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UNICEF calls for full Humanitarian access to Muslim-Majority area in North of Rakhine state in Myanmar

World Food Programme had begun the first deliveries of food aid in Maungdaw, reaching about 6,500 people in four villages affected by the violence

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FILE - Rakhine Chief Minister Nyi Pu, left, and Myanmar's high ranking military officers return from a trip with a diplomatic mission and United Nations officials to the Maungdaw area in northern Rakhine State in Myanmar, Nov. 3, 2016. VOA

Yangon (Myanmar), November 9, 2016: Unrest in Myanmar’s northwest is taking a “terrible toll” on children, the U.N. children’s agency UNICEF said and called for full humanitarian access to the Muslim-majority north of Rakhine state.

Tens of thousands of people have been cut off from food and other aid normally provided by international agencies since the Oct. 9 deadly attacks on police guard posts along the border with Bangladesh.

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“While some aid has been delivered in recent days, UNICEF calls for full resumption of essential services and the urgent lifting of all restrictions of movement of health and other professionals so they can safely reach children and families,” UNICEF said in a statement from New York Tuesday.

Troops have poured into the region in response to the attacks, in which assailants believed to be from the mostly stateless Rohingya group killed nine policemen. The army declared the area an operation zone, blocked aid and barred foreign journalists and observers from the Maungdaw area. Residents and human rights monitors say extra-judicial killings, rape and arbitrary arrests have taken place.

[bctt tweet=”Security forces have killed 33 alleged attackers, while five soldiers and one policeman have been killed in Rakhine State, Myanmar. ” username=””]

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FILE - Renata Lok-Dessallien, left, the U.N. Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator in Myanmar, and British ambassador to Myanmar Andrew Patrick attend a news conference after a trip to the Maungdaw area in northern Rakhine state in Myanmar, Nov. 3, 2016. VOA
FILE – Renata Lok-Dessallien, left, the U.N. Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator in Myanmar, and British ambassador to Myanmar Andrew Patrick attend a news conference after a trip to the Maungdaw area in northern Rakhine state in Myanmar, Nov. 3, 2016. VOA

On Tuesday, the World Food Programme said it had begun the first deliveries of food aid in Maungdaw in more than a month, reaching about 6,500 people in four villages affected by the violence. WFP said its assistance would normally reach 152,000 people in northern Rakhine.

The majority in the area are Rohingya Muslims, a 1.1 million strong group in Rakhine who face restrictions on their movements and access to services. The malnutrition rate is 19 percent among children younger than 5 in Maungdaw, according to U.N. statistics.

The limited access came after a request from diplomats and the U.N.’s top official in Myanmar, who visited Maungdaw over two days last week. The delegation called for an independent investigation into alleged rights abuses and for aid programs to be allowed to resume.

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U.N. officials and diplomats from Western countries privately expressed concern at the public response to the crisis from the government of Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, which has flatly denied allegations of abuses committed by the military.

State-run newspapers have said last week’s visit by diplomats — who stressed they were not able to verify claims of rights abuses — revealed that the allegations were baseless. A key official spokesman singled out a journalist reporting allegations and said the claims were concocted by people with links to insurgents. (VOA)

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Report: Conditions in Myanmar Not Safe for Return of Rohingya Refugees

Myanmar has presented Bangladesh with a list of more than 1,200 verified displaced persons who repeatedly expressed their desire to return, he said

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FILE - Rohingya Muslims, who crossed over from Myanmar into Bangladesh, wait in queues to receive aid at Kutupalong refugee camp in Ukhiya, Bangladesh, Nov. 15, 2017. VOA

Conditions in Myanmar are far too dangerous for the safe, dignified return of hundreds of thousands of Rohingya refugees who have fled to Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh, to escape violence and persecution in their home country, according to a report by the U.N. Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.

More than 730,000 Rohingya refugees are living in squalid, overcrowded camps in Cox’s Bazar.  While conditions in Bangladesh remain dire, U.N. officials say the situation in Myanmar’s northern Rakhine state is worse and far more threatening.

U.N. Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights Kate Gilmore presented the report to the U.N. council. She says Rohingya Muslims in northern Rakhine state face serious discrimination, and continuous, systematic violations of their fundamental rights and freedoms.

“We continue to receive and can verify reports from a variety of sources, including reports on sexual and gender-based violence, that human rights violations continue, allegedly committed by members of the security forces,” Gilmore said. “The conditions conducive for refugee return simply do not exist.”

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Rohingya Muslims, who crossed over from Myanmar into Bangladesh, wade past a waterlogged path leading to the Jamtoli refugee camp in Ukhiya, Bangladesh. VOA

Security forces attacked and burned Rohingya homes and shops in several townships in May, Gilmore reported. She said her office has received reports of disappearances, and of people being subjected to torture and other forms of abuse in detention.

In addition, she said, Rohingya Muslims are denied basic services to health, education and jobs, and many have been stripped of their property and identity papers, essentially rendering them stateless.

Gilmore called on the Myanmar government to reverse this situation and to end the statelessness of the Rohingya. She said it is unlikely the refugees will return to their place of origin until their citizenship status is recognized.

Reaction in Myanmar

Myanmar’s Ambassador to the U.N. in Geneva, Kyaw Moe Tun, says human rights awareness is promoted throughout his country. He called the U.N. report misleading, incomplete and full of unverified allegations that distort the truth.

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Displaced Rohingya Muslims in Rakhine. Wikimedia Commons

The repatriation process must begin as soon as possible to resolve the humanitarian situation, he said, adding that Myanmar has been ready to receive people since January 2018, when his country and Bangladesh signed a repatriation agreement.

ALSO READ: Cutoff of Internet Service at Rakhine, Chin States Creates Difficulty for Civilians who Cannot Access Donors Online to Make Aid Requests

Myanmar has presented Bangladesh with a list of more than 1,200 verified displaced persons who repeatedly expressed their desire to return, he said.

Earlier this year, Bangladesh’s Foreign Secretary Shahidul Haque told the U.N. Security Council “not a single Rohingya has volunteered to return to Rakhine due to the absence of conducive environment there.” (VOA)