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Pope in Myanmar: Win Tun Kyi (Caritas), “Rohingya crisis is delicate issue, help all displaced persons”


(from Yangon) –  400,000 internally displaced persons currently live in Myanmar (besides the 600,000 Rohingyas who fled to Bangladesh). They belong to the Kachin, Karen, Chin and Shan ethnic groups and are similarly discriminated against amidst tensions with the army that do not seem to be easing. The 120,000 displaced Kachins, for instance, are mostly Christians who have been living in the refugee camps for over six years. “The international community, however, has never paid attention to them, for it only intervenes when crises come to a head; low-intensity conflicts, by contrast, are of no interest to anyone”. Win Tun Kyi, national director of the efficient Caritas Myanmar called Karuna (meaning “charity” in Sanskrit), said this in an interview with SIR news agency in the run-up to Pope Francis’ visit to the country from 27 to 30 November. The body relies on 750 operators all over the country who provide relief in emergency situations (i.e. Cyclone Nargis), deliver aid such as food, water and basic services to the displaced, and organise social programmes for the poor in the villages and education for children who drop out of school. In the refugee camps of the Kachin State, Caritas hands out food and water, and provides temporary accommodation and health services to at least 40,000 people. “There are Christians, Buddhists and people from other religions; they have been living in very difficult conditions for six years”, he went on to say. When we ask whether there is violence over there as in the Rakhine State, he remarked: “Armies are armies everywhere, because they have weapons and the power to use them”. Furthermore, “many of the conflicts are linked to the exploitation of land and natural resources: we are a country rich in jade, precious minerals, oil, but the proceeds from this trade all go to the government, not to the people”. “It is right for the Pope to speak out on serious humanitarian issues – he said -, we cannot deny that the Rohingya are suffering a lot, but we have to view the story in its real overall context, not like some Western media outlets are presenting it”. In the meantime, Caritas Myanmar has to face ordinary challenges “everywhere”, Win Tun Kyi pointed out. There are no reliable data on poverty but government estimates speak of 30% of the population, “although the figure is certainly much higher, because we have lived for so many years under an oppressive regime, without rights, education, infrastructure, health, and social services”. Caritas has dealt with rural poverty so far, but slums are increasing in Yangon, which is home to 6 million people, so urban poverty is soon to become another focus for action. “Social inequalities are huge and we have experienced a great deal of corruption – he concluded -, but I am confident that with the democratic transition things can change”.






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