The World Food Program says tens of thousands of people, mostly Muslims, have been deprived of its routine delivery of food due to Myanmar’s military lockdown in areas in the northwestern state of Rakhine.
“There is military everywhere and a curfew in place, and so it's impossible to access any of the areas affected,” Arsen Sahakyan, the WFP partnership officer in Myanmar, said on Wednesday, adding, “The areas affected are also the areas where we normally operate.”
Some 80,000-85,000 people are normally fed by the WFP in Rakhine, a state bordering Bangladesh which has seen increasing tension between the hard-line majority Buddhists and Muslims from the Rohingya community.
The military deployed more troops to an area to the north of Rakhine after attacks on police posts over a week ago. Reports say Rohingya Muslims living close to the border have been effectively sealed off from the rest of the country. There have also been eye-witness accounts saying Myanmar’s troops have gunned down Muslim civilians and torched their villages.
Myanmar’s army has rejected the allegations, saying it has been fending off violent attacks. It says hundreds of militants from a little-known group called Aqa Mul Mujahidin are planning more attacks against security forces.
There has yet to be a detailed report on the number of deaths in the fresh military clampdown on the Rohingya in Rakhine as they are largely confined to camps in a dire situation.
Rakhine, home to about a million Rohingya Muslims, has been the scene of genocidal violence since 2012. Many of the Muslims have been killed while tens of thousands have been forced to flee as a result of attacks by Buddhists.
Myanmar’s civilian leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, has asked former UN secretary general, Kofi Annan, to head a commission to address the conflict in Rakhine. The move has been welcomed by the Rohingya but the Buddhists, who claim the Muslims are intruders and should be deported to Bangladesh, deeply oppose it. Human rights groups reject the Buddhists’ designation of the Muslims, saying they have a proven ancestry in Myanmar that is deeply rooted in history.