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Print Posted By Aaquib Jawaid on 11/03/2017

Canada's newly appointed special envoy to Myanmar lands in Bangladesh

Canada's newly appointed special envoy to Myanmar lands in Bangladesh

Canada’s new special envoy to Myanmar has arrived in the south of Bangladesh for a firsthand look at the conditions facing Rohingya Muslims fleeing violence in neighbouring Myanmar.

Bob Rae, the former Ontario premier and interim leader of the federal Liberal party, met with officials in the city of Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh on Friday to learn more about the refugee crisis.

CTV News’ Daniele Hamamdjian has been touring with the newly appointed envoy and told CTV News Channel that he spent much of the day in meetings where he was given information about the challenges facing Bangladesh as it tries to cope with the swelling refugee population.

Since violence erupted in Rohingya villages in Myanmar’s Rakhine state in late August, more than 600,000 Rohingya Muslims have sought safety in Bangladesh.

Myanmar’s security forces have conducted brutal raids on Rohingya villages in what they call “clearance operations” in retaliation for what they describe as attacks by Muslim insurgents. The United Nations has labelled the state-led violence as “ethnic cleansing.”

Rae will be visiting Bangladesh and Myanmar with a small team that includes Canada’s High Commissioner to Bangladesh Benoit Prefontaine to gain a better understanding of both sides of the conflict, Hamamdjian reported.

“He wants to get a full picture of the situation. He’s got a report he’s going to have to write and present to the prime minister and he’s got to have all the information,” she said.

The special envoy will have to tread carefully during his meetings with aid agencies and politicians in Bangladesh in case Myanmar officials are watching because he plans to there on Sunday, Hamamdjian said.

On Saturday, aid agencies will give Rae a tour of Balukhali, a refugee camp in Cox’s Bazar, where he’ll have the opportunity to speak with victims of rape and violence and witness the camp’s conditions.

Hamamdjian reported that approximately 60 per cent of the refugees who have arrived at the camp that Rae will visit are children. She described how many of the children at Balukhali appeared to her on Friday evening.

“The trauma is in their eyes and the grief is just so palpable because you ask them where their parents are and then they start to cry because many of them witnessed the deaths of their parents,” she said.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau appointed Rae as Canada’s special envoy to Myanmar on Oct. 23. He has been tasked with engaging in diplomacy to address the ongoing violence and advising the prime minister on how Canada should support aid efforts in the region. Rae’s mandate will last until January when he plans to release a report on his findings.

Rae’s appointment was announced along with a pledge by the federal government to provide an additional $12 million in humanitarian aid, which brings Canada’s total financial commitment to the crisis to $25 million.

Source: CTV News

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