Myanmar says aid workers not barred

YANGON • Myanmar insisted yesterday it was not barring aid workers from Rakhine state, where a counter-insurgency campaign has sparked an exodus of Muslim Rohingya refugees, but said the authorities on the ground might restrict access for security reasons.

About 400,000 Rohingya have fled to Bangladesh to escape a military offensive that has been described as "ethnic cleansing", and raised fears of an unfolding humanitarian crisis.

US Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Patrick Murphy was due in Myanmar this weekend to voice Washington's concerns and press for greater access to the conflict area for humanitarian workers, the State Department said.

"We don't block anyone," Myanmar's government spokesman Zaw Htay told Reuters.

"We don't block any organisations sending aid to those areas but they might have some difficulty travelling where access is restricted by local authorities for security reasons."

Meanwhile, Bangladeshi troops will deliver aid to desperate Rohingya refugees massed in Cox's Bazar, the authorities said yesterday.

The relief effort for the estimated 391,000 Rohingya at the border town has been ad hoc and plagued by disorganisation as local aid workers are overwhelmed by the human tide.

REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 16, 2017, with the headline 'Myanmar says aid workers not barred'. Print Edition | Subscribe