Myanmar has agreed to allow aid to resume to the troubled north of Arakan (Rakhine) state and permit international observers to monitor whether help is reaching people displaced by violence, diplomats on a mission to the area told reporters on Thursday.
The diplomats, including the ambassadors of the United States and Britain and the top United Nations representative to the country, also called for an “independent and credible investigation” into attacks on security forces on Oct. 9 and the army operation launched in their aftermath.
The mission spent two days in northern Arakan (Rakhine), closed to aid workers and observers for more than three weeks, and visited several villages, but were not taken to the scene of some of the most serious allegations of abuses by troops against civilians.
“There are four villages where people had apparently fled,” U.S. Ambassador Scot Marciel told reporters.
“We talked to two groups of villagers who haven’t had any food for a while. So the government has agreed to restoring humanitarian assistance to them, which is a good step.”
Troops have flooded northern Arakan (Rakhine) since Oct. 9, when militants attacked police border posts, killing nine officers. The government says five soldiers and at least 33 alleged insurgents have been killed in the military operation since then.
Residents and human rights advocates have accused security forces of summary executions, rapes and setting fire to homes.
The government of Nobel Peace Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi has denied any abuses have taken place. During a visit to Japan, Suu Kyi was quoted as saying that Myanmar was responding to the “delicate” conflict based on the rule of law.
Renata Lok-Dessallien, the U.N. Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator in Myanmar, said the government assured the visiting diplomats that humanitarian support would be provided to up to 15,000 people believed to have been displaced since Oct. 9.
“We asked that international observation of the provision of the assistance be agreed to and the government agreed to this. The government also agreed to allow the programs that were halted on the 9th of October to resume,” she said, adding that the details of that resumption of aid were being worked out.
The violence in recent weeks is the most serious to hit Arakan (Rakhine) since hundreds were killed in state sponsored violence in 2012.
Myanmar’s 1.1 million Rohingya Muslims are denied citizenship, with many majority Buddhists regarding them as illegal immigrants in their own ancestral land, and face severe travel restrictions. They form the majority in northern Arakan (Rakhine).
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