Myanmar seeks to avoid blame for atrocities against Rohingya minority

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After weeks of increased bloodshed forced nearly 150,000 Rohingya Muslims to flee Myanmar, the country’s leaders announced on Wednesday that they are in talks with China and Russia, both permanent members of the U.N. Security Council, to stop any Security Council condemnation against the violence that has plagued the minority population for years.

Aung San Suu Kyi, Myanmar’s de facto leader and Nobel Peace Prize winner, broke her silence on the crisis on Tuesday, blaming terrorists for using “a huge iceberg of misinformation” to create strife “between different communities and with the aim of promoting the interest of the terrorists.”

Suu Kyi failed to mention the hundreds of thousands of Rohingya Muslims who have fled the Rakhine state in Myanmar.

The Rohingya are regarded as the “world’s most persecuted minority” by the United Nations. They are not granted citizenship and are viewed as foreigners with no legal standing.

The recent violence began late last month when Rohingya insurgents attacked dozens of police posts and an army base, leading to the deaths of 12 security officers and 77 Rohingya Muslims. The Myanmar government responded with fury, killing hundreds of Rohingya fighters, shooting civilians from helicopters, and burning villages and homes to the ground. Hundreds of thousands of Rohingya have since fled to Bangladesh.

Suu Kyi has faced increasing criticism from the international community — largely from Muslim-majority countries — for the military’s treatment of the Rohingya, which many believe amounts to genocide. At a rally in Jakarta, Indonesia on Wednesday, protesters called for severing diplomatic ties with Myanmar. On Tuesday, U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, in a letter to the U.N. Security Council, warned that the bloodshed could lead to a “humanitarian catastrophe.”

Some have also called for Suu Kyi’s Nobel Peace Prize to be revoked in the face of the continuing atrocities.

In a recent speech in Istanbul commemorating Eid Al-Adha, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan referred to the crisis as a “genocide” – powerful language from the leader of the country that has been unwilling to recognize the mass killing and deportation of 1.5 million Armenians by the Ottoman Empire during World War I as genocide.

“Those who close their eyes to this genocide perpetrated under the cover of democracy are its collaborators,” Erdogan said.

According to the statement released by Suu Kyi’s office on Tuesday, Erdogan discussed the issue with the Myanmar leader, telling her he is “confident that Daw Aung San Suu Kyi as a leader who has faced and overcome challenges and advocate of human rights will approach the situation with vision of a long term solution to the issue of Rakhine.”

But in relying on countries like Russia and China to protect Myanmar from censure, Suu Kyi is likely seeking cover to continue the government’s oppression of the Rohingya.

Myanmar National Security Adviser Thaung Tun said at a news conference in the capital, “China is our friend and we have a similar friendly relationship with Russia so it will not be possible for that issue to go forward.”

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