As Ro­hingya flee vi­o­lence, Suu Kyi skips UN meet

Kingston Whig-Standard - - WORLD NEWS - JUL­HAS ALAM

COX’S BAZAR, Bangladesh — With Myan­mar draw­ing con­dem­na­tion for vi­o­lence that has driven at least 370,000 Ro­hingya to flee the coun­try, the govern­ment said Wed­nes­day its leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, will skip this month’s UN Gen­eral As­sem­bly meet­ings.

Suu Kyi will miss the as­sem­bly’s min­is­te­rial ses­sion, which opens Sept. 19 and runs through Sept. 25, in or­der to ad­dress do­mes­tic se­cu­rity is­sues, ac­cord­ing to pres­i­den­tial of­fice spokesman Zaw Htay.

The UN Se­cu­rity Coun­cil, mean­while, was sched­uled to hold closed-door con­sul­ta­tions later Wed­nes­day on the Myan­mar cri­sis.

Suu Kyi’s ap­pear­ance at last year’s Gen­eral As­sem­bly was a land­mark: Her first since her party won elec­tions in 2015 and re­placed a mil­i­tary-dom­i­nated govern­ment. Even then, how­ever, she faced crit­i­cism over Myan­mar’s treat­ment of Ro­hingya Mus­lims, whose name she did not ut­ter. Mem­bers of the eth­nic group are com­monly re­ferred to as “Ben­galis” by many in Bud­dhist-ma­jor­ity Myan­mar who in­sist they mi­grated il­le­gally from Bangladesh.

Suu Kyi is not Myan­mar’s pres­i­dent — her of­fi­cial ti­tles are state coun­sel­lor and for­eign min­is­ter — but she ef­fec­tively serves as leader of the South­east Asian na­tion.

Zaw Htay said that, with Pres­i­dent Htin Kyaw hos­pi­tal­ized, sec­ond Vice-Pres­i­dent Henry Van Tio would at­tend the UN meet­ing.

“The first rea­son (Suu Kyi can­not at­tend) is be­cause of the Rakhine ter­ror­ist at­tacks,” Zaw Htay said. “The state coun­sel­lor is fo­cus­ing to calm the sit­u­a­tion in Rakhine state. There are cir­cum­stances. The sec­ond rea­son is, there are peo­ple in­cit­ing ri­ots in some ar­eas. We are try­ing to take care of the se­cu­rity is­sue in many other places. The third is that we are hear­ing that there will be ter­ror­ist at­tacks and we are try­ing to ad­dress this is­sue.”

In­stead, Zaw Htay said, Suu Kyi will give a speech in Myan­mar next week that will cover the same top­ics that she would have ad­dressed at the United Na­tions.

The cri­sis erupted on Aug. 25, when an in­sur­gent Ro­hingya group at­tacked po­lice out­posts in Myan­mar’s Rakhine state. That prompted Myan­mar’s mil­i­tary to launch “clear­ance op­er­a­tions” against the rebels, set­ting off a wave of vi­o­lence that has left hun­dreds dead and thou­sands of homes burned — mostly Ro­hingya in both cases.

Zaw Htay said of 471 “Ben­gali” vil­lages in three town­ships, 176 are now com­pletely empty and at least 34 oth­ers are par­tially aban­doned.

He said there had been at least 86 clashes through Sept. 5, but none since then.

“What that means is, when the se­cu­rity forces are try­ing to sta­bi­lize the re­gion, they have suc­ceeded to a point,” he said.

The govern­ment blames Ro­hingya for the vi­o­lence, but jour­nal­ists who vis­ited the re­gion found ev­i­dence that raises doubts about its claims that Ro­hingya set fire to their own homes.

Many of the Ro­hingya who flooded into refugee camps in Bangladesh told of Myan­mar sol­diers shoot­ing in­dis­crim­i­nately, burn­ing their homes and warn­ing them to leave or die. Oth­ers said they were at­tacked by Bud­dhist mobs.

Suu Kyi, a No­bel Peace Prize lau­re­ate who lived un­der house ar­rest for many years un­der a mil­i­tary junta that ul­ti­mately gave way to an elected govern­ment, has faced a tor­rent of in­ter­na­tional crit­i­cism and pres­sure since the cri­sis erupted.

Hun­dreds of peo­ple marched in In­dia’s cap­i­tal on Wed­nes­day de­mand­ing an end to vi­o­lence against Ro­hingya in Myan­mar. Po­lice stopped the group some dis­tance from Myan­mar’s em­bassy.

The pro­test­ers crit­i­cized Suu Kyi, ask­ing whether she had re­ceived the No­bel Prize for pro­mot­ing peace or for per­se­cut­ing Ro­hingya.


Sho­hida Khatun, 55, poses for a photo with an ink print af­ter be­ing reg­is­tered by the govern­ment in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh. She came to Bangladesh early this month from Ta­muncy vil­lage in Myan­mar, where the mil­i­tary killed her un­cle and burned all the houses in her vil­lage. Around 370,000 Ro­hingya refugees have fled into Bangladesh since late Au­gust.

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