News / Asia

Aung San Suu Kyi Explains Silence on Rohingyas

Burma opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi, and Indian Foreign Minister Salman Khurshid pose for the media before a meeting in New Delhi, India, November 15, 2012.
Burma opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi, and Indian Foreign Minister Salman Khurshid pose for the media before a meeting in New Delhi, India, November 15, 2012.
Anjana Pasricha
Burmese opposition leader Aung San Su Kyi has called recent ethnic violence in Burma between Buddhists and ethnic Rohingya Muslims a huge international tragedy. Her visit to India is helping rebuild ties between Burmese pro-democracy campaigners and the Indian leadership, which had withered under Burma’s military government.

As Aung San Suu Kyi met top Indian leaders in New Delhi to lobby for their support for democracy in Burma, she responded to criticism that she has not spoken out about violence involving Rohingya Muslims - a minority community in Burma’s Rakhine district.

Dozens of people have been killed in the clashes and some 110,000 displaced since the violence first started in June.    

Aung San Suu Kyi on Thursday told an Indian news channel that the violence was a “huge international tragedy.” She said she had not spoken on behalf of Rohingya Muslims, because she wanted to promote reconciliation between the Buddhist and Muslim communities.

“But 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 toward reconciliation between these two communities. I am not going to be able to do that if I take sides," she said.

Burma considers the Rohingya Muslims to be illegal immigrants. Aung San Suu Kyi said illegal crossing of the border from Bangladesh has to be stopped.

In India, several commentators compared Aung San Suu Kyi’s silence on the Rohingyas to New Delhi’s abandonment of her pro-democracy cause in the 1990s. At that time, Indian authorities drew close to Burmese military rulers, prompted by India's strategic need to maintain friendly relations with the neighboring country. 

But now both sides are reaching out to each other. Aung San Suu Kyi’s message in India was forthright. During a lecture on Wednesday she said that Burma needs India’s support for political reforms.

"We have not yet achieved the goal of democracy," she said. "We are still trying and we hope that in this last, I hope, and most difficult phase the people of India will stand by us and walk by us as we proceed along the path that they were able to proceed many years before us."

After a meeting, Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh told her that “our good wishes are with you as indeed with your struggle for democracy.”

On her part, Aung San Suu Kyi did not hide her disappointment with India’s past record, but says she is setting faith in close ties between the people of the two countries.

"India had drawn away from us in our very difficult days. But I had faith in the lasting friendship between the two countries based on lasting friendship between our two peoples. This is what I would like to emphasize again and again. Friendship between countries should be based on friendship between peoples and not friendship between governments. Governments come and go and that is what democracy is all about," she said.

Political observers say, although India has welcomed Aung San Suu Kyi’s return to the political stage in Burma, it will strike a balance in repairing ties with pro democracy campaigners and maintaining its ties with Burma’s military generals.

You May Like

Video For West Ukraine City, Conflict Far Away Yet Near

Physically and culturally close to Western Europe, Lviv feels solidarity with compatriots in country’s east but says they need to decide own future More

West African Women Disproportionately Affected by Ebola

Women's roles in families and the community put them at greater risk for contracting the disease, officials say More

Video NASA's MAVEN Spacecraft Arrives at Mars

Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution craft will measure rates at which gases escape Martian atmosphere into space More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
NASA’s MAVEN Probe Enters Mars Orbiti
X
September 22, 2014 9:20 PM
NASA’s newest Mars probe, called MAVEN, has successfully entered its designated orbit around the Red Planet. Scientists will use its sophisticated instruments to try to learn what happened to the atmosphere Mars had a few billion years ago. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video NASA’s MAVEN Probe Enters Mars Orbit

NASA’s newest Mars probe, called MAVEN, has successfully entered its designated orbit around the Red Planet. Scientists will use its sophisticated instruments to try to learn what happened to the atmosphere Mars had a few billion years ago. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video For West Ukraine City, Conflict Far Away Yet Near

The western Ukrainian city of Lviv prides itself on being both physically and culturally close to Western Europe. The Russian-backed separatists in the eastern part of the country are 1,200 kilometers away, and seemingly even farther away in their world view. Still, as VOA’s Al Pessin reports, the war is having an impact in Lviv.
Video

Video Saving Global Fish Stocks Starts in the Kitchen

With an estimated 90 percent of the world’s larger fish populations having already vanished, a growing number of people in the seafood industry are embracing the concept of sustainable fishing and farming practices. One American marine biologist turned restaurateur in Thailand is spreading the word among fellow chefs and customers. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Bangkok.
Video

Video Chinese Admiral Key in China’s Promotion of Sea Links

China’s President last week wrapped up landmark visits to India, Sri Lanka and Maldives, part of a broader campaign to promote a new “Maritime Silk Road” in Asia. The Chinese government’s promotion efforts rely heavily on the country’s best-known sailor, a 15th century eunuch named Zheng He. VOA's Bill Ide reports from the sailor’s hometown in Yunnan on the effort to promote China’s future by recalling its past.
Video

Video Experts Fear Ebola Outbreak ‘Beyond Our Capability to Contain’

Each day brings with it new warnings about the deadly Ebola outbreak already blamed for killing more than 2,600 people across West Africa. And while countries and international organizations like the United Nations are starting to come through on promises of help for those most affected, the unprecedented speed with which the virus has spread is raising questions about the international response. VOA's Jeff Seldin has more from Washington.
Video

Video Natural Gas Export Plan Divides Maryland Town

A U.S. power company that has been importing natural gas now wants to export it. If approved, its plant in Lusby, Maryland, would likely be the first terminal on the United States East Coast to export liquefied natural gas from American pipelines. While some residents welcome the move because it will create jobs, others oppose it, saying the expansion could be a safety and environmental hazard. VOA’s Deborah Block examines the controversy.
Video

Video Difficult Tactical Battle Ahead Against IS Militants in Syria

The U.S. president has ordered the military to intensify its fight against the Islamic State, including in Syria. But how does the military conduct air strikes in a country that is not a U.S. ally? VOA correspondent Carla Babb reports from the Pentagon.
Video

Video Iran, World Powers Seek Progress in Nuclear Talks

Iran and the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council plus Germany, known as the P5 + 1, have started a new round of talks on Iran's nuclear program. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins reports that as the negotiations take place in New York, a U.S. envoy is questioning Iran's commitment to peaceful nuclear activity.
Video

Video Migrants Caught in No-Man's Land Called Calais

The deaths of hundreds of migrants in the Mediterranean this week has only recast the spotlight on the perils of reaching Europe. And for those forunate enough to reach a place like Calais, France, only find that their problems aren't over. Lisa Bryant has the story.
Video

Video Westgate Siege Anniversary Brings Back Painful Memories

One year after it happened, the survivors of the terror attack on Nairobi's Westgate Shopping Mall still cannot shake the images of that tragic incident. For VOA, Mohammed Yusuf tells the story of victims still waiting for the answer to the question 'how could this happen?'
Video

Video Whaling Summit Votes to Uphold Ban on Japan Whale Hunt

The International Whaling Commission, meeting in Slovenia, has voted to uphold a court ruling banning Japan from hunting whales in the Antarctic Ocean. Conservationists hailed the ruling as a victory, but Tokyo says it will submit revised plans for a whale hunt in 2015. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video A Dinosaur Fit for Land and Water

Residents and tourists in Washington D.C. can now examine a life-size replica of an unusual dinosaur that lived almost a hundred million years ago in northern Africa. Scientists say studying the behemoth named Spinosaurus helps them better understand how some prehistoric animals adapted to life on land and in water. The Spinosaurus replica is on display at the National Geographic museum. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.

AppleAndroid