UN urges Myanmar to abide by deal granting access to Rakhine


YANGON, Aug 8, 2018 (BSS/AFP) – The United Nations said Wednesday it still
had not been granted independent access to the epicentre of Myanmar’s
Rohingya crisis two months after inking a deal with the government to carry
out work there.

UN refugee and development agencies signed an agreement with Myanmar in
June that permitted them to operate in northern Rakhine state where hundreds
of thousands of Rohingya Muslims were driven from their homes in a brutal
army campaign that started almost a year ago.

The agreement was supposed to let the UN help Myanmar create conditions on
the ground that would be conducive to a safe and voluntary return for the
stateless Rohingya, many of whom are currently languishing in camps in
southeast Bangladesh.

So far they have refused to come back without any guarantee of security or
basic rights such as citizenship.

The UN agencies said in a joint statement that requests dating back to
mid-June for international employees to be allowed to start work in northern
Rakhine state remained unanswered. Though they highlighted some “encouraging”
steps, such as visits to the area by UN officials, they said Myanmar needed
to provide “effective access”.

The UN refugee agency has kept an office in northern Rakhine state
throughout the crisis but staff are not able to work in the field freely.

The statement also called on Myanmar to provide freedom of movement for
all communities and to address the root cause of the crisis.

In Myanmar, the Rohingya are widely regarded as illegal immigrants from
Bangladesh and most live under apartheid-like conditions, cut off from
adequate healthcare and unable to travel.

Some 700,000 Rohingya have fled to Bangladesh since August last year.
Living in cramped shelters they have recounted horrific testimonies of
murder, rape and torture at the hands of army troops and mobs of ethnic
Rakhine Buddhists.

The US and UN brand the operations carried out by security forces as
ethnic cleansing.

But Myanmar’s military says it was defending itself against Rohingya
militants and denies targeting civilians.

A spokesman for the Myanmar government could not be reached for comment.

Rakhine has been largely sealed off since the crisis exploded, with
Myanmar undertaking a massive reconstruction programme that critics say
amounts to the erasure of Rohingya history.