Myanmar’s de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi vowed on Wednesday to work for “peace and national reconciliation” amid mounting international condemnation of a bloody army crackdown on her country’s Muslim Rohingya minority.
The Nobel Peace Prize winner did not mention the violence in Rakhine state but told a business forum in Singapore that multi-ethnic Myanmar needed to achieve stability to attract more investment.
Suu Kyi started a three-day visit to wealthy Singapore, the largest foreign investor in Myanmar after China, as international pressure mounted on her government to address the Rohingya crisis.
Crowds of Rohingya have flooded over the border into Bangladesh, making horrifying claims of gang rape, torture and murder at the hands of security forces.
Myanmar has denied allegations of abuse, saying the army is hunting “terrorists” behind deadly raids on police border posts last month.
Thousands also fled into China this month after clashes broke out between the army and ethnic rebels in northern Shan state, home to one of the many decades-old insurgencies rumbling in Myanmar’s borderlands.
“As you know, we have many challenges. We’re a country made of many ethnic communities, and we have to work at achieving stability and rule of law which you in Singapore take pride in,” the 71-year-old leader said.
“Businesses do not wish to invest in countries which are not stable. We do not wish to be unstable but we’ve had a long history of disunity in our nation. So national reconciliation and peace are unavoidably important for us,” she said.
Criticism of Buddhist-dominated Myanmar’s treatment of the Rohingya has been intense in Muslim-majority neighbours Indonesia and Malaysia.
Suu Kyi was scheduled to visit Indonesia, the world’s largest Muslim-majority country, after Singapore but postponed the trip in the face of public protests and a thwarted bomb plot against the Myanmar embassy.
A senior Cabinet Minister in Malaysia, Khairy Jamaluddin, on Wednesday, called for a review of Myanmar s membership in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations because of what he called its “large-scale ethnic cleansing” in Rakhine.
Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak will take part in a rare rally at the weekend to protest the crackdown on Rohingyas, an official from his office said Tuesday, as the United Nations rights agency reiterated its claim the stateless minority may be victims of crimes against humanity.
An estimated 30,000 people have fled their homes in Rakhine and analysis of satellite images by campaign group Human Rights Watch found hundreds of buildings in Rohingya villages have been razed.
Suu Kyi led her party to victory in elections last year but, barred from becoming president by a junta-era constitution, instead, holds a specially created post of state counsellor.
She appointed fellow Nobel laureate, former UN Chief Kofi Annan, to head a special commission to investigate how to mend bitter religious and ethnic divides in impoverished Rakhine.
Annan began a week-long trip to Myanmar on Tuesday.