The Daily Star/ANN
The UN High Commissioner for Refugees has called on Bangladesh to keep its border open and has appealed to Myanmar to safeguard the civilian population in northern Rakhine.
The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has urged Myanmar to protect civilians in northern Rakhine state. At the same time, the UN agency also called upon Bangladesh to keep its border with Myanmar open.
“We are appealing to the government of Bangladesh to keep its border with Myanmar open and allow safe passage to any civilians from Myanmar fleeing violence,” UNHCR spokesperson Adrian Edwards made the appeal at a press briefing in Geneva.
“UNHCR is deeply concerned about the safety and well-being of civilians in the northern part of Rakhine state, Myanmar. We are urging the government of Myanmar to ensure the protection and dignity of all civilians on its territory in accordance with the rule of law and its international obligations,” said Edwards.
"We appeal for calm and for humanitarian access to assess and meet the needs of thousands of people who have reportedly been displaced from their homes by the ongoing security operation. The affected population is believed to be in urgent need of food, shelter and medical care,” he added.
The UNHCR also urged the government of Myanmar to immediately allow humanitarian actors to resume the life-saving activities they had been carrying out for some 160,000 civilians in northern Rakhine state until such activities were suspended on 9 October.
Meanwhile, the UN's Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said 15,000 people were believed to have fled their homes over the space of 48 hours, according to an AFP report.
"Up to 30,000 people are now estimated to be displaced and thousands more affected by the October 9 armed attacks and subsequent security operations across the north of Rakhine state," said a spokesman for the OCHA.
Troops have poured into a strip of land along the Bangladesh border, an area which is largely home to the stateless Muslim Rohingya minority, since coordinated attacks on police posts last month.
The army this week said troops have killed nearly 70 people as they hunt the attackers, although activists say the number could be much higher.
Violence escalated over the weekend, with state media reporting troops had killed more than 30 people in two days of fighting after coordinated ambushes forced the army to bring in helicopter gunships.
Activists have accused troops of killing civilians, raping women and torching homes — allegations the army denies. Authorities have heavily restricted access to the area, making it difficult to independently verify government reports or accusations of army abuse.
The resurgence of violence in western Rakhine state has deepened a crisis that already posed a critical challenge to the new administration led by democracy activist Aung San Suu Kyi.
Over 100 people died in 2012 in clashes between the majority Buddhist population and the Muslim Rohingya, and tens of thousands of them were driven into displacement camps.
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