The United Nations has said it and its partners plan to help 300,000 Rohingya refugees fleeing violence in Myanmar. The US and UN have called on security forces in Myanmar to respect human rights.
UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric said Friday that while many of the 270,000 Rohingya who have fled violence in Rakhine state initially arrived in Bangladesh by land, more are making the journey by boat. At least 300 boats carrying Rohingya people arrived in Bangladesh's Cox's Bazar border district, the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) said.
The UN is to release $7 million (€5.8 million) from its emergency relief fund to provide aid – including food, shelter, water, health care and other services – to up to 300,000 Rohingya refugees fleeing from Myanmar to Bangladesh until the end of the year.
Dujarric said five UN agencies have teams in Cox's Bazar near the Myanmar-Bangladesh border where the refugees are arriving.
Vivian Tan, the spokeswoman for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, said the higher number of refugees reported by the agency on Friday was because aid workers have found large groups of people in border areas.
"This does not necessarily reflect fresh arrivals within the past 24 hours but that we have identified more people in different areas that we were not aware of," she said. She noted that there could be some double counting in the estimated tally.
"The numbers are so alarming. It really means that we have to step up our response and that the situation in Myanmar has to be addressed urgently," Tan added.
"We need to prepare for many more to come, I am afraid," said Shinni Kubo, the Bangladesh country manager for the agency. "We need huge financial resources. This is unprecedented. This is dramatic. It will continue for weeks and weeks."
'Vicious cycle of violence'
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres spoke with Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi by phone on Wednesday and reiterated his concerns about the situation in Rakhine state, Dujarric said on Friday. Guterres told reporters Tuesday the government must end the "vicious cycle of violence" and immediately reverse its longstanding policy and give Rohingya Muslims either nationality or legal status.
Human Rights Watch said satellite images taken last Saturday showed hundreds of burned buildings in Maungdaw, a district capital in Rakhine state, in areas primarily inhabited by Rohingya.
The United States has backed Aung San Suu Kyi's civilian government, but on Friday, the US deputy assistant secretary of state for East Asia, Patrick Murphy, said the US saw shortcomings on the part of Myanmar security forces and the government in dealing with the situation. Suu Kyi blamed "terrorists" for "a huge iceberg of misinformation" and said authorities were trying to "take care of everybody."
Murphy said it was calling for talks with Myanmar's military and civilian leaders and for urgent access to Rakhine state for humanitarian aid groups and the media.
"Security forces, in fact, need to be there to protect civilian populations and to address the threats posed to the governing structure," Murphy told reporters. "At the same time, they have a responsibility to carry out those activities in accordance with rule of law and international human rights."
"The fact that over a million people inside the country have been devoid of basic rights for generations has been a long-standing issue," Murphy said. "It needs to be addressed."
dv/jm (AP, Reuters)