Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu left Wednesday to observe the situation in Myanmar, from where he said Turkey was receiving “conflicting information” regarding deadly religious violence.
“The administration (in Myanmar) says the deaths are around a hundred... but the Muslim leaders in Rakhine, with whom we have been in contact, say the deaths reach thousands,” Davutoglu told reporters in Ankara before his departure.
Davutoglu is taking along medical supplies and donations collected by Turkey’s Red Crescent to deliver to “probably more than 50,000 Muslims and 20,000 Buddhists” who have been displaced from their homes by the conflict.
Family members to raise awareness
To raise awareness of the plight of Muslims in Myanmar, Turkey’s Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan, his wife and daughter will accompany Davutoglu, a newspaper reported.
The Hurriyet Daily News said Erdogan’s wife, Emine Erdogan, and daughter, Sumeyye Erdogan, will accompany Davutoglu to Myanmar, in addition to Davutoglu’s wife Sare Davutoglu.
Myanmar generally allows humanitarian aid only through U.N. organizations.
But Indonesian Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa said Myanmar is considering a proposal to allow the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) secretary-general to assess the events surrounding the Rohingya Muslim ethnic group in Rakhine.
Some countries, including the U.S., have brought supplies to the region, but most of the aid is being held outside the country awaiting permission from Myanmar’s government to deliver it, Hurriyet Daily said.
Fighting in western Rakhine state between Buddhist Rakhine and Muslim Rohingya has killed 80 people since June, with three killed on Sunday, a government official in Yangon said.
The violence initially broke out following the rape and murder of a Rakhine woman and the subsequent lynching of 10 Muslims by a crowd of angry Buddhists.
The bloodshed has cast a shadow over widely praised reforms by President Thein Sein, that have included the release of hundreds of political prisoners and the election of opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi to parliament.
New York-based Human Rights Watch has accused Myanmar forces of opening fire on Rohingya, as well as committing rape and standing by as rival mobs attacked each other.
Myanmar’s government considers the estimated 800,000 Rohingya in the country to be foreigners, while many citizens see them as illegal immigrants from neighboring Bangladesh and view them with hostility.
Decades of discrimination have left them stateless and they are viewed by the United Nations as one of the world's most persecuted minorities.