Myanmar’s de facto leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, is facing criticism for recent comments that denied the ethnic cleansing of Rohingya Muslims in the country’s western Rakhine state.
In an exclusive interview with Anadolu Agency, the chairman of the European Rohingya Council (ERC) said Suu Kyi is regurgitating lies and deceptions that have been constantly repeated.
“Aung San Suu Kyi’s deception is quite astonishing and contrary to reality,” Dr. Hla Kyaw said. “Even at the time she was speaking to the journalist, Myanmar armed forces were arresting, intimidating Rohingya,” Kyaw said, noting the recent arrests of 11 innocent Rohingya from the village of Doe Tan by the army and the destruction of religious infrastructures in Maungdaw and elsewhere.
Suu Kyi told the BBC earlier this week that the Rohingya who fled to Bangladesh told Myanmar authorities they were leaving because of fighting in the area. “I don’t think there is ethnic cleansing going on.” Suu Kyi said.
But Kyaw challenged those claims, and others Suu Kyi made, and contended that the real reason for the fight is because of mass rapes, arrests, murders and the burning of houses by the armed forces.
“There is ethnic cleansing, indeed,” he said.
“This has been documented and witnessed by many independent journalists and researchers, including the UN,” he said. “Many villages in northern Maungdaw, like Wa Peik, is already cleansed of Rohingya. Nearly 100,000 Rohingya are cleansed of their ancestral land since October 2016.”
Suu Kyi told the BBC that Myanmar would welcome back any returning Rohingya, who fled to Bangladesh.
While denying hostility among Rohingya Muslims, Kyaw said Suu Kyi is either ill-informed or brainwashed by the army’s propaganda it creates then uses to sow division in the area and advance its genocidal agenda.
“No Rohingya is expecting Aung San Suu Kyi to take side by the Rohingya,” Kyaw said. ”The Rohingya simply want her to uphold the principles she has been preaching and just want her to stop army’s rape, pillage, mass killings and destruction of the Rohingya’s livelihood and shelter.”
By denying the reality of the situation, the Nobel laureate is “giving a chance to those who are committing slow-genocide and ethnic cleansing,” Kyaw said. “There has never been a moment of peace in Rakhine state in last decades.”
He said Suu Kyi has become an ardent defender of the army’s crimes against minorities, especially Rohingya and it is time she stops deception and talks facts and reality.
Tens of thousands of Rohingya Muslims have fled Rakhine since the military began a clearance operation last October following the deaths of nine police officers in attacks on border posts.
During the operation, the UN and rights groups have documented widespread abuses by security forces such as killings — including children and babies — gang rapes, brutal beatings, the burning of villages and disappearances.
The government has said at least 106 people were killed during the operation but Rohingya groups have said approximately 400 Rohingya were killed.
The UN Human Rights Council decided last month to send a fact-finding mission to Myanmar to investigate alleged violations. The government, however, rebuffed the UN move on claims the move would inflame the situation.
A group of 20 local and foreign journalists is also visiting Maungtaw, state-run newspapers said last month. The district had been off-limits to journalists and rights activists during the crackdown.