Myanmar’s de facto leader Suu Kyi says she condemns “all human rights violations” after Western powers threatened to take action if her government didn’t move to stop the military’s persecution of one of its ethnic minority groups, the Rohingya Muslims.
The military has been persecuting Rohingyas since the 1970s and in August this intensified, forcing more than 400,000 to flee to neighbouring countries such as Bangladesh and Pakistan over the past few weeks.
In a televised speech addressing the UN, she said, “We feel deeply for the suffering of all the people who have been caught up in the conflict” in the country’s Rakhine state.”
“We are concerned to hear the number of Muslims fleeing areas to Bangladesh,” she said.
“We condemn all human rights violations and unlawful violence.”
“Hate and fear are the main scourges of our world. It is only by removing all the sources of hate and fear that we shall be able to remove conflict from our country and our world.”
0:00 Myanmar leader Suu Kyi condemns all human rights abuses Share Myanmar leader Suu Kyi condemns all human rights abuses
Suu Kyi assured her country was taking steps to end the violence, saying the military had been directed to adhere strictly to its code of conduct as well as refrain from harming innocent civilians.
“We are committed to achieve peace sustainability and development,” she said.
“We want to find out what the real problems are. There have been allegations and counter allegations, and we have to make sure that these allegations are based on solid evidence before we take action.”
Suu Kyi it was difficult for her young government – nearly 18 months old – to overcome the conflict.
“Eighteen months is a very short time in which to expect us to meet and overcome all the challenges we are expected to do,” she said.
She appealed to the international community to help her government find “a sustainable solution that would lead to peace stability and development for all communities within that state [of Rakhine].
“We have been trying to build peace out of internal strife.
“We would like to invite you [the international community] to take part in this peace process, to join us to find lasting solutions to the problems that have plagued our country for years.”
She cited that the government had indeed made progress and were taking up recommendations put forward by the Advisory Commission on Rakhine State, a report launched in 2016 led by former UN secretary-general Dr Kofi Annan.
“We are determine to implement the recommendations that will bring speedy improvement to the situation.
“The government is working to restore the situation to normalcy.”
MORE NEWS’Study the peaceful areas’
Suu Kyi claimed certain areas were peaceful and probed the international community to ask why.
“Study the peaceful areas, how have they managed to keep the peace?” she said.
“We would like to know more about those who have integrated…why they have not fled, why they have chosen to remain in their villages even though everything around them is in a state of turmoil.”
However, she said her country was “prepared” to take back refugees, who would be subject to a verification process “at any time”.
It was not immediately clear how many of the more than 400,000 refugees would be considered for reentry.
0:00 Boris Johnson condemns human rights abuses inflicted on Rohingya people Share Boris Johnson condemns human rights abuses inflicted on Rohingya people
‘Burying their heads in the sand’
Human rights organisation Amnesty International said Suu Kyi’s message did not come down hard enough on her country’s military.
James Gomez, Amnesty’s regional director for Southeast Asia and the Pacific, said her speech “demonstrated that she and her government are still burying their heads in the sand over the horrors unfolding in Rakhine state.”
While he said it was positive to hear Aung San Suu Kyi condemn human rights violations, she did not criticise her army enough.
“The military’s campaign of violence and human rights violations in Rakhine State must end immediately,” Mr Gomez said.
“Myanmar has repeatedly said it will not co-operate with the UN-mandated Fact Finding Mission established earlier this year.
“If Myanmar has nothing to hide, it should allow UN investigators into the country, including Rakhine State.”
MORE NEWSAustralia ‘needs to show compassion’
The Australian Council for International Development has called to bring Rohingya refugees to Australia.
Marc Purcell, the CEO of the council, said in a press release, “We urge the Australian Government to look at an increase to Australia’s humanitarian intake, with specific consideration to vulnerable people who have fled violence and persecution in Myanmar.”
Mr Purcell pressed the government to stop offering financial incentives to Rohingya asylum seekers at the Manus Island offshore processing centre to return to Myanmar.
According to a report by Guardian Australia on Tuesday, the Australian government has promised asylum seekers thousands of dollars if they return to Myanmar from the Manus Island detention centre, with one man claiming the Australian Border Force offered him $25,000.
“We need to show compassion, halt this process and give them the right to settle here.”
However he lauded the $15 million the government allocated for humanitarian assistance to support displaced people who are fleeing Myanmar to Bangladesh as “very welcome and much needed”.
0:00 UN expects at least 400,000 Rohingya could flee Myanmar Share UN expects at least 400,000 Rohingya could flee Myanmar
Western powers warn Suu Kyi on Rohingya ahead of crucial speech
Hours before Suu Kyi’s national address, British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson called a meeting on the crisis on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in New York.
Johnson, at the meeting attended by US Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley and Myanmar’s deputy foreign minister, warned that the violence in Rakhine state was “a stain on the country’s reputation” so soon after its transition to democratic rule.
“For this reason, Burma should not be surprised to find itself under international scrutiny and on the Security Council’s agenda,” Johnson said, using the former British colony’s earlier name.
“As I have repeatedly said, no one wants to see a return to military rule, so it is vital that Aung San Suu Kyi and the civilian government make clear these abuses must stop,” he said in a statement.
Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop attended the meeting on the sidelines of the United Nations in New York.
“The message is very clear that the violence must stop,” she told ABC radio on Tuesday.
“There are so many lives at risk here that the international community must act.
“There is a considerable level of expectation as to what Aung San Suu Kyi will say.”
0:00 Australia will play its part to end the violence: Bishop Share Australia will play its part to end the violence: Bishop
Haley called Monday’s meeting “productive” but voiced alarm at the lack of progress on the ground.
“The United States continues to urge the Burmese government to end military operations, grant humanitarian access, and commit to aiding the safe return of civilians back to their homes,” she said.
Other countries represented at the meeting were Bangladesh, the chief destination of fleeing refugees, as well as Australia, Canada, Denmark Indonesia, Sweden and Turkey, according to Britain.
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UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, speaking earlier to the BBC ahead of the week’s meetings, also said that Suu Kyi had “a last chance” to change course in her address Tuesday.
Louis Charbonneau, UN director at Human Rights Watch, called the British-led meeting “a first step, but it can’t be the last.”
With world leaders visiting for the UN General Assembly this week, Charbonneau urged work on a Security Council resolution that would impose targeted sanctions, including an arms embargo on the commanders leading the campaign against the Rohingya.
Western officials and human rights groups have been especially disheartened as they had campaigned for years for the freedom of Suu Kyi, who spent the larger part of two decades under house arrest by a military junta until her release in 2010.
Suu Kyi’s electoral triumph two years ago had been hailed as a victory for democracy. But the civilian leader, who has a complicated relationship with Myanmar’s army, has been nearly silent after troops drove more than 410,000 Rohingya out of the country.
The United Nations has said that the campaign, which witnesses say has included the burning of villages and rape, amounts to ethnic cleansing.
Rohingya, who are predominantly Muslim, are reviled by many in Buddhist-majority Myanmar.