YANGON (Reuters) – Organizers of a summit in Myanmar’s crisis-hit western state of Rakhine are this week pitching to investors its plentiful farmland and fishing grounds, tourist-ready beaches and historic temples.
The event’s website describes the “untouched opportunities” available in the strategically located region, close to large markets in India and Bangladesh. But a session at the fair will also be devoted to how to invest responsibly in the state, from which an estimated 730,000 minority Rohingya Muslims fled an army offensive in 2017.
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A U.N. fact-finding mission last year said the military campaign, which refugees say included mass killings and rape, was orchestrated with “genocidal intent”. Myanmar denies the charge and says its offensive was a legitimate response to an insurgent threat and that it is welcoming the refugees back.
Myanmar hopes the Rakhine State Investment Fair – the first of its kind – will bring money into the impoverished region. Civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi, who in the past has said economic development is the key to addressing the state’s long-standing religious and ethnic tensions, is scheduled to deliver the keynote speech on Friday.
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Suu Kyi’s spokesman did not answer calls seeking comment.
Nobel laureate Suu Kyi last month pledged to make Myanmar more investment-friendly as she opened a separate investment summit in the capital, Naypyitaw.
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But her government remains under pressure over the 2017 exodus of refugees to Bangladesh, and the plight of hundreds of thousands more Muslims still living in camps and villages inside Rakhine, where their movements and access to healthcare and education remain restricted. A separate conflict with Rakhine rebels that escalated in December has seen aid agencies blocked from reaching many areas.
“It’s quite extraordinary that this investment fair is on, even though large chunks of central Rakhine are now off limits to prying eyes,” said Laetitia van den...
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