Former United Nations secretary-general Kofi Annan was met by hundreds of jeering protesters when he arrived in Myanmar's western Rakhine state Tuesday to begin a fact-finding mission into the bitter ethnic and religious strife that has triggered a humanitarian crisis.
The protesters gathered at the airport in Sittwe, the capital of Rakhine, and expressed anger over what they perceive as foreign meddling into their internal affairs - a dig at the Ghanaian-born veteran diplomat, who was appointed by Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi to head a special advisory commission charged with finding solutions on ending the crisis that began in 2012, when fighting broke out between majority Buddhist nationalists and minority Rohingya Muslims.
More than 100 people were killed, while as many as 120,000 Rohingyas are currently languishing in squalid displaced persons camps, where their movements are severely restricted.
The former U.N. chief will meet with Muslim leaders during his two-day trip to the region, and visit one of the displacement camps. The region's largest political group, the Arakan National Party, opposes the commission and has refused to hold talks with Annan.
The nine-member panel, made up of six Myanmar citizens and three foreigners, is expected to publish a report within a year of its formation. It does not include a Muslim minority representative.
The plight of Myanmar's one million strong Rohingya Muslims - who are considered illegal immigrants from Bangladesh and are therefore denied citizenship and basic rights - has led some activists to express doubts about Nobel Peace laureate Aung San Suu Kyi's commitment to human rights as she leads the country's first democratically-elected government after more than five decades of military rule.
The new government has requested that U.S. diplomats refrain from using the term Rohingya, and instead refer to the group as Bengalis.