YANGON, Myanmar – A day after Doctors Without Borders announced its expulsion from Myanmar, the government backpedaled, saying the aid organization would be allowed to resume operations everywhere but Rakhine, a state plagued by bloody bouts of sectarian violence.
The Nobel Peace Prize-winning group expressed grave concern Saturday about the fate of tens of thousands of vulnerable people in the state, which is home to the country’s long-persecuted minority Rohingya Muslim community. Many have been displaced by violence and are living in crowded camps, where they have little or no access to adequate health care.
They are “currently facing a humanitarian medical crisis,” Doctors Without Borders said in a statement.
Myanmar, a predominantly Buddhist nation of 60 million people, has been grappling with sectarian violence since it moved from dictatorship to a nominally civilian government in 2011. Up to 280 people have been killed and more than 140,000 others forced to flee their homes, most of them Rohingya.
Doctors Without Borders, which provides care across religious, ethnic and racial lines, has come under fire for working on the behalf of the Rohingya.
It was told earlier in the week that its license was being revoked, in part because it was hiring “Bengalis,” the name Myanmar’s government uses to refer to Rohingya. The group also was accused of being impartial and lacking transparency.
Presidential spokesman Ye Htut said negotiations were continuing between the Ministry of Health and Doctors Without Borders about the aid agency’s work in Rakhine.