Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi admitted Thursday that her government could have handled the Rohingya crisis better, but said it lacks full control over what happens in the country as considerable power is still vested in the military.
«There are of course ways in which we, with hindsight, might think that the situation (in the restive western state of Rakhine) could have been handled better,» Suu Kyi said at a World Economic Forum regional meeting in Hanoi.
Suu Kyi told an interviewer that her civilian government readily assumes responsibility for the «political aspect» of what happened, but she suggested it lacked control over «military aspect.»
She lamented it is expected to accept «100 percent of the responsibility» for the crisis even though «we only have 75 percent of power.»
Suu Kyi was alluding to the fact the military is allotted 25 seats in parliament under the current Constitution, drafted before Myanmar’s first genuinely civilian government in 54 years came to power in April 2016.
Regarding the prospects for amending the military drafted charter, Suu Kyi said her National League for Democracy still does «not accept the unelected 25 percent» and wants to «negotiate a change step by step» — but only in a manner that promotes reconciliation and preserves stability.
Noting that some people advocate «amending the Constitution on the streets» — namely forcing a change through demonstrations — Suu Kyi said, «This has never been part of the policy of the NLD.»
«During our 30 years as a political party, we have not once organized a public demonstration, we have tried to do everything with the framework of the law.»
Suu Kyi has been under fire over her tepid response to the plight of Myanmar’s Rohingya Muslims, over 720,000 of whom have fled to neighboring Bangladesh from Rakhine since August last year amid allegations of atrocities committed by the security forces.
But the Nobel Peace Prize laureate did not address those criticisms head on.
Instead, she accused foreign critics of ignoring the presence in Rakhine of many small ethnic and religious groups, besides the state’s majority ethnic Rakhine Buddhists and its «Muslims,» and vaguely stressed the need to «be fair to all of them, even if the rest of the world is not interested in the smaller groups.»
In avoiding use of the word «Rohingya,» Suu Kyi was adhering to the official line of not recognizing them of one of the country’s many ethnic groups.
The government instead calls them «Muslims» or «Bengalis,» considers them to be illegal immigrants from Bangladesh and denies them rights and citizenship, even though many have lived in the country for generations.
«For the sake of long-time stability and security,» Suu Kyi said, all ethnic minorities in Rakhine must be made to «feel and understand that they will be treated on an equal basis and that their rights and their security matter as much to us as that of the Rakhines and the Muslims.»
«The rule of law must apply to everyone. We cannot choose and pick,» she said, without clarifying how this relates to the plight of the persecuted Rohingya people.
On the repatriation of Rohingya refugees from camps in Bangladesh that was supposed to have been started in January, Suu Kyi blamed the delay partly on the neighboring country’s unpreparedness.
«So as there are two countries involved, we can’t alone decide when the repatriation has to begin,» she said. «They have to come back from Bangladesh, we cannot go and fetch them from Bangladesh.»
All — Kyodo News+