Amid mounting criticism over what the United Nations has termed the "ethnic cleansing" of Rohingya Muslims, leader Aung San Suu Kyi expresses sorrow over the crisis and appealed to the international community for help.

Suu Kyi, a Nobel laureate, has been criticised for failing to speak up publicly for the stateless Rohingya or urge restraint from the military.
Suu Kyi, a Nobel laureate, has been criticised for failing to speak up publicly for the stateless Rohingya or urge restraint from the military. (Reuters)

Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi condemned on Tuesday human rights violations in Rakhine state and said violators would be brought to book, but she did not address UN accusations of a campaign of ethnic cleansing by the military.

TRT World's Arabella Munro has more. 

"Open to international scrutiny"

In her first address to the nation since attacks by Rohingya Muslim insurgents on August 25 sparked a military response that has forced more than 410,000 Rohingya into Bangladesh, Suu Kyi said Myanmar did not fear international scrutiny and was committed to a sustainable solution to the conflict.

The United Nations has branded the military operation in the western state ethnic cleansing. Suu Kyi did not address that accusation but said her government condemned rights violations and anyone responsible for abuses would face the law.

"We condemn all human rights violations and unlawful violence. We are committed to the restoration of peace and stability and rule of law throughout the state," Suu Kyi said in her address in the capital, Naypyitaw.

Long feted in the West for her role as champion of Myanmar’s democratic opposition in the Buddhist-majority country during years of military rule and house arrest, Suu Kyi has faced growing criticism for saying little about the abuses faced by the Rohingya.

"Human rights violations and all other acts that impair stability and harmony and undermine the rule of law will be addressed in accordance with strict laws and justice," she said.

"We feel deeply for the suffering of all the people caught up in the conflict."

Myanmar's powerful military remains in full charge of security and Suu Kyi did not comment on the military operations except to say that since September 5, there had been "no armed clashes and there have been no clearance operations."

"Nevertheless, 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. We would like to talk to those who have fled as well as those who have stayed. I think it is very little known a great majority of Muslims in the Rakhine state have not joined the exodus."

She said her government had been making every effort to restore peace and stability and to promote harmony between the Muslim and largely Buddhist Rakhine communities.

The military response to insurgent attacks last month in the western region of Myanmar sent more than 410,000 Rohingya Muslims fleeing to neighboring Bangladesh.
The military response to insurgent attacks last month in the western region of Myanmar sent more than 410,000 Rohingya Muslims fleeing to neighboring Bangladesh. (Reuters)

"Burying their heads in the sand"

Western diplomats and aid officials, hoping for an unequivocal condemnation of violence and hate speech, welcomed the tone of Suu Kyi's message, but some doubted if she had done enough to deflect global criticism.

Human rights group Amnesty International described her speech as "little more than a mix of untruths and victim-blaming", saying she and her government were "burying their heads in the sand" for ignoring the army's role in the violence.

The United States urged the Myanmar government on Monday to end military operations in Rakhine state, grant humanitarian access, and commit to aiding the safe return of civilians to their homes.

TRT World spoke with David Grunebaum, a journalist on the ground after Suu Kyi's speech. 

Suu Kyi, 72, is banned from the presidency by the military-drafted constitution because her children have British citizenship. She holds offices of the state counsellor and minister for foreign affairs and is the de facto leader of the administration.

In her address, Suu Kyi did not use the term “Rohingya” to refer to the Muslim minority in Rakhine State.

Members of the 1.1 million group, who identify themselves by the term Rohingya, are seen by many Myanmar Buddhists as illegal immigrants from Bangladesh. The term is a divisive issue.

Most Rohingya do not have Myanmar citizenship and were stripped of this right in the 80s.

Source: Reuters