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Todays Date
18 December 2017

Myanmar protesters try to block aid shipment to Muslim Rohingya

Buddhist protesters in Myanmar threw petrol bombs to try to block a shipment of aid to Muslims in Rakhine state, where the United Nations has accused the military of ethnic cleansing before police fired in the air to disperse them.

Hundreds of protesters were involved in the attempt to stop Red Cross workers loading a boat with relief supplies.

The incident late on Wednesday reflected rising communal animosity and came as US President Donald Trump called for a quick end to the violence that has raised concern about Myanmar’s transition from military rule.

The aid shipment was bound for the north of the Rakhine State where insurgent attacks on Aug. 25 sparked a military backlash.

The violence has sent more than 420,000 Rohingya Muslims fleeing to neighbouring Bangladesh but many remain in Myanmar, hiding in fear and without food and other supplies, aid workers say.

Several hundred people tried to stop a boat being loaded with about 50 tonnes of aid at a dock in the Rakhine State capital of Sittwe, a government information office said.

“People thought the aid was only for the Bengalis,” the secretary of the state government, Tin Maung Swe, told Reuters, using a term that Rohingya find offensive.

 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 and the government information office said.

The witness said he saw some injured people. Eight people were detained, the information office said. None of the aid workers were hurt, a spokeswoman for the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said.

The spokeswoman, Maria Cecilia Goin, said the crowd had approached the boat to ask Red Cross workers what they were doing.

“All emergency support done by the organisation and in the movement is done in a neutral and impartial manner,” she said, citing what the workers had told the crowd before authorities intervened.

The tension between majority Buddhists and Rohingya, most of whom are denied citizenship, has simmered for decades in Rakhine, but it has exploded in violence several times over the past few years, as old enmities 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.

Myanmar’s government says more than 400 people, most of them insurgents have been killed since then.

Rights monitors and fleeing Rohingya say the army and 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.

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