Jakarta. The European Union ambassador to the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, Francisco Fontan, said on Tuesday (12/09) that the regional bloc has continued to request for humanitarian access to victims in Myanmar’s troubled Rakhine State that has sent around 370,000 Rohingya Muslims fleeing into neighboring Bangladesh.
"[The EU] is channeling the best way possible to reach the victims on either side of the border [...] We are asking all the time for more access to the victims," Fontan said on the sidelines of the EU-Asean 40th Anniversary Concert in Jakarta.
The numbers of refugees crossing the border to Bangladesh from Myanmar has continued to increase since violence broke out between Rohingya insurgents and Myanmar security forces last month. More people are trapped on the border, with surging reports of village-burnings and extrajudicial killings.
On Monday, the top United Nations high commissioner for human rights, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, said Myanmar government’s "cruel military operation" in the deeply divided region is a "textbook example of ethnic cleansing."
The international community has collectively pressured Myanmar to protect all of its citizens and open access for humanitarian aid to be delivered to those in need.
In a statement released on Monday, Myanmar’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said "humanitarian assistance will be provided to all displaced inhabitants without discrimination" and that "a government-led mechanism established in cooperation with the Red Cross Movement has already started its humanitarian assistance activities."
The statement said human rights violations "will be addressed in accordance with strict norms of justice," but made no mention of the Rohingya Muslim community and their ongoing displacement from their land.
The Rohingya Muslims are considered to be the world’s most persecuted minority. They are not regarded by the Myanmar government as one of the country’s 135 official ethnic groups, and have been denied citizenship in the country since 1982 – rendering them stateless.
The EU’s humanitarian engagement in Myanmar, according to Fontan, is currently focusing on accessing the population and assessing their humanitarian situation, accordingly providing them with the assistance they need.
"Unrestricted humanitarian access, including for aid workers, is essential in order to reach those who desperately need it," EU high representative Federica Mogherini said in a statement released on Sept. 6.
Mogherini said in another statement released on Monday that the EU is "stepping up our humanitarian engagement" in Bangladesh.
Bangladesh’s two official camps, where many Myanmar refugees have resided since previous outbreaks of violence in Myanmar, are full with more and more people reportedly in desperate need of food, shelter and medical assistance.