U.N. envoy urges Myanmar to allow aid access to Rohingyas

YANGON Tue Apr 8, 2014 12:57am IST

A Rohingya man carries his child while members of the police force and volunteers are seen at a Rohingya refugee camp as Myanmar's government embarks on a national census, in Sittwe April 2, 2014. REUTERS/Soe Zeya Tun

A Rohingya man carries his child while members of the police force and volunteers are seen at a Rohingya refugee camp as Myanmar's government embarks on a national census, in Sittwe April 2, 2014.

Credit: Reuters/Soe Zeya Tun

Related Topics

YANGON (Reuters) - A U.N. envoy on Monday urged Myanmar to allow the return of aid groups forced to flee attacks in Rakhine state, warning their departure threatened "severe consequences" for Muslims sheltering in camps from violence by majority Buddhists.

Tomas Ojea Quintana, the U.N.'s Special Rapporteur on the human rights situation in Myanmar, said water shortages could reach critical levels within a week in some displacement camps, where 140,000 people live as a result of communal conflict since 2012.

Some 700,000 people outside the camps are also vulnerable, the U.N. said in a statement.

"These workers were in Rakhine State providing essential life-saving support, including health services, water and food to internally displaced persons, isolated villages, and other affected communities," Quintana said.

Recent developments in Rakhine State were the latest in a long history of discrimination against the Muslim Rohingya community, which he said "could amount to crimes against humanity".

Trouble broke out on March 27 after rumours spread that a female international aid worker had desecrated a Buddhist flag. Some 400 rioters massed outside Malteser International's office and began throwing stones before attacking other buildings occupied by aid groups and the U.N.

Aid groups have long drawn the ire of some Rakhine Buddhists who accuse them of favouring the Rohingya, a group that makes up the vast majority of victims of the sectarian violence.

Humanitarian groups reject accusations of bias towards Muslims and many workers say they have been threatened and intimidated.

The Rakhine state government said last week that international aid organizations would be allowed to resume their work "later this month", but did not specify a date.

Aid workers say resuming the humanitarian effort will be difficult because local people, including subcontractors who transported food, have been warned not to work with international agencies.

"Every day that goes by there is an increased chance of people dying because they don't have access to medical services," said Pierre Peron, spokesman for United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.

"The clock is ticking," he said.

Britain on Monday summoned Myanmar's ambassador in London to call on the country to allow aid agencies to resume their work in Rakhine.

(Reporting by Jared Ferrie and Aung Hla Tun; Editing by Martin Petty and Andrew Roche) nL3N0MZ314

FILED UNDER:

Reuters Showcase

Putin Critic Killed

Putin Critic Killed

Russians march in memory of murdered Putin critic.  Full Article 

Pakistan's First Win

Pakistan's First Win

Irfan bounces Zimbabwe out as Pakistan claim first win.  Full Article 

Budget 2015

Budget 2015

Full coverage of 2015/16 budget.  Full Coverage 

Hacked to Death

Hacked to Death

Bangladesh pays tribute to U.S. blogger killed in machete attack.  Full Article 

The Apple Car

The Apple Car

Apple car rumours fuel Geneva debate about car of future.  Full Article 

Movie Review

Movie Review

"Dum Laga Ke Haisha" is rooted in reality, writes Shilpa Jamkhandikar.  Full Article | Related Story 

Crowded Market

Crowded Market

China's Huawei enters smartwatch frenzy with round-face models.  Full Article 

Lathmar Holi

In Pics: Lathmar Holi

Images of "Lathmar Holi" at Nandgaon in Uttar Pradesh.  Full Coverage 

World Cup 2015

World Cup 2015

Full coverage of cricket world cup in Australia and New Zealand.  Full Coverage 

Reuters India Mobile

Reuters India Mobile

Get the latest news on the go. Visit Reuters India on your mobile device.  Full Coverage