Myan­mar says the north of Rakhine state ‘is off lim­its’

US of­fi­cial’s ef­forts to see Ro­hingya plight may be stymied by au­thor­i­ties

The National - News - - NEWS | WORLD - FIONA MACGRE­GOR

A se­nior US of­fi­cial vis­it­ing Myan­mar to dis­cuss the Ro­hingya may not be al­lowed in to north­ern Rakhine state, scene of the es­ca­lat­ing vi­o­lence against the Mus­lim mi­nor­ity.

Patrick Mur­phy, deputy as­sis­tant sec­re­tary of state, is due to visit Sit­twe, the cap­i­tal of Rakhine state, and also meet govern­ment lead­ers in the na­tional cap­i­tal, Nay Pyi Taw.

Reuters re­ported that Tin Maung Swe, the state govern­ment sec­re­tary of Rakhine, said the north­ern part of the state was off lim­its to Mr Mur­phy.

“Not al­lowed,” Tin Maung Swe said when asked if Mr Mur­phy would be go­ing to Maung­daw dis­trict, the town at the heart of the mil­i­tary crack­down that has sent 400,000 Ro­hingya Mus­lims flee­ing into Bangladesh – a sit­u­a­tion the UN con­demned as a “text­book ex­am­ple of eth­nic cleans­ing”.

Mr Mur­phy will voice the US’s con­cerns about the Ro­hingya and press for in­ter­na­tional aid to be al­lowed into the re­gion.

As wit­nesses on the Bangladesh side of the bor­der re­ported see­ing plumes of smoke over Myan­mar ter­ri­tory, tens of thou­sands of peo­ple were be­lieved to be in hid­ing in the Rakhine hills or mak­ing their way to the bor­der, hav­ing fled their home amid what Amnesty In­ter­na­tional has deemed a “mass-scale scorched earth cam­paign” by Myan­mar se­cu­rity forces.

In­ter­na­tional aid or­gan­i­sa­tions have been ex­cluded from the re­gion, leav­ing hun­dreds of thou­sands of vul­ner­a­ble peo­ple with­out vi­tal de­liv­er­ies.

Even be­fore the vi­o­lence, many were on the verge of star­va­tion and reliant on aid.

The clear­ance op­er­a­tions were launched on Au­gust 25 af­ter the Arakan Ro­hingya Sal­va­tion Army at­tacked se­cu­rity posts in the re­gion.

The area has been largely cut off to out­siders since the at­tacks be­gan, mak­ing it al­most im­pos­si­ble to ver­ify the full ex­tent of the al­leged atrocities, but at least 1,000 peo­ple are es­ti­mated to have been killed, ac­cord­ing to the UN spe­cial rap­por­teur for hu­man rights.

Satel­lite im­ages show en­tire vil­lages and thou­sands of prop­er­ties razed to the ground.

The coun­try’s de facto leader, No­bel Peace Prize re­cip­i­ent Aung San Suu Kyi – who spent 15 years un­der mil­i­tary house ar­rest – has been vil­i­fied for ig­nor­ing the cri­sis and pulling out of at­tend­ing the UN gen­eral assem­bly.

She told US se­nate ma­jor­ity leader Mitch McCon­nell, a long-time sup­porter, she was work­ing on get­ting ac­cess for hu­man­i­tar­ian or­gan­i­sa­tions, par­tic­u­larly the In­ter­na­tional Red Cross, which op­er­ates un­der a strict neu­tral­ity pol­icy and does not make pub­lic ob­ser­va­tions on what it wit­nesses while de­liv­er­ing aid. Rep­re­sen­ta­tives of the UN and in­ter­na­tional NGOs fear they will be barred from the re­gion.

Myan­mar has re­fused to co-op­er­ate with an of­fi­cial UN in­ves­ti­ga­tion into ear­lier find­ings that sim­i­lar mil­i­tary op­er­a­tions af­ter in­sur­gent at­tacks last Oc­to­ber amounted to “crimes against hu­man­ity”.

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”.

A spokesman in Geneva said the UN was ap­peal­ing for an ini­tial amount of US$30 mil­lion (Dh110.2m) for the emer­gency hu­man­i­tar­ian re­sponse in Bangladesh un­til the end of the year.

Mean­while, from Cox’s Bazar, over the bor­der in Bangladesh, the In­ter­na­tional or­gan­i­sa­tion for Mi­gra­tion said: “There’s re­ally no sign that this flow of peo­ple is go­ing to dry up.”

Getty Im­ages

The grow­ing num­ber of Ro­hingya refugees is putting great pres­sure on aid ship­ments ar­riv­ing in Bangladesh

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