Hate narratives from abroad driving Myanmar communities apart: Suu Kyi

Ms Aung San Suu Kyi said patience and time are needed to restore trust between the communities.
Ms Aung San Suu Kyi said patience and time are needed to restore trust between the communities.

YANGON • "Hate narratives" from abroad have driven communities in Myanmar further apart, said the South-east Asian nation's leader Aung San Suu Kyi, according to a social media statement yesterday.

Patience and time are required to restore trust between the communities, Ms Suu Kyi told Ms Christine Schraner Burgener, the United Nations special envoy on Myanmar, on Wednesday, according to the statement on the Nobel Peace laureate's Facebook page.

Since last August, nearly 700,000 Rohingya Muslims from mainly Buddhist Myanmar's northern Rakhine state have fled to Bangladesh following a military response to Rohingya insurgent attacks, the UN and aid agencies have said. Many have reported killings, rape and arson on a large scale.

The UN has called the campaign a textbook example of "ethnic cleansing", a charge Myanmar denies.

"The state counsellor also pointed out that the hate narratives from outside the country have driven the two communities further apart," the Facebook statement paraphrased Ms Suu Kyi as saying, without identifying the communities.

Ms Suu Kyi also stressed the need for a forward-looking approach to resolve the issue, it added.

Mr Zaw Htay, a spokesman for the government, did not immediately respond to Reuters' requests to clarify what narratives Ms Suu Kyi was referring to.

In Facebook and Twitter posts since last August, Ms Suu Kyi's government has shown support for non-Muslims displaced by the violence and blamed the international community for distributing "fake news" about alleged rights abuses.

The Rohingya in Myanmar are denied citizenship, freedom of movement and access to services such as healthcare and education.

This month, Myanmar and UN agencies signed an outline deal on the return of Rohingya refugees - in a warming of ties after they hit a low point last year when the government suggested that some agencies provided food to Rohingya militants.

Ahead of the peak monsoon season expected next month, international aid agencies and the Bangladeshi authorities are struggling to protect hundreds of thousands of Rohingya refugees against deadly landslides and floods.

The refugee camps are sited in the town of Cox's Bazar on the Bay of Bengal, which records Bangladesh's highest rainfall and is prone to cyclones.


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 22, 2018, with the headline 'Hate narratives from abroad driving Myanmar communities apart: Suu Kyi'. Print Edition | Subscribe