Myanmar’s de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi will on Tuesday publicly address the bloodshed in Rakhine State that has caused more than 400,000 of country’s minority Rohingya population to flee to Bangladesh.
Suu Kyi’s televised speech, which she’s expected to deliver in English, will be scrutinized by the international community, with the UN chief describing it as the Nobel laureate’s “last chance” to explain what has been termed a “textbook example of ethnic cleansing.”
“She will explain about everything … her speech is not only for the country but to tell the world as well,” her spokesman Zaw Htay said.
Suu Kyi, a 1991 Nobel Peace Prize laureate, has repeatedly come under international criticism for her lack of action to help the Rohingya, a stark contrast to her previous image as a champion of human rights.
However, support for her and her government remains high at home.
The exodus began after Rohingya militants killed 12 security officials at border posts in Myanmar’s Rakhine State on August 25, resulting in an intensified government “clearance operation” against what it says are “terrorists.”
However, refugees speak of indiscriminate violence, homes set on fire and family members being taken away.
Predominantly Buddhist Myanmar has denied Muslim Rohingya residents the right of citizenship, considering them to be Bangladeshi, but Bangladesh denies them civil and political rights, saying they’re Burmese. As a result, they’re effectively stateless.
With nearly half of Myanmar’s Rohingya now forced from their homes, we asked four refugees, who have made the perilous journey to Bangladesh, what their message was for Suu Kyi.
CNN has not been able to verify their stories because access to Rakhine State is heavily restricted.
Baser: ‘She is responsible’
Baser, 45, is a village elder and says he encouraged people in his village to stay calm and not fight. He blames Suu Kyi for the violence.
“What Aung San Suu Kyi is doing is not good. I have no words to describe the violence.”
“Being a leader, Aung San Suu Kyi is torturing us so much. She is responsible for this violence.”
Asma: ‘We believed in her good words’
Asma, 40, arrived in Bangladesh a week ago after fleeing with her family from a village near Maungdaw in northern Rakhine. She’s now living with three other families in a shelter in one of the UN-registered camps, Kutupalong.
“We believed in Aung San Suu Kyi’s good words, but she’s torturing us by using the military and police. Those groups are arresting us, killing us, burning us, and now they are throwing us out from our own country.”
“We just want to tell her that she should accept us as Rohingya, and let us move around freely. And let others visit us.”
Nurun Nahar: Give us back our village
Nurun Nahar, 45, arrived in Bangladesh on Thursday after fleeing the violence engulfing her homeland.
“We demand Aung San Suu Kyi give us back our country, our village. And our houses, our properties too. She doesn’t have the right to keep us in this situation.”
“If she wants us to go back, she must let us live in peace, and promise us that she won’t start this violence again in future.”
Jhuno: She failed us
Jhuno, 80, said government forces carried out attacks on her village in the dead night and early in the morning. She said she hurt her knee when she was running away and can’t sit or walk properly now.
The grandmother said she has six children and one grandchild. Her husband died long ago, and she cannot find her only son.
“We thought Aung San Suu Kyi would give us peace, but she failed to do so. Just violence, too much violence.”
“Even a 12-year old could not go out of the home, or walk around freely.”
“We came to Bangladesh because life back home was very dangerous. Bullets were flying around like rain.”