Yangon- Aung San Suu Kyi is preparing to address Myanmar on the violence against Rohingya Muslims for the first time in an attempt to soothe global outrage.
The nationally-televised turn will break a near silence since the ulcerous ethnic and religious hatreds in western Rakhine state erupted into killings on August 25, sending 400,000 Rohingya fleeing into Bangladesh.
Some 30,000 ethnic Rakhine Buddhists and Hindus have also been internally displaced.
On Sunday Myanmar’s government hinted that it may not take back Rohingya who fled across the border, accusing those refugees of having links to militants.
“Those who fled the villages made their way to the other country for fear of being arrested as they got involved in the violent attacks. Legal protection will be given to the villages whose residents did not flee,” the government’s Information Committee statement said.
Previous statements have said the country will set up relief shelters in northern Rakhine for Muslims “who can guarantee they are in no way connected to the terrorists”.
In an interview with the BBC, UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres said the stakes were high for Tuesday’s speech, calling it a “last chance” to stop the unfolding humanitarian calamity.
“If she does not reverse the situation now, then I think the tragedy will be absolutely horrible, and unfortunately then I don’t see how this can be reversed in the future,” he said.
The latest violence was sparked by Rohingya militants’ raids on 30 police posts in Rakhine state.
The UN calls the army fightback a “textbook example of ethnic cleansing” with villages set ablaze to drive Rohingya civilians out.
Many abroad are puzzled as to how rights can be flagrantly denied to a specific group by a people who once nobly demanded their own in the face of a junta.
Suu Kyi’s televised address — likely at least in part to be in English — comes ahead of a meeting at the UN General Assembly in which Myanmar is expected to be hammered over the crisis.
But analysts say her power to stay the military is limited, and her response thus far indicates she is choosing the lesser of two evils.
“She’s signaling that her chief priority is the relationship between the government and military and that the pogrom is secondary to that,” Francis Wade, author of ‘Myanmar’s Enemy Within: Buddhist Violence and the Making of the Muslim ‘Other” told AFP.
“This obviously raises questions about the quality of leadership she seeks to bring, but also that the political game in Myanmar is worth the sacrifice of entire communities.”
Suu Kyi took office last year as Myanmar’s first civilian leader after 50 years of junta rule.
She has since focused her energy on the delicate political dance between her civilian government and the generals who still hold many of the levers of power.