Suu Kyi bites back at her critics

World | 14 Sep 2018

Myanmar's Aung San Suu Kyi has offered a robust defense of the imprisonment of two Reuters journalists reporting on the Rohingya crisis.

Hitting back at criticism of a trial seen as an attempt to muzzle the press, the country's de facto leader acknowledged the brutal crackdown on the Muslim minority - the United Nations has called it genocide - could have been "handled better" but insisted the reporters were treated fairly. "They were not jailed because they were journalists" but because "the court decided they had broken the Official Secrets Act," she said.

Wa Lone, 32, and Kyaw Soe Oo, 28, were each imprisoned for seven years last week for breaching the act while reporting on atrocities during the military crackdown in Rakhine state.

Suu Kyi, once hailed as a rights champion, has been under pressure to help the pair.

The two claimed they were set up by the military while exposing the extrajudicial killing of 10 Rohingya Muslims in a village last year.

And this week the UN rights office accused Myanmar of "waging a campaign against journalists."

Challenging critics - they include the United Nations, rights groups and the US vice president - to cite where there was a miscarriage of justice, Suu Kyi said the case upheld the rule of law.

"The case was held in open court," she remarked at the World Economic Forum in Hanoi.

Army-led "clearance operations" that started last August drove 700,000 Rohingya into Bangladesh, carrying accounts of murder, rape and arson.

That crackdown has thrust Myanmar into a firestorm of criticism.

A UN fact-finding panel has also called for Myanmar army chief Min Aung Hlaing and other top generals to be prosecuted for genocide. The International Criminal Court has said it has jurisdiction to open an investigation, though Myanmar is not a member of the tribunal.

Su Kyi also pointed to neighboring Bangladesh for failing to start the repatriation of the nearly million-strong Rohingya refugee community to Myanmar.

Bangladesh "was not ready" to start repatriation in January as agreed under a deal between the two countries, she said.

Yet Myanmar does not want its Rohingya, denying them citizenship. And refugees refuse to return to Myanmar without guarantees of safety, restitution and citizenship.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

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