Myanmar says US official barred from conflict zone
YANGON: Myanmar said on Friday a visiting US official would not be allowed to go to a region where violence has triggered an exodus of nearly 400,000 Rohingya Muslims that the UN has branded a “textbook example of ethnic cleansing.”
The Rohingya have fled from western Rakhine state to 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.
US Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Patrick Murphy will voice Washington’s concerns about the Rohingya and press for greater access to the conflict area for humanitarian workers, the State Department said.
Myanmar officials said he would meet government leaders in the capital, Naypyitaw, and attend an address 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 Aug. 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 on Friday it was not barring aid workers but a government spokesman said authorities on the ground might have concerns over security.
A Reuters photographer on the Bangladesh side of the border said he could see huge banks of dark smoke billowing up over Myanmar territory on Friday, while international aid organizations said the refugees kept coming.
“There’s really no sign that this flow of people is going to dry up,” Chris Lom of the International Organization for Migration, said from the Bangladeshi border district of Cox’s Bazar.
“There are still, we believe, thousands of people waiting to take boats across to Cox’s Bazar.”
Protesters stage a rally on Friday in the Pakistani city of Peshawar to condemn ongoing violence against the Rohingya minority in Myanmar. (AP)