Suu Kyi vows to heal wounds of Rakhine
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.