Myanmar's Suu Kyi says 'delicate' Rakhine conflict handled by rule of law

November 3, 2016 1:25 AM EDT

Myanmar State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi (R) talks with Japan's Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida at a hotel in Tokyo on November 3, 2016. REUTERS/Kazuhiro Nogi/Pool


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By Elaine Lies

TOKYO (Reuters) - The Myanmar government is responding to conflict in the troubled north of Rakhine state, which has suffered its worst violence since 2012, based on the rule of law, leader Aung San Suu Kyi was quoted as saying on Thursday.

Nobel Peace Prize winner Suu Kyi has faced mounting criticism abroad for her government's handling of a crisis in the Muslim-majority region, where soldiers have blocked access for aid workers and are accused of raping and killing civilians.

She has also not directly commented on calls from human rights experts urging the government to investigate the allegations of abuse, or on statements from human rights monitors, although she has urged the military to act with restraint.

Troops have poured into the area since militants believed to be Rohingya Muslims launched coordinated attacks on border posts on Oct. 9, killing nine police. The government says five soldiers and at least 33 alleged attackers have been killed in the military operation.

In Tokyo on a five-day visit that included a meeting with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, Suu Kyi met with Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida, who said that violence could not be permitted in dealing with the crisis, according to a Foreign Ministry statement.

"The problem in Rakhine state is extremely delicate and care is needed in responding," Suu Kyi was quoted as saying.

"The Myanmar government is responding to the issue of Rakhine state based on the principles of the rule of law."

Kishida said Japan was giving two used vessels to the people of Rakhine, as well as a new vessel. On Wednesday, Abe pledged $7.73 billion to Myanmar over five years to support its peace-building and development efforts.

The military operation has sharpened the tension between Suu Kyi's six-month-old civilian administration and the army, which ruled the country for decades and retains key powers, including control of ministries responsible for security.

While Myanmar's army-drafted constitution puts the military firmly in control of security matters, diplomats and aid workers say privately they are dismayed at Suu Kyi's lack of deeper involvement in the handling of the crisis.

Suu Kyi, who as well as effectively leading the government as state counselor is also Myanmar's foreign minister, has pressed ahead with a busy schedule of overseas trips despite the crisis.

The Rohingya are seen by many Myanmar Buddhists as illegal immigrants from Bangladesh. Some 125,000 remain displaced and face severe travel restrictions in squalid camps since fighting erupted in Rakhine between Buddhists and Muslims in 2012.

(Reporting by Elaine Lies; Editing by Nick Macfie)



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