YANGON – A Malaysian ship carrying more than 2,000 tons of aid supplies for the Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar’s troubled Rakhine State arrived in Yangon on Thursday.
The Nautical Aliya docked at Thilawa port at the city’s outskirts after weeks of preparations and negotiations between the two governments.
Meanwhile, dozens of nationalists, including some Buddhists monks, protested for hours outside the gate of the port, holding placards saying “NO ROHINGYA” and “we do not allow the word Rohingya.”
The government of predominantly Buddhist Myanmar does not regard the persecuted Rohingya minority as one of the country’s 135 official ethnic groups, instead considering them illegal migrants from Bangladesh and denying them citizenship.
Government officials led by Social Welfare, Relief and Resettlement Win Myat Aye and Malaysian Deputy Foreign Minister Reezal Merican Naina Merican welcomed the ship and participated in a symbolic official handover ceremony for the supplies, of which 398 tons were offloaded to be forwarded by the Myanmar government to communities in Rakhine.
The ship will next sail to Bangladesh, where tens of thousands of Rohingya who fled the violence in Rakhine are currently being sheltered, to offload the remainder of the supplies.
Reezal Merican thanked the Myanmar government for allowing entry of the aid, the total amount of which he said includes more than 300 tons of rice, 10,000 packs of hygiene kits, 50,000 packets of instant noodles, and 10,000 bottles of mineral water valued at some $1.13 million.
He said the aid is from nongovernmental organizations and Islamic groups in Malaysia, as well as donors from Indonesia, China, France, the United States, Germany, Sweden, Cambodia Thailand and Bangladesh.
Myanmar earlier rejected the Malaysian organizations’ proposal to deliver the aid directly to a port in Rakhine, but it later agreed to let their ship dock in Yangon.
Its arrival came a day after the government said it takes allegations of human rights abuses against Rohingya in northern Rakhine seriously and vowed to investigate them and take action against the perpetrators.
“The government will spare no effort to take legal action against any perpetrators if there is clear evidence of human rights abuses,” the Foreign Ministry said in a statement.
It was reacting to a damning report issued last week by the U.N. Office of the High Commission for Human Rights that said attacks committed by Myanmar security forces against Rohingya in Rakhine appear to have been “widespread as well as systematic” and indicate “the possible commission of crimes against humanity.”
It also said the forcible displacement as a consequence of violence “has been described in other contexts as ethnic cleansing.”
The Foreign Ministry said the security forces “have been instructed to act within the parameters of rule of law in compliance with human rights refraining from use or excessive force.”