In her first address to the nation since the start of the Rohingya crisis, Burma's de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi appealed to the international community on Tuesday for support in a situation the UN has decried as "ethnic cleansing".
Suu Kyi said that Myanmar, also known as Burma, did not fear international scrutiny and was committed to a sustainable solution to a conflict that has seen more than 410,000 Rohingya Muslims flee into Bangladesh.
She said she felt deeply for the suffering of everyone caught up in the violence, adding that her government has been making every effort to restore peace and stability and to promote harmony between the Muslim and Buddhist Rakhine communities.
The United Nations has branded the military operation in troubled western Rakhine state a "textbook example of ethnic cleansing". Suu Kyi did not address that accusation but said her government condemned rights violations and anyone responsible for abuses would face the law.
"We condemn all human rights violations and unlawful violence. We are committed to the restoration of peace and stability and rule of law throughout the state," Suu Kyi said in her address in the capital, Naypyitaw.
'Suu Kyi did not defend, nor condemn the army'
Long feted in the West for her role as champion of Burma's democratic opposition in the Buddhist-majority country during years of military rule and house arrest, Suu Kyi has faced growing criticism for saying little about the abuses faced by the Rohingya.
"Human rights violations and all other acts that impair stability and harmony and undermine the rule of law will be addressed in accordance with strict laws and justice," she said.
"We feel deeply for the suffering of all the people caught up in the conflict," Suu Kyi said.
Western diplomats and aid officials attending the address welcomed Suu Kyi's message, though some doubted if she had said enough to end the barrage of global criticism Myanmar has faced.
Human rights groups were dismissive. Amnesty International said Suu Kyi and her government were "burying their heads in the sand" for ignoring the role of the army in the violence.
Tin Maung Swe, secretary of the Rakhine state government, said the situation was "ready to explode".
He praised Suu Kyi for her "transparency" but said he was not optimistic about her pledge to promote harmony between Muslims and the largely Buddhist ethnic Rakhine communities in the state.
"The situation is ready to explode. It just needs a single spark," he said.
'No clearance operations'
Myanmar's powerful military remains in full charge of security and Suu Kyi did not comment on the military operations except to say that since September 5, there had been "no armed clashes and there have been no clearance operations".
"Nevertheless, we are concerned to hear that numbers of Muslims are fleeing across the border to Bangladesh," she said.
"We want to find out why this exodus is happening. We would like to talk to those who have fled as well as those who have stayed. I think it is very little known a great majority of Muslims in the Rakhine state have not joined the exodus."
'Rohingya refugees don't want to return to Burma'
Suu Kyi, 72, is banned from the presidency by the military-drafted constitution because her children have British citizenship. She holds offices of the state counsellor and minister for foreign affairs, and is the de facto leader of the administration.
In her address, Suu Kyi did not use the term “Rohingya” to refer to the Muslim minority in Rakhine State.
Members of the 1.1 million group, who identify themselves by the term Rohingya, are seen by many Myanmar Buddhists as illegal immigrants from Bangladesh. The term is a divisive issue.
Most Rohingya do not have Myanmar citizenship.
Video: The Rohingya children separated from their parents
(FRANCE 24 with REUTERS)
Date created : 2017-09-19