In her first public address on the unfolding Rohingacrisis, Myanmar’s State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi acknowledged today that “hordes of refugees” have fled northern Rakhine. She condemned all violence, but stopped short of censuring the military crackdown, saying only that there have been many “allegations and counter-allegations”.
Largely recognized as Myanmar’s defacto leader, Suu Kyi began the address by underscoring the delicate nature of Burmese democracy and how little time her own party had been in power.
“After half a century or more of authoritarian rule, now we are in the process of nurturing our nation,” she said, adding that recent violence is just one of many complexities faced by Myanmar.We are a young and fragile country facing many problems, but we have to cope with them all,” she said. “We cannot just concentrate on the few,” she said, in insistingthat her country was not “afraid of international scrutiny.”
In her 30-minute televised address, Suu Kyi, spoke English and said the Myanmar government needed time to find out “what the real problems are” in Rakhine state, despite the fact that the UN, numerous rights groups and the Myanmar government itself have issued reports detailing the causes behind the inter-ethnic bloodshed.
Her sole reference to the Rohingya by name was a reference to the burgeoning ArakanRohingya Salvation Army (ARSA) militant group, which she claimed was “responsible for acts of terrorism.”
The address in English is interpreted as an attempt to convince the international audience rather than to her own people. She canceled a planned appearance at the United Nations General Assembly in New York this week.
Viewed by many outside Myanmaras a champion of human rights during her battle against military rule, Suu Kyi’s silence on the Rohingya crisis has disappointed many, including fellow Nobel Laureates outside Myanmar.
Her speech described by some as too little too late drew widespread criticism: Suu Kyi did not denounce alleged atrocities against the Rohingya community and claimed the government needed more time investigate the exodus from Myanmar of more than 400,000 members of the minority Muslim group.
Large crowds in Yangon, Myanmar’s largest city, who had gathered to watch live on large outdoor screens applause and cheers from large crowds
Amnesty International accused Suu Kyi and her government of “burying their heads in the sand over the horrors unfolding in Rakhine State.”
The Myanmar government does not use the term “Rohingya” and does not recognize the people as an official ethnicity, which means the Rohingya are denied citizenship and effectively rendered stateless.
“There has been a call for repatriation of refugees from Bangladesh. We are prepared to start the verification process at any time… those who are verified as refugees from this country will be accepted without a problem,”,” Aung San Suu Kyi said.
Besieged by international condemnation for the humanitarian emergency it has unleashed on Bangladesh, Myanmar announced days earlier,it will open seven new displacement camps in northern Rakhine as a remedial solution.
Villagers from TaungPyo Let Yar, in Rakhine’sMaungdawtownship, watched from a hill in Bangladesh as their homes were engulfed in flames on 13 September, according to Human Rights Watch.TaungPyo Let Yar has been identified as a IDP camp location.
The government’s planned IDP camps would see Rohingya return on top of the charred remains of their former villages. At least five of the seven new IDP camps would be located around former Rohingya hamlets that have recently been razed.
Myanmar’s planned displacement camps for Rohingya in violence-ridden Rakhine State, sparks fears that members of the Muslim minority not already driven out of the country will instead be forcibly interned.
More than 415,000 Rohingya – around two thirds of the ethnic minority’s estimated population in northern Rakhine State – have fled to Bangladesh this past month amid a military crackdown prompted by a Rohingya militant group’s coordinated attacks on 25 August. Refugee witnesses say security forces killed fleeing civilians before razing villages to the ground in what rights groups are calling a “scorched-earth campaign”. The UN has said it bears the hallmarks of “ethnic cleansing”.