Myanmar 'does not fear' scrutiny over Rohingya - Suu Kyi

6:29 pm on 19 September 2017

Myanmar's de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi says her country is committed to a sustainable peace, despite widespread denunciation of violence in the restive Rakhine state.

Rohingya refugees build a new makeshift shelters in the refugee camp of Thyangkhali near the Bangladeshi village of Gumdhum, on September 18, 2017. More than 400,000 Rohingya Muslims have now arrived in Bangladesh from their Buddhist do

Rohingya refugees build makeshift shelters in Thyangkhali camp, Bangladesh. Photo: DOMINIQUE FAGET / AFP

A refugee crisis has been mounting since August when state authorities and the military cracked down on the impoverished coastal state, which is home to an estimated one million Rohingya. The military claimed to be fighting militant insurgents.

The Rohingya, a minority Muslim group in the Buddhist country, have long faced persecution, been denied citizenship, and have been effectively stateless since the passing of a citizenship law in 1982.

In her first national address since the unrest and the military response that forced hundreds of thousands to flee into neighbouring Bangladesh during monsoon season, Ms Suu Kyi said Myanmar was dealing with a terrorist threat.

"I'm aware of the fact that the world's attention is focused on the situation in Rakhine state," she said.

"As a responsible member of the community of nations, Myanmar does not fear international scrutiny and we're committed to a sustainable solution that would lead to peace, stability and development for all communities within that state."

She said she feels deeply for all of those caught up in the conflict, and that Rohingya Muslims could return from Bangladesh to Myanmar, subject to a "verification" process.

However, it's not clear how many of the Rohingya who have fled Myanmar would qualify to return.

In the address on national television, she outlined new measures being taken to help integrate Rohingya Muslims who wished to stay in the country.

She said army operations in northern Rakhine state were aimed at rooting out militants, and they were not targeting civilians. Myanmar did not fear international scrutiny and was committed to a sustainable solution, she said

Aung San Suu Kyi delivers a national address in Naypyidaw. She said she "feels deeply" for the suffering of "all people" caught up in conflict.

Aung San Suu Kyi delivers a national address in Naypyidaw. She said she "feels deeply" for the suffering of "all people" caught up in conflict. Photo: YE AUNG THU / AFP

The Nobel Peace Prize laureate has been heavily criticised for her near silence about over 400,000 Rohingya fleeing to Bangladesh amid a military crackdown, notably by Zeid Ra'ad al-Hussein, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights.

The High Commissioner said the treatment of the people in Myanmar was a textbook example of ethnic cleansing.

"The Myanmar government should stop claiming that the Rohingyas are setting fire to their own homes and laying waste to their own villages," he said.

"This complete denial of reality is doing great damage to the international standing of a government which, until recently, benefited from immense good will."

Rohingya Muslims who fled from ongoing military operations in Myanmar’s Rakhine state wait for a boat to a makeshift camp on hills at Cox's Bazar, Bangladesh.

Rohingya Muslims who fled from ongoing military operations in Myanmar’s Rakhine state wait for a boat to a makeshift camp on hills at Cox's Bazar, Bangladesh. Photo: AFP / ZAKIR HOSSAIN CHOWDHURY / ANADOLU AGENCY

The unrest and violence was sparked by an armed attack blamed on Rohingya militants on police outposts in August. The state response and military crackdown has been condemned.

UN research and aid agencies have been warning about the recent treatment of the ethnic minority for months, documenting summary executions, gang rapes, torture and arbitrary detention.

Earlier, Australia, the United Kingdom and France urged Suu Kyi to push for an end to the military violence and Myanmar national security adviser Thanung Tun said those who had fled across the border could return but the process was as yet unconfirmed.

British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson hosted a ministerial meeting to discuss ways to resolve the crisis, which included ministers from Australia, Canada, Denmark, Turkey, Indonesia, Sweden, Bangladesh, US Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley and a representative of the European Union.

"What we are trying to get everyone to agree is that, number one, the killings have got to stop, and the violence has got to stop," Johnson said before the meeting.

Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said she wanted to hear Myanmar's leader offer a solution "to what is a tragedy of enormous proportions".

- Reuters / RNZ

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