International desk, September 28: The United Nations says a planned visit to Myanmar’s Rakhine state, which has seen a mass exodus of Rohingya Muslims, has been cancelled by the authorities.The visit would have been the first by UN officials to the area since violence broke out on 25 August.
UN aid personnel were forced to leave Rakhine when the military began a crackdown on Rohingya militants behind attacks on security personnel.
A UN spokesperson in Yangon told the BBC no reason was given for the move.
The UN has been pushing to visit Rakhine to investigate the flight of more than 400,000 Rohingya Muslims to Bangladesh in a month.
Rohingya who have crossed the border accuse Myanmar’s military, backed by Buddhist mobs, of trying to drive them out with a brutal campaign of beatings, killings and village burnings. Images and reports from journalists confirm many villages have been razed.
But the military say they are only targeting militants. Earlier this week, they said bodies of 45 Hindus killed by Rohingya militants had been found in a mass grave.
Assessing the situation on the ground in Rakhine is difficult because access is tightly controlled. But humanitarian groups say that in addition to those who have fled to Bangladesh, say many people are displaced within Rakhine and hundreds of thousands lack food, shelter and medical care.
The Rohingya, a mostly Muslim minority, are denied citizenship by Myanmar, which says they are illegal immigrants. Rakhine Buddhists are the majority in the state and deadly communal violence has erupted several times in the past.
UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric said on Wednesday, before the cancellation, that chiefs of UN agencies were due to take part in the trip, which he hoped would be “a first step towards much freer and wider access to the area”.
Later on Thursday the UN Security Council is due to meet in New York to discuss the crisis.
Myanmar’s de facto leader has faced strong international criticism for her government’s handling of the crisis. On Thursday UK Foreign Office minister Mark Field met Ms Suu Kyi and urged her to end the violence in Rakhine.