Aung San Suu Kyi has denied there is ethnic cleansing of the Rohingya Muslim minority in Myanmar, despite widespread reports of abuses.
In an exclusive interview with the BBC, the Nobel peace prize winner acknowledged problems in Rakhine state, where most Rohingya people live.
But she said ethnic cleansing was “too strong” a term to use.
Instead, Myanmar’s de-facto leader said the country would welcome any returning Rohingya with open arms.
“I don’t think there is ethnic cleansing going on. I think ethnic cleansing is too strong an expression to use for what is happening,” she told the BBC’s special correspondent Fergal Keane.
Ms Suu Kyi added: “I think there is a lot of hostility there – it is Muslims killing Muslims as well, if they think they are co-operating with the authorities.
“It is not just a matter of ethnic cleansing as you put it – it is a matter of people on different sides of the divide, and this divide we are trying to close up.”
The Rohingya are denied citizenship in Myanmar, also known as Burma, which views them as illegal immigrants from Bangladesh. They face routine official and public discrimination.
Tens of thousands of Rohingya live in make-shift refugee camps after being displaced by communal violence in 2012.
In recent months, some 70,000 have fled to Bangladesh to escape a government military operation in Rakhine, launched after nine policemen were killed in an attack.
The United Nations announced last month it was to conduct an investigation into allegations the military has been indiscriminately…
click here to read more