Envoys plan Rakhine visit

Poverty grips much of Rakhine State. Source: Flickr

Senior US, Chinese, British and other EU diplomats are due to visit the north of Myanmar’s unstable Rakhine State, which has been out-of-bounds to aid workers and journalists for more than three weeks.

Meanwhile, State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi has arrived in Japan as she looks to refresh the relationship.

UN representatives in Myanmar and the envoys will set off for Maungdaw on Wednesday, Reuters reported.

Troops have flooded Maungdaw Township since militants alleged to be Rohingya Muslims launched attacks on police border posts on October 9, killing nine officers. The government’s reports cannot be independently verified. The authorities claimed five soldiers and at least 33 supposed attackers had been killed, amid allegations by the Muslim population and NGOs that the military was carrying out summary executions and mass rapes.

The government denies the claims while claiming to be taking steps to boost development.

Reuters said the visits were in response to requests for access to the Rohingya-majority area, which has been deemed a military “operation zone”.

The delegation is due to visit Maungdaw by helicopter although there are doubts that the envoys will be able to achieve much.

The UN has called for Nay Pyi Taw to investigate allegations of human rights abuses and to allow aid, including World Food Programme assistance and mobile clinics, to operate again.

Meanwhile, Suu Kyi is in Japan where she has old friendships from her time in the mid-1980s as a researcher at Kyoto University.

But the former prisoner of the junta, who called for sanctions to be imposed on the generals, at the time criticised Japan’s “business-as-usual” and its reluctance to impose sanctions.

Since she won last November’s election, Japan’s envoys and business leaders have tried to persuade her to meet visiting dignitaries, and Japanese media complains of being cold-shouldered, writes Asia Nikkei.

During her last visit in 2013 she created some embarrassment for her hosts by highlighting the limited gender equality in Japanese society. During a lecture at Kyoto University, she criticised the comparatively low number of females MPs in Japan’s parliament, saying it was even lower than the small proportion of women among Myanmar’s 664 parliamentarians. “I have to say, gender discrimination is not as great as it is in this country,” she said.

Her visit to Japan is part of her effort to build her “non-aligned” foreign policy, which seeks to balance the interests of China with its relations with the US and Asean.