European Commission Announces Burma Aid Package | Europe| News and current affairs from around the continent | DW | 20.01.2009
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European Commission Announces Burma Aid Package

The European Commission has agreed to provide 40.5 million euros ($52.4 million) in humanitarian aid to Myanmar this year, with some of the money aimed at assisting Rohingya Muslims living "in terrible conditions" there.

Burmese walk in the devastated city Bgalei almost two weeks after cyclone Nargis

Thousands of Burmese are still homeless after Cyclone Nargis

Some 22 million euros of the package will go to assisting communities hard hit by Cyclone Nargis, which left 140,000 people dead and affected 2.4 million others in March 2008, the commission said Tuesday in a statement.

The remaining 18.5 million euros will target "other highly vulnerable populations inside Burma, and Burmese refugees in Thailand," the statement said.

"I am particularly concerned about the forgotten crisis in Northern Rakhine State, where some 800,000 Muslim Rohingya live in terrible conditions," said European Commissioner for Development and Humanitarian Aid Louis Michel.

"Despite all our efforts, the situation there remains tragically static," Michel said of the Rohingyas, a Muslim minority group that has been denied citizenship by the ruling Burma junta.

Rohingya plight

A Rohingya mother and her child in a makeshift camp in Teknaf

The Rohingya have been discriminated against for decades

The Rohingyas have been denied citizenship and the right to own land or work in Rhakine State, also called Arakan, despite having lived in the area for generations.

Burma government persecution forced at least 250,000 Rohingyas to flee to neighbouring Bangladesh in 1991 and 1992, where many remain refugees.

The plight of this stateless people recently came to light after the Thai navy was accused last month of pushing back to sea about 1,000 Rohingya boat people, leaving at least 500 missing on the high seas.

EU aid

The commission has been providing humanitarian aid to Burma since 1994, though such funding is strictly limited to humanitarian efforts, as Burma's ruling military regime is the target of EU economic sanctions due to its atrocious human rights record.

Humanitarian aid increased substantially last year in the aftermath of the Cyclone Nargis disaster that hit Burma's Irrawaddy delta.

"The objective of our activities in Burma is solely humanitarian," said Michel.

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