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Rohingya crisis: UN slams 'unacceptable' lack of access to northern Burma

© Fred Dugour, AFP | Rohingya refugees walk by night after crossing the border from Burma, on the Bangladeshi shores of the Naf river in Teknaf on September 29, 2017.

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2017-10-06

The UN has reiterated its call for "unhindered (and) unfettered" access to Burma's northern Rakhine state, where more than half a million Rohingya Muslims have fled violence, describing the current situation as "unacceptable".

"The access we have in northern Rakhine state is unacceptable", the head of the United Nations humanitarian office, Mark Lowcock, told reporters in Geneva on Friday.

A small UN team visited the crisis-wracked region in predominantly Buddhist Burma in recent days and described witnessing "unimaginable" suffering.

Burma, also known as Myanmar, has tightly controlled access to the state since last month when attacks by Rohingya militants prompted an army offensive that has sent 515,000 Rohingya fleeing to Bangladesh.

Scores of Rohingya villages have been torched.

'The access we have in Rakhine (...) is unacceptable'

Lowcock said he believed a "a high level" UN team would be able to visit the area "in the next few days".

He repeated the UN's call for the government to allow "unhindered (and) unfettered" access.

"Half a million people do not pick up sticks and flee their country on a whim," Lowcock added, stressing that the scale of the exodus was evidence of a severe crisis in northern Rakhine.

The UN has "substantial capacity" in Myanmar which can be quickly deployed to northern Rakhine once clearance is granted, he added.

'Ethnic cleansing'

A Myanmar official tally says hundreds of people have died as violence consumed remote communities, including Rohingya.

Hindus and ethnic Rakhine were also among the dead, allegedly killed by Rohingya militants, according to Burmese officials.

Rights groups say the real death toll is likely to be much higher, especially among the Rohingya, while the UN has labelled army operations as "ethnic cleansing" against the Muslim group.

An estimated 2,000 Rohingya are escaping Rakhine daily for Bangladesh, Joel Millman of the International Organisation for Migration (IOM), told reporters in a separate briefing on Friday.

The IOM said there may be up to 100,000 more people in the violence-ridden state waiting to cross into Bangladesh.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP)

Date created : 2017-10-06

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