By Umar Farooq
WASHINGTON (AA) – A UN spokesman on Wednesday called for "effective access" for humanitarian aid organizations to enter into Myanmar's Rakhine state, where thousands of Rohingya Muslims faced persecution from security forces.
"Substantial progress is urgently needed in granting effective access for aid organizations and addressing the root causes of the crisis, including freedom of movement, safety, and a pathway to citizenship for all communities," Stephen Dujarric, the spokesman for UN chief Antonio Guterres, said at a press conference, as Saturday will mark the first anniversary of the Myanmar violence.
Since Aug. 25, 2017, more than 750,000 refugees, mostly children and women, have fled Myanmar and crossed into Bangladesh after Myanmar forces launched a crackdown on the minority Muslim community, according to Amnesty International.
More than 24,000 Rohingya Muslims have been killed by Myanmar’s state forces since August 2017, said a new report by Ontario International Development Agency.
Dujarric said humanitarian access in northern Rakhine was severely limited, denying life-saving support to those in need, adding that the UN was "standing ready to go where we have effective access, but this has not yet been granted by the government."
He said the UN was "deeply worried" about the situation in Rakhine, where some 660,000 are in need across Rakhine state, including 176,000 in northern Rakhine.
Stating that most aid organizations that have been working in northern Rakhine state for years have still not been able to resume programs and services for Rohingya population.
"We continue to receive reports of violence, more than 11,000 new refugees arrived in Bangladesh between January and June of this year," he added.
The Rohingya, described by the UN as the world's most persecuted people, have faced heightened fears of attack since dozens were killed in communal violence in 2012.
The UN documented mass gang rapes, killings — including of infants and young children — brutal beatings, and disappearances committed by security personnel.
In a report, UN investigators said such violations may have constituted crimes against humanity.