Suu Kyi pledges to defend Muslim rights 

Aung San Suu Kyi addresses the UN General Assembly in New York. Source: YouTube

Myanmar’s leader Aung San Suu Kyi pledged to promote human rights in Rakhine State when she addressed the UN General Assembly. 

Suu Kyi did not name the Rohingya Muslims in her speech as the term is a controversial issue among Burmese Buddhists, who largely consider the Rohingya to be illegal immigrants from neighbouring Bangladesh and usually call them “Bengali”.

But she pledged to support the commission led by former UN secretary general Kofi Annan that has been tasked to offer advise on the state’s ethnic tensions. Thousands of Rohingya have spent four years in squalid refugee camps after being driven from their homes in riots. 

There has been persistent opposition from some quarters to the establishment of the commission,” she said, referring to protests that greeted the advisers and condemnation from several opposition parties. 

However, we are determined to persevere in our endeavour to achieve harmony, peace and prosperity in the Rakhine state,” Suu Kyi said.

I would like to take the opportunity to ask for the understanding and constructive contribution of the international community,” she said. “By standing firm against the forces of prejudice and intolerance, we are reaffirming our faith in fundamental human rights, in the dignity and worth of the human person.”

The Nobel peace laureate said as a responsible nation “we do not fear international scrutiny. We are committed to a sustainable solution that will lead to peace, stability and development for all communities within the state.”

US political leaders privately say that they understand that State Counsellor Suu Kyi faces intense pressure, with a large proportion of the electorate hostile to the Rohingya and not regarding them as citizens.

Suu Kyi said the people had exercised their right to fashion their aspirations, adding that national reconciliation in the ethnically diverse country was her government’s highest priority.

Speaking later at the Asia Society, she said that the nation was only at the “beginning of the road” on its transition to democracy, which required constitutional reform to weaken the military’s grip on power.

The armed forces control 25 per cent of parliamentary seats, allowing it to veto any constitutional changes, while the military controls the home, border affairs and defence ministries. 

In her UN address, she largely used the word Myanmar and not Burma, which her National League for Democracy used while she was under house arrest.