Suu Kyi bats for resisting collateral damage in counter-terrorism operations, avoids mentioning Pak

ANI | Updated: Sep 20, 2017 15:12 IST

Naypyitaw [Myanmar], September 20 (ANI): The majority-Buddhist Myanmar is no stranger to the anti-muslim sentiment, even as the country's government has long denied citizenship to the Rohingyas, with the argument that they are illegal Bangladeshi immigrants.

One concern that has since been dominating the public space is that organisations like the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA) have an influence on the displaced population, and that the ARSA has been receiving patronage or help from terrorist groups based in Pakistan as well as the ISIS.

Myanmar State Councillor Aung San Suu Kyi, in relation with this concern, emphasises on the fact that Naypyitaw hasn't had any experience or experiments with counter-terrorism operations till now, urging for measures that necessarily avoid collateral damage.

"Counter-terrorism is something that we have to take very seriously. And I have to confess that our country has not had experiments with regard to counter-terrorism. But, in India, you have had a lot of experiments and you know that it is a very delicate matter, because counter-terrorism must be carried out in such a way that the innocent are not affected. Whatever we do, we should try to avoid all collateral damage and any action that would hurt innocent people," Suu Kyi said, in an exclusive interview with ANI in Myanmar's Naypyitaw.

"Counter-terrorism is very difficult, because terrorism by its nature means that some of the members are embedded in the ordinary population and how we distinguish one from the other is very important. We don't want to hurt those who are innocent and at the same time, we have to make sure terrorists are not allowed to carry on with their activities," she added.

When asked if Myanmar has talked to Pakistan in this regard, Suu Kyi said, "No, we have not had any discussions with them on this."

The de-facto leader is facing mounting pressure from the global community over her sustained silence over the Rohingya refugee crisis. There is also criticism regarding that she might be, according to reports, under some kind of political compulsion to not voice what her true feelings are.

She, however, begs to differ.

"No, my true feelings are very very simple. I want peace and harmony in the Rakhine state. It's the responsibility of every government to maintain a position of integrity and fairness. We have to be fair to all communities. We have always maintained that we don't condemn either of the communities. We condemn actions that are against the rule of law and that are against the humanitarian needs of all people. But we have never condemned communities as such," she said.

"We have condemned the ARSA, because we have now officially declared it as a terrorist organisation. And we condemn all terrorist organistations," she added.

The most amicable solution would be to promote love and compassion throughout the communities, she said, adding, "But it may be the most amicable, the most desirable, but it is not necessarily the easiest one to achieve."

"You must know that it is the most difficult thing in the world to make, who are hostile to each other, learn to open their hearts and to accept the differences and make those differences strength and a bond between them," she asserted.

The current crisis in Myanmar began when the anti-Muslim sentiment turned worse after an August 25 attack by the ARSA, killing twelve security officers in the northern Rakhine state.

For the unversed, the Myanmar State Councillor broke her silence on the Rohingya crisis in the country and said that the government does not fear scrutiny by the international community, in a State of the Union address on Tuesday morning, even as more than 4,00,000 Rohingya Muslims have fled from the northern Rakhine State.

"There have been allegations and counter-allegations that need to be investigated. The government still needs to find out what the real problems are," Suu Kyi said, in a nationally televised address, the first since an army crackdown on the Rohingya Muslim minority community was branded as "ethnic cleansing" by the United Nations.

Suu Kyi further stressed on the short time her government has been in power for, adding, "I am aware of the fact the world attention is focussed on the situation in the Rakhine State as a responsible member of the community of nations. Myanmar does not fear international scrutiny and is committed to bring peace and sustainable solution that will bring peace, stability and development for all communities within that state."

"We don't want Myanmar to be a nation divided by religious beliefs or ethnicities. Hate and fear are the main scourge and a transition for us is a transition to democracy after half a century or more of authoritarian rule. We now are in the process of nurturing our nation and yet imperfect democracy. Peace and stability have to be achieved after nearly 70 years of internal conflict that started on the day of our independence back in 1948," she stated.

Suu Kyi further said that an action would be taken against anyone, who goes against the law of the land or violates human rights, 'regardless of race or political position.'

During the speech, however, she mentioned the Rohingyas by name only once, in reference to the armed militant group Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army.

In her defence, however, she asserted that she intended to not use 'emotive' terms for an already affected population.

"There has been a lot of controversy with regard to the term used to describe the Muslims in Rakhine as there are those who want to call themselves as Rohingyas or who want to refer to the Muslims there as Rohingyas. There are those who want to call themselves as just Bengalis, which are not ethnic Rakhine," Suu Kyi told ANI.

"I think instead of using this emotive term as it is 'highly charged', it is better just to say Muslims. It's just a description that nobody can deny. We are talking about the Muslim community in the Rakhine state, and I do not see any point using terms that inflame passions further," she added. (ANI)