UN urges her to work on repa­tri­a­tion, rec­on­cil­i­a­tion of refugees

New Straits Times - - News -

MYAN­MAR leader Aung San Suu Kyi faced ris­ing global pres­sure yes­ter­day to solve the cri­sis for her na­tion’s dis­placed Ro­hingya while meet­ing the United Na­tions chief and the United States’ top diplo­mat in the Philip­pines.

UN Sec­re­tary-Gen­eral An­to­nio Guter­res told the No­bel lau­re­ate that hun­dreds of thou­sands of dis­placed Mus­lims who had fled to Bangladesh should be al­lowed to re­turn home in Myan­mar.

“The sec­re­tary-gen­eral high­lighted that strength­ened ef­forts to en­sure hu­man­i­tar­ian ac­cess, safe, dig­ni­fied, vol­un­tary and sus­tained re­turns, as well as true rec­on­cil­i­a­tion be­tween com­mu­ni­ties, would be es­sen­tial,” a UN state­ment said, sum­maris­ing com­ments to Suu Kyi.

Guter­res’ com­ments came hours be­fore Suu Kyi sat down with US Sec­re­tary of State Rex Tiller­son on the side­lines of the 31st Asean Sum­mit here.

Wash­ing­ton had been cau­tious in its state­ments on the sit­u­a­tion in Rakhine State, and had avoided out­right crit­i­cism of Suu Kyi.

Sup­port­ers said she must nav­i­gate be­tween out­rage abroad and pop­u­lar feel­ing in her coun­try, where most peo­ple be­lieve the Ro­hingya were in­ter­lop­ers.

At a photo op­por­tu­nity at the top of her meet­ing with Tiller­son, Suu Kyi ig­nored a jour­nal­ist who asked if the Ro­hingya were cit­i­zens of Myan­mar.

Af­ter the meet­ing, Tiller­son, who headed for Myan­mar today, was asked if he “had a mes­sage for Myan­mar lead­ers”. He ap­par­ently ig­nored the ques­tion, re­ply­ing only: “Thank you.”

The UN said the Myan­mar mil­i­tary was en­gaged in a “co­or­di­nated and sys­tem­atic” at­tempt to purge the re­gion of Ro­hingya in what amounted to a “text­book ex­am­ple of eth­nic cleans­ing”.

The stream of des­per­ate refugees who es­caped across the river­ine bor­der brought with them sto­ries of rape, mur­der and the torch­ing of vil­lages by sol­diers and mobs.

The Myan­mar gov­ern­ment in­sisted mil­i­tary ac­tion in Rakhine State was a pro­por­tion­ate re­sponse to vi­o­lence by mil­i­tants.

Suu Kyi, a for­mer democ­racy ac­tivist, had been lam­basted by rights groups for fail­ing to speak up for the Ro­hingya or con­demn fes­ter­ing anti-Mus­lim sen­ti­ment in the coun­try.

Mu­si­cian and cam­paigner Bob Geldof on Mon­day slammed Suu Kyi as a “mur­derer” and a “hand­maiden to geno­cide”, be­com­ing the lat­est in a grow­ing line of global fig­ures to dis­avow the one­time

dar­ling of the hu­man rights com­mu­nity.

Sup­port­ers said she did not have the power to stop the pow­er­ful mil­i­tary, which ruled the coun­try for decades un­til her party came to power in 2015.

In a sum­mit on Mon­day with Asean lead­ers, Guter­res voiced con­cern about the Ro­hingya.

He said the dis­place­ment of hun­dreds of thou­sands of Ro­hingya was a “wor­ry­ing es­ca­la­tion in a pro­tracted tragedy”.

He de­scribed the sit­u­a­tion as a po­ten­tial source of in­sta­bil­ity in the re­gion, as well as rad­i­cal­i­sa­tion. AFP

An­to­nio Guter­res Rex Tiller­son

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