Published: Thu, September 13, 2018
Worldwide | By Isabel Fisher

Aung San Suu Kyi: Handling of Rohingya Could Have Been Better

Aung San Suu Kyi: Handling of Rohingya Could Have Been Better

During eight months of hearings, Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo testified that two policemen they had not met before handed them papers rolled up in a newspaper during a meeting at a Yangon restaurant on December 12.

A standing ovation greeted then Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi in 2012 when she stepped into a World Economic Forum event in Bangkok - her first foreign trip in over two decades.

Suu Kyi said two jailed Reuters journalists can appeal their seven-year sentence, and that their jailing had nothing to do with freedom of expression.

Suu Kyi said the case had "nothing to do with freedom of expression" and Wa Lone, 32, and Kyaw Soe Oo, 28, "were not jailed for being journalists".

Suu Kyi, once garlanded as a global rights champion, has come under intense pressure to use her moral force inside Myanmar to defend the pair.

In response to Ms Suu Kyi's comments, news agency Reuters said: 'We continue to believe that Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo did not violate Myanmar's espionage law, and at no point in time were they engaged in activity to hurt their country'. "The case was held in open court". He said last week the court was independent and followed due process.

However, Aung San Suu Kyi said the reporters have the right to "appeal the judgment and to point out why the judgment was wrong".

The ferocity of that crackdown has thrust Myanmar into a firestorm of criticism as Western goodwill evaporates towards a country ruled by a ruthless junta until 2015.

United Nations human rights chief Michelle Bachelet on Monday backed calls for a new body to be formed to begin working, in addition to a possible ICC probe, to gather evidence for future prosecutions over alleged crimes against the Rohingya. However, on Thursday, she suggested this was a misreading.

"There are of course ways in which with hindsight I think the situation could have been handled better", Suu Kyi said, stumbling over her words at the start. She also admitted that her government could in hindsight have handled the Rohingya crisis differently.

Although Myanmar and Bangladesh signed an agreement previous year to begin repatriating willing Rohingya back to Rakhine, Aung San Suu Kyi blamed Bangladesh for having stymied the process, which she said was supposed to have begun in January.

Although the violence in Rakhine state has eased, Myanmar has to deal with its aftermath, especially the repatriation of the Muslim Rohingya who fled and the underlying causes of tension that makes them targets of discrimination and repression in overwhelmingly Buddhist Myanmar.

The International Criminal Court has said it can investigate the alleged deportation of Rohingya from Myanmar to Bangladesh.

The jailing of the Reuters reporters has sent a chill through Myanmar's nascent media scene.

The task is complicated further as the UN's rights arm is expected to heavily censure Myanmar again in the coming days when it publishes in full the findings of its investigation into atrocities against the Rohingya.

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