Myanmar official accuses NGOs of profiting from Rohingya refugee camps

Presidential spokesperson U Zaw Htay claims that NGOs are deliberately discouraging refugees from returning. “They want to be there indefinitely”. 

Naypyidaw (AsiaNews) – The refugee crisis on the Myanmar-Bangladesh border is a huge money-making business for international nongovernmental organisations (INGOs) that are providing assistance to over 700,000 Muslims who fled violence in northern Rakhine State last year, said U Zaw Htay, a spokesperson for the President’s Office, at a press conference in Naypyidaw, three days ago.

The first 2,260 Rohingya refugees were supposed to be repatriated on 15 November from Bangladesh to Myanmar which they fled in 2016 and 2017. However, no one has expressed a desire to return.

Although Myanmar has said that it was ready to welcome the returning refugees, Bangladesh decided to put off the repatriation until the end of the month. Previously, the UNHRC and humanitarian organisations on the ground expressed doubts about the whole process.

For U Zaw Htay, INGOs are deliberately discouraging refugees in Bangladesh from returning to Myanmar due to their own business interests rather than security considerations.

“There are a lot of food imports and supplies,” he said. “There is a big market there. INGOs do not want [refugees] to go back to Myanmar so that they can implement projects for a long time – health care, children, women, and so on.”

The presidential spokesperson claims that refugee camps in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh, are a huge market for INGOs providing food and clothing to refugees. “They want to be there indefinitely, so they can do a lot of business there.”

(Sumon Corraya contributed to this article)