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Myanmar Politicians Dodge 'Assassination' in Malaysia

February 7, 2014

Two Myanmar politicians from a western state riven by deadly communal violence narrowly escaped a suspected assassination bid during a visit to Malaysia this week, a report said Friday.

Malaysia's state-run Bernama news agency quoted police as saying the pair, Aye Maung and Aye Thar Aung, were fired upon by a shooter aboard a motorcycle in a busy shopping area of the capital Kuala Lumpur late Wednesday night.

Several shots were fired at a car carrying them and several companions, but no one was injured, said the report.

The two politicians are from the Arakan National Party, which represents the mostly Buddhist Rakhine, the largest ethnic group in Myanmar's western Rakhine state.

The state has been torn by several episodes of violence since 2012 between Buddhists and Muslims that left scores dead and displaced 140,000 people -- many from the stateless Rohingya Muslim minority. The situation remains tense.

Thousands of Rohingya have fled to Muslim-majority Malaysia and other countries over the years to escape what they call persecution by Myanmar's Buddhist-dominated government.

The shooter and an accomplice driving the bike escaped, said the report, adding the incident was "suspected to have been an assassination attempt".

Police have launched an investigation, it said.

Exiled Rohingya in Malaysia have staged a number of angry protests in recent years alleging Buddhist aggression in their homeland, particularly since the 2012 violence.

Aye Maung, a member of parliament, is former chairman of an earlier Rakhine party that has been accused by Human Rights Watch of encouraging violence against Rohingya.

He is also a member of a commission set up by Myanmar's government to investigate the Rakhine sectarian violence. Its findings have been criticized by Rohingya activists as biased.

Malaysian police confirmed to Agence France Presse that the visitors were shot at, but declined to give details.

Zaw Htay, director of Myanmar President Thein Sein's office, said in a posting on his Facebook page that the politicians were among a group of six people who arrived in Malaysia on January 30 on a private visit.

They returned to Yangon today.

Mohammad Sadek, a leader of Rohingya living in Malaysia, said he did not think Rohingya exiles were behind the attack.

"There was no attack from the Rohingya. We're still trying to live in peace and harmony," he said.

The United Nations has registered more than 32,000 Rohingya as refugees in Malaysia, but many more are believed to be in the country.

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