Burma’s Suu Kyi calls for unity in cri­sis

Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - INTERNATIONAL -

RANGOON, Burma — Burma’s 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-stricken Rakhine state.

More than 500,000 Ro­hingya Mus­lims have fled from the state to neigh­bor­ing 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 U.N. 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.

Burma’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 Burma 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 Burma 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 co­or­di­nate 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 U.N. agen­cies, fi­nan­cial in­sti­tu­tions such as the World Bank, and oth­ers to help de­velop Rakhine.

Burmese of­fi­cials deny there has been eth­nic cleans­ing.

Burma’s am­bas­sador to Ja­pan, Thu­rain Thant Zin, told re­porters Thurs­day in Tokyo 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.”

Burma is of­ten called Myan­mar, a name that mil­i­tary au­thor­i­ties adopted in 1989. Some na­tions, such as the United States and Bri­tain, have re­fused to adopt the name change.

At U.N. head­quar­ters in New York, Sec­re­tary-Gen­eral An­to­nio Guter­res’ spokesman said he is send­ing Un­der­sec­re­tary-Gen­eral for Po­lit­i­cal Af­fairs Jef­frey Felt­man to Burma for sev­eral days start­ing to­day to meet gov­ern­ment of­fi­cials and oth­ers to ad­dress ur­gent mat­ters the U.N. chief has raised re­gard­ing the Ro­hingya.

These con­cerns 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, U.N. deputy spokesman Farhan Haq said Thurs­day.

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

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

The U.N. Se­cu­rity Coun­cil, mean­while, has in­vited for­mer U.N. Sec­re­tary-Gen­eral Kofi An­nan, who headed a com­mis­sion on Rakhine state, to an in­for­mal meet­ing to­day 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.

In­for­ma­tion for this ar­ti­cle was con­trib­uted by Edith M. Led­erer of The Associated Press.

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