Myanmar's Suu Kyi accuses aid workers of helping 'terrorists'

Myanmar's Nobel Peace Prize winner Suu Kyi's office accuses aid workers of helping 'terrorists'
3 min read
29 August, 2017
The office of Burmese Nobel Peace Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi has accused air workers in Myanmar of helping 'terrorists' as massacres of the Rohingya Muslim minority continue.
Suu Kyi (right) has fallen out of favour with human rights groups [AFP]

Nobel Peace Prize winner - and de-facto Myanmar ruler - Aung San Suu Kyi has caused controversy again, after her office accused international aid workers of helping "terrorists".

It comes as massacres of the country's Rohingya Muslim minority by the Burmese military reportedly intensified this week, with human rights groups speaking of alarming violence against civilians in Rakhine state.

Myanmar's state counsellor's office - which is headed by Suu Kyi - accused humanitarian workers of helping "extremist terrorists… besieging a village" in Rakhine state.

Spurious claims

Among the "evidence" the office presented was a photograph of biscuits from the UN's World Food Programme at a camp "where terrorists sheltered", the Guardian reported.

The statement has forced 100 UN aid workers to flee the town on the weekend, fearing reprisals over the spurious claims from Suu Kyi's office linking them to militants.

Matthew Smith, executive director of Fortify Rights, has described the office's equation of aid workers with terrorists as "deeply irresponsible, dangerous, and potentially deadly".

"Suu Kyi's inflammatory propaganda is fuelling anti-Rohingya and anti-aid worker sentiment at a time when she should be doing everything in her power to instil calm and promote human rights."

It comes as Human Rights Watch released satellite data showing 100km of land in Rakhine state set ablaze, as the Burmese military continue their assault on villages populated by Myanmar's Rohingya ethnic and religious group.

Ethnic cleansing

The military campaign in the state has been described as a "genocide" by some rights campaigners.

Sickening accounts of mass killings have been told by the some 400,000 Rohingya refugees living in dire conditions in Bangladesh. This includes the widespread murder of children and systematic rape of women during the military crackdown.

Aung San Suu Kyi - who won fame as a pro-democracy campaigner against a military junta - has backed the army and denied reports of ethnic cleansing.

Suu Kyi's inflammatory propaganda is fuelling anti-Rohingya and anti-aid worker sentiment at a time when she should be doing everything in her power to instil calm and promote human rights.
- Matthew Smith, executive director, Fortify Rights

The democracy icon was placed under house arrest for 15 years during Myanmar's brutal dictatorship and awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1991.

Now as effective ruler of the country, Suu Kyi is facing accusations by the international community and human rights groups who once stood beside her of being culpable in the "ethnic cleansing" of Burmese Muslims.

Myanmar's political and religious establishment have been accused to be fanning hatred among troops and Burmese against the Rohingya minority. The UN has described Rangoon's claims of a "terrorist insurgency" in Rakhine state as wildly exaggerated.

Rangoon has restricted access to the state from aid workers and UN investigators and enforced a media blackout, in a bid to limit exposure of the army's campaign in Rakhine.

Most Rohingya are denied citizenship and other rights the country's Buddhist majority enjoy, living in abject poverty with little access to aid.

Pro-Rohingya campaigners have accused the Burmese military of embarking on a campaign to force out or kill the Muslim minority in Myanmar.