YANGON/COX‘S BAZAR, Bangladesh (Reuters) – Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi said on Thursday her government was doing its best to protect everyone in the strife-torn state of Rakhine, as the estimated number of Rohingya Muslims who have fled to Bangladesh leapt by 18,000 in one day, to 164,000.
Suu Kyi did not refer specifically to the exodus of the minority Rohingya, which was sparked by insurgent attacks on Aug. 25 and an army counter-offensive, but said her administration was trying its best to take care of all citizens.
Western critics have accused Suu Kyi of not speaking out for the Rohingya, some 1.1 million people who have long complained of persecution and are seen by many in Buddhist-majority Myanmar as illegal migrants from Bangladesh.
Some have called for the Nobel Peace Prize she won in 1991 as a champion of democracy to be revoked.
“We have to take care of our citizens, we have to take care of everybody who is in our country, whether or not they are our citizens,” Suu Kyi said in comments to Reuters Television’s Indian partner, Asian News International.
“Of course, our resources are not as complete and adequate as we would like them to be but, still, we try our best and we want to make sure that everyone is entitled to the protection of the law,” she said during a visit by Indian Prime Narendra Modi to Yangon.
Suu Kyi on Tuesday blamed “terrorists” for “a huge iceberg of misinformation” on the strife in the northwestern state of Rakhine but made no mention of the Rohingya who have fled.
She has come under increasing pressure from countries with Muslim populations, and this week U.N. Security Council Secretary-General Antonio Guterres warned there was a risk of ethnic cleansing in Myanmar that could destabilize the region.
Myanmar has said it is negotiating with China and Russia to ensure they block any Security Council censure over the crisis.
Suu Kyi said the situation in Rakhine has been difficult for many decades and so it was “a little unreasonable” to expect her administration, which has been in power for 18 months, to have resolved it already.
“WE NEED TO WIPE OUT TERRORISM”
Myanmar says its forces are fighting a legitimate campaign against terrorists responsible for a string of attacks on the police and army since last October. Officials blame Rohingya militants for killing non-Muslims and burning their homes.
“We need to wipe out the threat of the terrorism in those regions,” Ko Ko Hlaing, a…