Myanmar's de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi has emphasised three issues to “restore peace” in the turbulent Rakhine state and bringing back those who have fled to Bangladesh.
In a televised speech on Thursday, she listed the priorities as – repatriation of those who have crossed over to Bangladesh and providing humanitarian assistance effectively; resettlement and rehabilitation; bringing development to the region and establishing durable peace.
“We have to formulate long term programmes for the development of the region and continue working for durable peace to relieve this region of conflicts in the years to come,” Suu Kyi said.
More than half a million Rohingya have fled Rakhine after Myanmar army launched a crackdown targeting the mainly-Muslim ethnic minority.
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Although the army claimed it was responding to insurgent attacks on police posts and an army base on August 25, a UN investigation found that the “clearance operations” had in fact began earlier, possibly in early August.
The UN has called it “ethnic cleansing” and dubbed the attacks “systematic” operations aimed at not only driving the Rohingya out of Myanmar but also preventing them from returning home.
Suu Kyi did not mention the word Rohingya, neither did she speak about allegations of arson, torture, rape and murder by the army. The Nobel laureate has been criticised for her silence on the persecution of the minority in the past.
Myanmar does not recognise the Rohingya, and despite having lived in the country for centuries, Naypyitaw claims they are illegal Bangladeshi immigrants.
Suu Kyi announced forming the "Union Enterprise for Humanitarian Assistance, Resettlement and Development in Rakhine", headed by herself, to implement the short and long term tasks effectively to make the state “peaceful and developed”.
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About the repatriation, she said: “We are negotiating with the Government of Bangladesh on the matter of accepting those who are now in Bangladesh.”
Although she gave no details, officials suggested that the refugees would need to provide residency documents, which few have.
“Since our independence, we have twice, successfully negotiated with Bangladesh on the issue,” the Myanmar leader said in her second address to the nation since the latest chapter in the Rohigya crisis unfolded.
“Based on these successful traditions, we are now negotiating for the third time,” Suu Kyi said.