Dhaka/New Delhi: Aung San Suu Kyi has blamed “terrorists” for “a huge iceberg of misinformation” about violence in western Myanmar that has forced more than 120,000 Rohingya refugees into neighbouring Bangladesh.
The de-facto leader of Myanmar is under growing pressure to halt “clearance operations” by security forces in Rakhine state that the United Nations secretary-general has warned could verge on ethnic cleansing.
Myanmar said yesterday it is negotiating with China and Russia to ensure they block any UN Security Council censure over the violence that has forced an exodus of nearly 150,000 Rohingya Muslims to Bangladesh in less than two weeks.
A statement posted by Aung San Suu Kyi’s office on Facebook yesterday said she had spoken with Turkey’s president Recep Tayyip Erdoan about the crisis that he has repeatedly called a “genocide”.
She said the government “had already started defending all the people in Rakhine in the best way possible and expressed that there should be no misinformation to create trouble between the two countries”.
She referred to “fake news photographs” posted on Twitter by Turkey’s deputy prime minister that purported to show dead Rohingya in Myanmar, but in fact were taken elsewhere. She made no mention of the Rohingya who have fled.
“That kind of fake information which was inflicted on the deputy prime minister was simply the tip of a huge iceberg of misinformation calculated to create a lot of problems between different communities and with the aim of promoting the interest of the terrorists,” the statement said.
The latest exodus of refugees from Rakhine state began on 25 August.
Satellite images show evidence of arson and Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh have claimed their villages are being burnt down en masse.
UN agencies have been barred from providing humanitarian aid in the state and journalists are prevented from entering.
The Muslim-minority group, who are denied citizenship and access to basic government services in Myanmar, make up the vast majority of those displaced.
The UN chief, Antonio Guterres, issued a rare letter yesterday appealing to Myanmar authorities to “put an end to this violence that, in my opinion, is creating a situation that can destabilise the region”.
Asked if the violence could be described as ethnic cleansing, Guterres told journalists on Tuesday: “We are facing a risk, I hope we don’t get there.”
His intervention was part of a chorus of appeals by world leaders for Aung San Suu Kyi, the 1991 Nobel Peace Prize winner, to exercise influence over the military leaders.
The British foreign secretary, Boris Johnson, said in a statement earlier: “Aung San Suu Kyi is rightly regarded as one of the most inspiring figures of our age but the treatment of the Rohingya is alas besmirching the reputation of Burma.”
Suu Kyi yesterday met the Indian prime minister, Narendra Modi. The Modi government says it is setting up a task force to identify the estimated 40,000 Rohingya believed to be taking refuge in India.