment. In addition to these human rights violations, PHR has documented that the Bangladeshi government has been actively blocking humanitarian aid which has contributed to the squalid living conditions and malnutrition of Burmese refugees.
Physicians for Human Rights is asking everyone to participate in its online action to end the expulsion of Burmese refugees and ensure the delivery of critically needed food aid. We need to make sure that if Burmese escape the repressive confines of their own country they are not facing the same discrimination and human rights abuses outside or are being forcibly returned to Myanmar where their human rights are jeopardized.