Minister: No medical research in Rakhine
Myint Kay Thi
9 January 2018
Ministry of Health and Sports (MOHS) Minister Myint Thwe on Thursday warned local and international organisations against conducting medical research in troubled northern Rakhine State without securing the approval of pertinent government agencies.
He said that research studies conducted in Rakhine State without the approval of the ministry will not be honoured by the government.
“Before conducting any research study by any NGO [International Non-governmental Organizations] or local NGOs, it is mandatory, I should repeat. It is mandatory to get approval from the ethic review committee of department of medical research or the Department of public health,” he said in a speech at the start of the 46th Myanmar Health Research Congress held in Yangon.
“It is not allowed to conduct any type of research study inside the territory of our country without the approval of the government,” he added.
However, he did not refer to any particular INGOs or local NGOs which he said were illegally conducting research without the knowledge of the ministry.
“This point is particularly emphasised because we found many studies being conducted in Rakhine State and they published these without getting approval from the ministry of health and sports,” he said.
The northern Rakhine State was plunged into violence in August last year after fighters of the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA), which the government declared as a terrorist organisation, simultaneously attacked government security forces outposts.
The subsequent fighting between the military, locally known as Tatmadaw, and ARSA fighters have killed hundreds and forced more than 650,000 people, mostly Muslim residents in northern Rakhine, to flee their homes and seek refuge in neighbouring Bangladesh.
The international community has severely criticised the Myanmar government for allegedly conducting systematic persecution of the Muslim people in northern Rakhine, which the country’s officials have vehemently denied.
A majority of Myanmar people do not consider the Muslim people in northern Rakhine among the country’s ethnic groups and view them as illegal migrants from Bangladesh, despite them living in the area for generations.
Minister Myint Htwe said the local or international NGOs which want to conduct research in Rakhine State must sign a memorandum of understanding with the MOHS about their planned research and studies.
In the same speech, the minister said the government allocated K500 (US$371,174) for medical research in the country’s interim budget for the next six months until the new full-year budget cycle starts in October, MOHS said Thursday.
“For the six months [April to September 2018], I received K500 million kyat for research, which is a big amount,” Dr Myint Htwe said at the start of the 46th Myanmar Health Research Congress held in Yangon.
“For the 2018-2019, one year budget, I’m going to ask for K2 billion,” he added.
Parliament has approved last year the change in the country’s fiscal budget year from April 1 to October 1.
The Health Minister called for promoting cultural and environmental research, as well as enhancing the research capacity of the country’s leading medical universities and hospitals.
In 2017-2018 financial years, K1 billion was allocated for medical research by the ministry. Currently, there is still K90 million left in the fund for medical research programs.
“We will give that money before March 2018,” said Dr Myint Htwe.
The medical research fund granted by the government was to be shared among 16 medical universities with medical-related projects under the MOHS.
The 46th Myanmar Health Research Congress, which is being held at the Department of Medical Research in Yangon, will continue until January 12, with the theme “To Prevent, Detect, Treat and Live with Cancer”.
Dr Win Maw Tun, Director (Research), department of Medical Research said that 110 research papers and 80 medical posters, including some related to non-communicable and communicable diseases, were submitted to the congress this year.
Local and international professionals will be participating in the symposium and medical talks in congress.