Head of Region for Asia at the British Red Cross answers YOUR questions!

Olli Behn.JPG

Photo credit: Farzena Hossen / British Red Cross.

Hi Burnet News Club! My name is Olli and I joined the British Red Cross as the Head of Region for Asia in 2017; I look after all the British Red Cross work in Asia. I have worked in the humanitarian sector for over 20 years and has spent time in both Bangladesh and Myanmar. I've also worked in humanitarian crisis and conflicts in more than 30 countries in Asia, the Middle East and Africa.

Q) Why do people not accept Rohingya people?
From adventurous_piano at Streatham Wells Primary School

A) This isn’t an easy question to answer. Myanmar is a predominately Buddhist country and is home to a number of different ethnic groups. The ‘Rohingya’ people are a predominately Muslim group, most of whom live in Rakhine State on the western coast of Myanmar. There have been tensions between different ethnic groups in Myanmar for decades. On several occasions, these tensions have led to outbreaks of violence between different communities. In August 2017, violence flared in the northern areas of Rakhine State. Hundreds of thousands of people were forced to flee their homes, with around 700,000 crossing into neighbouring Bangladesh.


Q) Aung San Suu Kyi has the time and money to put an end to all of this mistreatment and get something sorted instead of just saying she will. Why doesn't she just fix this? I would really like to know why Aung San Suu Kyi is kind of ignoring people and also why isn't she helping in any way?
From chatty_temperature at St Edward's Catholic Primary School

A) Unfortunately, it’s not a question that I can answer. Let me explain why. The Red Cross is a neutral, impartial and independent humanitarian organisation. This means that we do not take sides and we help people regardless of their race, religion or political allegiance. Our priority is saving lives and our neutrality helps us to reach areas that other aid groups are unable to access. In order to remain neutral and impartial, we have to be very careful what we say publicly about political figures, whether that’s in Myanmar or right here in the UK. However, this doesn’t mean that we stay silent. Rather, our preferred way of working is to speak to officials in confidence, and not in public.

The Red Cross is a neutral, impartial and independent humanitarian organisation. This means that we do not take sides and we help people regardless...

Olli Behn, British Red Cross


Q) Do you think the Rohingya are going to survive?
From extraordinary_thought at Michael Faraday School

A) The horrific reality is that hundreds of thousands of people are living in appalling conditions in makeshift camps in Bangladesh. Imagine having to flee your home at a moment’s notice. What could you realistically take with you? The answer is very little. People in these camps have very few possessions with them and have no way of providing for themselves. They are dependent on aid organisations, such as the Red Cross, for food, clean water and shelter.
The bottom line is they cannot live like this forever. There needs to be a long-term political solution. Until then, the Red Cross will continue to help people and work to ensure they are protected from violence.

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