Foreign envoys visit Myanmar's strife-torn Rakhine

A delegation of foreign diplomats board a Myanmar Air Force helicopter at Sittwe airport for a mission to Rakhine State on Nov 2, 2016.
A delegation of foreign diplomats board a Myanmar Air Force helicopter at Sittwe airport for a mission to Rakhine State on Nov 2, 2016.PHOTO: AFP

YANGON • Foreign diplomats visited flashpoint areas of Myanmar's strife-torn Rakhine state yesterday, the authorities said, as pressure mounts on the government of the majority-Buddhist country to address accusations of rights abuses in a region that is home to the Muslim Rohingya minority.

The military has heavily restricted access to the state's north-western strip, which abuts Bangladesh, since surprise raids on border posts left nine policemen dead on Oct 9.

The hunt for the culprits, whom the government says are radicalised Rohingya Muslims, has seen more than 30 people killed, dozens arrested and 15,000 flee their homes in fear.

The government has denied allegations that security forces have raped villagers, looted towns and torched homes belonging to the Rohingya and is keen to show that its operations to flush out the attackers were proportionate.

The ambassadors of China, the United States and the United Kingdom were among diplomats and United Nations officials who arrived in the area yesterday morning, Myanmar's Ministry of Information said on its website.

They were joined by a high-level Myanmar government delegation "to study villages in Maungdaw district... from Nov 2 to 3", the ministry added.

The surge in violence, in a state that has seen repeated rounds of religious unrest since 2012, has renewed international pressure on Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi to tackle the conflict and probe allegations of army abuse.

Those reports are difficult to verify, with the army barring journalists from some areas of the region. The violence has also raised a question mark over the extent of Ms Suu Kyi's leverage over an army that dominated the country for decades until her pro-democracy party was swept to power in elections a year ago.

The status of the one million- strong Rohingya has become a touchstone for Buddhist nationalists in Myanmar.

Many insist the group hails from Bangladesh and are in Myanmar illegally, despite their long roots in the country.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 03, 2016, with the headline 'Foreign envoys visit Myanmar's strife-torn Rakhine'. Print Edition | Subscribe