Myanmar protesters try to block aid shipment to Muslim Rohingya

Rohingya refugees wait for aid in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh. (Reuters)
Updated 21 September 2017
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Myanmar protesters try to block aid shipment to Muslim Rohingya

SITTWE, Myanmar: Hundreds of Buddhists in Myanmar tried to block a shipment of aid to Muslims in Rakine state where the UN has accused the military of ethnic cleansing, with a witness saying protesters threw petrol bombs before police dispersed them by firing into the air.
The shipment, being organized by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), was bound for the north of the state where insurgent attacks on August 25 sparked a military backlash.
The violence has sent more than 420,000 Rohingya Muslims fleeing to neighboring Bangladesh but many remain in Myanmar, hiding in fear of being caught up in more violence without food and other supplies, aid workers believe.
Several hundred people tried to stop a boat being loaded with about 50 tons of aid at a dock in the Rakhine State capital of Sittwe late on Wednesday, a government information office said on Thursday.
The protest was testament to rising communal animosity that threatens to complicate the delivery of vital supplies.
The protesters, some carrying sticks and metal bars, threw petrol bombs and about 200 police were forced to disperse them by shooting into the air, a witness said, adding that he saw some injured people. Eight people were detained, the government information office said in a release.
A spokeswoman for the ICRC was not immediately available for comment. Police in Sittwe were also not immediately available for comment.
Tension between majority Buddhists and Rohingya in Rakhine state has simmered for years but it has exploded in violence several times over the past few years, as old prejudices have surfaced with the end of decades of military rule.
The latest bout of bloodshed began in August when Rohingya insurgents attacked about 30 police posts and an army camp, killing about 12 people.
The government says more than 400 people, most of them insurgents have been killed since then.
Rights monitors and fleeing Rohingya say the army and Rakhine Buddhist vigilantes have mounted a campaign aimed at driving out the Muslim population and torching their villages.
Myanmar rejects the charge, saying its forces are tackling insurgents of the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army who it has accused of setting the fires and attacking civilians.
The violence and the exodus of refugees has brought International condemnation and raised questions about the commitment of government leader Aung San Suu Kyi to human rights, and prospects for Myanmar’s political and economic transition.
US President Donald Trump wants the United Nations Security Council to take “strong and swift action” to end the violence, US Vice President Mike Pence said on Wednesday, declaring the crisis a threat to the region and world.
Pence repeated a US call for the Myanmar military to end the violence and support diplomatic efforts for a long-term solution for the Rohingya, who are denied citizenship in a country where many Buddhists regard them as illegal immigrants.
It was the strongest US government response yet to the violence.
US Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Patrick Murphy is in Myanmar and was due to meet government officials and representatives of different communities in Sittwe, the capital of Rakhine state.
Suu Kyi addressed the nation about the crisis on Tuesday and condemned abuses and said all violators would be punished, adding that she was committed to the restoration of peace and the rule of law.
However, she did not address UN accusations of ethnic cleansing by the security forces, drawing a cool international response. The military is in charge of security.


India, Pakistan foreign ministers to hold rare meeting

Updated 51 min 10 sec ago
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India, Pakistan foreign ministers to hold rare meeting

NEW DELHI: The foreign ministers of arch-rivals India and Pakistan will hold a rare meeting on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly underway in New York, officials in New Delhi said Thursday.
The announcement comes after Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan wrote to his Indian counterpart Narendra Modi calling for a resumption of talks between the nuclear-armed foes.
High-level talks between India and Pakistan are rare. Indian media described the slated meeting as the first in nearly three years.
India has long accused Pakistan of arming rebel groups in Kashmir, a Himalayan territory divided between the two countries but claimed in full by both.
India also blames Pakistan for financing the deadly 2008 militant attacks in Mumbai.
A spokesman for India’s external affairs ministry said the New York tete-a-tete between Sushma Swaraj and Pakistan’s Shah Mehmood Qureshi did not represent a shift in New Delhi’s relations with Islamabad.
“This does not indicate any change in our policy on cross-border terrorism,” spokesman Raveesh Kumar told reporters in the Indian capital.
The announcement comes as the already-fraught relationship between the rivals hit fresh roadblocks this week.
The death of an Indian border guard Wednesday in Kashmir provoked outrage, with New Delhi accusing Pakistani forces of mutilating his corpse.
“It was a barbaric incident that defies logic and civilized behavior. We will take it up with Pakistan in an appropriate manner,” Kumar said.
Navjot Sidhu, an Indian cricketer-turned-politician, earlier came under fire after returning from Pakistan where he was filmed hugging the country’s army chief.