UN official on tour of conflict-blighted Myanmar region

Rohingya activist says that mobile clinics run by Ministry of Health not enough to cover people’s needs.

UN official on tour of conflict-blighted Myanmar region

World Bulletin/News Desk

A top United Nations official will finish a tour Thursday of Myanmar’s Rakhine state, a region blighted by waves of communal violence that has mostly targeted the persecuted Rohingya Muslim community. 

Kyung-wha Kang, the UN’s Deputy Humanitarian Chief, has been touring camps in Pauktaw and the state capital Sittwe, where Buddhist-Muslim clashes have forced around 140,000 people from their homes.

Ms Kang will "evaluate progress in the humanitarian response in Rakhine" during her visit, said the UN's office for humanitarian affairs in a statement this week.

The two-day tour coincides with the second anniversary of the clashes, which ripped through Sittwe and other areas, forcing the government to declare a state of emergency in Rakhine and impose curfews.

Waves of anti-Muslim violence have since spread across the country, bringing the total death toll since June 2012 to around 280. 

The violence has led to a humanitarian crisis in Rakhine state, where thousands of displaced Rohingya Muslims are confined to squalid camps without adequate access to healthcare.

Faced with desperate conditions and the constant fear of more violence from Buddhist extremists, around 86,000 Rohingya have fled the country on shoddy boats since 2012, according to the UNHCR, the UN’s refugee agency.

The agency warned this week that reports of abuse and exploitation of Rohingya fleeing Myanmar were increasing.

Adrian Edwards, a UNHCR spokesperson, told reporters in Geneva that some people who reach Thailand by boat are taken to smugglers’ camps in the country’s southern jungles and kept there until their families can pay for their release.

He added that former detainees had told UNHCR that “some people died” and there were “daily beatings.”

People are normally kept there, “sometimes in cages”, for months, he said. "They spent their days sitting in confined spaces and nights sleeping upright or in the foetal position due to the lack of space."

Kang’s visit to Sittwe follows further riots there in March that saw Buddhist extremists attack the offices and homes of aid agency workers, who they accuse of being biased toward the Rohingya.

By the end of May only 60 percent of UN and international NGO staff had returned to the town after being evacuated during the attacks, said the UN’s humanitarian affairs agency in its latest bulletin this week.

Two major medical charities, Medicins Sans Frontieres and Malteser International, are still barred from operating in the area.

Aung Win, a Rohingya activist and community leader in Sittwe, told the Anadolu Agency Thursday that mobile clinics run by the Ministry of Health to replace MSF’s services were not enough to cover people’s needs. 

“The government says they are filling the gap left by MSF in the camps, but that is not true,” he said.

Before travelling to Rakhine Ms Kang met with government officials, including the Minister of Social Welfare, Relief, and Resettlement, in Nay Pyi Taw, Myanmar’s capital. 

On Friday and Saturday she will travel to Kachin state to visit communities displaced by conflict between government forces and Kachin rebels before returning to New York to brief reporters.

Last Mod: 12 Haziran 2014, 15:05
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