UN plea for ‘mas­sive’ aid for Ro­hingya

Otago Daily Times - - The World -

DHAKA/YAN­GON: The United Na­tions ap­pealed yes­ter­day for mas­sive help for nearly 400,000 Mus­lims from Myan­mar who have fled to Bangladesh, with con­cern grow­ing that the num­ber could keep ris­ing, un­less Myan­mar ends what crit­ics de­nounce as ‘‘eth­nic cleans­ing’’.

The Ro­hingya are flee­ing from a Myan­mar mil­i­tary of­fen­sive in the western state of Rakhine that be­gan af­ter a se­ries of guer­rilla at­tacks on Au­gust 25 on se­cu­rity posts and an army camp in which about a dozen peo­ple were killed.

‘‘We urge the in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity to step up hu­man­i­tar­ian sup­port and come up with help,’’ Mo­hammed Ab­diker, di­rec­tor of op­er­a­tions and emer­gen­cies for the In­ter­na­tional Or­gan­i­sa­tion for Mi­gra­tion (IOM), told a news con­fer­ence in the Bangladeshi cap­i­tal. The need was ‘‘mas­sive’’, he said.

The Gov­ern­ment has ac­cused some aid groups of help­ing the in­sur­gents with food sup­plies.

The aid group Medecins Sans Fron­tieres said yes­ter­day it had re­ports that its clin­ics in Rakhine had been burnt down and it called for ‘‘un­fet­tered ac­cess to peo­ple in des­per­ate need’’.

The United Na­tions has also called for ac­cess to the con­flict zone in Rakhine state.

Myan­mar in­sisted yes­ter­day it was not bar­ring aid work­ers from Rakhine, but said au­thor­i­ties on the ground might re­strict ac­cess for se­cu­rity rea­sons.

The vi­o­lence in Rakhine and the ex­o­dus of refugees is the most press­ing prob­lem No­bel Peace lau­re­ate Aung San Suu Kyi has faced since be­com­ing na­tional leader last year.

UN Sec­re­tary­gen­eral An­to­nio Guter­res and the UN Se­cu­rity Coun­cil on Wed­nes­day urged Myan­mar to end the vi­o­lence, which he said was best de­scribed as eth­nic cleans­ing.

The Gov­ern­ment of Bud­dhist­ma­jor­ity Myan­mar re­jects such ac­cu­sa­tions, say­ing it is tar­get­ing ‘‘ter­ror­ists’’.

Nu­mer­ous Ro­hingya vil­lages in the north of Rakhine have been torched but au­thor­i­ties have de­nied that se­cu­rity forces or Bud­dhist civil­ians set the fires. They blame the in­sur­gents, and say 30,000 non­Mus­lim vil­lagers were also dis­placed.

Smoke was ris­ing from at least five places on the Myan­mar side of the bor­der yes­ter­day, a Reuters re­porter in Bangladesh said. It was not clear what was burning or who set the fires.

‘‘Eth­nic cleans­ing’’ is not recog­nised as an in­de­pen­dent crime un­der in­ter­na­tional law, the UN Of­fice on Geno­cide Pre­ven­tion says, but it has been used in UN res­o­lu­tions and ac­knowl­edged in judge­ments and in­dict­ments of the In­ter­na­tional Crim­i­nal Tri­bunal for the for­mer Yu­goslavia.

The cri­sis has raised ques­tions about Suu Kyi’s com­mit­ment to hu­man rights, and could strain re­la­tions with Western back­ers sup­port­ing her lead­er­ship of Myan­mar’s tran­si­tion from decades of strict mil­i­tary rule and eco­nomic iso­la­tion.

Crit­ics have called for her to be stripped of her No­bel prize for fail­ing to do more to halt the strife, though na­tional se­cu­rity re­mains firmly in the hands of the mil­i­tary.

Suu Kyi is due to ad­dress the na­tion on Tues­day.

US Se­nate Ma­jor­ity Leader Mitch McCon­nell said yes­ter­day he had spo­ken to Suu Kyi and she said she was work­ing to get aid to ar­eas af­fected by vi­o­lence.

US Deputy As­sis­tant Sec­re­tary of State Pa­trick Mur­phy had what one US of­fi­cial called a ‘‘tough con­ver­sa­tion’’ with Myan­mar’s am­bas­sador to the US on Wed­nes­day ahead of Mur­phy’s trip to Yan­gon this week­end.

Mur­phy will be meet­ing with Myan­mar gov­ern­ment of­fi­cials next week to voice con­cern about the state of the Ro­hingya peo­ple and to press for greater ac­cess for hu­man­i­tar­ian work­ers and re­porters, the State Depart­ment said.

China, which com­petes with

the US for in­flu­ence in Myan­mar, en­dorses the of­fen­sive against the in­sur­gents and deemed it an ‘‘in­ter­nal af­fair’’, Myan­mar state me­dia said.

‘‘The coun­ter­at­tacks of Myan­mar se­cu­rity forces against ex­trem­ist ter­ror­ists and the gov­ern­ment’s un­der­tak­ings to pro­vide as­sis­tance to the peo­ple are strongly wel­comed,’’ the Global

New Light of Myan­mar news­pa­per quoted China’s am­bas­sador, Hong Liang, as telling gov­ern­ment of­fi­cials.

But at the UN in New York, China set a dif­fer­ent tone, join­ing a Se­cu­rity Coun­cil ex­pres­sion of con­cern about re­ports of vi­o­lence and urg­ing steps to end it.

This week, the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion called for pro­tec­tion of civil­ians.

Bangladesh says the refugees will have to go home and has called for safe zones in Myan­mar. Myan­mar says safe zones are un­ac­cept­able.

The IOM’s Ab­diker de­clined to say how many refugees he thought might end up in Bangladesh.

‘‘The num­ber may rise to 600,000, 700,000, even one mil­lion if the sit­u­a­tion in Myan­mar does not im­prove,’’ he said.

The most im­por­tant thing was that the refugees be able to go home safely, Ge­orge Wil­liam Okoth­Obbo, as­sis­tant high com­mis­sioner for op­er­a­tions at the UN refugee agency, said. — Reuters

PHOTO: GETTY IMAGES

Es­cape . . . Ro­hingya refugees con­tinue to make per­ilous jour­neys into Bangladesh to es­cape a mil­i­tary crack­down on their vil­lages in the western state of Rakhine in Myan­mar.

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