British team Leeds United FC is under fire after announcing late last month plans to tour Myanmar despite the mounting allegations of human rights abuses and “ethnic cleansing” in the country.
The club revealed its two final post-season games would be in the Myanmar cities of Yangon and Mandalay. The tour will be sponsored by a bank that has been linked to the government and, consequently, the hundreds of thousands human rights abuses reported by refugee Rohingya Muslims.
The backlash was almost immediate, with Britain’s Rohingya community damning the statement as “disgraceful”.
“Leeds United FC is going to play football on the grounds soaked in the blood of innocent Rohingya children, women and older people,” an organisation representing the community said in a statement.
In an interview with the Yorkshire Post, Labour MP and Leeds fan John Mann said: “They should be sorting out new signings rather than flying to conflict zones and assisting a brutal regime.”
Amnesty International agreed, with Amnesty’s British director Kate Allen stating: “Far too often sporting events have been used as a cheap PR tool to ‘sports wash’ the stain of a country’s human rights record.”
Allen said: “We’re not going to tell Leeds United where they should and shouldn’t visit. But, if the tour does go ahead, the club should use its leverage to call for an end to the crackdown and raise with the Burmese authorities the plight of the hundreds of thousands of families who have been brutalized and forced to flee their homes.”
More than 647,000 Rohingya refugees had fled Myanmar in a matter of months, Inter-Sector Coordination Group reported on December 12.
[Abridged from TeleSUR English.]