By Shwe Aung
A British delegation led by Ambassador Andrew Heyn toured Arakan state’s capital Sittwe on 2 October where they met with political parties and civil society groups.
The delegation held talks with several political parties including the Rakhine [Arakan] Nationalities Development Party, the National League for Democracy and Arakanese civil society groups including the Wunlatt Rural Development Foundation.
WRDF’s director Thein Htun Aye said the delegation was on a fact-finding mission that aimed to help ease tension between the Buddhist Arakanese community and the Rohingya Muslim minority.
“He said the delegation was there to find out what kind of assistance they could provide in solving the problems between the Rakhine [Arakanese] and the [Rohingya] communities,” said Thein Htun Aye.
The WRDF allegedly told the ambassador that he was the first British diplomat to visit Arakan state since the former colonial power pulled out of Burma in 1948.
“We told them we are natives here – ethnic nationalities who own this land and that the other community are illegal immigrants from Bangladesh so it’s not reasonable to treat them equally,” said Thein Htun Aye.
Rohingyas are viewed as “illegal Bengali immigrants” by many Burmese and denied basic rights by the government.
The ambassador’s delegation was set to travel to Maungdaw, Butheedaung and Yathedaung townships in northern Arakan state where the communal violence began to break out in early June that displaced tens of thousands and left dozens dead, according to official reports.
In September, a delegation of senior US officials also took a two-day trip to Arakan state on a similar mission.