Myanmar’s de facto leader, State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi, has canceled a trip to the United Nations General Assembly in September amid a spiraling crisis inside the country’s Rakhine state.
More than 370,000 minority Rohingya have fled to Bangladesh to escape violence since August 25, according to the United Nations, an average of almost 20,000 a day.
A spokesman for the Presidential office said she had called off her trip for two reasons.
“One is the current situation in Rakhine State. We have terrorist attacks and also there are many works on public safety and humanitarian works,” spokesman Zaw Htay said in a statement.
“And the second reason is we have received reports that there are possibilities of terrorist attacks in our country.”
One of the world’s largest annual diplomatic occasions, the 72nd UN General Assembly opened in New York on Tuesday, with events expected to last for weeks to come, including a speech by US President Donald Trump.
The latest outbreak of violence in Rakhine State was sparked by a series of alleged attacks on government border posts by Rohingya militants on August 25.
The ongoing actions of Myanmar’s armed forces, which are believed to have intensified following the August attacks, are a “textbook example of ethnic cleansing,” UN human rights chief Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein said Monday.
Suu Kyi criticized for response
Refugees are continuing to pour across the border into Bangladesh, bringing with them stories of murder, rape and devastation in their home state.
Some have been injured by landmines they accuse Myanmar of planting along the border, while others described people being tortured to death or burned alive.
Suu Kyi has been repeatedly criticized over her response to the crisis, particularly given her previous work as a defender of human rights which won her the Nobel Peace Prize.
During her last speech to the United Nations in 2016, Suu Kyi said her government didn’t fear international scrutiny over their handling of the Rohingya.
“We are committed to a sustainable solution that will lead to peace, stability and development for all communities within the state,” she said in September. By October, new violence had broken out across Rakhine State.
Former US Assistant Secretary of State for Human Rights Tom Malinowski told CNN’s Nima Elbagir he’s “very sad” about Suu Kyi’s response to the Rohingya crisis in Myanmar.
‘They are suffering, these people’
On Tuesday, Bangladesh’s Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina visited some of the hundreds of thousands of Rohingya refugees currently sheltering in her country, condemning “those who are responsible.”
“What is the crime of the women and children or the innocent people?” she said. “Because these people, innocent people, children, women, they are suffering, these people, they belong to Myanmar … how can they deny they are not their citizens?”
But Hasina also blamed the insurgents who have struck out against Myanmar authorities, saying they should have worked with the government.
The Bangladeshi PM was just one of 56 Islamic leaders to condemn the violence against Rohingya Muslims in a joint statement Tuesday.
The statement calls for a “thorough and independent investigation” into the violence, and was issued after an emergency meeting of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, the world’s largest Muslim body.
The leaders of Turkey, Pakistan and Iran were among the signatories.
UN Rohingya meeting planned
The United Nations Security Council will meet Wednesday to discuss the ongoing crisis inside Rakhine State, which the organization says has left at least 1,000 dead.
The Myanmar government say the death toll currently stands at 421, including 378 “terrorists” and 28 civilians.
The meeting was requested by Sweden and the United Kingdom, who said in a statement they were “deeply concerned” by the reports emerging from Myanmar.
“It is important that the Security Council play its role in responding,” Swedish Ambassador Olof Skoog said. “The priority is now to obtain immediate humanitarian access to those in need.”
Skoog called for an immediate end to the violence and protections for civilians who had been victims of the fighting.
The United States expressed further concern about the ongoing Myanmar violence on Tuesday, with press secretary Sarah Sanders saying the Trump administration was “deeply troubled.”
In an earlier statement, the US State Department stopped short of condemning the Myanmar government or Suu Kyi for the crisis, saying instead it was “concerned.”