Suu Kyi to lead peace effort in Rakhine

YANGON • Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi will lead a new effort to bring peace and development to Rakhine state where violence between majority Buddhists and minority Muslims in recent years has cast a cloud over progress on democratic reforms.

More than 100 people were killed in violence in the western state in 2012, and some 125,000 Rohingya Muslims, who are stateless, took refuge in camps where their movements are severely restricted. Thousands have fled persecution and poverty in an exodus by boat to neighbouring South and South-east Asian countries.

Ms Suu Kyi, who holds the position of state counsellor, will lead a new Central Committee for Implementation of Peace and Development in Rakhine State, the president's office said in an online announcement on Tuesday.

The group will consist of 27 officials, including all Cabinet ministers.

The announcement gave only the names of those on the committee and offered no details on how the group would address the state's multitude of problems.

The border affairs minister and the state's chief minister, a member of Ms Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy party, will be committee vice-chairmen.

The state counsellor's office spokesman Zaw Htay said the group will make a research trip to the state soon but did not give a date or say whether Ms Suu Kyi would be in the delegation.

Ms Suu Kyi campaigned in the south of the state before last November's elections, but she avoided the state capital, Sittwe, and has never visited the camps for people displaced in the violence. Her reluctance to speak out against the Rohingya's plight has been sharply criticised by rights groups.

There is widespread hostility towards Rohingya Muslims in the Buddhist-majority country, including among some within Ms Suu Kyi's party and its supporters.

Last month, Ms Suu Kyi said the country needed "enough space" to deal with the issue and cautioned against the use of "emotive terms" that she said were making the situation more difficult.

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 02, 2016, with the headline 'Suu Kyi to lead peace effort in Rakhine'. Print Edition | Subscribe