YANGON: Opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi has urged the government to send more troops to western Myanmar to restore peace to a region convulsed by communal violence between Buddhists and Muslims.
The Nobel laureate, who has been criticised for failing specifically to condemn the treatment of Myanmar’s Rohingya Muslims, called for an end to the unrest in Rakhine state that has left at least 180 people dead and 110,000 displaced since June.
“Everyone is responsible for respecting human rights, without discriminating between majority and minority, ethnicity and religion,” she said in a statement released with lawmakers from ethnic minority parties on Wednesday.
The democracy champion said more security forces must be sent to bring “peace, stability and the rule of law” to Rakhine, where renewed conflict last month involving ethnic Rakhine and Muslims, mainly the Rohingya, killed scores.
The statement followed a meeting of the parliamentary committee on the Rule of Law and Stability, which Suu Kyi chairs.
It did not mention the Rohingya by name but it directly addressed the “concerns” of ethnic Rakhine.
The unrest pivots on the Rohingya’s lack of legal status in Myanmar, where they are seen by the government and many Burmese as illegal immigrants from neighbouring Bangladesh.
In rare comments touching on the incendiary topic, Suu Kyi said the government must “inform the public clearly how it will handle the citizenship issue”.
A 1982 law enshrines the citizenship of Myanmar’s officially-recognised ethnic groups but the Rohingya were excluded, despite their claims to have met the criteria by having ancestors in the country some 160 years before.
With around 800,000 stateless Rohingya in Rakhine, the reformist government is under international pressure to give them a legal status, with warnings that the conflict threatens its democratic transition.
Acknowledging the “very profound and sensitive” nature of the unrest, Suu Kyi also said the issue “is not the responsibility of a single country”, in comments likely to refer to Bangladesh.
The Rohingya are considered by the United Nations to be one of the most persecuted minorities on the planet.
Tens of thousands languish in squalid makeshift camps across Rakhine state after their homes were torched, while many others have tried to flee the restive region in rickety boats.
Bangladeshi rescuers yesterday searched for 50 people missing after a boat carrying Rohingya heading for Malaysia capsized.