Burma leader Aung San Suu Kyi has said the world is facing instability and conflict in part because illegal immigration spreads terrorism.
Her remarks on Monday came as her country faces accusations of violently pushing out hundreds of thousands of unwanted Rohingya Muslims. Ms Suu Kyi did not directly mention the refugee exodus in a speech to European and Asian foreign ministers in Burma’s capital, Naypyitaw.
But her speech highlighted the views of many in the country who see the Rohingya as illegal immigrants and accuse them of terrorist acts. The ongoing Rohingya exodus is sure to be raised by the visitors at the meetings on Monday and on Tuesday.
Ms Suu Kyi said the world is in a new period of instability as conflicts around the world give rise to new threats and emergencies, citing “illegal immigration’s spread of terrorism and violent extremism, social disharmony and even the threat of nuclear war.
“Conflicts take away peace from societies, leaving behind underdevelopment and poverty, pushing peoples and even countries away from one another.” Burma has been widely criticised for the military crackdown that has driven more than 620,000 Rohingya to flee Rakhine state into neighbouring Bangladesh.
The United Nations has said the crackdown appears to be a campaign of “ethnic cleansing”, and some have called for re-imposing international sanctions that were lifted as Burma transitioned from military rule to elected government.
Foreign ministers and representatives of 51 countries are meeting in Naypyitaw in a forum that aims to further political and economic cooperation but takes place against the backdrop of the ongoing Rohingya refugee crisis.
A flurry of diplomatic activity preceded Monday’s opening, with the foreign ministers of Germany and Sweden joining the EU’s foreign policy chief in a visit to the teeming refugee camps in Bangladesh. China’s Wang Yi was also in Bangladesh and met privately with Ms Suu Kyi on Sunday in Burma following that trip.
Ms Suu Kyi is Burma’s foreign minister and state councillor, a title created for the country’s once-leading voice for democracy since she is constitutionally banned from the presidency. She does not command the military and cannot direct its operations in northern Rakhine state, but her remarks in seeming support of the brutal crackdown have damaged her global reputation.
In her speech to the visiting foreign ministers, Ms Suu Kyi also cited natural disasters caused by climate change as compounding the world’s problems. She said mutual understanding of problems like terrorism would be crucial for peace and economic development.
“I believe that if policymakers develop a true understanding on each of those constraints and difficulties, the process of addressing global problems will become easier and more effective,” she said. “It is only through mutual understanding that strong bonds of partnership can be forged.”