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U.N. Expert Urges Myanmar to Let Aid Flow to Mainly Muslim State

Photo: Ethnic Rakhine men attended a police training course this week in the north of the mainly Muslim state of Rakhine in Myanmar. CreditSoe Zeya Tun/Reuters

GENEVA — Amid mounting reports of violent unrest and brutal reprisals by Myanmar’s army in the mainly Muslim state of Rakhine, a United Nations expert said on Friday that the country’s government should let aid agencies into the area and investigate allegations of abuse instead of brushing them aside with blanket denials. Last month, after insurgents attacked border posts, killing nine police officers, the authorities in Myanmar closed the southwestern state to aid agencies and independent journalists. The army sent in more troops and helicopter gunships in the past week after further attacks resulted in military casualties. The security lockdown was “not acceptable,” said the United Nations expert monitoring events in Myanmar, Yanghee Lee. In a statement on Friday, Ms. Lee drew attention to unverified reports that the military had carried out the summary execution, torture and rape of Rohingya Muslims, as well as the destruction of mosques and houses. A closely supervised two-day visit to the region arranged by the authorities for 10 diplomats in early November did little to address the humanitarian crisis and should not be used as a “smoke screen” for giving the military a free hand to increase its operations, Ms. Lee said. Samantha Power, the United States’ ambassador to the United Nations, wrote on Twitter that the Security Council discussed the violence in Rakhine State on Thursday night and called for the resumption of humanitarian aid for the region and an international investigation into the accusations of abuses by the military. The office of Myanmar’s de facto leader, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, rejected the accusations against the military, saying in a Facebook post that they were “absolutely not true,” according to Reuters. The army has reported scores of deaths in the area in the past week, but pro-Rohingya activists say that more than a hundred people have been killed by troops, including women and children, and that soldiers have destroyed property and seized livestock. International aid agencies say they have heard reports that hundreds of Rohingya Muslims have crossed into Bangladesh to escape the crackdown and that others were shot dead as they headed for the border. A spokesman for the United Nations refugee agency, Adrian Edwards, said on Friday that the agency did not have access to border areas and that it was unable to verify those accounts. Mr. Edwards called on Myanmar to provide the access required for the delivery of aid to 160,000 civilians the United Nations supports in Rakhine State, including about 30,000 Rohingya said to have been forced from their homes since violence flared in October. Ms. Lee also expressed skepticism over a statement by Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi that the government’s response to the violence in Rakhine State was based on the rule of law, echoing growing unease that she is doing little to rein in Myanmar’s powerful military establishment. “I am unaware of any efforts on the part of the government to look into the allegations of human rights violations,” Ms. Lee said. “It would appear, on the contrary, that the government has mostly responded with a blanket denial.”

© 2016 The New York Times Company

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