Myan­mar says US of­fi­cial barred from Ro­hingya con­flict zone

Iran Daily - - International -

Myan­mar said on Fri­day a vis­it­ing US of­fi­cial would not be al­lowed to go to a re­gion where vi­o­lence has trig­gered an ex­o­dus of nearly 400,000 Ro­hingya Mus­lims that the United Na­tions has branded a “text­book ex­am­ple of eth­nic cleans­ing.”

The Ro­hingya have fled from west­ern Rakhine state to neigh­bor­ing Bangladesh to es­cape a mil­i­tary of­fen­sive that has raised ques­tions about Myan­mar’s tran­si­tion to civil­ian rule un­der the lead­er­ship of No­bel lau­re­ate Aung San Suu Kyi, Reuters re­ported.

US Deputy As­sis­tant Sec­re­tary of State Pa­trick Mur­phy will voice Wash­ing­ton’s con­cerns about the Ro­hingya and press for greater ac­cess to the con­flict area for hu­man­i­tar­ian work­ers, the State De­part­ment said.

Myan­mar of­fi­cials said he would meet gov­ern­ment lead­ers in the cap­i­tal, Naypy­itaw, and at­tend an ad­dress to the na­tion by Suu Kyi on Tues­day.

He would also visit Sit­twe, the state cap­i­tal, and meet the gover­nor of Rakhine, the state gov­ern­ment sec­re­tary, Tin Maung Swe, told Reuters, but the north of the state, where the con­flict erupted on Aug. 25 would be off lim­its.

“Not al­lowed,” Tin Maung Swe said, when asked if Mur­phy would be go­ing to Maung­daw dis­trict, at the heart of the strife that be­gan when Ro­hingya in­sur­gents at­tacked po­lice posts and an army camp, killing a dozen peo­ple.

While nearly 400,000 refugees have poured across the bor­der into Bangladesh, fears have also been grow­ing of a hu­man­i­tar­ian cri­sis on the Myan­mar side, but ac­cess for aid work­ers and re­porters has been se­verely re­stricted.

Re­lief work­ers in Bangladesh have strug­gled to man­age the grow­ing hu­man­i­tar­ian cri­sis amid an acute short­age of shel­ters and sup­plies.

“We have to estimate the worst case sce­nario” where all Ro­hingya flee Rakhine, said Mo­hammed Ab­diker Mo­hamud, an In­ter­na­tional Or­ga­ni­za­tion for Mi­gra­tion (IOM) di­rec­tor.

Myan­mar in­sisted on Fri­day it was not bar­ring aid work­ers but a gov­ern­ment spokesman said au­thor­i­ties on the ground might have con­cerns over se­cu­rity.

Rights mon­i­tors and flee­ing Ro­hingya say the army and Rakhine Bud­dhist vig­i­lantes have mounted a cam­paign of ar­son aimed at driv­ing out the Mus­lim pop­u­la­tion.

A Reuters pho­tog­ra­pher on the Bangladesh side of the bor­der said he could see huge banks of dark smoke bil­low­ing up over Myan­mar ter­ri­tory on Fri­day, while in­ter­na­tional aid or­ga­ni­za­tions said the refugees kept com­ing.

“There’s re­ally no sign that this flow of peo­ple is go­ing to dry up,” Chris Lom of the IOM, said from the Bangladeshi bor­der dis­trict of Cox’s Bazar.

”There are still, we be­lieve, thou­sands of peo­ple wait­ing to take boats across to Cox’s Bazar.”

‘Scorched earth’

UN Sec­re­tary Gen­eral An­to­nio Guter­res and the UN Se­cu­rity Coun­cil have urged Myan­mar to end the vi­o­lence, which he said was best de­scribed as eth­nic cleans­ing.

Myan­mar re­jects the ac­cu­sa­tions, say­ing its se­cu­rity forces are car­ry­ing out clear­ance op­er­a­tions to de­fend against the in­sur­gents of the Arakan Ro­hingya Sal­va­tion Army.

The gov­ern­ment has de­clared it a ter­ror­ist or­ga­ni­za­tion and ac­cused it of set­ting the fires and at­tack­ing civil­ians.

Eth­nic cleans­ing is not rec­og­nized as a sep­a­rate crime un­der in­ter­na­tional law but al­le­ga­tions of eth­nic cleans­ing as part of wider, sys­tem­atic hu­man rights vi­o­la­tions have been heard in in­ter­na­tional courts.

Rights group Amnesty In­ter­na­tional said ev­i­dence pointed to a “mass-scale scorched-earth cam­paign” across the north of Rakhine that was un­mis­tak­ably eth­nic cleans­ing.

“The ev­i­dence is ir­refutable – the Myan­mar se­cu­rity forces are set­ting north­ern Rakhine state ablaze in a tar­geted cam­paign to push the Ro­hingya peo­ple out of Myan­mar,” said Ti­rana Has­san, the group’s cri­sis re­sponse di­rec­tor.

The group said it had de­tected 80 big fires in Ro­hingya ar­eas since Aug. 25. While the ex­tent of dam­age could not be ver­i­fied, due to ac­cess re­stric­tions by the gov­ern­ment, “they are likely to have burned down whole vil­lages”.

US Se­nate Ma­jor­ity Leader Mitch Mccon­nell said on Thurs­day he had spo­ken with Suu Kyi and that she said she was work­ing to get aid to ar­eas in Myan­mar af­fected by vi­o­lence.

The gen­er­als still con­trol na­tional se­cu­rity pol­icy but nev­er­the­less, Suu Kyi has been widely crit­i­cized abroad for not stop­ping or con­demn­ing the vi­o­lence.

The UN refugee agency said the Ro­hingya ar­riv­ing in Bangladesh were suf­fer­ing “real hard­ship, and some of the most dif­fi­cult con­di­tions seen in any cur­rent refugee sit­u­a­tion.”

“With the in­flux in­creas­ing daily, UNHCR is ap­peal­ing for an ini­tial amount of $30 mil­lion for the emer­gency hu­man­i­tar­ian re­sponse in Bangladesh un­til the end of year,” an agency spokesman said in Geneva.

Bangladesh says all refugees must go home and has called for safe ar­eas in Myan­mar. Myan­mar has ruled that out and says it will ac­cept any­one who can ver­ify their cit­i­zen­ship.

Thou­sands of peo­ple demon­strated af­ter Fri­day prayers in the Bangladeshi cap­i­tal, Dhaka, to de­nounce the treat­ment of the Ro­hingya.

One protest leader said they were de­mand­ing a UN peace­keep­ing force and that Myan­mar face charges in an in­ter­na­tional court.

The re­port said Is­rael had de­manded that Ira­nian, Hezbol­lah, and other pro-damascus forces be pro­hib­ited from en­ter­ing that space, Press TV re­ported. Iran’s grow­ing in­flu­ence in Syria. In the meet­ing with Putin in the Black Sea re­sort town of Sochi in late Au­gust, Ne­tanyahu ac­cused Iran of try­ing “to es­tab­lish a foothold in


AFP Rus­sian President Vladimir Putin (R) meets with Is­raeli Prime Min­is­ter Ben­jamin Ne­tanyahu at the Bocharov Ruchei state res­i­dence in Sochi, Rus­sia, on Au­gust 23, 2017.

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