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Aung San Suu Kyi will not attend UN General Assembly to focus on internal issues

Aung San Suu Kyi at the European Parliament, October 22, 2013. Image: Claude Truong-Ngoc/Wikimedia/CC BY-SA 3.0

Myanmar’s de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi will not attend the upcoming United Nations General Assembly in New York and will instead remain in Myanmar to focus on internal issues, The Irrawaddy reported on Tuesday, September 12.

“Under the current circumstances, the State Counselor has domestic issues that need attention and therefore, Vice-President [Henry Van Thio] will lead Myanmar’s delegation,” foreign affairs ministry spokesperson U Kyaw Zeya told The Irrawaddy, adding “The vice president will explain Myanmar’s stance at the session.”

The 72nd Regular Session of the UN General Assembly convenes on September 12, and the annual general debate, when heads of state and government present their views about world issues, begins on September 19, and runs until September 25.

UN Security Council meeting

Meanwhile, the UN Security Council is set to debate the Rohingya crisis on Wednesday. The meeting was requested by Britain and Sweden after United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein on Monday said the government treatment of the Rohingya was  a “cruel military operation” and a “systematic attack” which seemed “a textbook example of ethnic cleansing.”

“It’s a sign of the significant worry that Security Council members have about the situation that is continuing to deteriorate for the many Rohingyas who are seeking to flee Rakhine state,” British Ambassador Matthew Rycroft said.

International criticism of Nobel Peace Prize winner Suu Kyi’s handling of the situation in Rakhine state is mounting. Myanmar is predominately Buddhist, and Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy party campaigned to some degree on a nationalist platform. The Rohingya are predominately Muslim and not recognized as citizens by either Myanmar or neighboring Bangladesh, where hundreds of thousands have fled over the past weeks.

The United States – one of Suu Kyi’s staunchest supporters – on Monday condemned the violence. A White House statement said it showed that “the Burmese security forces are not protecting civilians.”

“We are alarmed by the allegations of human rights abuses, including extrajudicial killings, burning of villages, massacres, and rape, by security forces and by civilians acting with these forces’ consent,” the statement said. “We call on Burmese security authorities to respect the rule of law, stop the violence, and end the displacement of civilians from all communities.”

Fellow Nobel laureates, including South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu, exiled Tibetan Buddhist spiritual leader the Dalai Lama, and Pakistani activist Malala Yousafzai, have urged her to intervene and end the violence.


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