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Wednesday, September 13, 2017, 16:07
Official: Myanmar's Suu Kyi cancels trip to UN general assembly
By Xinhua & Agencies
Wednesday, September 13, 2017, 16:07 By Xinhua & Agencies

In this Aug 11, 2017 file photo, Myanmar's State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi delivers an opening speech during the Forum on Myanmar Democratic Transition in Naypyitaw, Myanmar. An official of the President Office said on Sept 13, 2017 that Suu Kyi has canceled plans to attend the UN General Assembly. (AUNG SHINE OO / AP)

YANGON/KUTUPALONG CAMP, Bangladesh – Myanmar State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi has cancelled her planned attendance and speech at the 72nd United Nations General Assembly (UNGA), according to U Zaw Htay, director-general of the President's Office.

Instead, Vice President U Henry Van Thio is expected to attend the assembly and speak on behalf of Myanmar on Sept 20, added Zaw Htay.

We will all have to ramp up our response massively, from food to shelter. 

George William Okoth-Obbo, Assistant High Commissioner for Operations, UNHCR

Suu Kyi attended and delivered speech at the last 71st UNGA in September 2016 for the first time.

UN SEEKS ‘MASSIVE’ AID BOOST FOR ROHINGYA REFUGEES

Aid agencies have to step up operations "massively" in response to the arrival in Bangladesh of about 400,000 refugees fleeing violence in Myanmar, and the amount of money needed to help them has risen sharply, a senior UN official said on Wednesday. 

The exodus of Muslim Rohingya to Bangladesh began on Aug 25 when Rohingya insurgents attacked police posts, prompting Myanmar's military to retaliate with what it called "clearance operations" to root out the rebels.

"We will all have to ramp up our response massively, from food to shelter," George William Okoth-Obbo, assistant high commissioner for operations at the UN refugee agency, told Reuters during a visit to the Kutupalong refugee camp in Bangladesh. 

READ MORE: Bangladesh slams Myanmar as PM tours Rohingya camp

The UN said on Tuesday 370,000 people had crossed into Bangladesh but Okoth-Obbo estimated the figure was now 400,000. He declined to speculate on how many more might come. 

Bangladesh was already home to about 400,000 Rohingya, who fled earlier conflict in Myanmar including a similar security crackdown in western Myanmar's Rakhine state in response to militant attacks in October. 

Many of the new arrivals are hungry and sick, without shelter or clean water in the middle of the rainy season. 

"We have an emergency within an emergency with conditions in existing camps," he said, pointing to a mud-clogged road in the camp. 

Rohingya scuffle to get aid material from local volunteers at Kutupalong, Bangladesh, Sept 8, 2017. (BERNAT ARMANGUE / AP)

Last week, the United Nations appealed for US$77 million to cope with the crisis but Okoth-Obbo said that would not now be enough. 

"The appeal that was issued of US$77 million on behalf of the aid agencies was based on the situation as it was roughly about two weeks ago," he said. 

"There were only 100,000 people then. We are already four times that figure now. The funds need clearly is going to continue." 

He declined to say how much he thought was needed. 

ALSO READ: Desperation spreads in Rohingya camps as food stocks dwindle

He also declined to say if he thought aid agencies were getting proper access to the conflict zone in Myanmar, though he said it was important to ensure that people were safe where they were. 

"Of course, also that access is provided to all the responders to provide humanitarian assistance," he added. 

Okoth-Obbo said he agreed with the Bangladeshi position that the most important solution was for the refugees to be able to return home in safety. 

Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina said on Tuesday the refugees would all have to go home and Myanmar should set up safe zones to enable them to do so. 

"Under difficult circumstances this country has kept its borders open," Okoth-Obbo said of Bangladesh. "All of us should support that and ensure that the response is strong."

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