Leader and her government burying their heads in the sand over the horrors unfolding in Rakhine, says Amnesty
Aung San Suu Kyi has broken her silence on the Rohingya crisis in Myanmar, delivering a speech denounced as a mix of untruths and victim-blaming by Amnesty International.
In her first public address since a bloody military crackdown on the Rohingya Muslim minority that has been branded a textbook example of ethnic cleansing by the United Nations, the Nobel laureate did not criticise the army and said she did not fear international scrutiny.
Im aware of the fact that the worlds attention is focused on the situation in Rakhine state. As a responsible member of the community of nations Myanmar does not fear international scrutiny, she said.
There have been allegations and counter-allegations We have to make sure those allegations are based on solid evidence before we take action, she said in her speech from the capital, Naypyidaw.
She insisted there had been no conflicts since 5 September and no clearance operations against the countrys Muslim minority, a point disputed by those who have fled the violence.
Aung San Suu Kyi, who won worldwide admiration for her long fight against military rule, claimed the majority of Rohingya villages had not been affected by violence. She refrained from criticising the military which has been accused of arson and indiscriminate killing but said it had been instructed to exercise restraint and avoid collateral damage in its pursuit of insurgents.
Amnesty International said Aung San Suu Kyis speech showed the leader and her government were burying their heads in the sand over the horrors unfolding in Rakhine state.
Aung San Suu Kyis claims that her government does not fear international scrutiny ring hollow, said James Gomez, Amnesty Internationals regional director for south-east Asia, who later described the speech as a mix of untruths and victim-blaming.
If Myanmar has nothing to hide, it should allow UN investigators into the country, including Rakhine state. The government must also urgently allow humanitarian actors full and unfettered access to all areas and people in need in the region.
Mark Farmaner, the director of Burma Campaign UK, said the speech was business as usual, denial as usual.
Rohingya refugees in neighbouring Bangladesh have described a brutal campaign of army attacks on civilians, while satellite imagery shows scores of Rohingya villages devastated by fire.
The UNs migration agency says about 421,000 people have fled from Myanmar to neighbouring Bangladesh in less than a month amid the crackdown. Joel Millman, spokesman for the International Organization for Migration, said an estimated 20,000 people are flowing across the border every day.
Unicef spokeswoman Marixie Mercado said the UN childrens agency now estimates that over 250,000 children have fled Myanmar over the last 25 days.
In the Kutupalong refugee camp, Abdul Hafiz told Reuters that Rohingya once trusted Aung San Suu Kyi more than the military, which had not only ruled for half a century before, but also held her under house arrest for many years.
Now Hafiz said she was a liar and that Rohingya were suffering more than ever. He said Aung San Suu Kyi should give international journalists more access to the villages to document the destruction.
Aung San Suu Kyi had not spoken publicly about the crisis since fresh violence broke out on 25 August, although in a phone call to the Turkish president she said terrorists were behind an iceberg of misinformation about the situation.
Striking a less aggressive but defiant tone in her 30-minute televised speech, she said she was deeply concerned about the suffering of people caught up in the conflict.
We are concerned to hear that numbers of Muslims are fleeing across the border to Bangladesh, she said. We want to find out why this exodus is happening.
Aung San Suu Kyi said the country stood ready at any time to take back refugees subject to a verification process. However, it was not immediately clear how many of the Rohingya who had fled Myanmar would qualify to return as most are not treated as citizens.
Meanwhile, the head of a UN investigation into violence in Myanmar asked the UN human rights council for more time to examine allegations of mass killings, torture, sexual violence, the use of landmines and the burning of villages.
We will go where the evidence leads us, the fact-finding missions chairman, Marzuki Darusman, said on Tuesday, before requesting a six-month extension of the investigation to September 2018. He said Suu Kyis remarks on scrutiny bode well for the fact-finding mission.
Myanmars ambassador to the UN, Htin Lynn, said Darusmans investigation was not a helpful course of action and the country was taking proportionate security measures against terrorists, and making efforts to restore peace.
During her speech, Aung San Suu Kyi mentioned the Rohingya by name only once, in reference to the armed militant group the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army. Many in majority-Buddhist Myanmar including several influential Islamophobic Buddhist monks say the Rohingya are illegal immigrants from Bangladesh.
Aung San Suu Kyi, who has been widely criticised including by fellow Nobel laureates for failing to speak out against the violence, urged the world to see Myanmar as a whole, and said it was sad that the international community was focused on only one of the countrys many problems.
She is trying to claw back some degree of credibility with the international community, without saying too much that will get her in trouble with the [military] and Burmese people who dont like the Rohingya in the first place, said Phil Robertson of Human Rights Watch.