When Aung San Suu Kyi was elected to parliament in 2012 there were high hopes that the Nobel peace prize winner would help heal Myanmar’s entrenched ethnic divides.
Some defenders at the time tried to argue that she was gagged by temporary political concerns because she had to hold on to the votes of nationalist Buddhists. However, her NLD party won a landslide victory in elections in 2015 and yet she remained conspicuously silent.
She has defended the governmental forces that she is part of in response to the recent wave of violence, triggering further widespread condemnation.
Her exact motivations remain opaque but the only thing she patently stands to lose by speaking out is the support of the military power brokers who still ultimately control Myanmar. The only thing she could obviously hope to gain by her stillnes is more power and influence.
The violence was triggered on 25 August when a Rohingya militant group attacked more than a dozen security sites and killed 12 people.
Militia groups, local security forces and the Burmese army responded with” clearance operations” that have forced refugees into Bangladesh and left tens of thousands more displaced inside the state.
” The international community is saying it is a genocide. We also say it is a genocide ,” Ali told reporters in Dhaka.
He said the influx of refugees in the past month took the total number of Rohingya in Bangladesh to more than 700,000.” It is now a national problem ,” he said.
Ali said about 10,000 homes had been burned in Rakhine state, a figure that cannot be verified as Myanmar has restricted independent access to the state.
Scores of refugees in Bangladesh have given accounts of arson by Burmese security forces. On Sunday Human Rights Watch said that satellite analysis had shown evidence of fire damage in urban areas populated by Rohingyas as well as in isolated villages.
Myanmar says it is targeting armed insurgents, including fighters from the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army( Arsa ), different groups which claimed responsibility for the August assaults and reportedly controls small areas of Rakhine.
Arsa, which has been accused of carrying out assaults against Buddhist and Hindu civilians, called for a month-long “humanitarian pause” on Sunday to deal with the refugee crisis. The truce was rejected by Myanmar authorities, which said they did not negotiate with “terrorists”.
The International Organisation for Migration calculated about 313,000 Rohingya had crossed into Bangladesh by Monday , noting that the influx appeared to be slackening. Many new arrivals were on the move inside Bangladesh and could not be counted, it added.
Rohingya have been systematically persecuted for decades by the Burmese government which, contrary to historical proof, regards them as illegal migrants from Bangladesh and restricts their citizenship rights and access to government services.
Earlier security operations have been described as possible “crimes against humanity” by the United nations organization, but the scale of the most recent violence- and allegations that Burmese forces-out are mining the border- have led to speculation the military is seek remove Rohingya from the country for good.
The Dalai Lama spoke about the crisis for the first time on Friday.” Those people who are sort of harassing some Muslims, they should remember Buddha ,” he told journalists.” He would definitely devote help to those poor Muslims. So still I feel that. So very sad .”
Myanmar’s population is overwhelmingly Buddhist and there is widespread hatred for the Rohingya. Buddhist patriots, led by firebrand monks, have operated a long Islamophobic campaign calling for them to be pushed out of the country.
Myanmar’s de facto civilian leader, Mrs aung san suu kyi, has been denounced for her refusal to intervene in support of the Rohingya.
Associated Press and Agence France-Presse contributed to this report