Agencies call for access to Rohingyas

BANGKOK (The Nation/ANN News Desk) - Worldwide uproar over humanitarian crisis that has led to an exodus of refugees; Bangladesh officials urge Asean, of which Myanmar is a member, to address the Rohingya crisis.

The international community has called for access to Myanmar’s Rakhine state in order to provide humanitarian assistance to the more than 200,000 Rohingya refugees now pouring into Bangladesh.

United States Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Southeast Asia Patrick Murphy said this involved “first and foremost, restoring humanitarian assistance so that those in need can be assisted by the international community and by Burmese (Myanmar) authorities”. “That restoration of access would also allow accurate assessments of those needs. This is a complicated part of the country, and more specifically, a complicated part of Rakhine state itself,” he said.

The latest wave of violence erupted in Rakhine late last month as Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA) launched a coordinated attack on government security outposts, prompting a heavy handed response from the Myanmar military.

According to a United Nations report, more than 1,000 people have died, including a dozen security officials. The violence displaced hundreds of thousands of people, mostly Rohingya, within Myanmar and notably to neighbouring Bangladesh, which had already been sheltering more than 300,000 documented and undocumented members of ethnic minorities who fled between 2005 and 2015.
 
Dhaka does not have the space to cope with half a million refugees, not to mention food and other resources needed for them, said Bangladeshi officials. They added that the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) and World Food Programme (WFP) were now providing assistance to people along the Bangladesh border with Myanmar.

A Bangladeshi official said the IOM, WFP and others had no access to the people in Rakhine state, adding that “doors are closed from everywhere”.

The Rohinyga are facing more dangerous challenges to connect with the outside world as the Myanmar military has planted landmines at the border areas.

Last week, Dhaka summoned Myanmar’s ambassador to protest this after a series of explosions maimed Rohingya refugees fleeing the violence in Rakhine state. The official said Bangladesh does not have problems with Myanmar and is willing to be a good neighbour to help contain extremists or terrorists operating along the border, if any.

But, he added, “our point is that, please exercise restraint in your military operation, and please give the international community access to Rakhine state”.

Innocent civilians’ houses are being burnt down and these people were now creating “a huge crisis”, the official said on condition of anonymity.

The US also called for Myanmar authorities – both the elected civilian government under the de facto leadership of Aung San Suu Kyi and the Tatmadaw (Myanmar military) – to take responsibility by providing security and safety to the people.

“Security forces, in fact, need to be there to protect civilian populations and to address the threats posed to the governing structure,” Murphy said. “At the same time, they have a responsibility to carry out those activities in accordance with the rule of law and international human rights.”

In order to end the crisis, the US called for Myanmar’s government to fully implement recommendations addressed by a commission led by former UN chief Kofi Annan, which were released around the same time as the August 25 attack in Rakhine state.

“It won’t be easy. There are over 80 recommendations, but many of them address the underlying conditions in Rakhine state that cause so much friction and challenges,” Murphy said. Meanwhile, Bangladeshi officials urged Asean, of which Myanmar is a member, to actively address the Rohingya crisis as a regional issue.

Foreign ministers of the group who will gather in New York late this month on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly are expected to discuss the Rohingya crisis, according to an official at the Thai Foreign Ministry. “It should not be only the problem of Bangladesh.

Asean should look at this as a regional issue, because eventually regional security [relies on] stability,” the Bangladeshi official said. “As Bangladesh will not allow them to go any further into the country, where will they go? There are also some human trafficking networks. So we should sit together; and we should address it right away.”

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