Myanmar’s State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi said Thursday that it is a ‘little unreasonable’ to expect her government to solve the crisis in conflict-prone Rakhine state in just 18 months. In recent weeks, Suu Kyi and her administration has been chastised by human rights advocates and global media for merely watching on as over 1 lakh Rohingya Muslims fled Rakhine for neighbouring Bangladesh in the event of an army crackdown.
“This is the biggest challenge we have had to face. It is a little unreasonable to expect us to solve the issue in 18 months…the situation in Rakhine has been such since many decades. It goes back to pre-colonial times,” Suu Kyi told news agency ANI.
Suu Kyi, who was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1991 for her pro-democracy movement, said her administration’s resources are ‘not as complete and adequate as we would like them to be.’
“It is our duty to take care of our citizens and we will try our best…we want to make sure that everyone is entitled to the protection of the law,” Suu Kyi told ANI. “We have to decide how to differentiate terrorists from innocents. You in India would be well versed with this.”
Suu Kyi’s comments come in the backdrop of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s first bilateral visit to Myanmar where he shared the country’s concerns over extremist violence in Rakhine. PM Modi, who held talks with Suu Kyi, said in his joint press statement, “When it comes to a big peace process or finding a solution to a problem, we hope that all stakeholders can work together towards finding a solution which respects the unity and territorial integrity of Myanmar.” Suu Kyi also thanked India for taking a strong stand on the terror threat that Myanmar faced recently when 12 security personnel were killed in an attack by Rohingya militants.
In her first public comments on the crisis, Suu Kyi was quoted Wednesday saying in a call with Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan that the global sympathy for the Rohingya was being fuelled by “a huge iceberg of misinformation calculated to create a lot of problems between different communities and with the aim of promoting the interest of the terrorists”. Erdogan had dubbed the crisis in Rakhine state a ‘genocide.’ But Suu Kyi said her government was committed to protecting all the people of the western state.
Bangladesh is believed to have hosted over 4 lakh Rohingya Muslims over the last four decades. “The number is growing every day,” UNHCR spokeswoman Vivian Tan told AFP. “It’s a growing humanitarian crisis.”
India hosts around 40,000 Rohingya Muslims, of whom 11,000 people are believed to carry official refugee identity cards from the UN. A Supreme Court bench is currently hearing a petition challenging the Home Ministry’s directions to deport illegal Rohingya immigrants back to Myanmar. The Centre is likely to tell the top court that the ministry’s directions are for all undocumented refugees staying in India, not just the Rohingyas.