Aung San Suu Kyi aide: Rohingya are not our priority
By Jennifer Rigby
November 20, 2015
No hope of the persecuted Muslim minority as National League for Democracy party spokesman says they are Bangladesh's problem
|Yasmin, a Rohingya Muslim, pictured with two of her children Photo: Philip Sherwell|
One of Aung San Suu Kyi’s key officials has said that helping the persecuted Rohingya minority is not a priority, days after her party clinched victory in Burma’s historic elections.
U Win Htein, a spokesman and leading figure in Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD), said the Rohingya’ Muslims' plight was not top of the agenda for his party, which won nearly 80 per cent of the seats available in the poll.
“We have other priorities,” he said. “Peace, the peaceful transition of power, economic development and constitutional reform.”
He also echoed the current military-backed government’s rhetoric about the Rohingya, suggesting they are illegal immigrants from Bangladesh.
|A Rohingya Muslim woman washes clothes at a refugee camp outside Sittwe Photo: Reuters|
“We’ll deal with the matter based on law and order and human rights, but we have to deal with the Bangladesh government because almost all of them came from there,” he said.
The situation for the Rohingya people in Burma, who number roughly one million, is dire. Around 140,000 have been forced to live in camps for internally displaced people since violence erupted in 2012, and the remainder – many of whom have lived in Burma for decades – face major restrictions on their freedom of movement.
Most could not even vote, after having their ID cards removed earlier this year amid a wave of rising anti-Muslim sentiment.
|File photo: Aung San Suu Kyi has embarked on the next perilous stage in the path to power in Burma as she begins talks with long-standing military foes Photo: AP|
Suu Kyi has been internationally criticised for her silence on the Rohingya, but comments in the wake of the election – when she said all people in Burma would be protected when her government formed in early 2016 – renewed hope she would do something once she took power.
The latest intervention, however, suggested otherwise.
|Aung San Suu Kyi leaves the NLD headquarters after delivering her speech Photo: EPA|
“You would think they [the NLD] would use their overwhelming mandate to protect the rights of people who have been downtrodden for decades,” said David Mathieson, senior Burma researcher for Human Rights Watch.
But in the camps and villages in Rakhine State, the desperate residents still clung to their faith in Suu Kyi even though U Win Htein’s comments stung.
“These people are from here. They can’t be sent back. What he says is meaningless,” said Saed, from the state capital Sittwe.
“But I hope Aung San Suu Kyi might do something. I still hope.”