Aung San Suu Kyi to UN: Govt Will Avoid Using The Term ‘Rohingya.’

Suu Kyi has been criticised overseas, and in Myanmar, for saying little about the abuses faced by the Rohingya.

Published21 Jun 2016, 11:38 AM IST
2 min read

Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi has told the UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights that the government will avoid using the term “Rohingya” to describe a persecuted Muslim minority in the country’s northwest, an official told Reuters on Monday.

Plight of The Rohingya Muslims

Members of the 1.1 million group, who identify themselves by the term “Rohingya” and live in apartheid-like conditions, are seen by many Myanmar Buddhists as illegal immigrants from Bangladesh. The term is a divisive issue.

The UN human rights investigator, Yanghee Lee, met Suu Kyi in the capital Naypyidaw on her first trip to Myanmar since the Nobel Peace Prize winner took power in April.

Suu Kyi has been criticised overseas, and by some in Myanmar, for saying little about the abuses faced by the Rohingya.

Suu Kyi Cautions Against The Use of Emotive Terms

Aung San Suu Kyi needs “space” to deal with the Rohingya issue. (Photo: AP)
Aung San Suu Kyi needs “space” to deal with the Rohingya issue. (Photo: AP)

She said during a visit by US Secretary of State John Kerry last month that the country needed “space” to deal with the Rohingya issue and cautioned against the use of “emotive terms”, which she said were making the situation more difficult.

The previous military-linked government of former junta general Thein Sein referred to the group as “Bengalis”, implying they were illegal immigrants from Bangladesh, though many have lived in Myanmar for generations.

On Friday, Myanmar representative to the United Nations Human Rights Council Thet Thinzar Tun criticised use of “certain nomenclature” by a UN representative as “adding fuel to fire” and “only making things worse”.

For the sake of harmony and mutual trust between two communities, it is advisable for everyone to use the term ‘the Muslim community in Rakhine State’.
Thet Thinzar Tun

Lee’s Efforts

Yanghee Lee is reviled by radical nationalist Buddhists in Myanmar, whose leader, Wirathu, called her a “whore” after she urged the previous government to end the abuses of the Rohingya and criticised laws seen as discriminatory towards non-Buddhists and women.

Some 1,25,000 Rohingya remain displaced in squalid camps and face severe travel restrictions since fighting erupted in Rakhine State between Buddhists and Muslims in 2012. Thousands have fled persecution and poverty.

Suu Kyi has formed a committee to “bring peace and development” to the state, but its plans are not clear.

Lee will meet several cabinet members and travel to areas where ethnic armed groups fight the military and sometimes between themselves, including Shan, Kachin and Rakhine states.

(This article has been edited for length.)

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