National / Politics

Suu Kyi, Kishida address ethnic conflict in Rakhine state

Reuters, Kyodo

Myanmar is responding to the conflict in troubled north Rakhine state based on its laws, de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi said Thursday in Tokyo.

Suu Kyi’s comments came during talks with Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida in which the two agreed to cooperate on ending ethnic conflict in Myanmar, the Japanese Foreign Ministry said.

Rakhine is mired in its worst violence since 2012.

“The problem in Rakhine state is extremely delicate and care is needed in responding,” Suu Kyi was quoted as saying. “The Myanmar government is responding to the issue of Rakhine state based on the principles of the rule of law.”

The Nobel Peace Prize winner has faced mounting criticism abroad for her government’s handling of the crisis in the Muslim-majority region, where soldiers have blocked access to aid workers and have been accused of raping and killing civilians.

She also has not directly commented on calls from human rights experts who are urging the government to investigate the allegations, or on statements from human rights monitors, although she has urged the military to act with restraint.

Troops have been pouring into the area since militants believed to be Rohingya Muslims launched coordinated attacks on border posts on Oct. 9, killing nine police officers.

The Myanmar government says five soldiers and at least 33 alleged attackers have been killed since military operations began.

Referring to the attacks in Rakhine, Kishida said, “Any sort of violence should not be tolerated, and I welcome (your) efforts for the peace and stability of Rakhine state,” according to a ministry statement.

In their talks, Kishida said Japan will deliver a new ferry to Myanmar with the aim of supporting its efforts to ease inter-communal tensions in Rakhine, the ministry said.

Suu Kyi said the ship will not only help transport people in Rakhine, which faces the Indian Ocean, but also contribute to the development of the poverty-stricken state, the ministry added.

There is a dire need for ships in Myanmar because they are often the primary mode of transport. There have also been a number of deadly sinkings in recent years, so safe boats are in demand, a senior Japanese official said earlier.

Kishida and Suu Kyi met a day after Prime Minister Shinzo Abe pledged to offer ¥40 billion ($387 million) in aid over five years to fund Myanmar’s efforts at national reconciliation.

The democracy icon, whose five-day visit began Tuesday, is making her first trip to Japan since her National League for Democracy swept to power in March.

Kishida, welcoming Myanmar’s ratification of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT) in September, agreed with Suu Kyi to promote the treaty’s entry into force, the ministry said.

The CTBT aims to establish a verifiable global ban on all types of explosive nuclear tests.

Kishida and Suu Kyi also agreed that strengthening ties with India, the world’s largest democracy and Myanmar’s neighbor, is important both economically and strategically, the ministry said.