TOKYO: Myanmar’s charismatic opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi said on Wednesday that the estrangement of minority Muslims in her country was “a very sad state of affairs” and the community must be made to feel secure.
Sectarian violence in Buddhist-majority Myanmar killed 43 people last month. Thousands, mostly Muslims, were driven from their homes and businesses as bloodshed spread across the central region of one of Asia’s most diverse countries.
Suu Kyi, a devout Buddhist, has been mostly reserved in her comments on the violence and the failure of the Nobel Peace Prize-winner to defuse the tension appears to have undermined her image as a unifying moral force.
But in a news conference on a visit to Japan, she said: “I’ve met some Muslim leaders very recently. It is very sad, because none of them has been to any other country apart from Burma (Myanmar). They did not feel that they belonged anywhere and it was sad for them that they were made to feel that they didn’t belong in our country either.
“This is a very sad state of affairs. We must learn to accommodate those with different views from ours.”
She also said the government should review Myanmar’s citizenship laws, although she again failed to directly answer a question on whether she considered the Rohingyas to be citizens.
Around 800,000 Muslim Rohingyas live in Rakhine State in the west but are effectively stateless, denied citizenship both by Myanmar and neighbouring Bangladesh. Many Burmese consider them to be illegal immigrants.
At least 110 people were killed and 120,000 left homeless, mostly Rohingyas, by sectarian violence in Rakhine State in 2012.
“Every country has the responsibility to consider the possibility that the (citizenship) laws are not in keeping with international standards. And this is what the Burmese government should have the courage to do. To face the issue of citizenship fairly,” Suu Kyi told reporters.
Earlier, addressing students at Tokyo University, Suu Kyi said she was “not a magician” and will not be able to solve long-running ethnic disputes.
“I’ve said that the most important thing is to establish the rule of law...(it) is not just about the judiciary, it’s about the administration, it’s about the government, it’s about our police force, it’s about the training that we give to security forces,” said Suu Kyi.