Myanmar not trying to hide anything, probing violence in Rakhine State: Suu Kyi

Myanmar's State Counsellor and Foreign Minister Aung San Suu Kyi speaks during a forum in Tokyo on Nov 4, 2016.
Myanmar's State Counsellor and Foreign Minister Aung San Suu Kyi speaks during a forum in Tokyo on Nov 4, 2016.PHOTO: EPA

TOKYO (REUTERS) - Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi said on Friday (Nov 4) investigations were underway into the situation in Rakhine State, where many members of a Muslim minority live and where human rights workers say conflict has led to abuse of civilians by the military.

Ms Suu Kyi, speaking on a visit to Tokyo, told a news conference the government was trying to get to the root of the matter, and would not accuse anyone until the investigation was complete. Any action would be taken in accordance with due legal process, she added. "We have not tried to hide anything on Rakhine," she said.

Nobel Peace Prize winner Ms Suu Kyi is in Japan on a five-day visit to court investment and aid, as an upsurge in violence against the persecuted Muslim minority Rohingya at home poses the worst crisis of her six months in power.

Ms Suu Kyi had not directly commented on calls from human rights experts urging the government to investigate the allegations of abuse, or on statements from human rights monitors, although she has urged the military to act with restraint.

She has faced mounting criticism abroad for her government's handling of the crisis in Rakhine State, where soldiers are accused of raping and killing civilians and where aid workers were refused access until the government on Thursday (Nov 3) agreed to allow such work to resume.

The violence is the most serious to hit the state on Myanmar's western border with Bangladesh since hundreds of people were killed in communal clashes in 2012.

Tension between Myanmar's ethnic minorities and the majority Burman-dominated central government has prompted many groups to take up arms to fight for greater autonomy since shortly after the country's independence in 1948.

Earlier, Ms Suu Kyi told Japanese business executives that Myanmar needed peace to carry out sustainable development.

"We are still not at peace, there is still armed conflict between various ethnic groups in our country," Ms Suu Kyi she said. "We must have peace in order that our development may be stable and sustainable."

She added: "We want all our ethnic peoples to feel that they have an equal chance to progress, that it is truly a nation made up of diverse peoples but united in our purpose to be a society that is at harmony."

The Rakhine military operation has sharpened the tension between Ms Suu Kyi's six-month-old civilian administration and the army, which ruled the country for decades and retains key powers, including control of ministries responsible for security.

Myanmar's army-drafted Constitution puts the military firmly in control of security matters, but nevertheless, diplomats and aid workers say privately they are dismayed at Ms Suu Kyi's lack of deeper involvement in the handling of the crisis.