BANGKOK – Myanmar’s de-facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi is set to address the nation on the Rohingya crisis next week for the first time since it erupted on Aug. 25, presidential office spokesperson Zaw Htay said on Wednesday.
He also confirmed earlier news reports that had claimed the Nobel peace laureate who has been under much fire for her continued silence over the persecution of the Rohingyas – 380,000 of whom have fled an ongoing military offensive in the Rakhine state in northwestern Myanmar to neighboring Bangladesh – will skip the ongoing United Nations General Assembly to “manage humanitarian assistance” and “security concerns” raised by the continuing violence.
Some had expected her to attend the UN in New York on Wednesday afternoon.
The current crisis had erupted on Aug. 25, when the Myanmar army had unleashed an aggressive military offensive in the Rakhine state after Rohingya rebels had mounted attacks on multiple government posts.
The ongoing violence that included the torching of entire villages, has forced hundreds of thousands of Rohingya refugees to flee to Bangladesh, with at least 414 – mostly Rohingyas – being killed in the process, according to official estimates.
Dhaka is struggling to provide relief for the swelling mass of Rohingya refugees, around 60 percent of whom are minors, and who are arriving in hordes; hungry and malnourished.
The crisis has also led to the internal displacement of nearly 30,000 ethnic Buddhists and Hindus from the region.
Another 9,000 Rohingya refugees poured into Bangladesh on Wednesday, the UN said, as authorities worked to build a new camp for tens of thousands of arrivals who have no shelter.
Suu Kyi, Myanmar’s first civilian leader in decades, has no control over the powerful military, which ran the country for 50 years before allowing free elections in 2015.
There is also scant sympathy among Myanmar’s Buddhist majority for the Rohingyas, a stateless Muslim group, who are not considered citizens by Myanmar.
Suu Kyi’s reputation as a defender of the oppressed has also taken a hit over the Rohingya crisis and her reluctance to address it.
Experts said the UNGA was expected to discuss the Rohingya crisis, which perhaps explains why Suu Kyi has decided to skip the meet.
Vice President Henry Van Thio and National Security Adviser Thaung Tun will now head the Burmese delegation to the UNGA.
The 72nd Regular Session of the UN General Assembly began Tuesday at the UN Headquarters in New York and will end on Sept. 25.
More than a million Rohingyas lived in Rakhine before a sectarian conflict broke out in 2012 which killed at least 160 people, and displaced nearly 120,000, confining them to camps.