Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi refused to criticize the bloody campaign of the army against Rohingya Muslims in her first public remarks on this subject since the publication of a report by the United Nations stating that she had some responsibility for the atrocities.
"I know that this has received a lot of international attention, but when you say," How did the army deal with it? "I think you might think of the military aspect of the operations," Ms. Suu Kyi on Thursday at a forum in Vietnam, which was her answer to a question about her last year's purge which killed an estimated 10,000 people and sent more than 700,000 people on the flight to Bangladesh, where she refugee camps.
Ms Suu Kyi's statements reinforce her reluctance to criticize the forces for what an American fact-finding mission calls a possible genocide. The government of the Nobel Peace Prize winner took up office in 2016, but remains in power-sharing with the army that ruled Myanmar for decades.
"Of course there are ways in which we would later think that the situation might have been better addressed, but we believe that for the sake of safety and stability in the long term we should be honest with all parties," Ms. Suu Kyi said.
Ms. Suu Kyi was also questioned about calls from American Vice President Mike Pence – and other Western governments and human rights organizations – to Myanmar to release two Reuters journalists. Last week, the couple was sentenced to seven years in prison for violating an official secrecy law in connection with their investigation into the anti-Rohingya campaign.
"If someone thinks there has been a legal drama, I would like them to point it out," said Ms. Suu Kyi and said they could appeal.
'There are, of course, ways in which we think afterwards that the situation may have been better addressed.'
Her remarks were made during the last day of a World Economic Forum conference in Hanoi, aimed at promoting economic development in Southeast Asia. Børge Brende, the president of the forum, asked questions in a relatively rare public discussion on the subject for Ms. Suu Kyi. She has had to deal with intense international criticism that contrasts with years of experience of her as a dissident hero who opposes military domination.
"Suu Kyi's problem is that she thinks that this kind of blather still works because she is the one who says it, but the reality is that people are now looking through her act and recognize her leading role in the Myanmar campaign to keep an eye on what the army really did the Rohingya, "said Phil Robertson, deputy director of the Asia division of Human Rights Watch.
A recent report from researchers from the human rights agency of the U.N. said that the generals who run the campaign have to pay genocide costs. They also said that the government of Ms. Suu Kyi "by their acts and omissions … contributed to the commission of atrocities."
Ms. Suu Kyi said she did not know when the Rohingya would return home from Bangladesh, saying her government had limited control over a slow-moving repatriation process. Many Rohingya are afraid to return to Myanmar if their security and rights can not be guaranteed.
"We can not pick them up from Bangladesh," said Mrs. Suu Kyi.
Myanmar is facing growing international criticism after two Reuters journalists who have investigated a massacre among ethnic Rohingya Muslims were sentenced to seven years in prison. Jon Emont of the WSJ explains. Photo: Getty Images and Reuters
The government of Ms. Suu Kyi has announced that she will not travel to New York to attend the meeting of the General Assembly of the United Nations later this month.
Many in Myanmar, dominated by Buddhists, regard Rohingya – a predominantly Muslim ethnic minority – as illegal immigrants, even though some have lived there for generations. They have been denied citizenship and have been the target of periodic prosecution that has intensified in recent years. The Myanmar military say that its operations against the Rohingya in 2017 were caused by terrorist attacks by a Rohingya militant group against security forces.
Write to Jon Emont at email@example.com