Asia/South Asia
5 years ago

Rohingya crisis: Myanmar's Suu Kyi visits troubled Rakhine state

Myanmar's de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi. Photo: Reuters
Myanmar's de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi. Photo: Reuters

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Myanmar's de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi has arrived in Rakhine on her first visit to the violence-torn state.

Government officials say she is visiting the regional capital Sittwe and other towns during a one-day unannounced trip.

She has been criticised around the world for not stopping a military crackdown on Rohingya Muslims, amid allegations of ethnic cleansing.

About 600,000 Rohingya have fled to Bangladesh since late August.

The unrest in troubled Rakhine was sparked by deadly attacks on police stations across the state, blamed on a newly emerged militant group, the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (Arsa).

Scores of people were killed in the ensuing military crackdown, and there are widespread allegations of villages being burned and Rohingya being driven out.

Myanmar's military says its operations are aimed at rooting out militants, and has repeatedly denied targeting civilians. Witnesses, refugees and journalists have contested this.

On Thursday, government spokesman Zaw Htay told the AFP that Ms Suu Kyi was "now in Sittwe and will go to Maungdaw and Buthiduang too".

"It will be a day trip," he added.

It was not immediately clear whether Ms Suu Kyi would also visit any Rohingya villages.

A Reuters reporter saw Ms Suu Kyi board a military helicopter in Sittwe on Thursday morning local time, the news agency reports. She was accompanied by about 20 people.

In a major speech in September, she condemned rights abuses but did not blame the army or address allegations of ethnic cleansing.

The Rohingya, a stateless mostly Muslim minority in Buddhist-majority Rakhine, have long experienced persecution in Myanmar, which says they are illegal immigrants.

In September, Bangladesh announced it would limit the movement of the Rohingya, saying they must stay in fixed places allocated to them by the government and not travel elsewhere.

Bangladesh also said shelters would be built for up to 400,000 people near the city of Cox's Bazar.

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