Suu Kyi has not directly addressed the ongoing crackdown in Rakhine state
She told an audience in Singapore that Myanmar must work to achieve peace
Myanmar has to “achieve peace,” the country’s figurehead Aung San Suu Kyi said Wednesday, amid accusations that her government is leading a brutal crackdown against the Rohingya Muslim minority.
As former United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan flew to volatile northern Rakhine state, where most of Myanmar’s Rohingyas live, Suu Kyi called for “national reconciliation”.
Annan’s trip comes less than a day after the UN’s Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide, Adama Dieng, expressed alarm at reports of a crackdown against the country’s Rohingya Muslim minority.
“These allegations must be verified as a matter of urgency,” Dieng said in a statement on Tuesday. “If they are true, the lives of thousands of people are at risk.”
Alleged murder, rape
Following an attack on Myanmar’s security forces by armed men in October and subsequent crackdown, human rights group have reported mass killings, rape and destruction of villages.
Observers estimate the death toll could be in the hundreds, a number difficult to verify since the government has barred journalists and human rights monitors from the province.
In a statement issued on November 15, Annan said he was deeply concerned by the new reports of killings and called for security forces to act in accordance with the law.
“Violence will not create an environment conducive to peace and inter-communal cohesion, which is a prerequisite for economic progress and prosperity,” he said.
The Kofi Annan Foundation had already established the Advisory Commission on Rakhine State, in cooperation with the Myanmar government, before the recent violence began.
The Commission’s purpose, according to the government, is to find “lasting solution to the complex and delicate issues in the Rakhine State.”
Aung San Suu Kyi heads to Singapore
As Annan flies in Myanmar’s capital Yangon, Suu Kyi is on a three-day trip to Singapore.
She has been criticized for not addressing the violence in Rakhine directly in the past month.
“I don’t have words to describe the disappointment with her government,” Bangkok-based Fortify Rights Founder Matthew Smith told CNN last week.
“That the government has simply flatly denied human rights violations are taking place does not bode well for the National League for Democracy (NLD).”
Though she did not address the situation in Rakhine directly, Suu Kyi said Wednesday that “national reconciliation and peace is unavoidably important for us.”
“We have to achieve peace and national reconciliation that our country may be able to progress,” she told an audience in Singapore.
Asked by reporters following the event about UN criticism, Suu Kyi did not comment.
Although Suu Kyi’s NLD party won a landslide victory in Myanmar’s 2015 election, the military still maintains a significant hold on power with a mandatory 25% of seats.
International protests, condemnation
International outrage continues to grow around increasingly serious reports from human rights groups of abuses in Rakhine.
In his statement on Tuesday, Dieng said Myanmar’s leaders had to allow international observers into to assess the situation in the province.
“The government needs, once and for all, to find a sustainable solution to the situation of the Rohingya Muslims and other religious and ethnic minorities in Myanmar, a solution that is in full compliance with … international human rights standards,” he said.
UN refugee agency official John McKissick told CNN this month the Myanmar military appeared to be “ethnically cleansing” the Rohingya population.
In New York, a protest is planned for Wednesday local time by community leaders and organizations opposed to what they say is the “mass killing” of Myanmar’s Rohingya.
Malaysia’s foreign minister Anifah Aman said in a statement this week he would meet with Suu Kyi over the “ethnic cleansing” in Rakhine, while Canada’s foreign minister Stephane Dion tweeted on Saturday he was “deeply concerned” by the violence against Myanmar’s Rohingya minority.
CNN’s James Griffiths contributed reporting.