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)

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