Official barred from conflict zone
YANGON Myanmar says a visiting United States official will not be allowed to go to a region where violence has triggered an exodus of nearly 400,000 Rohingya Muslims that the United Nations has branded a ‘‘textbook example of ethnic cleansing’’.
The Rohingya have fled from western Rakhine state to neighbouring Bangladesh to escape a military offensive that has raised questions about Myanmar’s transition to civilian rule under the leadership of Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi.
During his visit to Myanmar, US Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Patrick Murphy would voice Washington’s concerns about the Rohingya and press for greater access to the conflict area for humanitarian workers, the US State Department said.
Myanmar officials said yesterday Murphy would meet government leaders in the capital, Naypyitaw, and attend an address GETTY IMAGES to the nation by Suu Kyi on Tuesday.
He would also visit Sittwe, the state capital, and meet the governor of Rakhine, the state government secretary, Tin Maung Swe, said, but the north of the state, where the conflict erupted on August 25, would be off limits.
‘‘Not allowed,’’ Tin Maung Swe said when asked if Murphy would be going to Maungdaw district, at the heart of the strife that began when Rohingya insurgents attacked police posts and an army camp, killing a dozen people.
While nearly 400,000 refugees have poured across the border into Bangladesh, fears have also been growing of a humanitarian crisis on the Myanmar side, but access for aid workers and reporters has been severely restricted.
Myanmar insisted yesterday it was not barring aid workers but a government spokesman said authorities might have concerns over security.
Rights monitors and fleeing Rohingya say the army and Rakhine Buddhist vigilantes have mounted a campaign of arson aimed at driving out the Muslim population. Reuters
Desperate Rohingya refugees reach for handouts of clothing and food at an aid centre in Tankhali, Bangladesh.