Nay Pyi Taw, April 6 (IANS) State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi has denied there is ethnic cleansing of the Rohingya Muslim minority in the country, despite widespread reports of abuses, a media report said.
In a BBC interview on Wednesday, the Nobel laureate acknowledged problems in Rakhine state, where most Rohingya people live, but said ethnic cleansing was “too strong” a term to use.
“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,” she 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 de-facto leader added.
The Rohingya are denied citizenship in Myanmar, which views them as illegal immigrants from Bangladesh. They face routine official and public discrimination, reports the BBC.
Tens of thousands of Rohingya live in make-shift refugee camps.
According to authorities, about 70,000 have fled to Bangladesh to escape a government military operation in Rakhine, launched after nine policemen were killed in an attack last October.
Last month, the UN announced that it would conduct an investigation into allegations the military has been indiscriminately targeting the Rohingya during the operation, subjecting them to rape, murder and torture.
However, the Myanmar government has denied the claims.
In response, Suu Kyi told the BBC that she had answered questions on the issue previously.
“This question has been asked since 2013, when the last round of troubles broke out in Rakhine…they (the journalists) would ask me questions and I would answer them and people would say I said nothing.”
“Simply because I did not make the statements people wanted, which people wanted me to make, simply to condemn one community or the other,” she added.
As for those Rohingya who have fled Myanmar to neighbouring countries, Suu Kyi said: “If they come back they will be safe. It is up for them to decide, some have come back.”
“We welcome them and we will welcome them back,” she concluded.