Myanmar’s military junta has suspended travel authorisations for aid workers trying to reach hundreds of thousands of people in the cyclone-ravaged Rakhine state, the United Nations’ humanitarian affairs office said on Friday.
Cyclone Mocha brought lashing rain and winds of 195 kilometres per hour to Myanmar and neighbouring Bangladesh last month, killing at least 148 people in Myanmar.
The cyclone destroyed homes and brought a storm surge to Rakhine state, where hundreds of thousands of Rohingya minority refugees live in displacement camps following decades of ethnic conflict.
Junta authorities this week suspended “existing travel authorisations … for humanitarian organisations,” the UN’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said in a statement.
Plans for distributing aid to cyclone-affected townships that had previously been approved by the junta were also rescinded, it added.
The restrictions would bring “a stop to activities that have been reaching hundreds of thousands of people”, it said.
AFP has contacted a junta spokesman for comment.
Local media reported that the travel ban applied to humanitarian groups working in Rakhine state.
Last month, the UN launched an appeal for $333 million in emergency funding for the 1.6 million people in Myanmar it said were affected by the storm.
After cyclone Nargis killed at least 138,000 people in Myanmar in 2008, the then-junta was accused of blocking emergency aid and initially refusing to grant access to humanitarian workers and supplies, worsening the hardship of more than 2 million people.
State-owned media reported last month that aid offers from the international community had been accepted.
“Relief and rehabilitation tasks must be done through existing united strength,” said the Global New Light of Myanmar.
Rakhine state is home to around 600,000 Rohingya, who are regarded by many there as interlopers from Bangladesh, and are denied citizenship and freedom of movement.
Most of the 148 people who died during the storm are from the minority, according to the junta.