Thursday, September 17, 2009

Tamil medic describes camp conditions

British medic Damilvany Gnanakumar, detained for four months in one of Sri Lanka's Tamil internment camps, describes to Jonathan Miller the bleakness of the conditions she found there.

A senior UN official has arrived in Sri Lanka to put pressure on the government over the detention of tens of thousands of Tamil refugees in camps following the 25-year civil war.

The Sri Lankan government says it need to weed out Tamil Tiger fighters at the camps before most of the inmates can be released.

Our foreign affairs correspondent Jonathan Miller has talked to a British Tamil who knows how bleak conditions are in the camps, after being detained in one of them for four months.

"Dead bodies everywhere," recalls Damilvany Gnanakumar. "Wherever you turn round, it's dead bodies."

She estimates that 20,000 civilians may have died in the final five-day onslaught by Sri Lankan government forces - a figure also cited by some relief agencies, but one dismissed as unsubstantiated by Sri Lanka.

And she says many people inside the camps are dismayed that the world has done so little to help. "After all this happened, they lost their trust... They don't feel safe to speak out.

"They don't trust the international (community) now because they think OK, all this happened - nothing happened, the international (community) didn't come and help us."

© Channel 4

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