By Kyaw Ye Lynn
YANGON, Myanmar (AA): A United Kingdom-based Rohingya organization has called on the United Nations and international community for urgent action in pressing Myanmar’s government to lift all restrictions on humanitarian aid in western Rakhine State.
Maungdaw Township in the troubled state’s north has been under military lockdown since Oct. 9 when nine police were killed after an armed group attacked three police station outposts.
Access to information remains tightly restricted despite calls from UN experts and international rights groups for Myanmar’s government to allow monitors and independent journalists to investigate alleged right abuses by troops against civilians in the area.
Though Myanmar said the World Food Programme (WFP) was allowed to provide aid to people in four affected villages since Nov. 6, the Burmese Rohingya Organization warned that at least 160,000 members of the Muslim minority are in desperate need of food, life-saving medical assistance and other forms of aid.
“However many more villages in the area have yet to receive any support,” the organization said in a statement Thursday.
At least 35,000 Rohingya have been displaced by ongoing military operations, and many remain without food, clean water, healthcare and other essential services, it added.
The group urged UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to meet with State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi and military chief Min Aung Hlaing and demand the immediate lifting of all restrictions on aid.
“Humanitarian organizations have not been able to access these communities and undertake a full assessment of their needs,” the statement said.
According to media reports, hundreds of Rohingya villagers have fled to neighboring Bangladesh in fear of the ongoing military crackdown.
The Burmese Rohingya Organization states that hunger is one of the factors forcing Rohingya people to attempt to flee to Bangladesh.
“But they are being turned back at the border,” said Tun Khin, president of the Burmese Rohingya Organization UK.
“Unless urgent action is taken more Rohingya people will be dying from starvation than from bullets and bombs fired by the Burmese [Myanmar] Army.”
Since Oct. 9, the government has said that at least 86 people — 17 soldiers and 69 alleged “attackers” (among them two women) — were killed, along with the destruction of Rohingya property.
Rohingya groups, however, claim that the number of civilians killed in one weekend alone earlier this month could be as high as 150.
The State Counselor Office Information Committee announced 16 more suspects were arrested Wednesday and Thursday.
According to government figure, at least 446 people have also been detained for alleged involvement in the initial attacks, along with subsequent alleged attacks on military conducting clearance operations in the area.
There has been no independent verification of the alleged attacks or arrests as access to the area has been under military control since the initial incident.
Meanwhile, thousands of Indonesians gathered in front of Myanmar’s embassy in Jakarta on Friday to protest violence against Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar.
After Friday prayers were conducted along with brief speeches on a street outside the embassy, around 2,000 protesters carrying banners saying “Stop Genocide against Rohingya in Myanmar” and “Save Muslim Rohingya from the Abuse” began the two-kilometer (1.24-mile) march to a local United Nations office.
One demonstrator, Mohamad Syukur Mandar, demanded the Myanmar government immediately stop recent violence in Myanmar’s Rakhine State that has left anything between 86 and 500 people dead, and urged the international community to solve the issue.
“We urge the Indonesian government to actively take a role in this issue,” metrotvnews.com quoted Mandar as saying.
Policing was earlier stepped up outside the embassy, as officials prepared for a second day of protests.
Similar events are also expected to take place outside Myanmar embassies in Bangkok and Kuala Lumpur on Friday.
The rallies — called for by several Islamic organizations — also aim to show solidarity for Rohingya, who have been facing oppression for years.
Over the past six weeks, rights groups have expressed concern over reports of killings, rapes, arbitrary arrests and other violations in villages predominantly occupied by Rohingya in troubled Rakhine amid military operations launched after fatal attacks on police stations Oct. 9.
They have called for independent investigations into the initial attacks, the ongoing operations and reported rights abuses in the area.
The area has been placed under military lockdown, leaving rights groups and international reporters unable to enter.
[Photo: Indonesian Muslim activists carry banners in front of Presidential Palace, Jakarta, Indonesia, on November 24, 2016 during a demonstration, protesting violence and mass killings against Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar. Photographer: Muhabiri Agoes Rudianto/AA]