Suu Kyi breaks silence, but fails to quell criticism

Myanmar's State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi delivers a national address in Naypyidaw on Sept 19, 2017.
Myanmar's State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi delivers a national address in Naypyidaw on Sept 19, 2017. PHOTO: AFP

Myanmar's de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi yesterday broke her silence on the Rohingya crisis, but her speech failed to quell mounting international criticism of her government's military offensive against the Muslim minority that has been described by the UN as a textbook example of ethnic cleansing.

In her address to the nation, the Nobel Peace laureate said she does not fear global scrutiny over the crisis, which has driven more than 400,000 people from Rakhine state to Bangladesh since Aug 25. While she condemned human rights violations and promised that violators would be held to account, she stopped short of blaming the military and did not address the United Nations' allegations.

"We condemn all human rights violations and unlawful violence. We are committed to the restoration of peace and stability and rule of law throughout the state," Ms Suu Kyi said in Myanmar's capital, Naypyitaw.

Amnesty International noted that "she is still silent about the role of the security forces".

The Myanmar government has said its armed forces are tackling the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army, which has claimed responsibility for attacking a border post on Aug 25, and which the government accuses of setting fires to Rohingya villages and attacking civilians. But Rohingya and rights groups say it is the army which has razed houses to force the minority out of Myanmar.

Terrorism experts warn that the Rohingya's plight has forged a groundswell of support among Islamist militants in the region, particularly from Malaysia and Indonesia. Meanwhile in India, a debate has broken out amid government efforts to deport around 40,000 Rohingya Muslims on the grounds that they pose a security threat to the country.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 20, 2017, with the headline 'Suu Kyi breaks silence, but fails to quell criticism'. Print Edition | Subscribe