Government officials in Bangladesh are preventing humanitarian access to tens of thousands of starving Burmese refugees living in its southeastern corner, across the river from Burma.
We are persecuted by the Burmese government, so we came here for peace, but now we are persecuted by the Bangladeshi government. A 25-year-old female refugee from Arakan State, Burma, said this to me while I was investigating conditions at Kutupalong unofficial camp, Bangladesh three weeks ago.
As you read this blog post, a humanitarian crisis is unfolding. Tens of thousands of Burmese refugees are in danger of dying from starvation and disease in Bangladesh.
Physicians for Human Rights has found that in recent months Bangladeshi authorities have waged an unprecedented campaign of arbitrary arrest, illegal expulsion and forced internment against Burmese refugees. Critical levels of acute malnutrition and a surging camp population without access to food aid will cause more deaths from starvation and disease if the humanitarian crisis is not addressed.
In an op-ed published this weekend in the Global Post, I argue that the Obama Administration must establish benchmarks and present credible consequences should its new strategy of engagement fail to produce movement toward real political change within Burma.