A year after nearly one million ethnic Rohingya were forced to flee to Bangladesh from their native Myanmar, VOA contributor Greta Van Susteren and host of the TV program Plugged In with Greta Van Susteren, was invited to testify before the House Foreign Affairs Committee to bring attention to one of the most serious refugee crises in the world today. This was the third hearing held by the committee on this issue. In addition to Van Susteren, the committee also heard testimony from Stephen Pomper, U.S. Program Director of the International Crisis Group.
Van Susteren, who has visited the Kutupalong refugee camp near Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh, several times, most recently in June with VOA Director Amanda Bennett, testified that the conditions are worsening, particularly after the monsoon season. “Shelters slipped away in mudslides; walls collapsed around huts and people, and attempts at basic sanitation were obliterated,” she testified before the committee. “This is pure human suffering.”
Van Susteren documented the abysmal conditions in the camp in a soon to be released VOA production titled Displaced, an excerpt of which was shown to the committee. In the documentary, the refugees themselves recount their escape from Myanmar, as well as the atrocities they suffered at the hands of the Burmese military. “These people are forgotten, stateless, homeless, and nameless. In Myanmar, the government has rejected use of the term ‘Rohingya.’ The Rohingya are non-people to them; they have been dehumanized,” Van Susteren said in her testimony.
VOA is already covering the crisis for its global audience, as well as its audiences in Myanmar and Bangladesh, but there are challenges in getting reporters into the Rakhine State, the west coast region of Burma from where the Rohingya fled, to document the conditions there, so “the best you can do is to talk to survivors,” as Van Susteren noted. “They [the Rohingya] are especially eager to hear news from Myanmar and what the international community is saying about them. VOA news can make a difference,” she said to the committee.