NAYPYITAW, Myanmar (Reuters) – Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi on Tuesday condemned human rights violations in Rakhine state and said violators would be punished, but she did not address U.N. accusations of a campaign of ethnic cleansing by the military, drawing a cool international response.
She made the remarks in her first address to the nation since attacks by Rohingya Muslim insurgents on Aug. 25 led to a military response that has forced 421,000 Rohingya Muslims, more than half of them children, into neighboring Bangladesh.
Western diplomats and aid officials, hoping for an unequivocal condemnation of violence and hate speech, welcomed the tone of the Nobel Peace laureate’s message, but some doubted if she had done enough to deflect global criticism.
At the annual United Nations General Assembly, U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres repeated a call for an end to military operations and restoration of humanitarian access.
“I take note of State Councilor Aung San Suu Kyi’s address today and their intention to implement the recommendations of the advisory committee for Rakhine state, that was chaired by Kofi Annan, within the shortest time possible,” he said.
“But let me emphasize again, the authorities in Myanmar must end the military operations, allow unhindered humanitarian access and recognize the right of refugees to return in safety and dignity; and they must also address the grievances of the Rohingya, whose status has been left unresolved for far too long.”
Britain said on Tuesday it had suspended its military training program in Myanmar because of the violence in Rakhine state. French President Emmanuel Macron termed what had occurred “ethnic cleaning” and told the U.N. General Assembly that France would start a Security Council initiative in response, but gave no details.
A European Union spokeswoman said immediate priorities were a cessation of violence and full access to all humanitarian aid workers.
She said Suu Kyi’s invitation to the diplomatic corps to visit Rakhine was “a step forward,” but added: “Myanmar’s leadership needs to show that the democracy they fought so hard for can work for all the people of Myanmar, beyond ethnic, social and religious boundaries.”
Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari, in his speech to the General Assembly, likened the violence in Myanmar to genocides in Bosnia and Rwanda and urged a halt to the “ongoing ethnic cleansing” and the safe return of refugees.