December 01, 2013
The European Commission has promised to increase humanitarian support to Myanmar’s conflict areas but issued a harsh assessment of conditions in IDP camps in Rakhine State, likening them to the Jewish ghettos set up by the Nazis.
Claus Sorensen, director general of the European Commission’s Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection, speaks to reporters on November 23. Photo: AFPClaus Sorensen, director general of the European Commission’s Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection, speaks to reporters on November 23. Photo: AFP
Describing the levels of need and deprivation he witnessed on his visit to Sittwe in late November, Claus Sorrenson, the director general of the EU’s Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection department (ECHO), told reporters on November 23, at the conclusion of a five-day visit, that the conditions “cannot be a part of modern society”.
Mr Sorrenson likened the lack of humanitarian aid and the restrictions on movement for displaced Rohingya, who are known officially as Bengalis, to the situation in Apartheid-era South Africa, or Poland under Nazi occupation.
“I remember European history, where Jews were locked up in the ghettos,” he said. “We all know how that ended.”
He said ECHO will give an additional 3 million euros (US$4.05 million) for food aid in Rakhine and Kachin states in 2014. It will continue to fund programs and projects in other parts of the country.
While Mr Sorrenson decried the treatment of Muslims in Rakhine State, he also praised the attitude of the government ministers, including chief peace negotiator U Aung Min, whom he met in Nay Pyi Taw on November 22.
He said the government officials he met showed “definite signals” of wanting to develop a road map to expand the rights of minority groups in Rakhine State, including the Rohingya.
He called on non-governmental organisations and civil society groups to push the Union Government to keep its promises.
“Now it’s a question of making it happen,” he said. “We’re talking about 800,000 individuals. They’re not going anywhere. They’re not going to all go on the boats and disappear into the ocean, which, by the way, is a scandal. They will stay there, so we have to find a way for them to stay there safely.”