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Malaysian Aid Ship for Rohingya Docks in Myanmar

Malaysian aid ship for Rohingya Nautical Aliya arrives in Yangon.Malaysian aid ship for Rohingya Nautical Aliya arrives in Yangon.

A Malaysian ship carrying 2,300 tons of aid for tens of thousands of persecuted Rohingya Muslims arrived in Yangon where it was met by Buddhist protesters.

Health workers and activists crowded onto the deck of the Nautical Aliya as it docked at Thilawa Port near Myanmar’s commercial capital on Thursday carrying food, medical aid and clothing.

Organizers of the aid shipment said they trust the Myanmar government to deliver the supplies as promised despite its record of discrimination.

“We have to respect Myanmar’s sovereignty,” said Razali Ramli, from the 1Putera Club Malaysia, which helped organize the shipment along with a coalition of non-government organizations.

Myanmar’s social welfare minister was among a delegation meeting the ship, which has been at the center of a rare diplomatic spat with fellow ASEAN member Malaysia.

Outside the docking area, dozens of Buddhist monks and demonstrators waved 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.

Hundreds of Rohingya have reportedly been killed in a brutal campaign launched by security forces in October, which the United Nations says may amount to ethnic cleansing.

The violence started after a series of attacks by armed men on border posts killed nine policemen. 

Tens of thousands of Rohingya have fled to neighboring Bangladesh, bringing harrowing tales of murder and sexual assault.

Myanmar’s treatment of the Rohingya has sparked criticism from Muslim-majority Malaysia in a rare spat between the Southeast Asian neighbors.

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

Aljazeera’s Yaara Bou Melhem, reporting from Yangon, said the aid will be unloaded and distributed by the government from there.

“There’s no clear indication the aid will reach the Rohingya, because the area has been in lockdown since the renewed fighting began in October,” Melhem said.

The delivery comes days after a blistering report from the UN accused Myanmar’s security forces of carrying out a campaign of rape, torture, and mass killings against the Rohingya.

Based on interviews with hundreds of escapees in Bangladesh, investigators said the military’s “calculated policy of terror” likely amounted to ethnic cleansing.

For months, Myanmar has dismissed similar testimonies gathered by foreign media and rights groups as “fake news” and curtailed access to the region.

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