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June 26, 2017

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Troubled Myanmar state invites aid groups to return

YANGON, Myanmar--Authorities in Myanmar's Rakhine state have said international aid organizations are welcome to return to the area they left in April after Buddhist mobs disrupted their work helping displaced Rohingya Muslims.

They also specifically invited back the humanitarian agency Doctors Without Borders, which had been kicked out in February after it publicized casualties suffered by Rohingyas, allegedly at the hands of a Buddhist mob.

A state government announcement in Thursday's New Light of Myanmar newspaper said the invitation followed a meeting in June between officials and aid agencies and other interested parties to discuss a peace and development plan.

Most aid agencies had left the area voluntarily at the end of March for the safety of their staffs after mobs of Buddhist extremists rampaged through their offices, warehouses and residences. But Doctors Without Borders — also known by its French initials MSF — was expelled, with the government accusing it of bias and lacking transparency in its work.

International aid agencies had been the main lifeline for more than 140,000 Rohingya Muslims who have been living in dirty, crowded camps after their villages were destroyed by mobs. Up to 280 people have also been killed, most of them Rohingya, after sectarian violence that began in 2012.

The agencies also provide food, water and medical care to 700,000 other vulnerable people in the state, both Rohingya and Rakhine Buddhists.

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