President Thein Sein has postponed his mid-July visit to Dhaka due to sectarian violence in the country’s western Arakan state, a Bangladesh foreign ministry official said today.
The president has asked for rescheduling the Bangladesh tour after the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, which begins in the third week of July, Foreign Secretary Mijarul Quayes told a press briefing.
“Myanmar’s president is not coming in mid-July. We are now working to fix a new date after Ramadan,” he said, adding the two nations would sign several agreements during the high profile visit.
Burma has said its president can’t travel abroad as a state of emergency has been in place in the Arakan state bordering Bangladesh, Quayes said, adding that Thein Sein was “personally” reviewing the situation in the region.
Arkan state bordering Bangladesh has been rocked by rioting, arson and a cycle of revenge attacks involving Buddhist Arakanese and Muslim Rohingya last month, prompting growing international concern.
More than 80 people have been killed in the violence, with sporadic outbreaks of violence still occurring, according to the government.
Burmese and Bangladeshi leaders were to discuss the issue of Rohingya refugees and related unrest near their border during the July 15-17 trip, Dhaka’s ambassador in Rangoon, Major General Anup Kumar Chakma told AFP last week.
“It is expected the Myanmar refugee issue will be discussed with more seriousness this time,” he said.
About 800,000 Rohingya live in Myanmar, according to the UN.
In recent weeks Bangladesh has turned away hundreds of Rohingyas fleeing the violence in Burma despite pressure from the United States and rights groups to grant them refuge.
The impoverished South Asian country is already home to a Rohingya refugee population estimated at 300,000.
Speaking a Bengali dialect similar to one in southeast Bangladesh, the Rohingya are seen as illegal immigrants by the government and many Burmese, prompting many to attempt to flee to third countries in rickety boats.