Aid chiefs to have access to Myanmar's Rakhine state, says UN

Rohingya refugees wait to receive aid in Cox's Bazar, Bangladesh, Sept 27, 2017. PHOTO: REUTERS

UNITED NATIONS, United States (AFP) - Representatives of UN agencies will be permitted to visit Rakhine state in Myanmar on Thursday (Sept 28) for the first time since the start of a massive exodus of minority Rohingya Muslims.

"There will be a trip organised by the government, probably tomorrow, to Rakhine," United Nations spokesman Stephane Dujarric said.

"We hope above all that it is a first step towards much freer and wider access to the area," he said at his daily news briefing.

He said the chiefs of UN agencies would take part in the trip.

UN humanitarian organisations based in Yangon were forced to pull out of Rakhine when the military launched operations against Rohingya rebels in late August, causing more than 410,000 Rohingyas to flee into neighbouring Bangladesh.

The United Nations has been demanding humanitarian access to Rakhine since then.

The military, under fire for imposing a news blackout on the campaign around the city of Maungdaw in western Myanmar, on Wednesday organised a press tour in the Hindu village of Ye Baw Kyaw, in the area of Kha Maung Seik.

Thursday's visit, this time for UN representatives, comes on the same day that the UN Security Council meets on the situation in Myanmar.

On Sept 13, the council demanded "immediate steps" to end the Myanmar violence and expressed concern about "excessive force" being used by the military.

The council also called on the Myanmar government to abide by its commitment to facilitate humanitarian aid in Rakhine, but until now that request has not been met.

Secretary-General Antonio Guterres will address the UN Security Council during its open door session on Thursday. As a former UN High Commissioner on Refugees, Guterres knows Rakhine and the context of the current crisis intimately.

With accusations of "ethnic cleansing" being levelled at the UN General Assembly, Myanmar leader Aun San Suu Kyi said last week she was "ready" to organise the return of the Rohingyas.

The Rohingyas, the world's largest stateless group, are treated as foreigners in Myanmar, whose population is 90 per cent Buddhist.

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