Aid operations suspended in Myanmar amid increased violence

Mohiuddin Alamgir with Mohammad Nurul Islam in Cox’s Bazar | Published: 14:18, Sep 02,2017 | Updated: 22:10, Sep 02,2017

 
 

A Rohingya refugee woman carries a child while walking on the muddy road after travelling over the Bangladesh-Myanmar border in Teknaf, Cox’s Bazar, September 1, 2017. — Reuters photo

Aid groups in Myanmar suspended their humanitarian operations on Saturday causing suffering to thousands of internally displaced people amid escalation of violence in Rakhine state that increased number of Rohingyas fleeing to Bangladesh.
At least 58,600 Rohingyas have crossed into Bangladesh from Myanmar, fleeing persecution in their homeland since the eruption of latest spell of violence on August 25, UN refugee agency UNHCR estimated on Saturday though locals said actual figure would be much more.
They also said that more Rohingyas added on Saturday to thousands of Rohingyas stranded in the border, and were suffering food and drinking water crisis.
The United Nations urged restraint and calm in Myanmar’s Rakhine state, cautioning that the situation might otherwise lead to a humanitarian catastrophe while Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan accused Myanmar of ‘genocide’ against the Rohingya Muslims saying, ‘Those who close their eyes to this genocide perpetuated under the cover of democracy are its collaborators.’
Recent violence erupted on August 25, when Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army reportedly attacked at least two dozen different police posts and checkpoints and one military base across three townships in northern Rakhine State and the Burma Army launched ‘clearance operations’ left at least 400 people dead.
The insurgent group, later, said that they launched the attacks to pre-empt possible attack my Myanmar army and security forces on Rihingyas.
Two more Rohingyas who were fleeing violence in Myanmar drowned in the bordering Naf River as a boat capsized on Saturday while three more bodies of the ethnic minorities were recovered from the river.
With the five, local and different Bangladesh forces retrieved 52 dead bodies of Rohingya in the past four days from the river.
Taknaf police officer-in-charge Mainuddin Khan said that two women died as boat carrying them drowned near Hoikhong point of Teknef. Three more bodies were recovered from different points of river.
Members of police and Border Guard Bangladesh on Friday morning recovered 23 more bodies of Rohingyas
At least 24 more Rohingya died in boat capsizes in the Naf in August 30-31.
Reuters reported from Sittwe of Myanmar that about 120,000 displaced people––mostly Rohingya Muslims––in camps in Myanmar’s Rakhine state were not receiving food supplies or healthcare after the United Nations and aid groups suspended operations following government accusations of supporting insurgents.
Nearly 400 people died in fighting in the far north of the state after Rohingya militants attacked police posts and an army base a week ago, provoking a major army counteroffensive.
About 11,700 ‘ethnic residents’ have been evacuated from the area, the government said, referring to the non-Muslim residents.
The impact from the conflict now spread, including to the state capital Sittwe further south, where some 90,000 Rohingya lived in camps since an outbreak of communal violence rocked the city in 2012, killing nearly 200 people.
A further 30,000 Rohingyas were housed in camps elsewhere in the state, while a small number of ethnic Rakhine Buddhists displaced in the 2012 violence also lived in separate camps.
‘As a result of the disruption of activities in central Rakhine state, many people are currently not receiving their normal food assistance and primary healthcare services have been severely disrupted,’ said Pierre Peron, a spokesperson for the United Nations’ Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.
The United Nations and international aid groups had already evacuated all ‘non-critical’ staff from the north of the state amid intensifying fighting and after the office of national leader Aung San Suu Kyi repeatedly published pictures of World Food Programme energy biscuits allegedly found at an insurgent camp.
Suu Kyi’s office also said it was investigating aid groups’ support for the insurgents in one incident.
Now contractors working for the WFP, a UN agency, refused to carry food to the camps in Sittwe and elsewhere.
Staff with international aid groups who run clinics inside the large, densely populated camps have also been afraid to show up for work, leading to the closure of facilities, UN sources and aid workers told Reuters.
Local staff were afraid of being intimidated by Rakhine Buddhist hardliners, and some worried about being attacked by Muslims, the sources said.
Sanitation is also a major problem––contractors cleaning latrines in the camps have also refused to work and the latrines are overflowing in the monsoon rains, increasing the risk of cholera and other waterborne diseases, they said.
Tin Maung Swe, secretary of the Rakhine state government, confirmed that workers have refused to work for the WFP.
‘Labourers who carry the WFP food bags don’t want to contract with them anymore. People who have made contract with WFP refused to work for them,’ he said. He added that residents were ‘disgusted’ with the organisation following the government’s accusations.
Tin Maung Swe also said that the government was trying to find ‘a different way to support the organisation.’
Talks between government and relief agencies are scheduled for next week, aid group sources told Reuters. Possible solutions might include the government providing security escorts for food convoys, they added.
Reuters in another report from Cox’s Bazar in Bangladesh said that more than 2,600 houses were burned down in Rohingya-majority areas in the past week, the government said on Saturday, in one of the deadliest bouts of violence involving the Muslim minority in decades.
Myanmar officials blamed ARSA for the burning of the homes. The group claimed responsibility for coordinated attacks on security posts past week.
But Rohingyas fleeing to Bangladesh said a campaign of arson and killings by the Myanmar army was aimed at trying to force them out.
‘A total of 2,625 houses from Kotankauk, Myinlut and Kyikanpyin villages and two wards in Maungtaw were burned down by the ARSA extremist terrorists,’ the state-run Global New Light of Myanmar said. The group has been declared a terrorist organisation by the government.
Human Rights Watch, which analysed satellite imagery and accounts from Rohingya fleeing to Bangladesh, said that the Myanmar security forces deliberately set the fires.
‘New satellite imagery shows the total destruction of a Muslim village, and prompts serious concerns that the level of devastation in northern Rakhine state may be far worse than originally thought,’ said the group’s deputy Asia director, Phil Robertson.
United Nations secretary-general António Guterres on Friday urged restraint and calm in Myanmar’s Rakhine state, cautioning that the situation might otherwise lead to a humanitarian catastrophe.
‘The secretary-general is deeply concerned by the reports of excesses during the security operations conducted by Myanmar’s security forces in Rakhine State,’ said a statement issued by UN secretary-general spokesperson.
Guterres stressed the responsibility of Myanmar authorities to provide security and assistance to all those in need and allow the United Nations and its partners to extend humanitarian support, in country and in Bangladesh, where some people are fleeing. He encouraged authorities to ensure that people seeking aid have access to the United Nations and other partners.
At least 58,600 Rohingyas have crossed into Bangladesh from Myanmar, fleeing from persecution at their homeland since August 25, estimated UNHCR on Saturday.
UNHCR Bangladesh spokesman Joseph Tripura told New Age Saturday evening that different humanitarian agencies’ cumulative estimations showed that at least 58,600 Myanmar citizen had entered Bangladesh after the fresh violence erupted in Rakhine state.
He said that many of these Myanmar citizens, including children, women and elderly people, were suffering from food, shelter and medicine crisis.
‘So far we do have no estimation of Myanmar citizens stranded along Bangladesh border,’ Joseph Tripura said.
Local people in Bandarban and Cox’s Bazar and leaders of registered and unregistered Rohingya camps, however, said that the number of Rohingyas entering Bangladesh was much higher than the UNHCR estimation.
They also said that more Rohingyas added on Saturday to thousands of Rohingyas stranded in the border, and were suffering food and drinking water crisis.
They said that the minority Muslims in Rakhine state were on the run on Saturday when Muslims of neighbouring countries celebrated one of their biggest religious festival Eid-ul-Azha, crowding mosques and prayer grounds to offer prayers and sacrificing cattle.
‘I had everything at my home, but now I have become a refugee. There is nothing much to celebrate. Yet it is our duty to perform the Eid prayer,’ said 39-year-old Makbul Hossain, a Myanmar national fled to Cox’s Bazar past week.
Leaders of registered and unregistered Rohingya camps in Bangladesh said that the number of Rohingyas fleeing to Bangladesh increased significantly as the ethnic minority people feared that the violence against them might escalate during the Eid ul Azha.
Border Guard Bangladesh bBattalion-2 commanding officer Lieutenant Colonel Ariful Islam said that they had so far thwarted attempts of 5,629 Rohingyas to enter Bangladesh.

Want stories like this in your inbox?

Sign up to exclusive daily email

Advertisement

images

 

Advertisement

images