Suu Kyi vows to heal wounds of Rakhine

The Weekend Australian - - WORLD - AMANDA HODGE

Aung San Suu Kyi has vowed to has­ten the repa­tri­a­tion and re­set­tle­ment of those dis­placed by re­cent vi­o­lence in north­ern Rakhine state in a tele­vised speech that again res­o­lutely avoided ref­er­ence to Ro­hingya by name or the cat­a­logue of al­leged atroc­i­ties com­mit­ted against them by mil­i­tary and Bud­dhist mobs in re­cent weeks.

Ms Suu Kyi thanked the peo­ple of Myan­mar for stand­ing by her in the face of stri­dent in­ter­na­tional crit­i­cism over what the UN has called “eth­nic cleans­ing” of Myan­mar’s Ro­hingya Mus­lims, and an­nounced she would chair a com­mit­tee to co-or­di­nate ef­forts to cre­ate a “peace­ful and de­vel­oped Rakhine state”.

“Rather than re­but­ting crit­i­cisms and al­le­ga­tions with words, we will show the world by our ac­tions and our deeds,” Ms Suu Kyi said, out­lin­ing three main tasks. “First, repa­tri­a­tion of those who have crossed over to Bangladesh and pro­vid­ing hu­man­i­tar­ian as­sis­tance ef­fec­tively; sec­ond, re­set­tle­ment and re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion; and third, bring­ing de­vel­op­ment to the re­gion and es­tab­lish­ing durable peace.

“As we work on the re­set­tle­ment and re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion ef­forts, we need to work not only for those who will be re­turn­ing from Bangladesh but also for the very small na­tional races such as Daing-net and Myo as well as Rakhine na­tion­als and Hin­dus.”

The an­nounce­ment comes amid ris­ing con­cern within her civil­ian ad­min­is­tra­tion at the prospect of tar­geted sanc­tions by Western al­lies. Last month, Bri­tain sus­pended all mil­i­tary aid.

Myan­mar’s de facto leader and No­bel lau­re­ate has borne the brunt of crit­i­cism for fail­ing to speak out over the forced dis­place­ment of more than 520,000 Ro­hingya Mus­lims who have crossed into Bangladesh since late Au­gust, flee­ing what a UN re- port this week de­scribed as a “well-or­gan­ised, co-or­di­nated and sys­tem­atic” cam­paign to drive them out and pre­vent them from re­turn­ing.

Her lat­est speech fol­lows a widely crit­i­cised ad­dress to for­eign di­plo­mats last month in which she promised to re­store to Rakhine state and de­liver “strict jus­tice” to all hu­man rights vi­o­la­tors, but also claimed to be puz­zled over why so many Ro­hingya had fled the coun­try. Then, too, she re­fused to ad­dress ac­cu­sa­tions the mil­i­tary and Bud­dhist mobs had com­mit­ted rape, ar­son and mur­der against civil­ian Ro­hingya pop­u­la­tions. This time, Ms Suu Kyi also promised to speed up de­liv­ery of hu­man­i­tar­ian aid to stricken com­mu­ni­ties in north­ern Rakhine.

The govern­ment evicted all aid or­gan­i­sa­tions from north­ern Rakhine af­ter the lat­est out­break of vi­o­lence, sparked on Au­gust 25 by deadly Ro­hingya mil­i­tant at­tacks on se­cu­rity posts there, and said it would man­age all hu­man­i­tar­ian re­lief op­er­a­tions with the help of the In­ter­na­tional Com­mit­tee of the Red Cross. But aid to those com­mu­ni­ties has ef­fec­tively been blocked by mil­i­tary, as well as or­gan­ised Bud­dhist mobs.

Refugees flood­ing into Bangladesh say they have been forced to leave Myan­mar be­cause govern­ment re­stric­tions have cre­ated wide­spread star­va­tion.

“They (se­cu­rity forces) have re­stricted our move­ments. Many are starv­ing, as we could not even go to a shop or mar­ket to buy food,” a man named Sayed Hos­sain told AFP.

Oth­ers who have spo­ken by phone to re­porters from north­ern Rakhine say they have been for­bid­den from leav­ing their vil­lages for three months and have had no ac­cess to med­i­cal aid or schools.

On Wed­nes­day a re­port from the UN’s Of­fice of the High Com­mis­sioner for Hu­man Rights con­cluded the lat­est mil­i­tary op­er­a­tions in Rakhine be­gan as early as three weeks be­fore the Au­gust 25 at­tacks.

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