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Asia Today ISSN 1861-4604 Sunday, April 22, 2018

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Rohingya Muslims can return: Myanmar’s Suu Kyi relents

Aung San Suu Kyi has declared

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NAYPYIDAW, Myanmar - Following international pressure and a meeting with Foreign Office Minister Mark Field, Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi has declared that Rohingya Muslims can now return to Myanmar.

Suu Kyi said that the hundreds of thousands of Rohingya Muslims, who fled the violence and persecution in Myanmar will now be allowed to return.

According to reports from the region, the country's de facto leader gave her "strong commitment" during a meeting with Field.

After an estimated 400,000 fled across the border into Bangladesh in the wake of violence from nationalist militias, the UN titled the treatment of the Rohingya in Myanmar as “ethnic cleansing.” 

Nationalist militias have been accused of torching dozens of villages in Rakhine State, killing and gang-raping Muslims in their path.

Further, Myanmar government has been criticized of stoking ethnic tensions which have seen ultra-nationalist Buddhist mobs surround many Muslim Rohingya villages.

Due to the violence, the Rohingya have fled Buddhist-majority Myanmar, with many of them packed into existing camps or huddled in makeshift settlements that have come up along roadsides and in open fields on the border with Bangladesh.

The region has drawn a lot of international criticism, in the wake of the situation, and now Field has questioned, “How many [Rohingya] will feel confident enough with the security implications of what has happened in the country to return?"

He added that the treatment of the Rohingya in Myanmar in recent weeks "is an absolute and unacceptable tragedy.”

So far, Suu Kyi has drawn widespread international condemnation for her refusal to condemn the actions of Myanmar's security forces.

She has instead argued that there has been "an iceberg of misinformation" surrounding the reports from refugees of their villages being burned and of people being slaughtered.

Following his meeting with Suu Kyi in Myanmar's capital, Naypyidaw, Field, however, did concede that she was in a difficult position since much power still remains in the hands of Myanmar's military.

Until two years ago, the military ruled the south-east Asian country alone.

Suu Kyi currently does not have authority over the military.

Field however clarified that Suu Kyi remained the best hope for democracy in Myanmar.

He said, “She is in a difficult position. Under the constitution the military remains very powerful. There are only small steps that have taken place in recent years towards democracy. She finds herself treading a fine line between the international criticism, which we have obviously seen in the last six months, but also public opinion in Burma which remains very strong anti-Rohingya. Whatever else happens, she is the best hope for ongoing democracy in Burma. What would be calamitous would be for it to fall back into military dictatorship."

Field added, "She is becoming increasingly aware, because I am not the only person who is telling her this, that there is much that needs to be done if the international community is going to have confidence is going to be moving into the right place and the right direction."

Earlier this month, Suu Kyi said in a televised speech that she does not fear “international scrutiny” of her government's handling of the growing Rohingya crisis.

Suu Kyi had insisted that most Muslims had not fled the state and that violence had ceased.

She also noted that it was “sad” that the world was concentrated on just one of the country's problems.

She added that she was "concerned" about the allegations of violence and wanted "to find out what the real problems are. There have been allegations and counter-allegations.”

Suu Kyi said, “We have to listen to all of them. We have to make sure those allegations are based on solid evidence before we take action."

Adding that she wanted to find out why "this exodus" of Muslims fleeing across the border to Bangladesh is happening.

 

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