Malaysian aid ship for Rohingya Muslims arrives in Bangladesh

AFP , Tuesday 14 Feb 2017

A Malaysian ship carrying aid for thousands of Rohingya Muslims who have fled a bloody army crackdown in Myanmar docked in Bangladesh Tuesday, days after it met with protests in Yangon.

Senior Bangladeshi officials and Malaysian diplomats gathered at Chittagong port as Nautical Aliya docked in the southern city, from where its aid cargo will be transported to Rohingya camps.

The shipment was received by local officials of the Red Crescent and International Organisation of Migration at the port's container terminal in a brief handover ceremony.

Trucks will carry the 1,472 tonnes of food, clothing and medical items to Cox's Bazar, some 200 kilometres (125 miles) south of Chittagong for distribution to tens of thousands of Rohingya refugees.

Bangladesh has allowed 25 Malaysian volunteers out of 183 people who came with the aid ship to travel with the cargo to the Rohingya camps in the southern district of Cox's Bazar, the district's chief administrator Ali Hossain told AFP.

Abdul Aziz Mohd Abdur Rahim, a representative of Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak and a member of parliament who travelled with the ship, called for a "long-standing solution" to the Rohingya crisis as he handed over the aid cargo.

"Thirty million Malaysians are with you (Rohingya)," Rahim said.

There was, however, no representative of the Rohingya community or any of the elders at the port.

"We hope our humanitarian efforts will pave the way to resolve the Rohingya issue and awaken the international community," Malaysian volunteer Azmi, who uses one name, told AFP.

The ship initially planned to dock at Teknaf in southern Bangladesh, where almost 70,000 Rohingya have fled from Myanmar's Rakhine state since October to escape the violence.

It also tried to dock near the island of Kutubdia on Monday, but "technical issues" forced it to travel further north to Chittagong, chief administrator of the region Ruhul Amin told AFP.

Dozens of Buddhist monks and nationalist demonstrators last week protested the ship's arrival in Myanmar's capital, Yangon, with some waving national flags and signs reading: "No Rohingya".

Myanmar denies citizenship to the million-strong Rohingya, despite many of them living on its soil for generations.

Tens of thousands have fled to neighbouring Bangladesh bringing harrowing tales of murder and rape.

Myanmar's treatment of the Rohingya has sparked international criticism, including from Muslim-majority Malaysia -- a rare spat between the Southeast Asian neighbours.

Myanmar initially refused to allow the ship into its waters and has barred it from sailing to Rakhine's state capital Sittwe.

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