Tutu urges Suu Kyi to act on Rohingya crisis

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Apartheid hero prays his fellow Nobel laureate will 'be courageous again'

South Africa's outspoken Archbishop Desmond Tutu yesterday castigated fellow Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi over Myanmar's treatment of its Rohingya Muslims and urged her to intervene in the crisis.

The United Nations yesterday said that nearly 164,000 Rohingya have escaped to Bangladesh over the past two weeks in the wake of a massive security sweep and alleged atrocities by security forces and Buddhist mobs against them.

Ms Suu Kyi, feted for her years of peaceful opposition to Myanmar's junta rulers, has been urged to speak up for the Rohingya, with Muslim nations and the UN leading the condemnation of her government.

Mr Tutu, who helped dismantle apartheid in South Africa and became the moral voice of the nation, joined in the condemnation.

"If the political price of your ascension to the highest office in Myanmar is your silence, the price is surely too steep," Mr Tutu said in a statement.

"It is incongruous for a symbol of righteousness to lead such a country; it is adding to our pain," he said, noting that "the images we are seeing of the suffering of the Rohingya fill us with pain and dread."

"As we witness the unfolding horror, we pray for you to be courageous and resilient again... for you to speak out for justice, human rights and the unity of your people," said the archbishop.

Witnesses in Myanmar's Rakhine state say entire villages have been burned to the ground since Rohingya militants launched a series of coordinated attacks on Aug 25, prompting a military-led crackdown.


In a separate development, Malaysia's coast guard said it will not turn away Rohingya Muslims fleeing violence and is willing to provide temporary shelter for them, the maritime agency's chief said yesterday.

Malaysia, hundreds of kilometres to the south on the Andaman Sea, is likely to see more boat people from Myanmar in the coming weeks and months because of the renewed violence, said Mr Zulkifli Abu Bakar, the director general of Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency.

Malaysia is already home to over 100,000 Rohingya refugees.

"We are supposed to provide basic necessities for them to continue their journey and push them away. But at the end of the day, because of humanitarian reasons, we will not be able to do that," Mr Zulkifli told Reuters, adding that no fresh refugees had been seen yet.

Malaysia will likely house the Rohingya refugees in immigration detention centres, where foreigners without documents are typically held, he said. The country, which has not signed the UN Refugee Convention, treats refugees as illegal migrants.

Thailand has also said it is preparing to receive people fleeing the fighting in Myanmar. - WIRE SERVICES

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