Myanmar's Suu Kyi cancels trip to U.N. amid Rohingya criticism

By Allen Cone  |  Sept. 13, 2017 at 12:32 PM
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Sept. 13 (UPI) -- Amid a mass exodus of Rohingya Muslims from Myanmar, the nation's leader and Nobel laureate, Aung San Suu Kyi, has called off a trip next week to the U.N. General Assembly in New York.

The U.N. Security Council is scheduled to meet Sept. 20 to discuss the crisis in her country's Rakhine state, in which the U.N. said at least 1,000 have died. The Myanmar government says 421 have died, including 378 "terrorists" and 28 civilians.

Since Aug. 25, more than 370,000 Rohingya have fled to Bangladesh, the United Nations said Friday.

A spokesman for the presidential office said Suu Kyi announced she had canceled her trip.

"One is the current situation in Rakhine state. We have terrorist attacks and also there are many works on public safety and humanitarian works," spokesman Zaw Htay said in a statement. "And the second reason is we have received reports that there are possibilities of terrorist attacks in our country."

She plans to address the nation Tuesday to "speak for national reconciliation and peace."

Instead, Vice President U Henry Van Thio will attend the U.N. General Assembly, China's official Xinhua news agency reported. President U Htin Kyaw has been hospitalized in Bangkok, Thailand.

Suu Kyi's official title is state counselor in the country, which used to be called Burma.

Kyi, who won a Nobel Peace Prize in 1991 as a defender of human rights, addressed the General Assembly in September 2016 and defended her government's efforts to resolve how Rohingya are treated. Members of the ethnic and religious Muslim minority have long been denied citizenship, while living in Buddhist-majority Rakhine state.

Twelve Nobel laureates are among 27 international eminent personalities who sent a letter to the U.N. Security Council, urging its intervention to end the crisis. The signatures included Dr. Muhammad Yunus, the Bangladeshi social entrepreneur, banker and economist who won the 2006 Nobel Peace Prize.

"We call on UNSC to intervene immediately by using all available means," the letter read. "We request you to take immediate action for cessation of indiscriminate military attack on innocent civilians that is forcing them to leave their home and flee their country to turn into stateless people.

"This is one of the decisive moments when bold and decisive actions are needed promptly when it is still possible to get it resolved."

Also, 56 Islamic leaders condemned the "systematic brutality" against the Rohingya in a joint statement Tuesday after an emergency meeting of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation in Astana, Kazakhstan.

Myanmar's military denies it is targeting civilians and claims it is fighting Rohingya militants.

On Tuesday, Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina visited Rohingya refugees taking shelter in her country and condemned "those who are responsible."

"What is the crime of the women and children or the innocent people?" she asked in a CNN report. "Because these people, innocent people, children, women, they are suffering, these people, they belong to Myanmar. ... How can they deny they are not their citizens?"

But Hasina also blamed the insurgents.

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