GENEVA, May 24 (AFP) - The United Nations on Wednesday (May 24) called for Myanmar to open up and ensure life-saving aid can get to parts of the country hit by deadly Cyclone Mocha.
UN rights chief Volker Turk urged the country's military rulers to let needs assessments go ahead as the Southeast Asian nation reels from the cyclone's impact.
Mocha brought lashing rain and winds of 195km per hour to Myanmar and neighbouring Bangladesh on May 14, collapsing buildings and turning streets into rivers.
"The damage and loss of life was both foreseeable and avoidable - and is clearly linked with the systematic denial of human rights," Turk told a press conference in Geneva.
"It is imperative that the military lift the blockages on travel, allow for needs assessments to happen, and ensure access to and delivery of life-saving aid and services."
Myanmar's junta has given a death toll of 148 people, mostly from the persecuted Rohingya minority in western Rakhine state.
"For decades, the authorities in Myanmar have deprived the Rohingya of their rights and freedoms and relentlessly attacked other ethnic groups, eroding their capacity to survive," Turk said.
Rakhine is home to hundreds of thousands of Rohingya, many of whom live in displacement camps following decades of ethnic conflict.
"Displaced communities have subsisted in temporary bamboo structures, some since 2012, with Myanmar's military repeatedly denying requests of humanitarian agencies to build more sustainable living conditions in areas less prone to flooding," said Turk.
"I saw this myself on my many trips to Myanmar, especially to the east. They have also consistently prevented the Rohingya from moving freely, including in the days before the cyclone."
On Tuesday, the UN launched an appeal for US$333 million in emergency funding for 1.6 million people it said were affected by Cyclone Mocha in Myanmar.