Suu Kyi skips UN as­sem­bly to deal with cri­sis

Business World - - THE WORLD -

YAN­GON — Myan­mar’s na­tional leader Aung San Suu Kyi, fac­ing out­rage over vi­o­lence that has forced about 400,000 Ro­hingya Mus­lims to flee to Bangladesh, will not at­tend the up­com­ing UN Gen­eral As­sem­bly be­cause of the cri­sis, her of­fice said on Wed­nes­day.

The ex­o­dus of refugees, sparked by the se­cu­rity forces’ fierce re­sponse to a se­ries of Ro­hingya mil­i­tant at­tacks, is the most press­ing prob­lem Ms. Suu Kyi has faced since be­com­ing leader last year.

Crit­ics have called for her to be stripped of her No­bel peace prize for fail­ing to do more to halt the strife which the UN rights agency said was a “text­book ex­am­ple of eth­nic cleans­ing.”

Aid agen­cies will have to step up op­er­a­tions “mas­sively” in re­sponse to the refugee flow into Bangladesh, a se­nior UN of­fi­cial said, adding that the $ 77 mil­lion the United Na­tions had ap­pealed for last week would not be enough.

But a Bangladeshi bor­der force off icer said the num­ber of peo­ple cross­ing into his area had fallen sharply, ap­par­ently be­cause ev­ery­one had left dis­tricts most af­fected by the vi­o­lence.

Ms. Suu Kyi, in her first ad­dress to the UN Gen­eral As­sem­bly as leader in Septem­ber last year, de­fended her govern­ment’s ef­forts to re­solve the cri­sis over treat­ment of the Mus­lim mi­nor­ity.

This year, her of­fice said she would not be at­tend­ing be­cause of the se­cu­rity threats posed by the in­sur­gents and her ef­forts to re­store sta­bil­ity.

“She is try­ing to con­trol the se­cu­rity sit­u­a­tion, to have in­ter­nal peace and sta­bil­ity, and to pre­vent the spread of com­mu­nal con­flict,” Zaw Htay, the spokesman for Suu Kyi’s off ice, told Reuters.

In­ter­na­tional pres­sure has been grow­ing on Bud­dhist-ma­jor­ity Myan­mar to end the vi­o­lence in the western state of Rakhine that be­gan on Aug. 25 when Ro­hingya mil­i­tants at­tacked about 30 po­lice posts and an army camp.

The raids trig­gered a sweep­ing mil­i­tary counter- of­fen­sive against the in­sur­gents, de­scribed by the govern­ment as ter­ror­ists. Refugees say the se­cu­rity op­er­a­tion is aimed at push­ing Ro­hingya out of Myan­mar.

They, and rights groups, paint a pic­ture of wide­spread at­tacks on Ro­hingya vil­lages in the north of Rakhine State by the se­cu­rity forces and eth­nic Rakhine Bud­dhists, who have torched many Mus­lim vil­lages.

Author­i­ties have de­nied that the se­cu­rity forces, or Bud­dhist civil­ians, have been set­ting the fires, and have blamed the in­sur­gents. Nearly 30,000 Bud­dhist vil­lagers have also been dis­placed, they say.

The Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion has called for pro­tec­tion of civil­ians, and Bangladesh says all the refugees will have to go home and has called for safe zones in Myan­mar.

But China, which com­petes with the United States for in­flu­ence in Asia, said on Tues­day it backed Myan­mar’s ef­forts to safe­guard “de­vel­op­ment and sta­bil­ity.”

The UN Se­cu­rity Coun­cil is to meet on Wed­nes­day be­hind closed doors for the sec­ond time since the cri­sis erupted. Bri­tish UN Am­bas­sador Matthew Ry­croft said he hoped there would be a pub­lic state­ment agreed by the coun­cil.

How­ever, rights groups de­nounced the coun­cil for not hold­ing a pub­lic meet­ing. Di­plo­mats have said China and Rus­sia would likely ob­ject to such a move.


Myan­mar’s mil­i­tary, which ruled for al­most 50 years un­til it be­gan a tran­si­tion to democ­racy in 2011, re­tains sig­nif­i­cant po­lit­i­cal pow­ers and is in full con­trol of se­cu­rity.

Nev­er­the­less, crit­ics say Ms. Suu Kyi could speak out against the vi­o­lence and de­mand re­spect for the rule of law.

But anti-Ro­hingya sen­ti­ment is com­mon in Myan­mar, where Bud­dhist na­tion­al­ism has surged since the end of mil­i­tary rule.

Ms. Suu Kyi, who the mil­i­tary blocked from be­com­ing pres­i­dent and who says Myan­mar is at the be­gin­ning of the road to democ­racy, could risk be­ing de­nounced as un­pa­tri­otic if she were seen to be crit­i­ciz­ing a mil­i­tary op­er­a­tion that en­joys wide­spread sup­port.

A mob in cen­tral Myan­mar threw stones at Mus­lim shops on Sun­day but there have been no se­ri­ous out­breaks of com­mu­nal vi­o­lence else­where.

The govern­ment has warned of bomb at­tacks in cities and those con­cerns are likely to be com­pounded by an al Qaeda call to arms in sup­port of the Ro­hingya.

“The sav­age treat­ment meted out to our Mus­lim broth­ers ... shall not pass with­out pun­ish­ment,” al Qaeda said in a state­ment, ac­cord­ing to the SITE mon­i­tor­ing group.

Bangladesh was al­ready home to about 400,000 Ro­hingya who fled ear­lier con­flict and many of the new refugees are hun­gry and sick, with­out shel­ter or clean wa­ter.

“We will all have to ramp up our re­sponse mas­sively, from food to shel­ter,” Ge­orge Wil­liam Okoth- Obbo, as­sis­tant high com­mis­sioner for op­er­a­tions at the UN refugee agency, told Reuters dur­ing a visit to the Ku­tu­pa­long camp in Bangladesh.

He de­clined to say how many peo­ple he thought might come but Bangladeshi of­fi­cer Lieu­tenant Colonel Ari­ful Is­lam said num­bers were fall­ing off sharply in his area.

“The peo­ple who ar­rived in the early days af­ter the atroc­i­ties, now they’ve come out,” Is­lam told Reuters.

PEO­PLE burn an ef­figy de­pict­ing Myan­mar State Coun­sel­lor Aung San Suu Kyi dur­ing a protest rally against what they say are killings of Ro­hingya peo­ple in Myan­mar, in Kolkata, In­dia Sept. 11.

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