SUU KYI FACES MORE PRESSURE
UN urges her to work on repatriation, reconciliation of refugees
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