Myanmar’s national leader Aung San Suu Kyi, facing outrage over ethnic violence that has forced about 370,000 Rohingya Muslims to flee to Bangladesh, will not attend the upcoming U.N. General Assembly because of the crisis, her office said on Wednesday.
The exodus of refugees, sparked by security forces’ fierce response to a series of Rohingya militant attacks, is the biggest problem Suu Kyi has faced since becoming Myanmar’s leader last year. Critics have called for her to be stripped of her Nobel peace prize for failing to do more to halt the strife.
In her first address to the U.N. General Assembly as national leader in September last year, Suu Kyi defended her government’s efforts to resolve the crisis over treatment of the Muslim minority.
This year, her office said she would not be attending because of the security threats posed by the insurgents and her efforts to restore peace and stability.
“She is trying to control the security situation, to have internal peace and stability, and to prevent the spread of communal conflict,” Zaw Htay, the spokesman for Suu Kyi’s office, told Reuters
International pressure has been growing on Buddhist-majority Myanmar to end the violence in the western state of Rakhine that began on Aug. 25 when Rohingya militants attacked about 30 police posts and an army camp.
The attacks triggered a sweeping military counter-offensive against the insurgents, who the government has described as terrorists.
But refugees say the security operation is aimed at pushing Rohingya out of Myanmar.
They, and rights groups, paint a picture of widespread attacks on Rohingya villages in the north of Rakhine State by the security forces and ethnic Rakhine Buddhists, who have put many Muslim villages to the torch.
But authorities have denied that the security forces, or Buddhist civilians, have been setting the fires, and have blamed the insurgents instead. Nearly 30,000 Buddhist villagers have also been displaced, they say.
Despite worries that a humanitarian crisis is unfolding, Myanmar has rejected a ceasefire declared by the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army insurgents to enable the delivery of aid there, saying it did not negotiate with terrorists.
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