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Suu Kyi says Rohingya crisis could have been handled better

Myanmar’s State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi is seen while she waits for a meeting with Vietnam’s President Tran Dai Quang (not pictured) at the Presidential Palace during the World Economic Forum on ASEAN in Hanoi on September 13, 2018.   | Photo Credit: REUTERS

Myanmar’s Aung San Suu Kyi on September 13 robustly defended the jailing of two Reuters journalists who were reporting on the Rohingya crisis, as she hit back at global criticism of a trial widely seen as an attempt to muzzle the free press.

The country’s de facto leader acknowledged that the brutal crackdown on the Muslim minority — which the United Nations has cast as “genocide” — could have been “handled better”, but insisted the two reporters had been treated fairly.

“They were not jailed because they were journalists” but because “the court has decided that they had broken the Official Secrets Act”, she said.

Wa Lone, 32, and Kyaw Soe Oo, 28, were each imprisoned for seven years on September 3 for breaching the country’s hardline Official Secrets Act while reporting on atrocities committed during the military crackdown in Rakhine State.

Ms. Suu Kyi, once garlanded as a global rights champion, has come under intense pressure to use her moral force inside Myanmar to defend the pair.

Aung San Suu Kyi, the State Counsellor of Myanmar, gestures during a discussion at the World Economic Forum meeting at the National Convention Centre on September 13, 2018 in Hanoi. Ms. Suu Kyi says the country’s handling of its Rohingya Muslim minority crisis could have been handled better.

Aung San Suu Kyi, the State Counsellor of Myanmar, gestures during a discussion at the World Economic Forum meeting at the National Convention Centre on September 13, 2018 in Hanoi. Ms. Suu Kyi says the country’s handling of its Rohingya Muslim minority crisis could have been handled better.   | Photo Credit: AP

 

Challenging critics of the verdict — including the U.N., rights groups who once lionised her, and the U.S. Vice-President — to “point out” where there has been a miscarriage of justice, Ms. Suu Kyi said the case upheld the rule of law.

“The case was held in open court... I don’t think anybody has bothered to read the summary of the judge,” she said during a discussion at the World Economic Forum, adding the pair still had the right to appeal.

Army-led “clearance operations” that started in August 2017 drove 700,000 Rohingya into Bangladesh, carrying with them widespread accounts of atrocities — rape, murder and arson — by Myanmar police and troops.

The ferocity of that crackdown has thrust Myanmar into a firestorm of criticism as Western goodwill evaporates towards a country ruled by a ruthless junta until 2015.

A U.N. fact-finding panel has called for Myanmar Army chief Min Aung Hlaing and several other top generals to be prosecuted for genocide.

The International Criminal Court has said it has jurisdiction to open an investigation, even though Myanmar is not a member of the tribunal.

Ms. Suu Kyi, who has bristled at foreign criticism of her country, on September 13 softened her defence of the crackdown against “terrorists” from the Muslim minority.

“There are of course ways (in) which, in hindsight, the situation could have been handled better,” she said.

War on journalism

But she also appeared to turn responsibility onto neighbouring Bangladesh for failing to start the repatriation of the nearly one million-strong Rohingya refugee community to Myanmar.

Bangladesh “was not ready” to start repatriation of the Rohingya in January as agreed under a deal between the two countries, she said.

Yet Myanmar does not want its Rohingya, denying them citizenship while the Buddhist-majority public falsely label them “Bengali” interlopers.

Rohingya refugees refuse to return to Myanmar without guarantees of safety, restitution for lost lands and citizenship.

The jailing of the Reuters reporters has sent a chill through Myanmar’s nascent media scene.

The pair has denied the charges, insisting they were set up while exposing the extra-judicial killing of 10 Rohingya Muslims in the village of Inn Din in September 2017.

This week, the U.N. rights office accused Myanmar of “waging a campaign against journalists”.

It decried the use of the courts and the law by the “government and military in what constitutes a political campaign against independent journalism”.


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Printable version | Jun 23, 2021 1:27:51 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/international/suu-kyi-says-rohingya-crisis-could-have-been-handled-better-but-defends-jailing-of-reuters-reporters/article24940909.ece

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