Turkey to Start First Foreign Aid Distribution in Myanmar Amid anti-Rohingya Violence

In response to crisis that Erdogan has labeled a 'genocide' of the Rohingya, Turkey will send 1,000 tons of food, clothes and medicine to the region

Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan talks to members of the media outside a mosque following prayers in Istanbul, September 1, 2017.
Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan talks to members of the media outside a mosque following prayers in Istanbul, September 1, 2017. STF/AP

Turkey said it will start the first foreign deliveries of aid on Wednesday to northwestern Myanmar, where hundreds of people have been killed and nearly 125,000 have fled over the border to Bangladesh in the last 10 days.

A spokesman for President Tayyip Erdogan, who has described the violence against Rohingya Muslims there as genocide, said the deliveries were approved after Erdogan spoke by phone with Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi on Tuesday.

Spokesman Ibrahim Kalin said 1,000 tons of food, clothes and medicine would be distributed by military helicopters.

A Rohingya refugee woman cries after crossing the Bangladesh-Myanmar border by boat through the Bay of Bengal in Teknaf, Bangladesh, September 5, 2017.
MOHAMMAD PONIR HOSSAIN/REUTERS

He said Myanmar had given approval for officials from Turkey’s state aid agency TIKA to enter the country and deliver the assistance, in coordination with local authorities in Rakhine state.

Suu Kyi has faced increasing pressure from countries with Muslim populations to halt the violence against Rohingya Muslims which has prompted their flight to Bangladesh.

Reuters reporters saw hundreds more exhausted Rohingya arriving on boats near the Bangladeshi border village of Shamlapur on Tuesday, suggesting the exodus was far from over.

Erdogan told Suu Kyi that the violence against the Rohingya was violation of human rights and that the Muslim world was deeply concerned, Turkish presidential sources said.

Indonesian foreign minister Retno Marsudi, in Dhaka to discuss aid for the fleeing Rohingya, met her Bangladeshi counterpart, Abul Hassan Mahmood Ali, a day after urging Suu Kyi and Myanmar army chief Min Aung Hlaing to halt the bloodshed.

The latest violence in Myanmar’s northwestern Rakhine state began on August 25, when Rohingya insurgents attacked dozens of police posts and an army base. The ensuing clashes and a military counter-offensive have killed hundreds.

Erdogan, with his roots in political Islam, has long strived to take a position of leadership among the world’s Muslim community. On Friday, he said it was Turkey’s moral responsibility to take a stand over the events in Myanmar.

Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu will travel to Bangladesh on Wednesday evening and hold meetings on Thursday, Turkish sources said.