Amnesty International accuses Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi and her government of burying their heads in the sand, while UN investigators demanded full, unfettered access to Myanmar.

The military response to insurgent attacks in the western region of Myanmar in August has been branded ethnic cleansing by the United Nations.
The military response to insurgent attacks in the western region of Myanmar in August has been branded ethnic cleansing by the United Nations. (Reuters)

Human rights groups are critical of Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi's defence of her country's conduct in violence that has driven out some 421,000 Rohingya Muslims, but some observers are glad that she invited diplomats to travel to northern Rakhine state to see for themselves.

Suu Kyi said on Tuesday that most Muslims within the conflict zone stayed and that "more than 50 percent of their villages were intact."

She says the government is working to restore normalcy. Rohingya, however, blame government forces for driving them out.

"Aung San Suu Kyi today demonstrated that she and her government are still burying their heads in the sand over the horrors unfolding in Rakhine state," Amnesty International regional director James Gomez said. 

"At times, her speech amounted to little more than a mix of untruths and victim blaming."

The rights group blasted Suu Kyi for remaining "silent about the role of the security forces", whom they have accused of being "engaged in a campaign of ethnic cleansing."

The watchdog also criticised Suu Kyi's call for international observers to visit Myanmar to assess its troubles for themselves, citing her government's blocking of a UN fact-finding mission to probe alleged army atrocities in Rakhine. 

"Aung San Suu Kyi's claims that her government 'does not fear international scrutiny' ring hollow ... If Myanmar has nothing to hide, it should allow UN investigators into the country, including Rakhine state," Amnesty said.

The head of the UN fact-finding mission probing violence in Myanmar's Rakhine state said he is still waiting for permission to enter the country.           

"We have not been able to proceed further in planning the presence of a fact-finding team on the ground until there is a clear signal from the government of Myanmar that the fact-finding mission is in fact enabled to access into the country," Marzuki Darusman told the UN Human Rights Council.

"We continue to hold hopes, high hopes in fact, that this may be resolved." 

Darusman asked the UN Human Rights Council on Tuesday for more time to probe allegations of mass killings, torture, sexual violence, the use of landmines and the burning of villages.

"We will go where the evidence leads us," Darusman said, before requesting a six-month extension of the investigation to September 2018.

But Andrew Kirkwood of the United Nations' Office for Project services said it was positive that Suu Kyi welcomed the international community to parts of northern Rakhine.

Myanmar's ambassador Htin Lynn said Darusman's investigation was "not a helpful course of action" and said Myanmar was taking proportionate security measures against terrorists and was making efforts to restore peace.

Foreign diplomats, however, reacted to the speech favourably. 

Source: TRTWorld and agencies