Myanmar has cancelled the scheduled visit by a UN team to Myanmar’s Rakhine State, from which an estimated 480,000 Rohingya Muslims have fled since August 25.
United Nations spokesman Stephane Dujarric said the no explanation was given for the cancellation of the visit, which would have been the first by international observers to the troubled border region since August.
An ethnic Rohingya insurgent group reportedly attacked police posts in the area, sparking a crackdown by the military which the UN human rights chief, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, described as a “textbook example” of ethnic cleansing. No international observers or media are allowed into the area, meaning the government’s reports cannot be independently verified.
But satellite imagery shows more than 200 Rohingya villages have since been burned. The authorities make the illogical claim that Muslim villagers have been burning down their own homes, despite satellite pictures showing arson attacks long after civilians fled the area.
The former colonial master, Britain, has warned Myanmar that the crisis is an “unacceptable tragedy” and the authorities must end the violence and lift its blockade on humanitarian aid.
“What we have seen in Rakhine in the past few weeks is an absolute and unacceptable tragedy,” said Mark Field, the UK’s minister for Asia, said after meeting State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi and visiting Rakhine.
“We need the violence to stop and all those who have fled to be able to return to their homes quickly and safely,” the MP said. “Burma has taken great strides forward in recent years. But the ongoing violence and humanitarian crisis in Rakhine risks derailing that progress.”
Field said Suu Kyi had given him assurances that Rohingya would be able to return across the border. But she has very little influence in the border zone as the military controls the three key ministries: home affairs, border security and defence. The Rohingya have also been denied citizenship since 1982 so will be incapable of proving their nationality.
“The proof will be in the pudding, and whether she will allow those who wish to return to do so,” Field told the BBC. “There are now hundreds of thousands of Rohingya on the Bangladeshi side of the border and there is a big question mark just how many will feel confident enough with the security implications on what is happening in the country to return.”
The number of Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh has doubled since August 25. Picture credit: YouTube