Since 2004, MSF has treated over 1,240,000 malaria patients in Rakhine state alone”
AnalysisAid agencies in Rakhine state face a difficult choice. Keep quiet in a situation some have described as close to apartheid or speak out and risk infuriating the Buddhist majority.
Most have opted to keep their heads down, reasoning that their priority is to try and assist the most needy. Medecins Sans Frontieres have not, and consistently raise issues of access and the dire conditions in camps for displaced Rohingya.
With MSF already unpopular among Rakhine Buddhists, in January there was an incident which may have directly led to their suspension. A massacre is alleged to have taken place of Rohingya Muslims near the border with Bangladesh.
Two narratives quickly emerged, with the UN claiming that as many as 48 people may have died, while the Burmese authorities said there had been no casualties.
Then much to the annoyance of the government, MSF confirmed that their medics had treated 22 patients near the site of the alleged attack.
It suggested something serious had happened and may have been the final straw for MSF. Presidential spokesman Ye Htut told me their actions had clearly demonstrated their bias towards what he called the Bengalis.