China calls for understanding over Rohingya issue

Rohingya Muslim refugees sheltering in cement pipes at Kutupalong refugee camp in the Bangladeshi district of Ukhia yesterday. Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi on Tuesday condemned rights abuses in Rakhine state, where conflict that began last month h
Rohingya Muslim refugees sheltering in cement pipes at Kutupalong refugee camp in the Bangladeshi district of Ukhia yesterday. Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi on Tuesday condemned rights abuses in Rakhine state, where conflict that began last month has forced 421,000 Rohingya Muslims to seek refuge in Bangladesh, and said violators would be punished.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE
Rohingya Muslim refugees sheltering in cement pipes at Kutupalong refugee camp in the Bangladeshi district of Ukhia yesterday. Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi on Tuesday condemned rights abuses in Rakhine state, where conflict that began last month h
SHOW UNDERSTANDING: "There should be understanding of Myanmar's moves to protect social stability; "violent incidents" are unacceptable." - CHINESE FOREIGN MINISTER WANG YI
FOCUS ON MILITARY'S ACTIONS: "We have never criticised the military itself, but only its actions. We may disagree on these types of actions.'' - MYANMAR LEADER AUNG SAN SUU KYI
FOCUS ON MILITARY'S ACTIONS: "We have never criticised the military itself, but only its actions. We may disagree on these types of actions.'' - MYANMAR LEADER AUNG SAN SUU KYI
Rohingya Muslim refugees sheltering in cement pipes at Kutupalong refugee camp in the Bangladeshi district of Ukhia yesterday. Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi on Tuesday condemned rights abuses in Rakhine state, where conflict that began last month h
DO THE RIGHT THING: "The authorities in Myanmar must end the military operations, allow unhindered humanitarian access and recognise the right of refugees to return in safety and dignity.'' - UN CHIEF ANTONIO GUTERRES

Suu Kyi, meanwhile, denies being soft on the military and says her goal is national reconciliation

BEIJING • Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi told his Indonesian counterpart there should be understanding of the Myanmar government's efforts to protect social stability and that "violent incidents" in Rakhine state are unacceptable, while Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi has rejected a suggestion that she is soft on the military.

Mr Wang made the comments on Tuesday when he met his Indonesian counterpart Retno Marsudi on the sidelines of a United Nations meeting, state news agency Xinhua said yesterday.

Earlier, Mr Wang told UN chief Antonio Guterres in New York that China supports the Myanmar government's efforts to protect national security, and opposes recent attacks mounted by insurgents in the strife-torn region in Rakhine.

Meanwhile, Ms Suu Kyi has rejected a suggestion that she is soft on her country's military, which the UN has accused of ethnic cleansing.

She said her relationship with the generals was normal and her objective was national reconciliation.

Ms Suu Kyi on Tuesday condemned rights abuses in Rakhine state, where conflict that began last month has forced 421,000 Rohingya Muslims to seek refuge in Bangladesh, and said violators would be punished.

But in her first address to the Buddhist-majority nation on the crisis, she did not address UN accusations of ethnic cleansing by the security forces, drawing cool international responses.

"We've never changed our stand," Ms Suu Kyi said in an interview with Radio Free Asia, when asked if she had softened her stance on the military, which she challenged for years in her campaign for democracy.

"Our goal has been national reconciliation from the very beginning. We have never criticised the military itself, but only its actions. We may disagree on these types of actions," she said.

"We'll continue to bring changes within the Parliament. I've stood firm with the military before, and still do now."

As in her speech on Tuesday, she did not refer to the accusations that the military is engaged in ethnic cleansing.

Mr Guterres had on Tuesday told the UN General Assembly: "The authorities in Myanmar must end the military operations, allow unhindered humanitarian access and recognise the right of refugees to return in safety and dignity; and they must also address the grievances of the Rohingya, whose status has been left unresolved for far too long."

A European Union spokesman said Ms Suu Kyi's invitation to the diplomatic corps to visit Rakhine was "a step forward", but added: "Myanmar's leadership needs to show that the democracy it fought so hard for can work for all the people of Myanmar, beyond ethnic, social and religious boundaries."

Western diplomats and aid officials, hoping for an unequivocal condemnation of violence and hate speech, had welcomed the tone of the Nobel Peace laureate's message on Tuesday, but some doubted if she had done enough to deflect global criticism.

Long feted in the West as a champion of democracy in her country during years of military rule and house arrest, Ms Suu Kyi has faced growing criticism for saying little about the abuses faced by the Rohingya.

Ms Suu Kyi is the daughter of Myanmar's independence leader Aung San who founded the army.

In a phone call to Ms Suu Kyi, United States Secretary of State Rex Tillerson welcomed the Myanmar government's commitment to allow the return of refugees.

But he urged it to facilitate humanitarian aid to those affected by the violence and to address "deeply troubling" human rights abuse allegations, the US State Department said.

Britain said that it had suspended its military training programme in Myanmar, and French President Emmanuel Macron condemned "unacceptable ethnic cleaning".

Meanwhile, Bangladesh's army was ordered yesterday to take a bigger role in helping the Rohingya in its country, amid warnings it could take six months to register the new refugees.

Troops would be deployed immediately in Cox's Bazar near the border where the Rohingya Muslims have arrived since Aug 25, said Mr Obaidul Quader, a senior minister and deputy head of the ruling Awami League party.

Soldiers would help build shelters and toilets for the thousands of refugees still sleeping in the open under pounding monsoon rains, and assist with distributing relief, a chaotic process that has seen stampedes as donors hurled food and other staples from trucks.

REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 21, 2017, with the headline 'China calls for understanding over Rohingya issue'. Print Edition | Subscribe