Myan­mar’s Suu Kyi urges unity, cre­ates aid com­mit­tee

The Welland Tribune - - WORLD NEWS -

YANGON, Myan­mar — Myan­mar’s em­bat­tled leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, called for na­tional unity Thurs­day and said she has cre­ated a com­mit­tee that will over­see all in­ter­na­tional and lo­cal as­sis­tance in vi­o­lence-struck Rakhine state.

More than 500,000 Ro­hingya Mus­lims have fled from the state to neighbouring Bangladesh since Aug. 25, when se­cu­rity forces re­sponded to at­tacks by a mil­i­tant Ro­hingya group with a broad crack­down on the long-per­se­cuted Mus­lim mi­nor­ity. Many houses were burned down.

The UN has called the vi­o­lence “text­book eth­nic cleans­ing.”

Suu Kyi ac­knowl­edged in a speech on state-run tele­vi­sion that the coun­try is fac­ing wide­spread crit­i­cism over the refugee cri­sis and called for unity in tack­ling the prob­lem. She said her govern­ment is hold­ing talks with Bangladesh on the re­turn of “those who are now in Bangladesh.” She gave no de­tails, but of­fi­cials have sug­gested they would need to pro­vide res­i­dency doc­u­ments, which few have.

Myan­mar’s Bud­dhist ma­jor­ity de­nies that Ro­hingya Mus­lims are a sep­a­rate eth­nic group and re­gards them as hav­ing mi­grated il­le­gally from Bangladesh, although many fam­i­lies have lived in Myan­mar for gen­er­a­tions. Suu Kyi did not use the word “Ro­hingya” in her speech but re­ferred to sev­eral other eth­nic mi­nori­ties by name.

Suu Kyi, a No­bel Peace Prize lau­re­ate and for­mer po­lit­i­cal pris­oner, has been widely crit­i­cized out­side Myan­mar for not speak­ing out on be­half of the Ro­hingya.

She said in her speech that those who re­turn from Bangladesh would need to be re­set­tled, with­out pro­vid­ing de­tails, and that de­vel­op­ment must be brought to Rakhine, one of the coun­try’s poor­est ar­eas, to achieve a durable peace.

She said she would head the new com­mit­tee, the “Union En­ter­prise for Hu­man­i­tar­ian As­sis­tance, Re­set­tle­ment and De­vel­op­ment in Rakhine,” and that it would co-or­di­nate all ef­forts to cre­ate a “peace­ful and de­vel­oped Rakhine state.”

The govern­ment has tightly re­stricted ac­cess to Rakhine for in­ter­na­tional aid groups and jour­nal­ists.

Suu Kyi said her govern­ment has in­vited UN agen­cies, fi­nan­cial in­sti­tu­tions such as the World Bank, and oth­ers to help de­velop Rakhine.

Myan­mar of­fi­cials deny there has been eth­nic cleans­ing.

Myan­mar’s am­bas­sador to Ja­pan, Thu­rain Thant Zin, told re­porters in Tokyo on Thurs­day that his govern­ment was pro­vid­ing hu­man­i­tar­ian aid to all af­fected by the vi­o­lence and de­nied re­ports of hu­man rights abuses by the mil­i­tary.

“To say the Myan­mar mil­i­tary con­ducted those il­le­gal acts is un­true and can­not be true,” he said. “The Myan­mar govern­ment protests the use of such terms as eth­nic cleans­ing and geno­cide.”

At UN head­quar­ters in New York, UN Sec­re­tary-Gen­eral An­to­nio Guter­res’ spokesman said he is send­ing Un­der­sec­re­taryGen­eral for Po­lit­i­cal Af­fairs Jef­frey Felt­man to Myan­mar for sev­eral days start­ing Fri­day to meet govern­ment of­fi­cials and oth­ers to ad­dress ur­gent is­sues the UN chief has raised re­gard­ing the Ro­hingyas.

Th­ese is­sues in­clude Guter­res’ re­peated calls for an end to mil­i­tary op­er­a­tions and vi­o­lence in north­ern Rakhine state, un­fet­tered hu­man­i­tar­ian ac­cess, and the vol­un­tary and “sus­tain­able re­turn” of refugees who fled to Bangladesh, UN deputy spokesman Farhan Haq said Thurs­day.

Nikki Ha­ley, U.S. am­bas­sador to the United Na­tions, met Myan­mar’s Na­tional Se­cu­rity Am­bas­sador U Thaung Tun and raised the same is­sues.

She urged an im­me­di­ate end to vi­o­lence by all sides and ac­cess to all those af­fected by the fight­ing and ap­pealed to Myan­mar “to fa­cil­i­tate the safe, dig­ni­fied re­turn of all those dis­placed as quickly as pos­si­ble.”

The UN Se­cu­rity Coun­cil, mean­while, has in­vited for­mer UN Sec­re­tary-Gen­eral Kofi An­nan, who headed a com­mis­sion on Rakhine state, to an in­for­mal meet­ing Fri­day to dis­cuss its find­ings and rec­om­men­da­tions. The com­mis­sion, which dis­banded last month, fo­cused on long-term so­lu­tions to im­prove peo­ple’s lives and ad­dressed many of the root causes of the cur­rent cri­sis. — The As­so­ci­ated Press

AUNG SHINE OO/AP

Peo­ples watch a tele­vised speech by Myan­mar’s State Coun­sel­lor Aung San Suu Kyi, by a road­side Thurs­day in Naypy­itaw, Myan­mar.

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