World

Suu Kyi denies going soft on Myanmar military

No change in stance on military, she says in radio interview

YANGON: Myanmar's de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi has rejected a suggestion that she is soft on the military, which the United Nations has accused of ethnic cleansing, saying her relationship with the generals was normal and her objective was national reconciliation.

Ms Suu Kyi on Tuesday condemned rights abuses in Rakhine State, where conflict that began last month has forced 421,000 Rohingya Muslims to seek refuge in Bangladesh. She said violators would be punished.

But in her first speech to the Buddhist-majority nation on the crisis, she did not address the UN accusations, drawing cool international responses.

"We have never changed our stand," Ms Suu Kyi said in an interview with Radio Free Asia, when asked if she had softened her stance on the military.

"Our goal has been national reconciliation from the very beginning. We have never criticised the military itself, only their actions."

She cited her unsuccessful bid in Parliament to change a military-drafted Constitution, which bars her from the presidency and gives the military responsibility over security and a veto over charter reform.

Western diplomats and aid officials had been hoping that she would issue an unequivocal condemnation of violence and hate speech in Rakhine.

They welcomed the message, as far as it went, but some doubted if she had done enough to deflect global criticism.

Ms Suu Kyi had condemned all rights violations and said she was committed to the restoration of peace and action would be taken against violators.

On the return of refugees, she said Myanmar was ready to start a verification process under a 1993 arrangement with Bangladesh and "refugees from this country will be accepted without any problem". - REUTERS

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