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UN Calls on Myanmar to Improve Conditions for Safe Return of Rohingyas

FILE - Rohingya refugees rebuild their makeshift houses, in preparation for the approaching monsoon season at the Kutupalong Rohingya refugee camp in Kutupalong, Bangladesh, April 28, 2018.

The United Nations is calling on Myanmar to live up to an agreement that would give the world body full access to northern Rakhine state, the scene of last year's brutal military crackdown on the region's Rohingya Muslims.

The U.N.'s refugee and development agencies signed a pact with Myanmar in early June that allows them to create conditions that would allow Rohingya refugees to return to Rakhine safely and voluntarily from neighboring Bangladesh.

But the two agencies issued a statement Wednesday that their requests to establish operations in Rakhine state, dating back to mid-June, have gone unanswered.

In addition to allowing unfettered access to Rakhine, the U.N. agencies also called on Myanmar to provide freedom of movement for all communities in Bangladesh, and to address the root cause of the crisis.

Nearly 700,000 Rohingyas have been languishing in refugee camps in Bangladesh since August of last year, when Myanmar military forces launched a counteroffensive in response to attacks on state security posts by Rohingya militants.

The Rohingyas fled to escape numerous human rights abuses at the hands of the military, including murder, rape and arson, in an effort both the United Nations and the United States described as a "textbook example" of ethnic cleansing.

The Rohingya are a small Muslim minority in Myanmar, a predominately Buddhist country. Although the Rohingya have been in Myanmar for generations, they are considered refugees from Bangladesh, and have not been granted full citizenship rights.