Myanmar State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi (C) meets with Myo ethnic people in northern Maungdaw, Myanmar’s Rakhine State yesterday. Suu Kyi arrived on her first visit to conflict-battered northern Rakhine State, an official said, an unannounced trip to an area that has seen most of its Rohingya population forced out by an army campaign. – AFP
SITTWE, Myanmar (AFP) – Myanmar’s leader Aung San Suu Kyi visited conflict-battered northern Rakhine State for the first time yesterday, reportedly meeting Rohingya who have faced an army crackdown that has seen hundreds of thousands of the minority flee.
Suu Kyi, a nobel laureate who leads Myanmar’s pro-democracy party, has been hammered by the international community for failing to use her moral power to speak up in defence of the Rohingya.
Some 600,000 of the stateless minority have fled to Bangladesh since late August carrying accounts of murder, rape and arson at the hands of Myanmar’s powerful army, after militant raids sparked a ferocious military retaliation.
The UN says that crackdown is likely tantamount to ethnic cleansing, while pressure has mounted on Myanmar to provide security for the Rohingya and allow people to return home.
Suu Kyi left via state capital Sittwe as evening fell yesterday after a visit that also took in Maungdaw and Buthidaung in northern Rakhine.
It was her first trip in office to the region, which has seen some of the worst communal violence that has cut through the western state since 2012, severely damaging Myanmar’s global reputation.
“The Lady” – as she is known – did meet with the Rohingya community in Maungdaw town, according to local media, a first for a leader keen to convince observers inside the country and abroad that the crisis has abated and reconstruction of Rakhine can begin.
But it was not clear if Suu Kyi visited some of the hundreds of Rohingya villages torched by the army – allegedly aided by ethnic Rakhine locals.
The Rohingya who remain in northern Rakhine are living in fear, surrounded by hostile neighbours, who refuse to let them farm or move freely.
The UN yesterday again called for unfettered humanitarian access to a zone still under army lockdown.
Yesterday around 3,000 Rohingya arrived by land at the Bangladesh border, a sign hunger and fear is still driving people from their homes.
“The army didn’t attack us but made our life very difficult,” Mohammad Zafar, 35, from a village in Buthidaung told AFP at the Bangladesh border.
“We were not paid for any work and couldn’t go to markets. How long is it possible to live like that?”
Suu Kyi heads a committee charged with rebuilding Rakhine.
She was joined yesterday by businessman Zaw Zaw, one of a host of military “cronies” who thrived under junta rule and are now taking prominent roles in rebuilding the battered region.
There are fears a carve-up of contracts in Rakhine by big business will further divorce the Rohingya from their land.
Suu Kyi says the Rohingya who have fled are now welcome back, if they meet contested “verification” criteria for re-entry to Myanmar.
The Rohingya are loathed in Myanmar, where they are denied citizenship and denigrated as illegal “Bengali” immigrants.
Courtesy: Borneo Bulletin |
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