Myanmar's Leader Unsure 'Why Exodus Is Happening'

Critics accuse government of ethnic cleansing
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Sep 19, 2017 7:03 AM CDT
Myanmar's Leader Unsure 'Why Exodus Is Happening'
Supporters of the hardline Hefazat-e-Islam gather for a march towards Myanmar Embassy to protest against the persecution of Rohingya Muslims, in Dhaka, Bangladesh, on Monday.   (A.M. Ahad)

(Newser) – With a mass exodus of Rohingya Muslims sparking accusations of ethnic cleansing, Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi on Tuesday said her country does not fear international scrutiny and invited diplomats to see some areas for themselves, reports the AP. Though an estimated 421,000 Rohingya have fled to Bangladesh in less than a month as their villages burned and hundreds were killed, the "great majority" of Muslims within the conflict zone stayed and "more than 50% of their villages were intact," the Nobel Peace laureate said. "Nevertheless we are concerned to hear that numbers of Muslims are fleeing across the border to Bangladesh," she added. Visiting diplomats could help the government "understand why this exodus is happening."

Russian and Chinese diplomats praised the offer, but rights groups were far more critical, repeating charges of ethnic cleansing as an estimated 20,000 people continue to flow into Bangladesh every day. In her first address to the nation since the violence erupted, Suu Kyi said "there have been no armed clashes and there have been no clearance operations" for the past two weeks and Rohingya would be allowed to return to Myanmar if they passed a "verification" process. But the founder of the Arakan Project says government rules for verifying Rohingya as citizens are too strict, requiring documents dating back decades that were likely destroyed when homes burned. In any case, Rohingya have nowhere to go in Myanmar except "segregated camps," he said. (Read more Myanmar stories.)

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