The Nobel laureate, who has been pilloried by rights groups for failing to speak up in the defence of the Rohinyga minority, will skip the United Nations General Assembly as well
Myanmar’s leader Aung San Suu Kyi will address the crisis engulfing Rakhine state next week, in her first speech since scores were killed in violence that has sent nearly 379,000 Rohingya Muslims fleeing to Bangladesh and battered her reputation as a defender of the downtrodden.
In a press conference, government spokesman Zaw Htay said Suu Kyi will “speak for national reconciliation and peace” in a televised address on September 19.
He said the Nobel laureate, who has been pilloried by rights groups for failing to speak up in the defence of the Rohinyga minority, would skip the United Nations General Assembly next week to tackle the crisis unfurling at home.
The violence has incubated a humanitarian crisis on both sides of the border and piled intense global pressure on Suu Kyi to condemn the army campaign, which the UN has described as having all the hallmarks of “ethnic cleansing”.
She is needed in Myanmar to “manage humanitarian assistance” and “security concerns” caused by the violence, as competing rumours ratchet up anti-Muslim rhetoric across the Buddhist-majority country.
Dhaka is struggling to provide relief for exhausted and hungry refugees, some 60% of whom are children, while nearly 30,000 ethnic Rakhine Buddhists as well as Hindus have been displaced inside Myanmar.
Nine thousand more Rohingya refugees poured into Bangladesh on Wednesday, the UN said, as authorities worked to build a new camp for tens of thousands of arrivals who have no shelter.
Suu Kyi, Myanmar’s first civilian leader in decades, has no control over the powerful military, which ran the country for 50 years before allowing free elections in 2015.
But outside of her country Suu Kyi’s reputation as a defender of the oppressed is in ruins over the Rohingya crisis.
Rohingya refugees have told chilling accounts of soldiers firing on civilians and razing entire villages in northern Rakhine state with the help of Buddhist mobs.
The army denies the allegations, while Suu Kyi has also played down claims of atrocities, instead blaming “a huge iceberg of misinformation” for complicating the conflict.
The UN Security Council was scheduled later Wednesday to discuss the refugee crisis in a closed-door meeting, with China expected to shoot down any efforts to censure its strategically pivotal Southeast Asian ally.
Suu Kyi, a Nobel Peace Prize winner garlanded for her dignified and defiant democracy activism under Myanmar’s former junta, was once the darling of the international community.
She made her debut before the UN assembly last September, winning warm applause for a speech delivered months after she became Myanmar’s first civilian leader following a decades-long democracy struggle under the former junta.
In it she vowed to find a solution to long-running ethnic and religious hatred in Rakhine “that will lead to peace, stability and development for all communities within the state”.
In a sign of how far Suu Kyi’s star has fallen since, the same rights groups that campaigned for her release from house arrest have blasted her for failing to speak up in defence of the Rohingya.
Sympathisers say her hands are tied by the army, which still runs a chunk of the government and has complete control over all security matters.
But fellow Nobel laureates have lined up to condemn her silence, with Archbishop Desmond Tutu calling it “incongruous for a symbol of righteousness to lead such a country”.