Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi has been criticised internationally for failing to address the allegations of abuse by the military on the Rohingya minority in Rakhine state.
In her first address since the army crackdown on insurgents in northwestern Rakhine causing over 400,000 Rohingyas flee, she condemned all human rights violations and said anyone responsible would face the law.
Amnesty International said Suu Kyi and her government are “still burying their heads in the sand over the horrors unfolding in Rakhine State”.
“At times, her speech amounted to little more than a mix of untruths and victim blaming,” said Amnesty’s Regional Director James Gomez.
“There is overwhelming evidence that security forces are engaged in a campaign of ethnic cleansing through murder and forced displacement.”
“While it was positive to hear Aung San Suu Kyi condemn human rights violations in Rakhine state, she is still silent about the role of the security forces in this,” said Gomez, who is in charge of Southeast Asia and the Pacific.
The United Nations has branded the military campaign in Rakhine ethnic cleansing. Suu Kyi, however, did not address that but said her government was committed to the rule of law.
Suu Kyi claimed that there have been no clearance operation since Sept 5, but pictures taken after that from the Bangladesh side showed burning houses on the Myanmar side.
Human Rights Watch’s Deputy Director for Asia Phil Robertson’s response to the statement was: “If that is true, then who is burning all the villages we’ve seen in the past two weeks?”
UNICEF Deputy Representative in Myanmar Paul Edwards, however, said her statement has to be taken at ‘face value’.
“But of course none of us really know what’s happening there if we’re not there,” he added.
The Rakhine state government praised Suu Kyi’s “transparency”, but her pledge to promote harmony between Rohingya Muslims and Buddhist Rakhine was not assuring.
“The situation is ready to explode. It just needs a single spark,” said Rakhine government’s Secretary Tin Maung Swe.
Suu Kyi is also facing a barrage of criticism from the international media.
The New York Times described her speech as “remarkable parroting of the language of the generals”.
“But those who expected Ms Aung San Suu Kyi to deliver an eloquent requiem for an oppressed people were disappointed,” reads its report.
A BBC report questioned whether Suu Kyi was ‘blind to the realities’.
“Aung San Suu Kyi is either completely out of touch or wilfully blind to the realities of what her army is up to,” BBC Correspondent Jonah Fisher said.
“It is simply not credible to say we don’t know why more than 400,000 Rohingya have fled. The evidence is being gathered every day in the testimony of refugees,” said Fisher, who is based in Naypyidaw.