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Malaysian 'food flotilla' for Rohingya next month

A girl sells food at the internally displaced persons camp for Rohingya people outside Sittwe in the state of Rakhine, Myanmar November 15, 2016. (Photo: Reuters)

December 28, 2016

PETALING JAYA -- A "food flotilla" will depart from Malaysia for the restive Rakhine state in Myanmar next month.

The flotilla is expected to deliver almost 200 tonnes of rice, medical aid and other essential supplies to the state that fronts the Bay of Bengal and which Myanmar troops have had control of since Oct 9, when armed men raided police posts, killing nine officers.

Violence in the past weeks against the Rohingya Muslims has resulted in at least 86 people being killed. More than 34,000 Rohingya have since fled to Bangladesh, taking with them allegations of mass-killings, rape and torture by Myanmar security forces. The Myanmar government has vigorously denied the accusations.

Malaysia, which hosts some 55,000 Rohingya displaced by previous unrest, has called the plight of Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar a regional concern and urged Asean to coordinate humanitarian aid and investigate alleged atrocities committed against them.

The Malaysian flotilla is expected to leave Port Klang on Jan 10 and return about two weeks later.

The flotilla is organised by the Malaysian Consultative Council of Islam Organisations (Mapim), Kelab Putra 1Malaysia and a coalition of non-governmental organisations (NGOs) from the region.

Mapim secretary-general Zulhanis Zainol said there are three scenarios the flotilla could face - allowed to land and hand over the supplies, told to turn back in Myanmar waters, or be attacked by Myanmar security forces. He said the main aim was to support the Rohingya communities in Maung- daw and Buthidaung towns.

"Access to the affected areas is completely blocked. This resembles Gaza as victims are squeezed between military attacks and closure of the border to a neighbouring country. As a result, all access is completely blocked and humanitarian agencies are not allowed to enter," said Mr Zulhanis.

He estimated there would be 200 participants for the flotilla, including NGO members, media practitioners, a medical team, former ministers, politicians, religious leaders, volunteers and the crew.

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