Tue, Oct 03, 2017 - Page 6 News List

Myanmar takes foreign envoys to Rakhine state

REPATRIATION:Myanmar has proposed taking back hundreds of thousands of Rohingya, a Bangladeshi official said, but gave no details about the plan

AP, YANGON, Myanmar, and AFP, DHAKA

Burmese authorities yesterday took foreign diplomats and UN representatives on a tour of conflict-torn northern Rakhine state, where a security crackdown has led to an exodus of more than 500,000 Rohingya Muslims.

Three groups of diplomats were taken to three different areas, said Ye Htut, district administrator of Maungdaw in Rakhine.

He did not provide details on the diplomats’ nationalities.

Myanmar has come under international criticism for barring aid groups, journalists and other outsiders from independently traveling to the region to see the situation there. A previous guided visit for diplomats scheduled for last week was abruptly canceled.

More than half a million Rohingya refugees have fled from the region to Bangladesh in just more than a month, the largest refugee crisis to hit Asia in decades. The current exodus is in addition to hundreds of thousands of Rohingya refugees who fled prior violence in Myanmar, where Rohingya have faced decades of persecution and discrimination in the Buddhist-majority nation.

The latest violence began when a Rohingya insurgent group on Aug. 25 launched deadly attacks on security posts, prompting the Burmese army to launch “clearance operations” to root out the rebels. Those fleeing have described indiscriminate attacks by security forces and Buddhist mobs. The government has blamed the Rohingya, saying they set fire to their own homes, but the UN and others accuse it of ethnic cleansing.

Local officials in Rakhine yesterday said the tour included meetings with relatives of victims allegedly killed by militants during the violence against Hindu, Mro and Daignets minority communities in Maungdaw township.

Yesterday morning, the diplomats were taken to Anaut Pyin village of Rathedaung township, a community of Rohingya Muslims who have not fled, local police officer Moe Zaw said.

In related news, a senior Burmese minister yesterday proposed taking back the hundreds of thousands of Rohingya who have fled across the border after a military crackdown, Bangladesh said, but gave no details of how the huge task could be achieved.

Bangladeshi Foreign Minister A.H Mahmood Ali held talks in Dhaka with a representative of Burmese State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi and said the two countries had agreed to set up a working group to coordinate the repatriation of the Rohingya.

“The talks were held in a friendly atmosphere and Myanmar has made a proposal to take back the Rohingya refugees,” the minister told reporters after meeting Burmese Minister of the Office of State Counselor Kyaw Tint Swe.

“The two sides have agreed to a proposal to set up a joint working group to coordinate the repatriation process,” he added.

He gave no timeframe for repatriation and did not say whether Myanmar would also take back the 300,000 Rohingya refugees who fled to Bangladesh during earlier violence.

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