Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi’s address assumed to be aimed at softening the global outrage over the Rohingya issue today visibly failed to woo rights groups and observers while some of them called it an effort to “bury heads in the sand”.
“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,” rights watchdog Amnesty International said in a statement.
The statement, issued hours after Suu Kyi gave her first address to the nation since outbreak of last month’s violence in western Myanmar’s Rakhine State, added “At times, her speech amounted to little more than a mix of untruths and victim blaming”.
Suu Kyi earlier today gave her first address to the nation since the August 25 launch of army crackdown on Rohingya in response to insurgents’ attacks on police outposts forcing tens of thousands of the ethnic minority community to flee their home to take refuge in Bangladesh.
In her 30-minute televised speech Suu Kyi said she did not fear global scrutiny over the Rohingya crisis but added “those verified as refugees will be accepted without any problems and with full assurance of their security and access to humanitarian aid”.
“(But) refugees who have fled to Bangladesh cannot return to this appalling status quo,” said Amnesty, which once tirelessly campaigned for Suu Kyi’s release from house arrest.
Suu Kyi also insisted army “clearance operations” finished on September 5 without any further militant attacks while soon after the address, Human Rights Watch purportedly showed 214 Rohingya villages in ashes.
“If nothing has happened since September 5th, and all the Rohingya have left, who burned them?” Human Rights Watch said.
The rights group feared that Muslim Rohingyas almost completely erased from Myanmar’s Maungdaw township while other townships were also damaged.
The United Nations, rights groups, and a tide of Rohingya refugees pouring into Bangladesh accused Myanmar’s military of using bullets and arson to wage an “ethnic cleansing campaign” against the Muslim minority.
In her speech Suu Kyi expressed sympathy for the “suffering of all people” swept up in the violence without addressing the issue of ethnic cleansing while the Amnesty bashed her for remaining “silent about the role of the security forces”.
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.
CNN correspondent Ivan Watson, who has travelled to Rakhine state and visited Rohingya settlements contradicted Suu kyi’s claim that “all people living in Rakhine state have access to education and health care services without discrimination” calling it “categorically untrue”.
He later tried to question Suu Kyi about the allegations of ethnic cleansing, but was ignored by the State Counsellor as she left the auditorium where she spoke.
Myanmar watchers speaking to CNN called Suu Kyi a calculating politician, and one who knows speaking out on the Rohingya will only cost her political capital.
“She’s no longer a peace campaigner, she’s evolved and transitioned into a full-time politician,” said Azeem Ibrahim, a senior fellow at the Center for Global Policy and author of “The Rohingyas: Inside Myanmar’s Hidden Genocide.”
Penny Green, a professor of law at Queen Mary University of London who studies the Rohingya conflict, called out Suu Kyi’s attempt to Rohingyas to the ARSA militant group as a behaviour which was “common among those targeting an ethnic group”.
“She (Suu Kyi) chooses to use the word in relation to a terrorist group, that means that is the only identity that Rohingya will be attached to, from her perspective and she hopes from the international perspective,” she said.
Green called Suu Kyi’s speech “disingenuous” and “filled underlying denials” that she said is “typical of the way in which state criminals behave.”