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Ship carrying aid for Rohingya met by protesters in Myanmar

Aid workers and activists set sail from Malaysia last week with rice, medicines, clothing

YANGON Anti-Rohingya protesters gathered at a Myanmar port yesterday to meet a Malaysian ship carrying aid for thousands of refugees from the Muslim minority fleeing a bloody military crackdown.

Dozens of Buddhist monks and demonstrators waving national flags and signs reading "No Rohingya" congregated at the Thilawa port.

Hundreds of Rohingya are thought to have been killed in a campaign by security forces that the United Nations says may amount to ethnic cleansing.

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

"We want to let them know that we have no Rohingya here," a Buddhist monk named Thuseitta, from the Yangon chapter of the Patriotic Myanmar Monks Union, told AFP.

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

Buddhist nationalist groups are especially strong in their vitriol, portraying them as illegal immigrants from Bangladesh.

Myanmar's treatment of the Rohingya has sparked criticism from Malaysia.

The Nautical Aliya set off from Malaysia last week with 2,200 tonnes of rice, medical aid, clothing, and hundreds of health workers and activists.

Part of the aid will be unloaded in Yangon and transported over land to the north of Rakhine state, site of the crackdown.

The rest will be taken to Teknaf port in southern Bangladesh, where almost 70,000 Rohingya have fled since October.

Myanmar initially refused to allow the ship into its waters and has barred it from sailing to Rakhine's state capital Sittwe. It also demanded that the aid be distributed to both Rohingya and Buddhist ethnic Rakhines.

The delivery comes days after a 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 escapees in Bangladesh, investigators said the military's "calculated policy of terror" likely amounted to ethnic cleansing.

For months Myanmar has dismissed similar testimony gathered by foreign media and rights groups as "fake news" and curtailed access to the region.- AFP

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