Suu Kyi calls for space to address 'Rohingya' issue

Suu Kyi calls for space to address 'Rohingya' issue

Myanmar state counselor says Rakhine people object to term 'Rohingya' as much as Muslims object to 'Bengali'

By Kyaw Ye Lynn

YANGON, Myanmar (AA) – Myanmar’s State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi has urged the international community to give her administration “enough space” to solve the issue of Rohingya Muslims in western Rakhine State.

The statement came Sunday, after a meeting with U.S secretary of state John Kerry in Nay Pyi Taw, which had been preceded by protests countrywide for the Nobel Peace laureate ask the U.S. embassy to stop using the word Rohingya.

“Emotive terms make it very difficult for us to find a peaceful and sensible resolution for our problem," she told reporters, adding that two such terms had come under such scrutiny.

“The Rakhine people object to the term 'Rohingya' just as much as Muslims object to the term 'Bengali," she underlined.

"These have all kind of political and emotional implications which is unacceptable to the opposite parties.”

Suu Kyi asked for space in solving the issue, which on Sunday saw nationalists marching in commercial capital Yangon -- many of them monks from hardline Buddhist group Ma Ba Tha (the Committee for Protection of Race and Religion) as well as in Taung Gyi in restive Shan State.

“All we are asking is people should be aware of the difficulties we are facing and to give us enough space to solve the problem,” said Suu Kyi.

The Nobel Peace laureate has been under intense criticism for her silence on the plight of Rohingya, who have been described by the United Nations as the most persecuted minority in the world.

Earlier this month, Suu Kyi’s foreign ministry asked the U.S embassy in Yangon to cease using the controversial term “Rohingya” in future, following growing pressure from the nationalists who suggested to call them “Bengali – illegal immigrants from neighboring Bangladesh.

The U.S. embassy used the term in a recent statement to illustrate its concerns about the situation in western Rakhine, where communal violence between ethnic Buddhists and Muslims since 2012 has left dozens dead, around 100,000 people displaced in camps and more than 2,500 houses burned -- most of which belonged to Rohingya.

Many of the Rohingya remain in internally displaced person (IDP) camps unable to go home, despite a state of emergency for the region now being lifted.

Following nationalist pressure, Suu Kyi’s foreign ministry asked the embassy earlier this month to cease use of the word.

The U.S. ambassador to Myanmar, Scot Marciel, however, said last week that he was in favor of continued use of "Rohingya".

Last week, the U.S government further eased economic and financial sanctions against Myanmar, removing some state-owned banks and enterprises from a blacklist, following last year's elections which saw Suu Kyi's government come to power.

It also lifted some restrictions on trade to ease concerns of U.S. firms thinking of doing business in the country.

More than 100 individuals and groups, however, remain on a U.S. blacklist, barring U.S. banks or companies from conducting business with them.

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