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

Obama: Alaskans Feel Signs of Climate Change

Alaskans experiencing bigger storm surges as sea ice melts, more frequent and extensive wildfires, deteriorating glaciers, and swift shoreline erosion More

Katrina Brought Enduring Changes to New Orleans

The city’s recovery is the result of the people and culture the city is famous for, as well as newcomers and start-up industries More

Magical Photo Slides Show Native Americans in Late 1800s

Walter McClintock spent 20 years photographing the Blackfoot Indians and their vanishing culture at the dawn of the modern age More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalatesi
X
August 27, 2015 2:08 AM
Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Is China's Economic Data Accurate?

Some investors say China's wild stock market gyrations have been made worse by worries about the reliability of that nation's economic data. And some critics say the reports can mislead investors by painting an unrealistically-strong picture of the economy. A key China scholar says Beijing is not fudging ((manipulating)) the numbers, but that the economy is evolving quickly from smoke-stack industries to services, and the ways of tracking new economic activity are falling behind the change. V
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Shipping Containers Provide Experimental Housing

Housing prices around the San Francisco Bay area are out of reach for many people, so some young entrepreneurs, artists and tech industry workers are creating their own houses using converted shipping containers. But as VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports from Oakland, the effort requires ingenuity and dealing with restrictive local laws.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video Technique May Eliminate Drill-and-Fill Dental Care

Many people dread visiting dentists because they're afraid of drills. Now, however, a technology developed by a British firm promises to eliminate the need for mechanical cleaning of dental cavities by speeding a natural process of tooth repair. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.
Video

Video Ages-old Ice Reveals Secrets of Climate Change

Ice caps don't just exist at the world's poles. There are also tropical ice caps, and the largest sits atop the Peruvian Andes - but it is melting, quickly, and may be gone within the next 20 years. George Putic reports scientists are now rushing to take samples to get at the valuable information about climate change locked in the ice.
Video

Video French Experiment in Integrating Roma Under Threat

Plans to destroy France’s oldest slum have sparked an outcry on the part of its Roma residents. As Lisa Bryant reports from the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, rights groups argue the community is a fledgling experiment on integrating Roma who are often outcasts in many parts of Europe.
Video

Video Kenyans Turn to Agriculture for Business

Each year Kenyan universities continue to churn out graduates for the job market despite the already existing high rate of unemployment among youth in the country. Some of these young men and women have realized that agriculture can be as rewarding as any other business or job, and they are resorting to agribusiness in large numbers as a way of tackling unemployment. Rael Ombuor reports for VOA.
Video

Video First Women Graduate Elite Army Ranger School

Two women are making history for the U.S. Army by proving they are among the toughest of the tough. VOA's Carla Babb reports from Fort Benning, Georgia as 94 men and those two women rise as graduates of the difficult Ranger school.

VOA Blogs