Understanding for Aung San Suu Kyi’s position vis-à-vis the Rohingya
Rex Tillerson and British former diplomat make positive comments. Military still casts their shadow over Suu Kyi’s administration. Criticizing her jeopardises the democratic transition. “[F]oreign countries made their assumption based on questionable facts they obtained," said ruling party spokesman Aung Shin.
Yangon (AsiaNews/Agencies) – Some in diplomatic circles have expressed understanding for Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi, who is involved in the difficult process of national reconciliation now threatened by tensions in the country’s north-west.
At home, she is backed by civil society and nationalist groups who reject accusations against the Myanmar government over the Rakhine crisis. But internationally, pressures are mounting over the humanitarian emergency in Bangladesh, overwhelmed by the influx of nearly 389,000 Rohingya fleeing military operations by Myanmar security forces.
Faced with the size of the Rohingya exodus, the United Nations has not hesitated to refer to it as ethnic cleansing and speculate about the worst case scenario.
Yesterday, the Security Council called on Myanmar to take "immediate steps to end the violence in Rakhine State.
The European Parliament also expressed serious concerns over the situation, calling on Myanmar’s military to stop immediately its abuses. Meanwhile, refugees are telling stories of massacres, fires, torture and gang rapes.
The assembly is also threatening to strip Aung San Suu Kyi of the human rights award it had given her.
Whilst condemning the "persecution" of the Rohingya, US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is more sympathetic.
He said the US appreciated the "difficult and complex situation" the Noble Prize laureate finds herself in, sharing political power with the military, which still controls most of the state institutions, especially in matters related to security.
In office since April 2016 after the first free elections in decades of military dictatorship, Aung San Suu Kyi promised to break her silence on 19 September in a televised speech.
Although the UN has described the anti-Rohingya action as ethnic cleansing, some Western diplomats – from countries vying for influence in Myanmar with China - claim that abandoning Suu Kyi and re-imposing sanctions could undermine the country’s democratic transition.
“[I]f we want to improve the situation, we need to understand before we condemn,” said Sir John Jenkins, Corresponding Director (Middle East) at the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS), and until January 2015, British ambassador to Saudi Arabia.
“First, suffering in Myanmar is not the preserve of Rakhine Muslims. From 1958 onwards a harshly militarised system of rule systematically oppressed everybody, including Burman, Shan, Mon, Karen, Kachin, Chin, Karenni, Palaung, Kokang, Rakhine Buddhist and Rakhine Muslim and even army recruits themselves. It spared no one. It wrecked the economy, destroyed civil society and turned the many communities that make up Myanmar against each other.
“So when people criticize Aung San Suu Kyi for not taking effective action immediately to halt the oppression of Rakhine Muslims, I groan. Even to start to repair the fabric of Burma’s wounded society is a generational task. Everyone has a claim on her attention and that of the new and hobbled Myanmar government.
“Suu Kyi’s electoral triumph in 2015 is a fragile one. The 2008 constitution gives the military three key security ministries, a permanent blocking veto in Parliament and freedom from civilian oversight. It also blocked Suu Kyi from becoming president, leaving her as state counsellor and foreign minister. And this is the key to the current situation.”
Analysts suspect that ethnic tensions in the country’s northwest are fuelled by the military. As a guardian of the nation and of Buddhism, the Armed Forces like to reassert their power from time to time and undermine the country's democratisation process undertaken by the State Councillor.
"We don't love the military, but we are together on this one," said Nyan Win, a top official with Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy (NLD), who the country's former junta had detained for nearly three years. "Our sovereignty can't be violated and that is why we are united."
"These people are illegal immigrants, that's for sure. But the international community never mentions that," he added.
Aung Shin, an NLD spokesman, said only Myanmar citizens understand the situation in Rakhine as "foreign countries made their assumption based on questionable facts they obtained".
Many in Myanmar fear that Rohingya Muslims threaten other ethnic groups in Rakhine State.
Since Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA) militants launched attacks on 25 August, six non-Muslims have been killed and nearly 30,000 were displaced in the state.