YANGON: Global outrage over Myanmar’s treatment of its Rohingya Muslims is being fuelled by “a huge iceberg of misinformation”, Aung San Suu Kyi said on Wednesday, after the UN led calls for her government to end violence that has forced 146,000 to flee to Bangladesh, reports AFP.
Rohingya refugees have poured over the border with Bangladesh, fleeing a massive security sweep in western Rakhine state by Myanmar forces following a series of deadly ambushes by Rohingya militants on August 25.
Suu Kyi’s government has faced growing international condemnation for the army’s response with refugees bringing with them renewed stories of murder, rape and burned villages at the hands of soldiers.
But in her first public comments since last month’s ambushes, she said sympathy for the Rohingya was being generated by “a huge iceberg of misinformation calculated to create a lot of problems between different communities and with the aim of promoting the interest of the terrorists”.
The comments were made in a statement put out by her office following a call with Turkey’s president Recep Tayyip Erdogan who has been particularly critical of Myanmar’s treatment of the Rohingya, dubbing it a “genocide”.
But Suu Kyi defended her government’s actions saying her administration was “defending all the people” in Rakhine state.
The statement highlighted a now deleted tweet last week by Turkey’s deputy prime minister Mehmet Simsek showing a series of gruesome pictures of bodies he wrongly claimed were of dead Rohingya.
Supporters of both the Rohingya and Myanmar’s government have a track record of posting emotive images that are not from the conflict.
Myanmar’s Rohingya are the world’s largest stateless minority and have lived under apartheid-like restrictions on their movement and citizenship for years.
They largely eschewed violence but in October a new militant group called the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army launched a series of deadly ambushes on border police prompting a massive army-led crackdown.
More than 200,000 Rohingya have fled to Bangladesh since October.
That includes 146,000 in the last two weeks, piling huge pressure on an impoverished neighbour that already hosted 400,000 Rohingya who had fled Myanmar over the past four decades.
“The number is growing every day,” UNHCR spokeswoman Vivian Tan, told AFP. “It’s a growing humanitarian crisis.”
An AFP reporter on Tuesday witnessed scores of new refugees wading through neck-deep water as they crossed the river Naf into Bangladesh after lengthy jungle treks.
“I walked seven days with my family members, carrying my 90-year-old mother on my back,” exhausted refugee Ali Ahammad, 38, told AFP.