Mon May 15, 2017 9:42AM
Christos Stylianides, the European Commissioner for Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Management (photo by AFP)
Christos Stylianides, the European Commissioner for Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Management (photo by AFP)

A senior European Union (EU) official has called on Myanmar to allow unrestricted humanitarian access to the troubled state of Rakhine, which has been under a lock-down by the military since October last year.

EU commissioner for aid Christos Stylianides said at the end of a three-day visit to Myanmar on Sunday that he had called on the government to provide the bloc with full aid access to the region, where ethnic Rohingya Muslims are besieged and being cracked down on.

“I raised this issue a lot in my meetings, not only with ministers but also with the district commissioner of Maungdaw,” he said, referring to one of the locked-down areas in Rakhine.

“A lot of problems remain in order to see what we want... about humanitarian access,” Stylianides said.

He said some foreign aid workers had been allowed to enter the region but that had not been enough, as at least 16,000 people were still displaced. He said they needed adequate shelter before the rainy season started.

Residents displaced by Myanmar’s military campaign flee from Maungdaw, in Rakhine State. (File photo by AFP)

Hundreds of Rohingya Muslims have been killed and tens of thousands have been forced from their homes to live in camps in dire conditions in Myanmar, Thailand, Malaysia, and Indonesia as a result of violence at the hands of either extremist Buddhists or the Myanmarese army.

The government in Myanmar denies full citizenship to the 1.1 million-strong Rohingya population, branding them “illegal immigrants” from Bangladesh. This is while the Rohingya Muslims are believed to be a community of ancient lineage in Myanmar.

Since October 2016, Myanmar’s military forces have been carrying out a crackdown against the community, following a raid on a police post that they they have blamed on Rohingya-linked militants.

According to a report issued by the UN last month, Myanmar’s forces have committed mass killings and gang rapes against members of the Muslim community. The report warned that the abuses against the Muslims have been occurring in a campaign that “very likely” amounts to crimes against humanity and possibly ethnic cleansing.