Rohingya refugee crisis: UN wants unfettered, full access to Rakhine
12:00 AM, September 20, 2017 / LAST MODIFIED: 02:35 AM, September 20, 2017

UN wants unfettered, full access to Rakhine

HRW finds 214 villages destroyed; MSF wants aid workers' access, IOM worried at health emergencies

UN human rights investigators yesterday demanded "full and unfettered" access to Myanmar to probe the situation in its conflict-affected Rakhine State amid an aid group's fear of "very real risk" of deaths of Rohingyas there.

The demand came at a time when Human Rights Watch issued a statement with findings from a new analysis of satellite imagery from Rakhine State showing near total destruction of 214 villages.

"It is important for us to see with our own eyes the sites of these alleged violations," the head of UN-backed fact-finding mission, Marzuki Darusman, told Human Rights Council.

"There is a grave humanitarian crisis underway that requires urgent attention," added Darusman who is leading an investigation that Myanmar has vowed to reject, reports AFP.

Yet to get Myanmar's permission to enter the country, Darusman said, his UN team was now gathering evidence from refugees and medics in Cox's Bazar, Bangladesh. 

Earlier in May this year, the UN moved to send a mission to Myanmar to investigate alleged rape, murder and torture of Rohingyas by security forces in October last year, but Myanmar rejected entry to the UN fact-finding mission.

The mission was formed following the UN Human Rights Commission's report on military crackdown on the Rohingya that led to the killing of hundreds of civilians and forced displacement of as many as 90,000 people of the minority community.

This time the UN makes the move following widespread allegations that Myanmar security forces have been burning down Rohingya villages in Northern Rakhine State, and killing them. The UN has already termed it a "textbook example of ethnic cleansing".

The crackdown forced over 415,000 Rohingyas to flee to Bangladesh.

Myanmar Army, however, has rejected credible accounts of widespread abuses and said it is conducting operations against the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army that attacked security forces on August 25.

It claims that ARSA militants and Rohingya villagers have torched their own homes, but fails to present any evidence to substantiate the claim.

Contradicting Myanmar Army's claims, HRW in its yesterday's statement said a new analysis of satellite imagery from Rakhine brought forth the near total destruction of 214 villages.

The satellite images, made possible due to a clearing of monsoon cloud on September 16, reveal destruction of tens of thousands of homes across Maungdaw and Rathedaung Townships.

“These images provide shocking evidence of massive destruction in an apparent attempt by Burmese security forces to prevent the Rohingya from returning to their villages,” said Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director at HRW. 

“World leaders meeting at the UN should act to end this mounting crisis and show Burma's military leaders they will pay a price for such atrocities.”


Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) in a statement yesterday demanded that international humanitarian organisations must immediately be granted independent and unfettered access, including for international staff, to address massive humanitarian needs in Rakhine State.

Hundreds of thousands of people in Northern Rakhine are left without any meaningful form of humanitarian assistance.

In Central Rakhine, approximately 120,000 internally displaced people remain in camps where they are entirely dependent on humanitarian assistance for their survival, due to severe movement restrictions.

MSF said there is a "very real risk that patients will die unnecessarily" in Rakhine unless MSF and other international humanitarian agencies are immediately allowed unhindered access to all areas in Rakhine.


Washington-based Refugee International has urged US President Donald Trump to impose financial sanctions and arms embargo on Myanmar.

“During his UN address, President Trump must demand strong measures to end the ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity being perpetrated by the Myanmar military against the Rohingya people," said Refugee International President Eric Schwartz at a press conference at a city hotel in Dhaka yesterday.

Refugee International President Eric P Schwartz and senior advocate for human rights Daniel P Sullivan visited Cox's Bazar and collected first-hand information about the recent arrivals.

"There is no doubt in my mind that Burma is responsible for crimes against humanity," Schwartz said.


In a statement, the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) said newly arrived children are at high risk of vaccine preventable diseases.

Bangladesh government, World Health Organisation and humanitarian partners launched an urgent immunization programme to vaccinate 150,000 newly arrived children.

"Nutrition support and management of malnutrition, especially severe acute malnutrition, are also urgently needed for these children,” said Dr Samir Kumar Howlader, IOM National Health Programme Officer.

“Lack of safe drinking water, personal hygiene and sanitation facilities have already resulted in acute watery diarrhea and other water borne diseases. So, disease surveillance and early warning systems also need to be strengthened significantly,” he added.


Nobel laureate Prof Amartya Sen and Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales have offered to be signatories to the open letter written by Nobel peace laureate Dr Muhammad Yunus to the UN Security council, calling for an intervention to end the humanitarian crisis in Rakhine, UNB reports.

In a letter to Yunus Centre yesterday, Amartya Sen expressed his willingness to add his name to the list of signatories, says a release of Yunus Centre.

Prof Sen wrote to Prof Yunus that he does not usually add his name to joint statements, but "the atrocity in Burma on the Rohingya is so intolerably -- that so uniquely -- barbaric that I have to sign the letter".

Wikipedia Founder Jimmy Wales and Middle-East-based business leader and philanthropist Arif Naqvi also wrote to the Yunus Centre to add their names to the list.

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