UN worried
12:00 AM, August 30, 2017 / LAST MODIFIED: 12:29 AM, August 30, 2017

UN worried

UN chief calls for giving Rohingyas security, assistance; UNHCR urges Bangladesh to open border

Expressing deep concern at reports of the killing of civilians in security operations in Rakhine State, UN Secretary-General António Guterres has reiterated Myanmar's responsibility to provide security and assistance to those in need.

He has also appealed to the Bangladesh authorities to open the borders for the Rohingyas fleeing violence.

The latest round of violence, which erupted after Rohingya insurgents attacked Myanmar security forces on August 25, prompted thousands of Rohingyas to leave home in fear of their lives and seek safety in Bangladesh.

Earlier, 87,000 Rohingyas were displaced during a ferocious military crackdown in response to insurgent attacks in October last year, reports Reuters.

According to an UNHCR estimate, some 5,200 Rohingyas had entered Bangladesh since the latest violence. Several thousand more were reported to be stranded at different points along the Myanmar border.

Against such a backdrop, Guterres urged the Myanmar authorities to grant humanitarian agencies unfettered and free access to the affected communities.

He noted that the UN stands ready to provide all necessary support to both Myanmar and Bangladesh in this regard.

Meanwhile, New York-based Human Rights Watch reported of widespread burnings in at least 10 areas in northern parts of Rakhine.

“This new satellite data should cause concern and prompt action by donors and UN agencies to urge the Burmese government to reveal the extent of ongoing destruction in Rakhine State,” said Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director of the HRW.

The UN Refugee Agency said the situation in Rakhine was "dramatically worsening" and it was concerned about the precarious situation in Myanmar.

"We are concerned that the number of people needing help may rise further over the coming days."

The UNHCR said it was aware of several reported instances of people being prevented from entering Bangladesh. "This poses very grave risk to the individuals affected."

The agency said it communicated its readiness to support Bangladesh in helping the refugees fleeing Myanmar. At the same time, it also called upon the international community to support Bangladesh in doing so, with all necessary aid and other help.

Voicing concern at incitement to further violence in Rakhine, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein urged all sides to renounce the use of violence.

“I utterly condemn the violent attacks on security personnel, which have led to the loss of many lives and the displacement of thousands of people,” Zeid said in a statement.

“Unfortunately, what we feared appears to be occurring. Decades of persistent and systematic human rights violations, including the very violent security responses to the attacks since October 2016, have almost certainly contributed to the nurturing of violent extremism, with everyone ultimately losing.

“This turn of events is deplorable. It was predicted and could have been prevented.”

Zeid also expressed worries about claims by Myanmar State Counsellor's Office that international aid workers were complicit in or supporting the attacks.

“Such statements are irresponsible and only serve to increase fears and the potential for further violence.”

“I am extremely concerned that the unsupported allegations against international aid organisations place their staff in danger and may make it impossible for them to deliver essential aid,” he said.

The UN high commissioner further said the perpetrators of the attacks on security personnel must be brought to justice as must those who have been attacking the civilian population. All this must occur with full respect for international human rights law.

"State authorities should issue clear instructions to security forces to refrain from using disproportionate force, minimise damage and injuries and respect the right to life. Those who use excessive force must be held accountable.

“The State has a duty to protect those within its territory -- without discrimination,” Zeid added.

In the meantime, at a meeting with visiting senior US diplomat Alice Wells at state guesthouse Padma in the morning, Foreign Minister AH Mahmood Ali sought US support to resolve the Rohingya crisis.

Wells, acting assistant secretary of state for south and central Asian affairs, termed the current situation in Myanmar "quite concerning".

HRW STATEMENT

The HRW yesterday said satellites initially detected active fires in the early afternoon of August 25 in the village tracts of Zay Di Pyin and Koe Tan Kauk in Rathedaung.

On August 28, satellites located fires in another eight locations from mid-morning to early afternoon, including in Maungdaw town and several other villages in Maungdaw Township.

It compared the locations of these fires with witness statements and media reports, and found a correlation with some reported incidents where residences have allegedly been deliberately burned.

The HRW noted that the information bears a close resemblance to that found during widespread arson attacks in Rakhine State during violence against the Rohingyas in 2012 and 2016.

The Myanmar government and army blame Rohingya residents and militants for the burning of some structures, but thus far have not presented evidence to support their allegations, the HRW mentioned.

It demanded that the Myanmar government grant access to independent monitors to determine the sources of fire and assess allegations of human rights violations.

HRW Deputy Asia Director Phil Robertson said, “Shuffling all the blame on insurgents doesn't spare the Burmese government from its international obligations to stop abuses and investigate alleged violations.”

Yesterday, Thai Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha said they were preparing to receive people fleeing fighting in Myanmar.

"Thailand's defence ministry and security are preparing to receive various displaced people," he told reporters.

He noted that the Thai authorities would send them back "when they are ready".

He, however, didn't say if any Rohingya from Myanmar arrived since the recent violence, reported AFP.

Earlier on Monday, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan urged the international community to step up efforts to help the Rohingyas, saying the world was “blind and deaf” to their plight.

He described the latest flight of the refugees towards Bangladesh as an "extremely painful event" and vowed to take up the issue at the UN General Assembly next month. 

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