Red Cross head makes first-ever visit to Myanmar

The head of the International Committee of the Red Cross arrived in Myanmar on Sunday to meet with President Thein Sein and other officials, the first-ever visit to the nation by an ICRC president.

"Myanmar's government has signalled its readiness to discuss a number of humanitarian issues with us," Peter Maurer said in an ICRC statement.

"This is a significant step forward in our dialogue and in strengthening our relationship with the Myanmar authorities."

Myanmar has seen a string of reforms in recent months. Maurer said that over the past year, there had been "positive developments on various issues where the ICRC's expertise could benefit the people of Myanmar."

Maurer plans to visit the western state of Rakhine, where the ICRC is carrying out aid work among people affected by communal violence.

His meeting with government officials will take place in the capital, Naypyidaw. Talks are expected to focus on the recent announcement by the government that it will allow ICRC staff to visit detention facilities, Maurer said.

Together with the Myanmar Red Cross Society, the ICRC has provided aid to wounded and displaced people since shortly after an outbreak of violence in Rakhine state.

The communal unrest in the state has clouded optimism over sweeping political changes since Myanmar's widely praised emergence from decades of army rule in early 2011.

The ICRC said it was also ready to provide aid to people in states such as Kachin and Kayin, also affected by conflict.

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