Aung San Suu Kyi visits Rohingya villagers


On Thursday, the leader of the Myanmar state of Rakhine Aung San Suu Kyi visited for the first time since the mass exodus of Rohingya Muslims began two months prior. Hundreds of thousands of the ethnic group have attempted to flee Myanmar for nearby Bangladesh in order to escape the Myanmar military, in what the United Nations has dubbed a “textbook case of ethnic cleansing”. Kyi, a Nobel Laureate, has found herself under global scrutiny, as she has failed to condemn the persecution and violence against the Rohingya, and has certainly not implemented any measures to end the human rights violations.

Myanmar has yet to concede to any ethnic cleansing being executed, stating that its military has simply been operating a counter-insurgency initiative to combat Rohingya militants that had attacked 30 security posts in Rakhine in late August. Kyi’s party, the National League for Democracy (NLD), has downplayed all accusations of deadly violence, even as evidence has been broadcast globally. The Reuters news agency shared images of thousands of Rohingya victims wading through creeks in order to reach the relative safety of Bangladesh on Wednesday. Al Jazeera’s on-site correspondent, Florence Looi, commented that

[t]he government has been trying to push the narrative that peace and stability have been achieved in Rakhine state after two months of renewed military offensive that began on August 25”.

The chilling reality of the Rohingya predicament is that an estimated 600,000 have been forced to seek shelter in Bangladesh. The victims, most of whom are Muslim, have been subjected to arson, looting and gang rape, all purportedly by the hands of the Myanmar security forces and Buddhist mobs. What the military have claimed to be a “clearance operation” in response to attacks on posts in northern Rakhine is very clearly a calculated effort to eliminate the Rohingya’s presence in Myanmar.

Kyi, flanked by her own security, was transported to Maungdaw – one of the Rakhine districts most devastated by the violence – by military helicopter. There, she met with local Muslim religious leaders. According to Chris Lewa, a spokesperson from the Arakan Project monitoring group, she told the leaders that

they should live peacefully, the government is there to help them, and they should not quarrel among each other”.

Al Jazeera’s Loi said that Kyi’s advice could be summarized as: “When you encounter a problem, you have to let the government know.”

Looi reported that the Rohingya villagers were, unsurprisingly, not comforted by Kyi’s visit.

They are still planning to leave for Bangladesh, because many feel that they cannot live peacefully in the Rakhine state. They fear for their lives and they know what happened to their neighbouring villages,” Looi said.

Many attempting to flee are left in dangerous buffer zones between Myanmar and Bangladesh.

With Kyi and the NLD still neglecting the Rohingya – and denying the methodical elimination of the ethnic group – the situation for the Rohingya does not appear any more optimistic after Kyi’s visit to Maungdaw.

Ayan Goran