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Aung San Suu Kyi decries Rohingya 'terrorists'

September 6, 2017

Aung San Suu Kyi has again refused to mention the humanitarian crisis unfolding on Myanmar's border with Bangladesh. More than 125,000 Rohingya have fled their villages amid reports of military attacks and mass killings.

Myanmar - Aung San Suu Kyi
Image: Reuters/E. Su

Myanmar's de-facto leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, spoke out Wednesday against "terrorists" for spreading "a huge iceberg of misinformation" about the Rohingya crisis.

It marks the first time Suu Kyi has commented on the violence and humanitarian crisis unfolding in Rakhine state, although she has repeatedly refused to denounce Myanmar's military forces, despite reports of troops carrying out targeted arson attacks and mass killings.

Read more: The Rohingya in Myanmar: what you need to know

In a statement posted on Facebook, Suu Kyi's office said that the government had "already started defending all the people in Rakhine in the best way possible." The state counsellor's office also warned that misinformation would mar relations with other countries.

The remarks came after Suu Kyi spoke with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan over the phone Tuesday. She criticized Turkey's deputy prime minister for posting images on social media of the alleged killings of Rohingya Muslims, which later turned out not to be from Myanmar.

"She said, that kind of fake information which was inflicted on the Deputy Prime Minister was simply the tip of 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," according to a social media statement.

Suu Kyi under pressure to speak out

Myanmar's state counsellor is under pressure from world leaders and critics to speak out against the violence in Rakhine city.

Since the Myanmar army launched a military counter-offensive against Rohingya militants just under two weeks ago, around 400 people have been killed and more than 125,000, mostly women and children, have fled across the border into Bangladesh.

Observers have warned that Myanmar's Muslim Rohingya minority — considered one of the world's most persecuted ethnic groups — could be facing genocide.

Indonesia, the world's largest Muslim majority country, has called on the Association of Southeast Asian Nations to put pressure on Myanmar's government, while UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Tuesday warned of the risk of ethnic cleansing and regional destabilization.

Suu Kyi's silence has led many critics to call for her Nobel Peace Prize, which she was awarded in 1991 as a champion of democracy, to be revoked.

Other leaders have been less reprimanding, however. During a visit to Myanmar Wednesday, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi told Suu Kyi that his country shared her "concerns about extremist violence in Rakhine state and specially the violence against security forces and how innocent lives have been affected."

Modi has taken a strong stance against the roughly 40,000 Rohingya who have fled Myanmar to India in recent years, vowing to deport them all. 

In a brief statement, Suu Kyi thanked Modi for his stance on the attacks and that the two countries would work together to stem the "terrorist threat."

Rohingya people at risk of ethnic cleansing: UN

dm/ng (Reuters, AFP, dpa)