Rohingya refugees: Aung San Suu Kyi condemns all rights violations in Myanmar

Rohingya refugees: Aung San Suu Kyi condemns all rights violations in Myanmar

Rohingya refugees: Aung San Suu Kyi condemns all rights violations in Myanmar

Updated 19 September 2017, 18:15 AEST

In her first address since a military crackdown that has seen more than 410,000 Rohingya Muslims fleeing into Bangladesh, Myanmar's leader says the country does not fear international scrutiny and is "committed to the restoration of peace and stability".

Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi has condemned all human rights violations and said anyone responsible for abuses in troubled Rakhine State would face the law.

Key points:

  • Ms Suu Kyi defended her country against criticism of its treatment of the Rohingya
  • The UN has described the situation as a "textbook example of ethnic cleansing"
  • She invited diplomats to inspect Rakhine State for themselves

Ms Suu Kyi, 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, said Myanmar did not fear international scrutiny and was committed to a sustainable solution to the conflict.

She said she felt deeply for the suffering of everyone caught up in the conflict there.

The Government has blamed the Rohingya themselves for the unrest, but members of the persecuted minority have said soldiers and Buddhist mobs attacked them.

The United Nations has branded the military operation in the western state a "textbook example of ethnic cleansing".

Ms Suu Kyi did not address that accusation in her speech in the capital Naypyitaw, but said her Government condemned rights violations.

"We condemn all human rights violations and unlawful violence," Ms Suu Kyi said.

"We are committed to the restoration of peace and stability and rule of law throughout the state."

She defended her country against international criticism over the exodus of refugees by saying most of their villages remained intact, and that it was important to understand why conflict did not break out everywhere.

The Nobel Peace laureate's global image has been damaged by the violence.

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, Ms Suu Kyi has faced growing criticism for saying little about the abuses faced by the Rohingya.

Ms Suu Kyi told foreign diplomats gathered in the capital Naypyitaw that "more than half" of Rohingya villages were not affected by the violence.

She invited the diplomats to visit those villages so they could learn, along with the Government, "why are they not at each other's throats in these particular areas".

"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.

'No clearance operations'

The head of a UN investigation into violence in Myanmar asked the UN Human Rights Council 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," the fact-finding mission's chairman Marzuki Darusman said, before requesting a six-month extension of the investigation to September 2018.

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

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.

Myanmar's powerful military remains in full charge of security and Ms 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.

Ms 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, Ms 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.

Reuters/AP