NEW DELHI: Aung San Suu Kyi yesterday described violence in west Myanmar between Buddhists and Muslims as a “huge international tragedy” and said illegal immigration from Bangladesh had to be stopped.
Suu Kyi, on a visit to neighboring India, said she had declined to speak out on behalf of stateless Rohingya Muslims who live on both sides of the border because she wanted to promote reconciliation after recent bloodshed.
More than 100,000 people have been displaced in Myanmar since June in two major outbreaks of violence in the western state of Rakhine. Dozens have been killed on both sides and thousands of homes torched. “Don’t forget that violence has been committed by both sides, this is why I prefer not to take sides and also I want to work towards reconciliation,” she told the NDTV news channel.
“Is there a lot of illegal crossing of the border (with Bangladesh) still going on? We have got to put a stop to it, otherwise there will never be an end to the problem,” she said.
“Bangladesh will say all these people have come from Burma (Myanmar) and the Burmese say all these people have come over from Bangladesh.”
The Nobel laureate, who was released from military house arrest in 2010, has faced criticism from human rights groups for her muted response to the ethnic violence in her homeland.
“This is a huge international tragedy and this is why I keep saying that the government must have a policy about their citizenship laws,” she said.
Separately, Myanmar ordered 452 prisoners freed yesterday in an apparent goodwill gesture ahead of a historic visit by President Barack Obama. It was not immediately clear if any political prisoners were among those granted freedom, prompting rights groups to renew calls for the government to shed light on one of the world’s most opaque prison systems. Myanmar’s government has long insisted that all prisoners are criminals and releases no official information on who is a political prisoner, where they are detained and how many remain jailed.
“This is extremely disappointing because we haven’t heard of any political prisoners being released. This is a shame,” said U Naing Naing of the Central Social Assistance Committee, which helps families of political prisoners.