Myanmar’s de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi is to stay away from next week’s UN General Assembly amid growing international pressure over ethnic violence that is forcing Rohingya Muslims to flee the country.
Up to 400,000 refugees have fled a security crackdown in Rakhine state since the eruption of violence last month. Many are hungry and sick, without shelter or clean water in the middle of the rainy season.
Buddhist-majority Myanmar say it is targeting violent Rohingya militants behind a series of attacks. But UN officials say the refugees’ exodus into neighbouring Bangladesh amounts to ethnic cleansing.
Critics have called for Suu Kyi to be stripped of her Nobel peace prize for failing to do more to halt the strife.
In her first address to the UN General Assembly as national leader in September last year, Suu Kyi defended her government’s efforts to resolve the crisis over treatment of the Muslim minority.
This year, her office said she would not be attending because of the security threats posed by the insurgents and her efforts to restore peace and stability.
The UN Security Council is discussing the Rohingyas’ plight in a ‘behind closed doors’ meeting on Wednesday. Rights groups want more.
“Let’s be clear here, this isn’t about having another meeting whether open or closed,” said Sherine Tadros, head of Amnesty International’s UN office in New York.
“It’s about the Security Council uniting and sending a very public message to the government of Myanmar that they have to put an end to the ongoing violence.”
As Muslim-majority Indonesia dispatched desperately-needed aid to Bangladesh, the United Nations warned that more help is needed urgently for the Rohingya people.