Aung San Suu Kyi: No ethnic cleansing of Rohingya

Myanmar’s leader has rejected the charge of ethnic cleansing. “[T]here is a lot of hostility there,” she acknowledged. But “this divide we are trying to close up”. To her critics, she said “I’m just a politician. I’m not quite like Margaret Thatcher, no. But on the other hand I’m no Mother Teresa either.”

Naypyidaw (AsiaNews) - Despite widespread international reports of abuse and violence, Aung San Suu Kyi has rejected accusations against her government that it is involved in ethnic cleansing against minority Rohingya Muslims.

In an interview with the BBC yesterday, Myanmar’s leader and Nobel Peace Prize laureate acknowledged the existence of tensions in Rakhine state, where most Rohingya live. However, she added that the country would welcome 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," Ms Suu Kyi told the BBC.

"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 have been denied citizenship and often suffer abuse and discrimination because the authorities and the local population view them as illegal immigrants.

Originally they lived in what is now Bangladesh before coming to Myanmar during British colonial rule.

Tens of thousands of Rohingya are now living in makeshift refugee camps after being displaced by the violence that erupted in 2012.

In recent months, about 70,000 fled to Bangladesh to escape a government military operation in Rakhine, launched after nine policemen were killed in an attack by a Rohingya armed militia.

Last month, the United Nations announced an investigation after the Rohingya accused the army of rapes, murders and torture. The government has denied the allegations.

After leading a pro-democracy and human rights movement against Myanmar’s military dictatorship, Aung San Suu Kyi has attracted considerable criticism for her failure to condemn discrimination against the Rohingya minority.

During the BBC interview, she responded to the criticism by saying, “I’m just a politician. I’m not quite like Margaret Thatcher, no. But on the other hand I’m no Mother Teresa either.”