Myanmar de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi, in a state address, said her government is currently investigating the allegations of ethnic cleansing by the United Nations regarding the Rohingya Muslim crisis.
In her speech to the nation, the Nobel Prize winner said there have been many allegations about the flare-up of violence in Rakhine state of the majority-Buddhist Myanmar.
“We too are concerned. We want to find out what the real problems are. There have been allegations and counter-allegations. We have to listen to all of them. We have to make sure those allegations are based on the solid evidence before we take action,” she said in the capital, Naypyidaw.
In a recent phone call with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Kyi reportedly placed blame on “terrorists” for spreading an “iceberg of misinformation.”
Kyi's comments contradicted the accounts of several refugees who have fled to neighboring Bangladesh. The refugees have recounted brutal attacks on their villages, which has largely been supported by satellite images showing widescale devastation to the Rohingya communities.
In this her first speech since the Aug. 25 outbreak of violent attacks on the Rohingya Muslim community, she referenced the newness of her administration while stating she did not fear any international criticism.
“We are concerned to hear that numbers of Muslims are fleeing across the border to Bangladesh,” she said. “We want to find out why this exodus is happening.”
“I’m aware of the fact that the world’s attention is focused on the situation in Rakhine state. As a responsible member of the community of nations Myanmar does not fear international scrutiny,” she added.
Aung San Suu Kyi declared that the majority of Rohingya villages had not been affected by any violence.
Human Rights Watch satellite shows the destruction of at least 210 villages.
Additionally, she skirted allegations that the military was responsible for arson and indiscriminate killing across the Rohingya Muslim communities. “The security forces have been instructed to adhere strictly to the code of conduct in carrying out security operations, to exercise all due restraint and to take full measures to avoid collateral damage and the harming of innocent civilians,” she said.
Aung San Suu Kyi said, without detailing any methods of authentication, that Myanmar would “at any time” welcome back the refugees who have fled, after a “verification” process.
Earlier this month, she missed the United Nations General Assembly fueling comments that it was to deliberately avoid being probed about the Rohingya issue.
In addition to nearly 400,000 Rohingya Muslims who have fled Bangladesh, 30,000 ethnic Rakhine Buddhists, as well as Hindus, have been displaced. Several influential Buddhist monks have referred to the Rohingya Muslims as illegal ‘Bengali’ immigrants from Bangladesh.
According to Bangladeshi officials, landmines had been installed where the Rohingya are fleeing.
Kyi said seven decades of ethnic conflict in Myanmar have frayed national unity. “People expect us to overcome all these challenges in as short a time as possible,” she said, noting that her civilian government only took office last year.
“Eighteen months is a very short time in which to expect us to meet and overcome all the challenges that we are facing.”
In a recent open letter, Desmond Tutu, the South African former archbishop, advised his “dearly beloved younger sister” that “if the political price of your ascension to the highest office in Myanmar is your silence, the price is surely too steep,” revealing that Kyi’s leadership has major global influence.
“People are invested in her because we need her to succeed. This is a democratic moment, and she represents Burma’s democratic promise,” said Derek Mitchell, the former American ambassador to Myanmar.
“The country sits at the crossroads of Asia in a region where democracy is in retreat, which makes Burma’s success even more important.”
In the speech, Kyi, said of Myanmar: “We are a young and fragile democracy facing many problems,” she said, “but we have to cope with them all at the same time.”
A former general, Hkapra Hkun Awng a leader of the Kachin ethnicity from northern Myanmar who once served as Myanmar’s defense minister said “We do not have any trust in Aung San Suu Kyi because she was born into the military,” said.
“She is more loyal to her own people than to the ethics. Her blood is thicker than a promise of national reconciliation.”
The majority of Rohingya Muslims were stripped of their citizenship by the military.
Suu Kyi belongs to the country’s Bamar ethnic majority.