Hate speech and death threats directed against international aid workers in the wake of the latest violence in Myanmar's western Rakhine state has threatened operations, further imperiling more than 100,000 displaced Rohingya
PHOTO BY: EVANGELOS PETRATOS / ECHO / CC BY-NC-ND
The threats and vitriolic attack have mounted in the week since the office of Aung San Suu Kyi claimed development workers had aided "terrorists" in Rakhine state. On August 30, the official Facebook page of the state counsellor office, which is headed by Suu Kyi, posted photos of U.N. World Food Programme biscuits, as well as U.S. Agency for International Development parcels, which the office claims were found in a "terrorist" camp. National Security Adviser Thaung Tun reiterated accusations of aid worker involvement by saying that ammonia and tubes used by development workers for construction had been turned into explosives. Despite denials and condemnation by WFP and the U.S. ambassador to Myanmar, the photos and comments have gone viral in the country, where social media has played a significant role in stoking anti-Rohingya sentiment. Such hate speech is prompting concerns among the international humanitarian community for the well-being and safety of their local staff and colleagues in the field where clashes have erupted between Rohingya militants and government troops. "The poisonous online atmosphere has made it particularly dangerous for humanitarians in Rakhine state from both the U.N. and the civil society groups," said Phil Robertson, the deputy Asia director at Human Rights Watch, adding that hate speech is being perpetuated not just by the general Burmese public, but also by local staff from the U.N. and NGOs.
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