Aung San Suu Kyi Says Rohingya Crisis 'Could Have Been Handled Better'

Sep 13, 2018
Originally published on September 13, 2018 10:05 am
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DAVID GREENE, HOST:

The leader of Myanmar, Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, has made a rare admission today. She said the Rohingya situation could have been better handled. Now some 700,000 Rohingya Muslims accuse Myanmar's soldiers of mass rape, murder and arson, forcing them to flee their homes. NPR's Lauren Frayer has more.

LAUREN FRAYER, BYLINE: A special U.N. human rights team has called for top leaders of Myanmar's army to be prosecuted for alleged genocide. When asked about this at the World Economic Forum in Vietnam, Aung San Suu Kyi stumbled a bit and spoke of the situation in hindsight.

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STATE COUNSELLOR AUNG SAN SUU KYI: They are, of course, ways in which we, with hindsight, might think that the situation could have been handled better.

FRAYER: She said Myanmar is willing to repatriate the Rohingya Muslims who fled to neighboring Bangladesh. But she also defended her country's military.

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SUU KYI: We have to be fair to all sides. The rule of law must apply to everybody. We cannot choose and pick.

FRAYER: Aung San Suu Kyi won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1991, and she's been criticized for not speaking out more frequently about the suffering of the Rohingya Muslims and the military's role in it. Myanmar has also come under international criticism for jailing two Reuters journalists who had reported on a massacre of Rohingya civilians. When asked about the journalists, Suu Kyi struck a more defiant tone.

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SUU KYI: And if anybody feels that there has been a miscarriage of justice, I would like them to point it out. And I wonder whether very many people have actually read the summary of the judgement, which had nothing to do with freedom of expression at all.

FRAYER: She says the journalists broke her country's Official Secrets Act and are free to appeal. Press freedom advocates say they were targeted for their work. U.S. Vice President Mike Pence is among those calling for their release. The journalists were sentenced earlier this month to seven years in prison. Lauren Frayer, NPR News, Mumbai.

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