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.
TEXT SIZE - +
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

Multimedia Relatives of South Korean Ferry Victims Fire at Authorities

46 people are confirmed dead, but some 250 remain trapped inside sunken ferry More

War Legacy Haunts Vietnam, US Relations

$84 million project aims to clean up soil contaminated by Agent Orange More

Wikipedia Proves Useful for Tracking Flu

Technique gave better results than Center for Disease Control (CDC) and Google’s Flu Trends More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Ukraine, Russia, United in Faith, Divided in Politicsi
X
Michael Eckels
April 19, 2014
There is a strong historical religious connection between Russia and Ukraine. But what role is religion playing in the current conflict? In the run-up to Easter, Michael Eckels in Moscow reports for VOA.
Video

Video Ukraine, Russia, United in Faith, Divided in Politics

There is a strong historical religious connection between Russia and Ukraine. But what role is religion playing in the current conflict? In the run-up to Easter, Michael Eckels in Moscow reports for VOA.
Video

Video Face of American Farmer is Changing

The average American farmer is now 58 years old, and farmers 65 and older are the fastest growing segment of the population. It’s a troubling trend signaling big changes ahead for American agriculture as aging farmers retire. Reporter Mike Osborne says a new report from the U.S. Census Bureau is suggesting what some of those changes might look like... and why they might not be so troubling.
Video

Video Donetsk Governor: Ukraine Military Assault 'Delicate But Necessary'

Around a dozen state buildings in eastern Ukraine remain in the hands of pro-Russian protesters who are demanding a referendum on self-rule. The governor of the whole Donetsk region is among those forced out by the protesters. He spoke to VOA's Henry Ridgwell from his temporary new office in Donetsk city.
Video

Video Drones May Soon Send Data From High Seas

Drones are usually associated with unmanned flying vehicles, but autonomous watercraft are also becoming useful tools for jobs ranging from scientific exploration to law enforcement to searching for a missing airliner in the Indian Ocean. VOA’s George Putic reports on sea-faring drones.
Video

Video New Earth-Size Planet Found

Not too big, not too small. Not too hot, not too cold. A newly discovered planet looks just right for life as we know it, according to an international group of astronomers. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.
Video

Video Copts in Diaspora Worry About Future in Egypt

Around 10 percent of Egypt’s population belong to the Coptic faith, making them the largest Christian minority in the Middle East. But they have become targets of violence since the revolution three years ago. With elections scheduled for May and the struggle between the Egyptian military and Islamists continuing, many Copts abroad are deeply worried about the future of their ancient church. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky visited a Coptic church outside Washington DC.
Video

Video Critics Say Venezuelan Protests Test Limits of Military's Support

During the two months of deadly anti-government protests that have rocked the oil-rich nation of Venezuela, President Nicolas Maduro has accused the opposition of trying to initiate a coup. Though a small number of military officers have been arrested for allegedly plotting against the government, VOA’s Brian Padden reports the leadership of the armed forces continues to support the president, at least for now.
Video

Video More Millenials Unplug to Embrace Board Games

A big new trend in the U.S. toy industry has more consumers switching off their high-tech gadgets to play with classic toys, like board games. This is especially true among the so-called millenial generation - those born in the 1980's and 90's. Elizabeth Lee has more from an unusual café in Los Angeles, where the new trend is popular and business is booming.
Video

Video Google Buys Drone Company

In its latest purchase of high-tech companies, Google has acquired a manufacturer of solar-powered drones that can stay in the air almost indefinitely, relaying broadband Internet connection to remote areas. It is seen as yet another step in the U.S. based Web giant’s bid to bring Internet to the whole world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
AppleAndroid