October 13, 2017 2:48 am JST

Myanmar's Suu Kyi prioritizes repatriation of Rohingya Muslims

YANGON (Kyodo) -- Myanmar leader State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi Thursday said her government will prioritize for repatriation of displaced Rohingya Muslims who recently fled the strife-torn Rakhine State across the border into Bangladesh.

Speaking in a rare televised address to the public, Suu Kyi outlined the priorities in implementing the commitments her government has made regarding the Rakhine issue naming them as repatriation, resettlement and development.

"In the Rakhine State, there are so many things to be done. If we are to take stock and prioritize, there are three main tasks," she said.

"First, repatriation of those who have crossed over to Bangladesh and providing humanitarian assistance effectively. Secondly, resettlement and rehabilitation. Third, bringing development to the region and establishing durable peace."

Suu Kyi's remarks came a day after the United Nations accused Myanmar's military of deliberately drove out the Rohingya Muslims from the country with a plan to permanently keep them across the border.

A U.N. report released by a team of three experts mandated by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights Wednesday accused that Myanmar's military operations in Rakhine State aim not only to drive the Rohingya Muslims out of the country but prevent their return.

The report said more than 500,000 Rohingya have fled to Bangladesh as a result of the "well-organized, coordinated, and systematic" military operations following militant attacks on about 30 police posts and a regimental headquarters on Aug. 25.

Myanmar authorities have said military operations are aimed at combating the threat of "terrorism" and restoring stability in Rakhine.

Suu Kyi in her address said Myanmar and Bangladesh already have had a successful experience of repatriation process in the past and expressed her optimism for this time too.

"Since our independence, we have twice, successfully negotiated with Bangladesh on the issue. Based on these successful traditions, we are now negotiating for the third time," Suu Kyi added.

Similar but smaller scale conflicts in Rakhine state in the late 1970s and in early 1990s have triggered repatriation processes between the two countries.

The state counselor said she will also form a new body named as the Union Enterprise for Humanitarian Assistance, Resettlement and Development in Rakhine State, aiming to serve as a mechanism to implement projects in all sectors, for the development of Rakhine State.

The new body which would be chaired by Suu Kyi herself would allow all the stakeholders, both local and international organizations, to work together in cooperation in all sectors and all strata of society, to bring development in Rakhine State, she said.

"We will use this program to show practical and progressive results as we work towards the emergence of a peaceful and developed Rakhine State," Suu Kyi added.

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