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Suu Kyi defends jailing of journalists
September 14, 2018
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HANOI: In the face of global condemnation, Myanmar’s leader and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Aung San Suu Kyi on Thursday said that the handling of Rohingya Muslims, 700,000 of whom have fled to Bangladesh amid a brutal military campaign, could have been better, but still defended security forces from charges of civilian atrocities.

Myanmar’s army is accused of mass rape, killings and setting fire to thousands of homes in the aftermath of an August 2017 attack by Rohingya militants on security outposts. A report issued two weeks ago by a specially appointed UN human rights team recommended prosecuting senior Myanmar commanders for genocide and other crimes.

“There are of course ways in which with hindsight I think the situation could have been handled better,” Suu Kyi said, responding to questions during a one-on-one discussion at the World Economic Forum’s regional meeting in Hanoi.

She still defended Myanmar security forces, saying that all groups in western Rakhine state had to be protected.

“We have to be fair to all sides,” Suu Kyi said. “The rule of law must apply to everyone. We cannot choose and pick.” Suu Kyi said the situation was complicated by the myriad ethnic minorities in the area, some of which are at risk of disappearing entirely and which include not just the Muslims and Rakhine Buddhists.

Although the violence in Rakhine state has eased, Myanmar has to deal with its aftermath, especially the repatriation of the Muslim Rohingya who fled and the underlying causes of tension that makes them targets of discrimination and repression in overwhelmingly Buddhist Myanmar.

Suu Kyi said that Myanmar is prepared to take those who fled back, but their return has been complicated by the fact that two governments are involved.

Aid workers say conditions for a safe and orderly return of the refugees have not been met.

Suu Kyi also rejected criticism over the show-trial conviction last week of two Reuters news agency reporters who helped expose extrajudicial killings of 10 Rohingya men and boys.

The reporters were both sentenced to seven years’ imprisonment on charges of possessing state secrets.

US Vice President Mike Pence is among those who have condemned the verdicts and called for the journalists’ release.

Associated Press

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