Red Cross head says Rakhine relief efforts not 'short-term operations'


 ICRC President Peter Maurer appears in Nay Pyi Taw on June 29.

Following a three-day visit to northern Rakhine State, International Committee of the Red Cross President Peter Maurer spoke briefly on Friday in Nay Pyi Taw about his impressions of the severely conflict-stricken area, saying that the humanitarian group plans to provide relief efforts for the “medium- and long-term.”

“I traveled from Maungdaw north into other villages and I saw certain houses abandoned, other neighborhoods destroyed or half-destroyed, and I saw also that in other parts along the road where villages had existed … vegetation is taking over the landscape,” Maurer said.

The ICRC head tread lightly when it came to direct references to the plight of displaced Rohingya Muslims, saying that “one community has been primarily affected and has left in big numbers,” but also saying he preferred not to mention specific figures.

According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, the number of refugees who have fled to Bangladesh from Myanmar since August 2017 has surpassed 700,000.

Maurer also noted that the ICRC has long refrained from placing blame on any specific parties for the current situation in Rakhine, where the group spends half of its budget for Myanmar.

“ICRC for a long time has been of the opinion that there is no easy and single explanation for the developments in the recent months,” Maurer said. “It has to be understood as much more complex than many in the international arena like to describe the situation.”

Having had the chance to meet earlier the same day with Myanmar's State Counsellor and President, as well as with Senior General Min Aung Hlaing, Maurer said that the conversations had been worthwhile.

“I was encouraged to hear that they are ready to make their effort with the local and state authorities in order to improve social services and to improve the reconciliation process between communities,” Maurer said.

Following his visit to Myanmar, the ICRC president headed to Bangladesh to meet with senior politicians and see first-hand some of the group's relief efforts at the massive refugee camps in Cox's Bazar district.

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