The UN has condemned Myanmar’s refusal to grant it access to Rakhine state – the scene of the alleged ethnic cleansing of Rohingya Muslims.
“The access we have in northern Rakhine state is unacceptable,” Mark Lowcock, the head of the UN’s humanitarian office, said in Geneva, Switzerland, this week.
He added that he believed a “high-level” UN team would be able to visit the region in “the next few days”.
More than 500 000 Rohingya people have crossed Myanmar’s border into Bangladesh, making this the world’s fastest-developing refugee emergency.
“This flow out of Myanmar has not stopped yet; it is into the hundreds of thousands of Rohingya [who are] still in Myanmar,” said Lowcock.
“We want to be ready in case there is a further exodus.”
As part of its appeal for $430m (R5.9bn) to provide aid for those displaced, the UN earlier this week warned of the immense pressure to accommodate refugees who have fled to neighbouring Bangladesh.
“People arrive fearful, exhausted and hungry, and in desperate need of immediate help – including for shelter, food, clean water, sanitation and healthcare,” Lowcock and Anthony Lake, the executive director of the United Nations Children’s Fund, said.
“They bring with them terrible accounts of what they have seen and suffered – stories of children being killed, women brutalised and villages burnt to the ground.”
This week, Bangladesh announced it would build one of the world’s biggest refugee camps for the hundreds of thousands of Rohingya Muslims who had sought asylum in the country.
Authorities plan to expand the Kutupalong refugee camp, which is near the border, to help alleviate the pressure placed on the it by the huge influx of refugees.
Myanmar’s government has claimed that members of the persecuted minority have been destroying their own homes.
But this is disputed by Rohingya refugees, who say the military and Rakhine Buddhists are setting their villages alight to drive them out after attacks by Rohingya Muslim militants on police posts.
In August, Rohingya Muslim insurgents attacked several police posts and an army base, which led to a military crackdown that has resulted in the deaths of at least 400 people and whole villages being burnt to the ground. – The Independent