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Leeds United announce Myanmar tour despite FCO travel warnings

Leeds have made a controversial decision to tour Myanmar Credit: PA

Leeds United have announced a two-game tour of Myanmar, despite a Foreign Office advisory against all but essential travel to parts of the country, and criticisms levelled at the southeast Asian nation's government.

The Championship side's post-season tour will take in two friendly matches, one against Myanmar's national team and another against the Myanmar National League All-Stars.

But the decision has been met with a mixed reaction.

Not only are parts of the country wracked by violence, but the government has been accused of ethnic cleansing in Rakhine State.

There police and local militias launched a violent campaign against Rohingya Muslims in August last year.

Thousands have been killed while thousands more have fled to neighbouring Bangladesh.

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It has also been pointed out that the tour's sponsor, AYA Bank, has links to the country's former military regime, which has been accused of human rights abuses.

Responding to the club's tour announcement, Amnesty International UK's director Kate Allen described Myanmar as an "odd choice".

She 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 [Myanmar] authorities the plight of the hundreds of thousands of families who have been brutalised and forced to flee their homes."

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Myanmar has long been a popular tourist destination, but the Foreign Office recommends against all but essential travel to certain parts of the country, including Rakhine State.

The Leeds United matches, however, are to be played in the cities of Yangon and Mandalay, neither of which fall under the FCO's travel advisory.

Indeed, Myanmar's own Ministry of Hotels, Tourism and Sport includes both cities in its list of approved destinations.

Thousands of Rohingya have been forced to flee their homes Credit: AP

Angus Kinnear, the club's managing director, said the team were "delighted" to be able to support football in Myanmar, and hoped to win over some new fans.

"This tour gives us an opportunity to meet new fans of football who will hopefully support our journey back to the Premier League in the coming years," he said.

As well as its matches on the 9th and 11th May, Leeds United will run football clinics alongside the Myanmar Football Federation Academies for local communities, the club said.