Myanmar’s leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, said ethnic cleansing was too strong a term to describe what was happening in the Muslim-majority Rakhine region, the BBC reported on Wednesday.
“I don’t think there is ethnic cleaning going on,” Suu Kyi told the BBC. “I think ethnic cleansing is too strong an expression to use for what is happening.“
The Nobel peace prize winner is facing international criticism for her government’s handling of a crisis in the Muslim-majority Rakhine region, where soldiers have blocked access for aid workers and are accused of raping and killing civilians.
Critics have called on Aung San Suu Kyi, who after 15 years of house arrest as a political prisoner now effectively rules Myanmar in the specially created position of state counsellor, to speak out against the abuses.
But she told the BBC: “What do you mean by speaking out? … This question has been asked since 2013 when the last round of troubles broke out in Rakhine. And they would ask me questions and I would answer them, and people would say I said nothing. Simply because I didn’t make a kind of statement which they thought I should make, which is to condemn one community or the other.”
In December, more than a dozen fellow Nobel laureates wrote an open letter to the UN security council warning of a tragedy “amounting to ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity” in Rakhine, citing the “potential for genocide”.
Aung San Suu Kyi said she was working towards reconciliation in the troubled area, but in comments that are likely to draw further criticism, declined to accept that aggressions were being perpetuated by the Burmese army.
“I think there’s a lot of hostility there,” she told the BBC. “It’s…
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