Nay Pyi Taw, Nov 2 (IANS) Myanmar’s de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi visited confict-battered Rakhine state on Thursday for the first time since hundreds of thousands of Rohingya Muslims began fleeing the country in August to escape a military operation.
The Nobel laureate has been criticised around the world for not stopping the military crackdown on Rohingyas amid allegations of ethnic cleansing.
Suu Kyi’s brief trip allowed her only short stops in areas affected by the military operation against Rohingya militants. She visited the regional capital Sittwe and other towns during an unannounced one-day trip, the BBC reported.
The local media reported that Suu Kyi visited two villages in Maungdaw district — one of the worst affected by the violence.
Accompanied by about 20 people travelling in two military helicopters, including Army, police and state officials, Suu Kyi met the remaining Rohingya residents.
Images posted on social media showed the leader speaking to villagers. Some 600,000 Rohingyas fled to neighbouring Bangladesh in two months, carrying accounts of murder, rape and arson at the hands of Myanmar’s security forces who said they were responding to militant raids on August 25.
Pressure is mounting on Myanmar to provide security for Rohingyas and allow them to return home. Chris Lewa, a Rohingya rights activist, said the leader stopped her car at one point to speak to locals.
“She only said three things to the people — they should live peacefully, the government is there to help them, and they should not quarrel with each other,” Lewa said, citing a Rohingya religious leader present there, the local media reported.
European Commissioner Christos Stylianides visited the Rohingya camps this week in Bangladesh and said the conditions were “beyond imagination”.
“(The) Rohingya are nothing less than every other human being in the world. This (situation) is, especially for the European Union and also for me personally, appalling,” he was quoted as saying by the Dhaka Tribune after a two-day visit.
On Wednesday, Myanmar government spokesman U Zaw Htay accused Bangladesh of delaying the start of the repatriation process.
“The Myanmar government already declared we are ready to receive [the refugees] at any time … but the Bangladeshi government is still considering the agreement between the two countries,” he said.
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