Suu Kyi appealed for understanding of her nation’s ethnic complexities, and said the world should not forget the military operation was launched in response to attacks on security forces that the government has blamed on Muslim insurgents.
“I would appreciate it so much if the international community would help us to maintain peace and stability, and to make progress in building better relations between the two communities, instead of always drumming up cause for bigger fires of resentment,” Suu Kyi told Singapore state-owned broadcaster Channel News Asia during a visit to the city-state.
The violence in the northwest poses the biggest challenge so far to Suu Kyi’s eight-month-old government, and has renewed international criticism that the Nobel Peace Prize winner has done too little to help the country’s Rohingya Muslim minority.
“Crimes against humanity”
Despite often having lived in Myanmar for generations, most of the country’s 1.1 million Rohingya are denied citizenship, freedom of movement and access to basic services such as healthcare and education.
The UN’s human rights agency said this week that abuses suffered by the Rohingya may amount to a crimes against humanity, repeating a statement it first made in a June report.
The Rohingya are not among the 135 ethnic groups recognised by law in Myanmar, where many majority Buddhists refer to them as “Bengalis” to indicate they regard them as illegal immigrants from Bangladesh.
In northern Rakhine, one of the poorest parts of the country, Muslims outnumber the ethnic Rakhine population.
“In the Rakhine, it’s not just the Muslims who are nervous and worried,” said Suu Kyi. “The Rakhine are worried too. They are worried about the fact that they are shrinking as a Rakhine population, percentage-wise.”
Suu Kyi identified Rakhine as one of the areas that required special attention from the outset of her term, nominating Annan in August to lead a taskforce to come up with long-term solutions to the problems of the divided state.
The six Myanmar and three foreign commissioners, on their second trip to Rakhine, met community leaders, local government representatives and Muslims from camps for displaced people in the state capital of Sittwe.
“There have been security actions there, but security actions should not impede humanitarian access to those in need,” Annan told reporters after the meetings, referring to the north.
The UN has said some 30,000 people have been internally displaced by the fighting and, while nearly 20,000 have had their deliveries of aid restored, around 130,000 are still not getting food and other assistance they had been receiving prior to the outbreak of violence.