Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi has addressed her nation in a hotly anticipated television address.
The 72-year-old Nobel laureate spoke about her country’s crackdown on the stateless Rohingya minority, which she had so far remained silent on. Her refusal to publicly urge restraint from the military had drawn international condemnation.
“We condemn all human rights violations and unlawful violence. We are committed to the restoration of peace and stability and rule of law throughout the state,” Suu Kyi said in Myanmar’s capital, Naypyidaw.
Before her live broadcast address, world powers had warned Myanmar of potential action if it did not act to end the crackdown on the Rohingya minority in Rakhine state.
Read more: Rohingya people in Myanmar: what you need to know
Suu Kyi said she “felt deeply” for the suffering of the civilians who were caught up in the conflict and that she wanted to end the suffering as soon as possible.
“We are concerned to hear the number of Muslims fleeing areas to Bangladesh,” she said, condemning any “human rights violations” that may have exacerbated the crisis. She asked for the international community’s help to finding a solution, adding that Myanmar did not fear international scrutiny.
UN probe ‘not helpful’
Yet one of her officials, Myanmar’s envoy to the UN Htin Lynn seemed to qualify that claim when he told the UN Human Rights Council on Tuesday that a UN-backed investigation into the crisis was “not a helpful course of action.” He added “proportionate security measures, targeted only on terrorists, are being taken to safeguard our state sovereignty, and to restore law and order.”
During the meeting, the head of the probe said Suu Kyi’s government was not cooperating fully with his investigation. Marzuki Dursman said his team needed “full and unfettered access to the country” and that the inquest could not proceed “until there is a clear signal from the government of Myanmar that the fact-finding mission is in fact enabled to access into the country.”
Suu Kyi nevertheless invited diplomats to visit Rohingya Muslim villages in her speech, insisting that most had not been affected by the violence.
“The majority of Muslims have not joined the exodus,” she said. “We want to find out why this exodus is happening.”
Suu Kyi claims picture unclear
The de facto leader, propped up by the military that used to rule Myanmar outright and retains considerable influence, also claimed that there was no clear picture of the events in Rakhine state.
“We too are concerned. We want to find out what the real problems are. There have been allegations and counter-allegations. We have to listen to them all,” she said.
Suu Kyi promised to implement the recommendations of the Annan commission delivered in August. The commission, led by former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, looked at how to solve the sectarian tensions in the country.
The report warned against using force and to end restrictions on movement and citizenship for Rohingya people.
International outrage has grown steadily in recent weeks over a military crackdown that has led to the exodus of more than 400,000 of Myanmar’s Muslim minority to neighboring Bangladesh in less than a month.
Myanmar’s government has blamed the crisis on Rohingya insurgents who attacked security posts in late August. But the United Nations has described its response as “ethnic cleansing.”
Read more:UN Security Council condemns excessive violence in Myanmar
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres had said on Monday the speech was “a last chance” for Suu Kyi to change her country’s course, speaking to the BBC.
British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson met on the sidelines of a UN meeting with representatives from several countries to discuss the crisis. His US counterpart, Nikki Haley, called Monday’s meeting “productive” but voiced alarm at the lack of progress on the ground.
“The United States continues to urge the Burmese government to end military operations, grant humanitarian access and commit to aiding the safe return of civilians back to their homes,” she said.
French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian called for “a collective response by the international community” and “a system to try to ensure [the Rohingya’s] protection.”
amp, aw/msh (AFP, AP, dpa, Reuters)