NAYPYITAW (Reuters) – Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi said on Tuesday there had been an erosion of trust and understanding between communities of Rakhine state, but did not refer to the hundreds of thousands of Rohingya Muslims who have fled since a military crackdown there.
“Of the many challenges that our government has been facing, the situation in the Rakhine has most strongly captured the attention of the world,” Suu Kyi said in a speech at a ceremony to welcome Pope Francis in the capital, Naypyitaw, on the second day of his visit to the country.
“As we address longstanding issues, social, economic and political, that have eroded trust and understanding, harmony and cooperation, between different communities in Rakhine, the support of our people and of good friends who only wish to see us succeed in our endeavours, has been invaluable,” she said.
More than 620,000 Rohingya have left northern Rakhine state over the past three months to escape what Amnesty International has dubbed “crimes against humanity”, gathering in refugee camps at the southern tip of neighbouring Bangladesh.
The United States has accused Myanmar of “ethnic cleansing” against the Rohingya, but China has stood by the country and Suu Kyi is due to travel to Beijing later this week.
Suu Kyi, a Nobel peace laureate and champion of democracy who for years faced down the junta that long ruled her country, has faced condemnation from around the globe for expressing doubts about reports of rights abuses against the Rohingya and failing to condemn the military.