Aung San Suu Kyi unveils relief plans for Rohingya Muslims

October 16, 2017

Aung San Suu Kyi unveils relief plans for Rohingya Muslims

Nobel laureate aims to restore reputation by setting up civilian-led agency in Myanmar to deliver aid and resettle refugees

Aung San Suu Kyi delivers a speech to the nation over the Rakhine and Rohingya situation in Naypyitaw in September
Aung San Suu Kyi has been criticised for failing to denounce a brutal army crackdown on the Rohingya in Rakhine state. Photograph: Soe Zeya Tun/Reuters

Myanmar’s de facto leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, has announced plans to set up a civilian-led agency, with foreign assistance, to deliver aid and help resettle Rohingya Muslims in Rakhine state.

A close adviser, speaking with Aung San Suu Kyi’s knowledge, said the proposed body had been long planned, and was part of an attempt to show the civilian government she leads, rather than the Burmese military, can deliver humanitarian relief, resettlement and economic recovery.

The Nobel laureate has been criticised for failing to denounce a brutal army crackdown on the Rohingya in Rakhine state, which has forced hundreds of thousands to flee to neighbouring Bangladesh.

Thousands of refugees have continued to arrive in recent days from across the Naf river separating the two countries, even though Myanmar insists military operations ceased on 5 September.

Aid agencies estimate that 536,000 people have arrived in Cox’s Bazar district in Bangladesh, straining scarce resources of aid groups and local communities.

About 200,000 Rohingya were already in Bangladesh after fleeing persecution in Myanmar, where they have long been denied citizenship and faced restrictions on their movements and access to basic services.

The adviser said Aung San Suu Kyi had been deeply affected by the crisis in her country, and was determined to fix it, but needed to be careful not to inflame the situation further.

“She is appalled by what she has seen. She does care deeply about this. I know that does not always come across. But she really does,” said the adviser, who asked not to be named. “What was not clear to her [before now] was how to fix it, and how to give the civilian government the powers it needed”.

In a speech carried by state TV late on Thursday, Aung San Suu Kyi said: “There has been a lot of criticisms against our country. We need to understand international opinion. However, just as no one can fully understand the situation of our country the way we do, no one can desire peace and development for our country more than us.”

Many of Aung San Suu Kyi’s former allies have been exasperated by her failure to criticise the military, but the adviser said she was treading a fine line, knowing her government could become under threat of being overthrown by the military.

The adviser added her speech marked an attempt to wrestle Buddhism out of the hands of extremists.

Aung San Suu Kyi came to power ending years of military rule in a compromise that left the military with sweeping powers.

In her new proposal, she said she was setting up a new body to deliver relief and resettlement on the ground, as well as implement projects in all sectors of the region.

“It is going to be an implementation unit and will introduce a degree of transparency into the government that will allow the international community to participate and provide aid”, the adviser added.

The aim is for the body to be a vehicle through which recovery aid, including that delivered by the UK, can be funnelled.

Her adviser said Aung San Suu Kyi understood the moral priority of humanitarian assistance, the need to build new homes for those who had to flee as well as the need for economic development in the region.

“She has put herself front and centre of this and said ‘I will lead this’ ”. The adviser added: “She is someone who through her whole life has been committed to the values of human rights. That has not gone away, but she is very focused on fixing the problem, rather than identifying it.

“She recognises there have been particular tragedies amongst the Muslim communities, and amongst other small minority groups. But, yes, she does see this latest and most dreadful upsurge of violence as stemming from carefully timed political attacks on police stations.”

Aung San Suu Kyi’s speech made no mention of the allegations levelled against security forces, over which she has no formal control under the military-drafted constitution. State media in recent weeks, however, has offered repeated denials of the human rights allegations, often blaming misreporting by the west.

In her speech, she said: “Rather than rebutting criticisms and allegations with words, we will show the world by our actions and our deeds. In the Rakhine state, there are so many things to be done.”

Her adviser said: “She is trying to move away from inflammatory and divisive remarks towards a coherent national solution that is civilian-led. The perilous state of the democratic transition in her country is understood.”

Aung San Suu Kyi listed repatriation of those who have fled to Bangladesh as a top priority, a task that faces political and practical hurdles, notably due to the fact that tens of thousands of Muslim refugees who fled to Bangladesh do not have the documentation likely to satisfy the military that they have a right of return.

However, detailed work remains on possible forms of new registration to allow the Rohingya to return.

In another attempt to respond to western criticisms, Myanmar’s military has launched an internal investigation into the conduct of soldiers during the army’s offensive in Rakhine, which was launched after attacks by Rohingya insurgents on security posts in late August.


4 thoughts on “Aung San Suu Kyi unveils relief plans for Rohingya Muslims

  1. The “brutal army crackdown on the Rohingya in Rakhine state” (quotation from the article) “was launched after attacks by Rohingya insurgents on security posts in late August” (quoted from the article) and Aung San Suu Kyi does “see this latest and most dreadful upsurge of violence as stemming from carefully timed political attacks on police stations” (quotation from the article). Examining the aforementioned three quotations taken from the article, several questions come to mind: (1) Who are these “Rohingya insurgents” who launched the attacks on the security posts in August?, (2) Why are these attacks described as “political”?, (3) And since the attacks are described as “political”, what then are the political justifications and objectives for these attacks?, (4) Why are these attacks said to be “carefully timed”, i.e. in what context are they “carefully timed political attacks”?, and finally, (5) Truthfully, are these military crackdowns taken purely in retaliation for the attacks by the “Rohingya insurgents”, or are they launched with a view to attain other higher value objectives (which are not race or religion related at all), in which case, if these attacks were not motivated by racial or religious motives, but by other worldly motives instead, then this incident although tragic, could not be ascribed to be a clash of race or religion. Aung San Suu Kyi is right when she said “no one can fully understand the situation of our country the way we do”. So far, we have only been informed from the media, and in view of the multitude of fake news and media propaganda out there that serve to arouse our excitement and cloud our judgement, we ought to be calm lest we act on compulsion and regret our actions thereafter.

    • Aung San Suu Kyi set up an independent Advisory Commission in 2016, headed by the former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, to find solutions to the conflict in Rakhine state. The commission submitted its recommendations on August 24 of this year – a day before the latest round of violence started.

      The violence was triggered after Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (Arsa) – a Rohingya Muslim militant group – launched simultaneous attacks on Myanmar security check posts in the region on August 25. The Myanmar military swiftly launched what it described as counter-terrorism operations.

    • Dear LaMoy, I have read your reply but unfortunately it caused three more questions to pop up into my head (probably I have too much free time in my hand right now, and probably they are unimportant questions, so I don’t mind if you choose not to indulge in them). Those questions are as follows: (1) If there were already recommendations submitted “…..a day before the latest round of violence started,……..” which is on August 24 “……to find solutions to the conflict in Rakhine state…..” (recommendations prepared by, as you mentioned, none other than “an independent Advisory Commission…..headed by the former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan…”) why did the “,,,,,,,Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army,,,,,” launched the “…..simultaneous attacks on Myanmar security check posts…” only a day after the recommendations were tabled i.e. as you mentioned, on August 25 (since I suppose that every important stakeholders – and the Arsa most probably is one of them – would most probably had been informed of the tabling of the recommendations beforehand), (2) Why are these attacks described as “….carefully timed political attacks……..”?, and (3) If the “….Myanmar military swiftly launched……counter-terrorism operation….” then that operation would be, by logic, restricted towards the militant group only. So if that logic stands, the question then is, how is it that a restricted operation targeted towards a specific group (i.e. in this instance the Arsa) could have such a catastrophic consequence as to lead to hundreds of thousands of ethnic Rohingya Muslims continually fleeing to neighbouring Bangladesh even though military operation had ceased on the 5th November (as the article claimed)? By the way LaMoy, thank you for indulging into answering my previous questions.

    • I can’t answer you, Muhammed. I wasn’t there. I wrote to you what I read from BBC.

      Who knows who started the latest round of violence. Did ARSA start it or did Myanmar’s army stage it, just like UMNO staged the May 13 in 1969? I simply provide you the info of what I read to answer your inquisitive mind why they called it “political” and why they said it was “well-timed.”

      Seems like CLF still has friends in Myanmar and he may be better informed. He may be able to help you. My Burmese friends here are too far away from their homeland and too Bamar biased. But from what I gathered when I visited the country, I tend to believe my friends that the core of the problem is not a Buddhist vs Muslim problem, but a historical political problem. They always have this “Rohingya problem”, whom they don’t call Rohingya but Bengali.

      Due to geopolitical reason, the recent crisis might have hyped up by Western media. Your guess is as good as mine. Burma has always been a “scramble” between China and India for influence. But seems like the two giants are putting their differences aside to help solve this Burmese crisis. I read this from the Economic Times of India, which quoted the Global Times of China. Read:

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