Myanmar’s de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi visited the Rakhine state on Thursday, for the first time since violence broke out there in August, and urged people to “not quarrel with each other”, Reuters reported. Suu Kyi boarded a military aircraft in Sittwe, the capital of Rakhine State, to be taken to Maungdaw, one of districts worst hit by the violence.
Arakan Project monitoring group member Chris Lewa said Myanmar’s state counsellor met a group of Muslim religious leaders. “She only said three things to the people – they should live peacefully, the government is there to help them, and they should not quarrel with each other,” Lewa said.
Government spokesman Zaw Htay was quoted as saying by AFP earlier in the day that Suu Kyi would visit Buthiduang too.
More than six lakh Rohingyas have fled violence in Myanmar’s northern Rakhine state since August 25, after the security forces launched an operation in response to attacks allegedly carried out by militants. Most of them have crossed the border into Bangladesh, where they now live in crowded refugee camps.
Rohingyas have been denied citizenship in Myanmar and are classified as illegal immigrants. The community has reportedly been subjected to violence by the Buddhist majority and the Army in Myanmar, though the country has repeatedly denied this claim. The crisis has threatened to jeopardise Myanmar’s US-aided shift toward democracy after five decades of military rule.
As state counsellor, Suu Kyi has been criticised by world leaders and human rights organisations for doing little to stop the alleged “ethnic cleansing” of Rohingya Muslims and not standing up for more than 10 lakh stateless Rohingya Muslims in Rakhine. Several leaders had asked that her Nobel Prize be revoked, but the Norwegian Nobel Institute had said it cannot take back her award.
On October 20, students at Oxford University’s St Hugh’s College, where the Nobel Peace Prize laureate studied, voted to remove her name from its junior common room. Similarly, she lost her “Freedom of Oxford” title conferred by the Oxford City Council earlier in October.