Wednesday, June 17, 2015

A look at the Rohingya refugee camp in Aceh Timur

       (photos by Osman "Robert" Harmaini)

Today Robert sent me an enormous report and photos from the camp in Bayeun, in the sub-district of Rantau Selamat, Aceh Timur.  Our friend Nasruddin from the small NGO Forum Peduli Rakyat Miskin (Forum for the Care of the Poor) is working at the camp and Robert got a chance to catch up with him. 

Here is Nasruddin, on the left, with JMD Board member Lillianne Fan and Robert at the camp

You may remember he was really helpful last April when Sydney Morning Herald journalist Michael Bachelard visited Aceh and asked to interview some ex-combatants in the area concerning their thoughts about the then-upcoming legislative elections. We contacted Nasruddin who provided some great contacts.  He was also with JMD in 2009 when we set up the Rohingya refugee camp near Idi Rayeuk. That was how it was back then—the two tiniest agencies in the country were the only groups responding to the refugee crisis, and along with the phenomenally poor residents of Aceh Timur provided nearly all the assistance to these men, until the district government took over the running of the camp.
 Inside one of the Myanmar Rohingya tents.  Conditions are good, but very cramped.  Most of the personal items have been donated by local residents.

Now, in 2015, after world attention has been drawn to Myanmar’s attempted genocide, things are a little better for the Rohingya in Aceh . . . but not for their countrymen and women still in Myanmar, and not for any type of definite future for those here.  Their disposition is still not settled.

I’ll post a summary of the report tomorrow, but here are a few of the photos that Robert took of current life in the camp.

The men are getting a little directed exercise from UNHCR staff

Latrines built at the camp by IOM

Volunteers and the Social Services Department cook and serve the meals

Robert and his new friends.  Communication is difficult because no refugees speak Bahasa Indonesia or Acehnese, and only a few speak Malay, which slightly resembles Bahasa

Volunteers and NGOs try to keep the camps as sanitary as possible and provide drinking and bathing water for everyone.

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