Myanmar protesters throw petrol bombs at Red Cross

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Buddhists try to block shipment of aid to Rohingya Muslims

SITTWE, MYANMAR: Buddhist protesters in Myanmar threw petrol bombs to try to block a shipment of aid to Muslims in Rakhine State, where the United Nations has accused the military of ethnic cleansing, before police fired in the air to disperse them.

Hundreds of protesters were involved in the attempt to stop Red Cross workers loading a boat with relief supplies.

The incident late on Wednesday reflected rising communal animosity. The aid shipment was bound for the north of the Rakhine State.

The violence has sent more than 421,000 Rohingya Muslims fleeing to neighbouring Bangladesh but many remain in Myanmar, hiding in fear without food and other supplies, aid workers said.

Several hundred people tried to stop a boat being loaded with about 50 tonnes of aid at a dock in the Rakhine capital of Sittwe, a government information office said.

Protesters, some carrying sticks and metal bars, threw petrol bombs, and about 200 police were forced to disperse them by shooting into the air, a witness and the government information office said.

The witness said he saw some injured people. Eight people were detained, the information office said. None of the aid workers were hurt, a spokesman for the International Committee of the Red Cross said.

Ms Maria Cecilia Goin said the crowd had approached the boat to ask Red Cross workers what they were doing.

"All emergency support done by the organisation and in the movement is done in a neutral and impartial manner," she said, citing what the workers had told the crowd before the authorities intervened.

Tension between majority Buddhists and the Rohingya, most of whom are denied citizenship, has simmered for decades in Rakhine.

The latest bout of bloodshed began last month when Rohingya insurgents attacked about 30 police posts and an army camp, killing about 12 people.

Myanmar said more than 400 people, most of them insurgents have been killed since then.

The crisis has drawn international condemnation and raised questions about the commitment of Myanmar's de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi to human rights, and about prospects for Myanmar's political and economic development.

US President Donald Trump wants the UN Security Council to take "strong and swift action" to end the violence, US Vice-President Mike Pence said on Wednesday, declaring the conflict a threat to the region and world.

Mr Pence also repeated a US call for the military to end the violence and support efforts for a long-term solution for the Rohingya.

US Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for South-east Asia Patrick Murphy is in Myanmar and was due to meet government officials and representatives of different communities in Sittwe. - REUTERS

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