Nearly 400,000 Rohinyga have fled into makeshift camps in Bangladesh since 25 August, when coordinated assaults on security outposts by Rohingya insurgents prompted a massive military crackdown.
Now, the Myanmar government has taken control of aid operations in the country’s crisis-hit Rakhine state, as reports continue of massacres and “ethnic cleansing” by soldiers on the Muslim population there.
The UN has described the humanitarian situation for Rohingya people in northern Rakhine as catastrophic. Sources, speaking on condition of anonymity, told the Guardian they fear a deliberate attempt to undermine aid operations.Senior officials and Human Rights Watch said they believe the move could become permanent, ending vital food and health programs run by international agencies. Already there is an aid blockade on UN agencies that workers say is having a severe impact on malnourished children.
“We’re slowly getting kicked out,” said one. “This could fundamentally shift the way we operate here. The amount of time it will take to get back, or even if we are allowed, is all up in the air and in the meantime there could be a humanitarian disaster,” they said. “The government clearly don’t want us there. It’s an attempt to keep us out in a way that doesn’t fall on them; they can use security as an excuse. It’s obvious what’s going on,” they added.
Phil Robertson, Human Rights Watch’s deputy Asia director, said he believed the moves could be part of a government strategy to hinder the flow of information from the ground. “It’s becoming clear that the Myanmar government may be moving forward with a larger political plan to replace agencies on the ground in Rakhine with the much more malleable and less-inclined-to-speak-publicly Myanmar Red Cross,” he said.