The United Nations has said a planned visit to the site of alleged ethnic cleansing of Rohingya Muslims, has been postponed by the Burmese authorities because of bad weather. UN officials and other diplomats were scheduled to fly to western Rakhine state, from where up to 500,000 Rohingya have fled in recent weeks to neighouring Bangladesh, to escape torture and atrocities carried out by the Burmese military.
The Burmese authorities, whose de facto leader is Aung San Suu Kyi, have previously tried to restrict access to the region for journalists and diplomats. UN aid personnel were obliged to leave after troops launched a crackdown on Rohingya militants who had attacked police posts.
Eri Kaneko, a spokeswoman for the Office of the UN Secretary General said her colleagues in Burma were told the trip had been postponed because of bad weather. “This is the official reason we have been given,” she told The Independent. She said the UN was hopeful the rescheduled visit would happen soon in order to allow increased access to the area. The UN Secretary Council is due to meet to discuss the issue, after French President Emanuel Macron last week described what had happened as “genocide”. The UN has termed it a “textbook case of ethnic cleansing”.
While the UN visit was postponed, Mark Field, the British foreign minister, became the first such minister from outside of the region to see Rakhine after he travelled to Burma and met with Ms Suu Kyi. He said he pushed her to come up with an urgent solution to the crisis. “What we have seen in Rakhine in the past few weeks is an absolute and unacceptable tragedy. We need the violence to stop and all those who have fled to be able to return to their homes quickly and safely,” he said in a statement.