UN officials postpone visit to Myanmar until next week, the UN says. It added that more than 500,000 Rohingya have entered Bangladesh since August 25. The statement comes as 14 Rohingya drowned while trying to reach Bangladesh.
A UN visit to Myanmar’s conflict-battered Rakhine state was postponed on Thursday, thwarting efforts to reach the epicentre of violence for the first time since the start of a massive exodus of minority Rohingya Muslims.
The United Nations has urged Myanmar to allow humanitarian access to northern parts of Rakhine state since violence erupted in late August, forcing more than 500,000 Rohingya Muslims to flee.
On Wednesday, the UN said it had been told its representatives could join a government-steered trip to the area on Thursday - but the visit did not take place.
“The government-organised visit was postponed to next week because of weather conditions,” a spokesperson from the Office of the UN Resident Coordinator in Myanmar said, without giving further details.
Access to the area by relief agencies and global media has been heavily controlled by Myanmar’s army and government.
That has made it impossible to independently assess the humanitarian situation or allegations of widespread abuses.
At least 14 Rohingya drown off Bangladesh
At least 10 children and four women were killed when a boat carrying Rohingya fleeing violence in Myanmar capsized in rough seas off Bangladesh on Thursday, police said.
Witnesses and survivors said the boat overturned just yards from the coast after apparently hitting a submerged object and was later washed ashore in two parts.
“They drowned before our eyes. Minutes later, the waves washed the bodies to the beach,” said Mohammad Sohel, a local shopkeeper.
One distraught survivor said he had set off for Bangladesh from a coastal village in Myanmar late Wednesday with his wife, who was killed in the disaster along with one of his children.
“The boat hit something underground as it came close to the beach. Then it overturned,” Nurus Salam said.
Around 120 Rohingya, many of them children, have drowned trying to reach Bangladesh in small fishing boats that coastguards say are woefully inadequate for the rough seas.
Local police constable Fazlul Karim said 14 bodies had so far washed ashore, and there were fears the number could rise.
The latest violence erupted in Rakhine state after Rohingya fighters’ attack on security posts on August 25 triggered a military crackdown that the UN has branded “ethnic cleansing”.
Tension between Myanmar’s majority Buddhists and the Rohingya, most of whom are denied citizenship, has exploded several times over the past few years as old enmities, and Buddhist nationalism, surfaced with the end of decades of harsh military rule.
Rohingya refugees who have made it to Bangladesh have brought with them multiple accounts of murder and systematic arson of their villages by Myanmar soldiers and mobs of ethnic Rakhine, who are Buddhists.
International aid groups fear tens of thousands of Rohingya Muslims who remain in northern parts of Rakhine are in urgent need of food, medicine and shelter after over a month of military operations.
But foreign aid agencies are receiving hostility across Myanmar - and inside Rakhine in particular - accused by many in the Buddhist-majority country of harbouring a pro-Rohingya bias.
The number has halved since then.