12:00 AM, November 16, 2012 / LAST MODIFIED: 12:00 AM, November 16, 2012

Suu Kyi declines to back Rohingyas

Says 'illegal immigration from Bangladesh' must be stopped

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Star Report

Even as the country accommodates thousands of Rohingyas despite its own population and poverty problems, Aung San Suu Kyi says illegal immigration from Bangladesh has to be stopped.
Suu Kyi, on a visit to neighbouring India, yesterday said she had declined to speak out on behalf of stateless Rohingya Muslims who live on both sides of the border because she wanted to promote reconciliation after the recent bloodshed.
More than 1,00,000 people have been displaced in Myanmar since June in two major outbreaks of violence in the western state of Rakhine.
But, for Bangladesh, the intrusion of Rohingyas from Myanmar is nothing new. It has already become a common feature of the bordering area at Teknaf since their first influx as refugees in 1978.
The country has sent back around 2,36,490 Rohingya refugees from 1992 to 2004.
It now accommodates around 29,000 registered Rohingya refugees, although different estimates suggest the number of the Myanmarese minorities unofficially living in and around Cox's Bazar ranges between 2.5 and 5 lakh.
"Don't forget that violence has been committed by both sides. This is why I prefer not to take sides and also I want to work towards reconciliation," she told NDTV news channel.
"Is there a lot of illegal crossing of the border [with Bangladesh] still going on? We have got to put a stop to it. Otherwise there will never be an end to the problem."
"Bangladesh will say all these people have come from Burma [Myanmar] and the Burmese say all these people have come over from Bangladesh."
The Nobel laureate, who was released from military-imposed house arrest in 2010, has faced criticism from human rights groups for her muted response to the ethnic violence in her homeland, reports AFP.
"This is a huge international tragedy and this is why I keep saying that the government must have a policy about their citizenship laws," she said.
Nicholas Farrelly, a Myanmar expert at Australian National University, told AFP that Suu Kyi's comments reflected domestic opinion.
"If she makes a mis-step, she could alienate her political base which is reluctant to have anything to do with the Rohingya," he said.
"She appears to be pivoting away from international human rights groups and is echoing sentiments inside Myanmar.
"Leaders in Myanmar feel international support flowing towards the Rohingya is inappropriate and that it misunderstands the situation."
Myanmar's 800,000 Rohingya are seen by the government and many in the country as illegal immigrants from neighbouring Bangladesh. They face severe discrimination that activists say has led to a deepening alienation.
"There are quarrels about whether people are true citizens under law or whether they have come over as migrants later from Bangladesh," Suu Kyi said.
"The security of the border surely is the responsibility of both countries."
The Rohingya, who make up the vast majority of those displaced in the recent fighting, are described by the UN as among the world's most persecuted minorities.
Suu Kyi, who is now a member of parliament after dramatic changes overseen by a quasi-civilian regime that took power last year, dismissed criticism that her response to the unrest in Rakhine had been inadequate.
"I am not ambivalent about my views on violence; violence is something that I abhor completely," she said.
"All those entitled to citizenship under the laws must be given citizenship, we say this very clearly."
Representatives of the Rohingya say their people have been in Myanmar for centuries but their ethnic history is the subject of fierce dispute.
US President Barack Obama's visit to Myanmar next week will underline the end of the country's pariah status since the recent reforms were initiated.

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