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Myanmar Buddhist mob attacks aid shipment for Rohingya

YANGON: Police in western Myanmar fired warning shots after a Buddhist mob tried to block humanitarian aid headed to an area where ethnic Rohingya Muslims were driven from their homes, police said Thursday. No injuries were reported and police arrested eight participants.
Around 300 men started throwing rocks and Molotov cocktails at officers protecting a truck delivering supplies from the International Committee of the Red Cross to a jetty in the Rakhine state capital, Sittwe, said police officer Phyo Wai Kyaw.
The bottled water, blankets, mosquito nets, food and other supplies were being delivered by boat to northern Rakhine, where members of the long-persecuted Rohingya community have been without any meaningful form of humanitarian assistance since violence broke out last month, sending an estimated 421,000 fleeing to neighbouring Bangladesh.
The exodus followed a military crackdown in response to coordinated attacks by Rohingya militants on security forces. Hundreds of thousands of Rohingya Muslims and Buddhist Rakhine are still in the area.
Though Myanmar’s leader Aung San Suu Kyi assured diplomats earlier this week that humanitarian assistance was being delivered to those in need, the government has blocked United Nations aid agencies that have worked in the area in the past.
Buddhists in Rakhine have accused international aid groups of favouring Rohingya.
“We are explaining to the community members who approached the boats about the activities of the Red Cross,” said Maria Cecilia Goin, a communications officer at the ICRC Yangon.
“It’s important for them to understand that we are working in neutral and impartial way,” she said, adding that the work is being done “with full transparency with the Myanmar authorities.”
The protest was testament to rising communal animosity that threatens to complicate the delivery of vital supplies, and came as US President Donald Trump called for a quick end to the violence that has raised concern about Myanmar’s transition from military rule.
The aid shipment, being organised by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), was bound for the north of the state where insurgent attacks on Aug 25 sparked a military backlash.
The violence has sent more than 420,000 Rohingya Muslims fleeing to neighbouring Bangladesh but many remain in Myanmar, hiding in fear of being caught up in more violence without food and other supplies, aid workers believe.
Tension between majority Buddhists and Rohingya in Rakhine state has simmered for decades but it has exploded in violence several times over the past few years, as old prejudices have surfaced with the end of decades of military rule.
The latest bout of bloodshed began in August when Rohingya insurgents attacked about 30 police posts and an army camp, killing about 12 people.
The government says more than 400 people, most of them insurgents have been killed since then.
Rights monitors and fleeing Rohingya say the army and Rakhine Buddhist vigilantes have mounted a campaign aimed at driving out the Muslim population and torching their villages.
Myanmar rejects the charge, saying its forces are tackling insurgents of the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army who it has accused of setting the fires and attacking civilians.
The violence and the exodus of refugees has brought International condemnation and raised questions about the commitment of government leader Aung San Suu Kyi to human rights, and prospects for Myanmar’s political and economic development.
Ms Suu Kyi addressed the nation about the crisis on Tuesday and condemned abuses and said all violators would be punished, adding that she was committed to peace and the rule of law.
However, she did not address UN accusations of ethnic cleansing by the military, which is in charge of security.
US President Donald Trump wanted the UN Security Council to take “strong and swift action” to end the violence, US Vice President Mike Pence said on Wednesday, declaring the crisis a threat to the region and world.
Pence repeated a US call for the military to end the violence and support diplomatic efforts for a long-term solution for the Rohingya, who are denied citizenship in a country where many Buddhists regard them as illegal immigrants.
It was the strongest US government response yet to the violence.
US Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Patrick Murphy is in Myanmar and was due to meet government officials and representatives of different communities in Sittwe, the capital of Rakhine state.
Military chief Senior General Min Aung Hlaing on Wednesday visited an army camp in the state that was attacked on Aug 25.
“This was a British colony over 100 years ago, we are facing the consequences of their reckless acts until now,” he was quoted as saying in a military release.
This week, Britain suspended a training programme for Myanmar officers because of the violence and called on the army to stop the violence.
The Myanmar military said five officers in Britain were being brought home and “no trainees .. will be sent to Britain any more”.
Source : https://m.bangkokpost.com

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