EU gives $52 mn in aid to Myanmar

January 20th, 2009 - 9:51 pm ICT by IANS  

Yangon, Jan 20 (DPA) The European Commission, executive body of the European Union (EU), has agreed to provide 40.5 million euros ($52.4 million) in humanitarian aid to Myanmar this year, with some of it aimed at assisting the Rohingya Muslims who are living “in terrible conditions”, officials said Tuesday.Of the 40.5 million euros allocated, some 22 million 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 remaining 18.5 million will target “other highly vulnerable populations inside Myanmar, and Burmese (Myanmar) refugees in Thailand”, said a statement issued by the European Commission.

“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 Myanmar junta.

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

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

The plight of the stateless Rohingyas 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.

The European Commission has been providing humanitarian aid to Myanmar since 1994.

The aid is strictly limited to humanitarian efforts, as Myanmar’s ruling military regime is the target of EU economic sanctions because of its atrocious human rights record.

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

“The objective of our activities in Myanmar is solely humanitarian,” said Michel.

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