As Rohingya flee violence, Suu Kyi skips UN meet
JULHAS ALAM THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
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.
HOT SPRINGS, Ark. — A former administrative assistant to an Arkansas county official has pleaded guilty to fraudulent use of a credit card after prosecutors accused her of using public money to buy personal items, including a tuxedo for her pug.
Kristi Goss was set for trial this week but pleaded guilty Monday. Authorities accused Goss of fraudulently charging $200,000 to a Garland County credit card on purchases including the dog tuxedo, a diamond bracelet, tickets to Arkansas Razorbacks sporting events, sequined throw pillows and pet insurance.
PROVINCETOWN, Mass. — A Massachusetts marine science centre says it has disentangled a humpback whale off of Cape Cod.
The Center for Coastal Studies says its Marine Animal Entanglement Response team disentangled the whale off Ballston Beach in Truro. The team was conducting a research survey on Tuesday when they came across a whale that was stuck in fishing gear about 2 miles off the beach. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration gave the team authorization to attempt the
MOSCOW — Dozens of landmark buildings and transport hubs in Russia were evacuated Wednesday because of fake bomb threats made by unknown telephone callers.
Citing security service officials, Russian media said up to 30,000 people were ordered to leave major buildings in Moscow and reported that about 45,000 people in dozens of cities across Russia had been affected on Monday and Tuesday.
The hoaxers’ targets have included GUM, the flagship department store on Red Square that faces the Kremlin, as well as railway stations, airports, shopping centres, universities, hospitals and hotels.
The identity of those making the calls remains a mystery and Russian officials have not offered any explanation for the threats.
Russian President Vladimir Putin’s spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, declined to comment when asked about the anonymous phone calls.
NAIROBI, Kenya — A Kenyan teenager has been charged with nine counts of murder and arson in the deaths of her schoolmates in a fire at their boarding school last month.
Justice Luka Kamaru barred the media from the courtroom on Wednesday, saying the rights of the 14-year-old must be protected. She was released on $2,000 bail.
Ten other students were injured in the fire at Moi Girls School in Kenya’s capital, Nairobi. The cause of the fire remains unclear.
The fire brought back memories of the deaths of 67 students in a dormitory fire at a high school in eastern Kenya in March 2001. It later emerged the fire was caused by students apparently angered by the school’s administration.
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.