The Irrawaddy

Bad Weather Postpones Diplomatic Trip to Maungdaw

Diplomats in conversation in front of Yangon International Airport on Thursday morning. (Photo: Moe Myint / The Irrawaddy)

YANGON – A government-sponsored day trip for international diplomats to Rakhine State’s Maungdaw Township was postponed due to bad weather on Thursday.

Myanmar’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs organized for 48 diplomats—including the US and British ambassadors to Myanmar—and international and local journalists to learn about the recent discovery of Hindu corpses and visit five other locations in Maungdaw but the trip has now been postponed until Monday.

Dozens of diplomats arrived at Yangon International Airport at about 5 a.m on Thursday and waited almost three hours in the VIP lounge.

Deputy Director General of the International Organization and Economic Department U Min Thein asked foreign envoys whether they wanted to travel later on Thursday when the weather improves or postpone until another day.

Most diplomats called for the visit to be rescheduled for Monday. US Ambassador to Myanmar Scot Marciel told The Irrawaddy the decision was reached by international diplomats due to the bad weather.

U Min Thein said: “This is not our decision. We have explained the possible options to [the diplomats] and asked whether they want to wait until the weather is fine today or to postpone. They requested us to be scheduled next Monday.”

The trip is a significant step by the government after the State Counselor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi gave a diplomatic briefing on Sept. 19 amid accusations of human rights violations against self-identifying Rohingya Muslims during Myanmar Army clearance operations in retaliation to deadly attacks by the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA).

According to the UN, more than 480,000 Muslims have fled to Bangladesh and are currently sheltering in refugee camps and host communities.

The State Counselor, however, claimed that more than 50 percent of villages remained intact and invited the diplomatic community to learn more about the situation on the ground.

Human Rights Watch, using satellite images, said said about 217 of more than 400 self-identifying Rohingya villages in the north of Rakhine State had been torched.

“We can arrange for you to visit these areas, and to ask [remaining villagers] for yourself, why they have not fled, why they have chosen to remain in their villages, even at a time when everything around them seems to be in a state of turmoil,” Daw Aung San Suu Kyi said in her address on Sept. 19.

The Myanmar and Bangladesh authorities are discussing the repatriation of refugees in line with the 1993 agreement on Maungdaw Muslims who sought refuge in Bangladesh.

According to Implementation Committee for the Recommendations on Rakhine State, the government has approved spending around 2 billion kyats for the repatriation process.