Malaysia ship carrying Rohingya aid departs for Myanmar

Kuala Lumpur (AFP) - A Malaysian ship carrying food, clothes and medical supplies departed for Myanmar on Friday which Prime Minster Najib Razak said would be used to ease the suffering of the Muslim Rohingya.

A fourth-month military crackdown on Rohingya in the western state of Rakhine has galvanised the Muslim world, particularly Malaysia, and Najib has previously accused Myanmar's leaders of permitting "genocide".

"We hear their sufferings and pain... those who have been raped, murdered and burned alive," Najib said at Port Klang, west of the capital Kuala Lumpur.

Around 700 people gathered to witness the departure of Nautical Aliya which was carrying about 2,200 tonnes of rice, medical aid, clothes and other essentials, as well as 238 activists and medical personnel.

It will travel to Yangon where authorities have agreed to take some of the supplies and distribute them to Rohingya living in Rakhine, said Wan Nordin, one of the coordinators onboard the ship.

The rest of the shipment, which has been sponsored by a coalition of aid groups based mainly in Malaysia, will be taken to Teknaf port in Bangladesh to support Rohingya refugees there, Wan said.

The bloody crackdown on Rohingya, which the United Nations said Friday had likely killed hundreds of people, has tarnished the image of the government of Aung San Suu Kyi, which took power in March.

Since October Myanmar's army has carried out "clearance operations" in the north of Rakhine to root out insurgents accused of deadly raids on police border posts.

At least 66,000 Rohingya have fled to neighbouring Bangladesh, alleging rape, murder and torture at the hands of security forces.

Suu Kyi's government has said the allegations are invented and has resisted mounting international pressure to protect the minority.

Myanmar has long faced criticism over its treatment of the Rohingya who are considered by many in the Buddhist-majority country to be illegal immigrants from Bangladesh.