Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi will not attend next week’s United Nations General Assembly as international aid poured in to the Rohingya Muslims that have continued to flow into Bangladesh to escape the violence in their country.
Suu Kyi was skipping the assembly in order address domestic security issues, according to presidential office spokesman Zaw Htay. The meeting is set for September 25.
Suu Kyi is not Myanmar’s president — her official titles are state counselor and foreign minister — but she effectively serves as leader of the Southeast Asian nation. Zaw Htay said that, with President Htin Kyaw hospitalized, the second vice president would attend the UN meeting.
“The first reason (Suu Kyi cannot attend) is because of the Rakhine terrorist attacks,” Zaw Htay said.
“The state counselor is focusing to calm the situation in Rakhine state. There are circumstances. The second reason is, there are people inciting riots in some areas. We are trying to take care of the security issue in many other places. The third is that we are hearing that there will be terrorist attacks and we are trying to address this issue.”
The crisis erupted on August 25, when an insurgent Rohingya group attacked on police outposts in Myanmar’s Rakhine state. That prompted Myanmar’s military to launch “clearance operations” against the rebels, setting off a wave of violence that have left hundreds dead and thousands of homes burned — mostly Rohingya in both cases.
The government blames Rohingya for the attacks, but journalists who visited the region found evidence that raises doubts about its claims that Rohingya set fire to their own homes.
Many of the Rohingya who flooded into refugee camps in Bangladesh told of Myanmar soldiers shooting indiscriminately, burning their homes and warning them to leave or die. Others said they were attacked by Buddhist mobs.
Suu Kyi, a Nobel Peace Prize laureate who lived under house arrest for many years under a military junta that ultimately gave way to an elected government, has faced a torrent of international criticism and pressure since the crisis erupted.
UN human rights chief Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein said the Rohingya were victims of what “seems a textbook example of ethnic cleansing.”
Bangladesh has been overwhelmed with the massive influx of Rohingya, many of whom arrived hungry and traumatized after walking for days through jungles or being packed into rickety wooden boats.
Before August 25, Bangladesh had already been housing some 500,000 Rohingya refugees who fled earlier flashes of violence including anti-Muslim riots in 2012.
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has pledged to help the new arrivals, but demanded that Myanmar “take their nationals back.”
With two pre-existing camps packed beyond capacity, the government said it would provide 2,000 acres (810 hectares) for a new camp in the border district of Cox’s Bazar. Many of the new arrivals were staying in schools, or were huddling under tarps in makeshift settlements along roads and in open fields.
Basic resources were scarce, including food, clean water and medical aid.
Dozens of foreign diplomats and aid agency officials were set to meet Rohingya refugees Wednesday near the Kutupalong refugee camp, according to Kazi Abdur Rahman, additional deputy commissioner in Cox’s Bazar district.
“A humanitarian crisis is going on here,” he said. The diplomats “will visit camps, talk to them, see their condition. We need to work together during such a serious crisis.”
The Organization of Islamic Cooperation, the world’s largest Muslim body, urged Myanmar to allow in UN monitors so they can investigate what it alleged was systematic brutality against the Rohingya. The UN Human Rights Council approved an investigative mission earlier this year, but Myanmar in June refused to allow it to enter. An envoy’s visit in July was met with protests.
Myanmar’s president office said a committee has been formed to implement recommendations for improving the security and livelihoods of the Rohingya.
Dubai’s ruler is sending a Boeing 747 cargo plane loaded with tents to shelter Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh.
The Foreign Ministry of the United Arab Emirates said the plane is carrying over 100 metric tons (110 tons) of tents made available by the United Nations refugee agency.
The ministry said Wednesday the plane sent by Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum is the second to leave Dubai’s International Humanitarian City in recent days. Another UNHCR shipment carried jerrycans, sleeping mats, tarps, blankets and kitchen sets.
Four Hercules planes carrying 34 tons of aid for Rohinyga refugees have departed for Bangladesh from an air force base in the Indonesian capital.
Indonesia’s President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo has called for an immediate end to violence in Myanmar’s Rakhine state and promised significant humanitarian aid. He and other officials including his foreign minister and military chief inspected the relief operation before its departure from Halim Air Base.
Presidential spokesman Johan Budi says the planes are carrying rice, instant meals, family kits, tents, water tanks and blankets.
He said it is the first batch of aid from Indonesia following discussions with Myanmar and Bangladesh.