Nobel peace laureate Aung San Suu Kyi has come under pressure from countries with large Muslim populations including Bangladesh, Indonesia and Pakistan to halt violence against Rohingya Muslims after nearly 125,000 of them fled to Bangladesh.
Indonesian foreign minister RetnoMarsudiis in the Bangladeshi capital, Dhaka, today, following a meeting Suu Kyi and army chief Min Aung Hlaing to urge that Myanmar halt the bloodshed.
“The security authorities need to immediately stop all forms of violence there and provide humanitarian assistance and development aid for the short and long term,” Retno said after her meetings in the Myanmar capital.
Eight months ago, fellow Nobel Laureates including Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Malala Yousafzai, Jose Ramos-Horta, former president of East Timor, Yemeni opposition activist Tawakul Karman and other activists said in an Open Letter to the UN Security Council that “despite repeated appeals to Daw Aung San Suu Kyi we are frustrated that she has not taken any initiative to ensure full and equal citizenship rights of the Rohingyas. Daw Suu Kyi is the leader and is the one with the primary responsibility to lead, and lead with courage, humanity and compassion.”
The Open Letter warned that the army offensive had killed hundreds of people, including children, and left women raped, houses burned and many civilians arbitrarily arrested.
“Access for humanitarian aid organisations has been almost completely denied, creating an appalling humanitarian crisis in an area already extremely poor. Some international experts have warned of the potential for genocide. It has all the hallmarks of recent past tragedies – Rwanda, Darfur, Bosnia, Kosovo. If we fail to take action, people may starve to death if they are not killed with bullets,”the letter reads
The latest violence in Myanmar’s northwestern Rakhine state began on August 25 2017, when Rohingya insurgents attacked dozens of police posts and an army base. The ensuing clashes and a military counter-offensive have killed at least 400 people and triggered the exodus of villagers to Bangladesh.
The treatment of Buddhist-majority Myanmar’s roughly 1.1 million Muslim Rohingya is the biggest challenge facing Suu Kyi, who has been accused by Western critics of not speaking out for the minority that has long complained of persecution.
Myanmar says its security forces are fighting a legitimate campaign against “terrorists” responsible for a string of attacks on police posts and the army since last October. And, blamed Rohingya militants for the burning of homes and civilian deaths.
Rights monitors and Rohingya fleeing to neighboring Bangladesh say the Myanmar army is trying to force them out with a campaign of arson and killings.
The latest estimate of the numbers who have crossed the border into Bangladesh since Aug. 25, based on calculations by U.N. workers in the south Asian country, is 123,600.
That takes to about 210,000 the number of Rohingya who have sought refuge in Bangladesh since October 2016.
“One camp, Kutapalong, has reached full capacity,” said Vivian Tan, the regional spokeswoman for the United Nations refugee agency, UNHCR.
The Rohingya are a minority of about a million people who, despite living in the country for generations, are treated as illegal immigrants and denied citizenship. They have been persecuted for years by the government and nationalist Buddhists.
Aung San Suu Kyi, who spent much of the past two decades under house arrest and was awarded the 1991 Nobel peace prize. She is foreign minister and state counsellor, as the law bars her from the presidency, which she won in November 2015. Her close aide, HtinKyaw is president though she is widely considered the country’s de facto leader.
Sources: Reuters/Guardian UK