An international human rights group has called on Myanmar’s government and military to ensure humanitarian aid can reach vulnerable populations in Arakan (Rakhine) State where ongoing operations have blocked off the troubled region for more than a week.
Troops have poured into Maungdaw and Buthidaung townships near the Bangladesh border since Oct. 9 when fatal attacks on police station outposts killed nine officers and dozens of weapons and thousands of rounds of ammunition were stolen.
Since then authorities have blocked all aid deliveries to Maungdaw — which like Buthidaung is predominantly occupied by the country’s Rohingya Muslim population — and aid agencies have not been able to conduct a needs assessment, Human Rights Watch (HRW) said Friday.
“We have asked [for access] from township level to Union level,” a World Food Programme (WFP) partnerships officer was quoted as saying in the HRW statement.
“The official explanation [for being denied access] is that security operations are ongoing.”
WFP told HRW that while the government has recently permitted the resumption of food assistance to 37,000 people in Buthiduang, 50,000 people remain without food aid in Maungdaw.
The blocking of aid had worsened the humanitarian situation in the area where recent violence has displaced some 3,000 Bhuddhist people and as many as 15,000 Arakanese Rohingya, HRW said. But no. of Rohingya displaced might exceed more than 20, 000 according to local medias.
“Recent violence in northern Rakhine State has led the army to deny access to aid agencies that provide essential health care and food to people at grave risk,” said Brad Adams, HRW’s Asia director.
“The Rohingya and others have been especially vulnerable since the ethnic cleansing campaign in 2012, and many rely on humanitarian aid to survive,” he added.
Since the Oct. 9 attacks, at least 43 people — nine police officers, four soldiers and 29 suspected attackers (among them the two women) — have been killed.
In the HRW statement, Adams stressed that Myanmar’s government “has a responsibility to search for and arrest those who attacked the border posts”.
“But it is required to do so in a manner that respects human rights, ensures that the area’s people get the aid they need, and allows journalists and rights monitors into the area.”
A 74-year-old Rohingya man, originally a resident of Warpaik village who is now sheltering in Kyetyoepyin after his home was destroyed, told Anadolu Agency on Friday that there is no one to help them now.
“Rakhine people are getting help from their community, but no one is helping us here,” he said by phone on condition of anonymity for fear of reprisal. “We are also restricted from moving to other villages.”
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Source: Anadulo Agency