The scale of the suffering inside Myanmar's Rakhine state is "unimaginable", the United Nations said Monday, after three of its members joined a belated government-steered visit for aid agencies and diplomats to the conflict-battered region.
Myanmar has tightly controlled access to the state since last month when attacks by Rohingya terrorists prompted an army kickback that sent 500,000 of the Muslim minority fleeing to Bangladesh.
Scores of Rohingya villages have been torched.
A Myanmar official tally says hundreds of people died as violence consumed remote communities, including Rohingya.
Hindus and ethnic Rakhine were also among the dead -- allegedly killed by Rohingya terrorists.
The following is the UN statement in full.
“The UN appreciates the Government of Myanmar’s invitation to participate in the visit to northern Rakhine organized by national authorities for diplomatic community and the UN.
This was a positive step and such visits, under appropriate conditions, could help in our efforts to explore potential areas where the UN could cooperate with the Myanmar authorities in alleviating the dire situation in northern Rakhine.
Three UN representatives participated in the field visit -- the UN Resident Coordinator Ms. Renata Lok-Dessallien; the WFP representative and Deputy Humanitarian Coordinator, Mr. Domenico Scalpelli, and senior UNHCR official Ms. Cécile Fradot.
The scale of human suffering is unimaginable and the UN extends its deepest condolences to all those affected.
The UN advocates for the end to the cycle of violence and for establishing law and order and the rule of law; to allow unfettered access for humanitarian support; and to ensure the safe, voluntary, dignified and sustainable return of the refugees to their areas of origin.
The UN used the field visit also to send a signal of hope to the people in the affected areas, as well as to connect with its staff in northern Rakhine.
The UN delegation reiterated the need for a greater access for humanitarian and human rights actors to conduct comprehensive assessments of the situation on the ground in order to address the concerns and needs of all communities in affected areas. The UN called also for access for the media.
Building on this visit, the UN looks forward to strengthening trust and cooperation with all communities and the Myanmar Government. This will be critical in addressing the root causes and setting a sustainable path towards peace and prosperity of all people in Rakhine State, irrespective of ethnicity, religion or citizenship status.
The UN stands ready to provide its full support to the authorities in responding to the humanitarian and human rights crisis in northern Rakhine, as well as the implementation of the recommendations of the Advisory Commission on Rakhine State.”
Diplomats and other INGOs accompanied them on the trip, which was delayed from last week. But the limitations of the one-day visit were not immediately clear.
The EU delegation to Myanmar also joined the whistle-stop trip, which took in Maungdaw and Rathedaung areas, explaining in a statement "this was not an investigation mission and could not be in the circumstances".
"We saw villages that had been burned to the ground and emptied of inhabitants. The violence must stop," it said, calling for unimpeded humanitarian and media access.
International aid groups fear tens of thousands of Rohingya Muslims who remain in northern parts of Rakhine are in urgent need of food, medicine and shelter after over a month of military operations.
In a sign of ongoing tensions and mistrust, a few thousand Rohingya have massed on a beach awaiting boats to Bangladesh after allegedly receiving death threats.
Myanmar had around 1.1 million Rohingya before August 25 attacks by militants from the minority group sparked a massive security crackdown.
The number has halved since then.
Rakhine has long been a cauldron of ethnic and religious tensions, but the last five years has seen communal relations plunge to their worst yet.
Additional reporting AFP