The UN speaks of "ethnic cleansing", 700,000 people left the country: The Rohingya crisis causes worldwide sensation and sharp criticism. From the perspective of Myanmar's de facto head of government Aung San Suu Kyi, the country could have handled the events "better".
The Nobel Peace Prize winner spoke for the first time after a long silence again on the subject. "In retrospect, of course, there are ways to better manage the situation," said Suu Kyi at an Economic Forum of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) in Hanoi. Because of her long silence on the Rohingya crisis, she had repeatedly been criticized internationally. It was only after weeks of hesitation that Suu Kyi first condemned the violence against the Rohingya.
The Rohingya Muslim minority has been oppressed and discriminated against for decades in Myanmar, the former Burma. The situation escalated a year ago, after Rohingya rebels killed numerous border guards in attacks. The military in the predominantly Buddhist country reacted with brutal counter-violence. The units are charged with mass rape, killings and the firing of thousands of homes. UN observers even called the events genocide. The International Criminal Court, which Myanmar does not recognize, also wants to deal with the case.
Amnesty International on Crisis: "Military fired on women, men and children"
However, Suu Kyi also defended the security forces. She stressed that all groups in the western state of Rakhine should be protected. "We have to be fair to all sides," she said. "The law must apply to everyone." The enormous number of ethnic minorities in the area makes the situation very complicated. Some of them threaten to disappear completely.
The violence in Rakhine has recently declined, but Myanmar is still struggling with the consequences of the crisis. For example, months have been spent working on the repatriation of the many people who have fled. Suu Kyi said Myanmar is ready to resume the refugees. But because two governments are involved, the repatriation is complicated. Nursing workers say the conditions for a safe and regular return have not yet been met.'
Suu Kyi defends arrest of journalists
For the first time, Suu Kyi also directly commented on the imprisonment of two journalists from the Reuters news agency in their country. The verdict has nothing to do with freedom of expression and work as a journalist, she said. The court found that the journalists violated the law on state secrets.
The two journalists, who had reported on the killing of members of the Rohingya, had been sentenced to seven years' imprisonment at the beginning of September for treason. Internationally, the verdict was sharply criticized. US Vice President Mike Pence called on Myanmar to immediately release the journalists.
Suu Kyi said those convicted have the right to appeal the verdict and make it clear why they believe it is wrong. The trial and every hearing were public. If anyone believes that it is a misjudgment, he should justify it, said the politician.