Suu Kyi visits Rakhine, reduces Rohingya crisis to a 'quarrel'

Bangkok: Ten weeks after Myanmar's army embarked on a ruthless crackdown that has driven more than 600,000 Rohingya Muslims from their homes, the country's de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi finally visited the scene, telling people not to "quarrel".

From her helicopter, she would have been able to see scores of incinerated villages, but the military has insisted that Rohingya burnt their own villages as they fled. Burmese state media has accused them of fleeing to Bangladesh to tarnish Myanmar's reputation.

"I hope everything will go fine as local villagers handle the rebuilding process," Ms Suu Kyi told the residents of Pan Taw Pyin village, according to the New York Times. "We all have to try our best to live peacefully."

The scolding from the Nobel laureate known as The Lady, came as powerful US lawmakers proposed targeted sanctions and travel restrictions on Myanmar military officers accused of orchestrating atrocities that human rights group say amount to crimes against humanity.

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson announced he plans to visit Myanmar in mid-November when he is expected to intensify pressure on the military and Ms Suu Kyi's government to end the violence and allow the Rohingya to return home.

"What's most important to us is that the world can't stand idly by and be witness to the atrocities that are being reported in the area," Mr Tillerson said before announcing the trip.

The sanctions proposed by a bipartisan group of senators, including Republican John McCain, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, will intensify pressure on the Turnbull government to cut Australia's military ties with Myanmar.

Foreign Minister Julie Bishop has said Australia is "deeply concerned" about the violence that has sparked a humanitarian emergency in refugee camps in Bangladesh but has refused to directly condemn either the military or Ms Suu Kyi's government, which claims the military has been responding to attacks by Muslim insurgents.

Senator McCain said the "systematic human rights abuses" committed against Rohingya in Myanmar's Rakhine State demanded a strong response from the international community.

"Our legislation would hold accountable the senior military officials responsible for the slaughter and displacement of innocent men, women and children in Burma [Myanmar], and make clear the United States will not stand for these atrocities," Senator McCain said.

Democrat Senator Ben Cardin said "never again" is happening again in Myanmar under the watch of the international community.

"This bill will allow Congress to strengthen the President's [Donald Trump] hand by making clear to Burmese officials that there will be consequences for their crimes against humanity," Senator Cardin said.

Xenophobic and superstitious generals ruled the south-east Asia nation with an iron-fist for half a century before allowing economic and other reforms in 2011. But the military still wields enormous powers and controls much of the country's businesses through crony-run corporations.

Ms Suu Kyi, whose National League for Democracy won a landslide election in 2015, has refused to publicly criticise the military, prompting widespread criticism and the withdrawal of some of her international awards.

During her visit to Rakhine on Thursday, Ms Suu Kyi met religious leaders in Maungdaw, one of the districts worst hit by the violence, according to Chris Lewa from the Arakan Project monitoring group.

"She only said three things to the people - they should live peacefully, the government is there to help them and they should not quarrel among each other," Ms Lewa said.

- With agencies

This story Suu Kyi visits Rakhine, reduces Rohingya crisis to a 'quarrel' first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.