UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Friday demanded unfettered humanitarian access to Myanmar’s northern Rakhine State.
“We insist on the need to make sure, not only that all violence against this population (of Rohingyas) stops, but also we need to insist on unhindered humanitarian access to all areas of Rakhine State, including the northern part of this region,” he told reporters at UN Headquarters in New York, Xinhua reported.
The UN chief also demanded the voluntary return of Rohingya refugees who have fled the Rakhine State into neighbouring Bangladesh.
“We insist on the need to reassert the right of return — safe and dignifying return, voluntary return — for all the population that fled to Bangladesh and to the areas of origin — not to be placed in camps, not having access to the places where they left.”
Guterres emphasized the importance of addressing the root cause of the problem, which relies largely on the problems related to citizenship for the Rohingyas — an Indo-Aryan Muslim minority in overwhelmingly Buddhist Myanmar — and to the legal status of this population “that has been discriminated and that is stateless at the present moment.”
More than 600,000 Rohingyas have fled their homes in Rakhine State since August 25, when attacks by Rohingya rebels on police and security forces triggered retribution, and sought refuge in camps centred in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh.
“What has happened is an immense tragedy, and the levels of violence and the atrocities committed are something that we cannot be silent about,” Guterres said.
The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs reported Thursday that aid access in northern Rakhine State remained extremely challenging, with the United Nations being granted almost no access by the Myanmar government.
The UN Security Council on Monday issued a presidential statement on Myanmar, the first such statement on the country in 10 years, demanding an end to the “excessive use of military force” in Rakhine State and the creation of conditions for the safe return of the refugees.
Myanmar’s UN representative, Hau Do Suan, expressed serious concern over the statement, which he said would not help resolve the issue as it placed undue political pressure on Myanmar.