Amnesty International questions Leeds United's Myanmar tour plan

Leeds United's tour to Myanmar next month has been questioned by Amnesty International because of the country's "brutal" human rights record.

The Championship club are planning a preseason tour despite Foreign Office travel warnings being in place for parts of the south-east Asian country.

"It certainly seems like an odd choice of country to choose to tour," Amnesty International UK director Kate Allen said.

"The last year has seen the human rights situation in Myanmar deteriorate dramatically.

"Hundreds of thousands of Rohingya Muslims have fled crimes against humanity in Rakhine State to neighbouring Bangladesh; those who remain continue to live under a system amounting to apartheid.

"The Myanmar authorities have continued the brutal crackdown despite a global outcry. Far too often, sporting events have been used as a cheap PR tool to 'sportswash' the stain of a country's human rights record."

About 700,000 Rohingya have fled Buddhist-majority Myanmar. Many have had their villages burned down, and the United Nations has reported claims of widespread sexual assault by national security forces.

The UN has described the country's treatment of Rohingya Muslims as ethnic cleansing.

Leeds are scheduled to play an All-Star XI in Yangon on May 9 and Myanmar's national team in Mandalay on May 11. Both cities fall outside areas which the Foreign Office has advised should be avoided.

Leeds have said players will take part in coaching clinics for children, organised by the Myanmar soccer federation whose chairman, Zaw Zaw, is also chairman of the bank sponsoring the visit.

"We're not going to tell Leeds United where they should and shouldn't visit," Allen added.

"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 brutalised and forced to flee their homes."

A Leeds spokesman told Press Association Sport the club was liaising with the Foreign Office and would avoid any areas of conflict. Further advice and travel details for Leeds supporters will be released.

Two companies owned by Leeds chairman Andrea Radrizzani, Aser and Eleven Sports, have business partnerships in the region and there are expected to be commercial benefits from the tour.

Information from the Associated Press was used in this report.