As Ro­hingyas flee, Suu Kyi skips UN sum­mit

‘Clear­ance op­er­a­tions’ set off a wave of vi­o­lence

Kuwait Times - - LOCAL -

COX’S BAZAR: With Myan­mar draw­ing con­dem­na­tion for vi­o­lence that has driven at least 370,000 Ro­hingya to flee the coun­try, the govern­ment said yes­ter­day its leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, will skip this month’s UN Gen­eral As­sem­bly. Suu Kyi will miss the as­sem­bly, which opened Tues­day and runs through Sept 25, in or­der to ad­dress do­mes­tic se­cu­rity is­sues, ac­cord­ing to pres­i­den­tial of­fice spokesman Zaw Htay.

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

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 un­til 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.

‘Take their na­tion­als back’

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. On Tues­day, Iran’s Supreme Leader Ay­a­tol­lah Ali Khamenei called the killing of Mus­lims a po­lit­i­cal dis­as­ter and called Suu Kyi a “bru­tal woman.” UN hu­man rights chief Zeid Ra’ad al-Hus­sein said the Ro­hingya were vic­tims of what “seems a text­book ex­am­ple of eth­nic cleans­ing.” Bangladesh has been over­whelmed with the mas­sive in­flux of Ro­hingya, many of whom ar­rived hun­gry and trau­ma­tized af­ter walk­ing for days through jun­gles or be­ing packed into rick­ety wooden boats.

Be­fore Aug 25, Bangladesh had al­ready been hous­ing some 500,000 Ro­hingya refugees who fled ear­lier flashes of vi­o­lence in­clud­ing an­tiMus­lim ri­ots in 2012. Prime Min­is­ter Sheikh Hasina has pledged to help the new ar­rivals, but de­manded that Myan­mar “take their na­tion­als back.” With two pre-ex­ist­ing camps packed be­yond ca­pac­ity, the govern­ment said it would pro­vide 2,000 acres for a new camp in the bor­der dis­trict of Cox’s Bazar. Many of the new ar­rivals were stay­ing in schools, or were hud­dling un­der tarps in makeshift set­tle­ments along roads and in open fields.

Ba­sic re­sources were scarce, in­clud­ing food, clean wa­ter and med­i­cal aid. Dozens of for­eign di­plo­mats and aid agency of­fi­cials were set to meet Ro­hingya refugees yes­ter­day near the Ku­tu­pa­long refugee camp, ac­cord­ing to Kazi Ab­dur Rah­man, ad­di­tional deputy com­mis­sioner in Cox’s Bazar dis­trict. “A hu­man­i­tar­ian cri­sis is go­ing on here,” he said. The di­plo­mats “will visit camps, talk to them, see their con­di­tion. We need to work to­gether dur­ing such a se­ri­ous cri­sis.” Two hu­man rights groups have ac­cused the UN Se­cu­rity Coun­cil of ig­nor­ing the cri­sis.

“This is an in­ter­na­tional peace and se­cu­rity cri­sis” and there is no ex­cuse for the Se­cu­rity Coun­cil “sit­ting on its hands,” Louis Char­bon­neau of Hu­man Rights Watch said Tues­day along­side rep­re­sen­ta­tives from Amnesty In­ter­na­tional at the UN head­quar­ters The Or­ga­ni­za­tion of Is­lamic Co­op­er­a­tion, the world’s largest Mus­lim body, urged Myan­mar to al­low in UN mon­i­tors so they can in­ves­ti­gate what it al­leged was sys­tem­atic bru­tal­ity against the Ro­hingya. The UN Hu­man Rights Coun­cil ap­proved an in­ves­tiga­tive mis­sion ear­lier this year, but Myan­mar in June re­fused to al­low it to en­ter. An en­voy’s visit in July was met with protests. The eth­nic Ro­hingya Mus­lim mi­nor­ity has faced decades of dis­crim­i­na­tion per­se­cu­tion in Bud­dhist-ma­jor­ity Myan­mar, where they are de­nied cit­i­zen­ship de­spite cen­turies-old roots in the coun­try. — AP

NEW DELHI: In­dian Mus­lims hold plac­ards and shout slo­gans dur­ing a protest against the per­se­cu­tion of Ro­hingya Mus­lims in Myan­mar, in New Delhi, In­dia. — AP

NAYPYITAW: In this file photo, Myan­mar’s State Coun­selor Aung San Suu Kyi de­liv­ers an open­ing speech dur­ing the Fo­rum on Myan­mar Demo­cratic Tran­si­tion in Naypyitaw, Myan­mar. — AP

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