Nobel Peace Prize winner and democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi has made her first speech in Myanmar's parliament, calling for greater protection of the rights of ethnic minorities.
Suu Kyi stood up from her seat towards the back of the lower house to give a brief speech in which she called for an end to discrimination against ethnic minorities. She described it as part of the "emergence of a genuine democratic country."
Suu Kyi also focussed on the high poverty rates in the ethnic states, citing from a report by the Asian Development Bank highlighting increasing impoverishment in the Chin, Kachin, Shan and Rakhine states.
It shows that "development in ethnic regions is not satisfactory," Suu Kyi said.
However, Suu Kyi did not mention the recent communal violence between Rakhine Buddhists and Muslim Rohingyas. She has already been criticized by rights groups for not coming out more stongly in support of the Rohingyas, officially considered to be illegal immigrants from Bangladesh in Myanmar. They are counted among the most persecuted people in the world by the United Nations.
Significantly, Suu Kyi backed a motion tabled by a member of the ruling Union Solidarity and Development Party, which was created by the former regime and constitutes the biggest rival of Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy (NLD). The lawmaker behind the motion was himself from the ethnic Shan state.
Suu Kyi's pro-democracy movement has been loosely allied with many of the country's ethnic minority groups.
Since coming to power in 2011, President Thein Sein's military-allied government has managed to reach cease-fires with all but one ethnic group, the Kachin Independence Army, which prompted Suu Kyi to say that "the flames of war are not completely extinguished."
ac / act (AP, Reuters, AFP)