NAYPYITAW, Myanmar – Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi delivered her first speech on Tuesday about the exodus of Rohingya Muslims, a long-persecuted ethnic group targeted in a military crackdown following attacks by Rohingya militants on Aug. 25. More than 400,000 Rohingya have fled to Bangladesh since then.
Suu Kyi asked for patience from the international community and suggested the refugees were partly responsible, saying more than half of the Rohingya villages had not been destroyed by the violence. The Nobel Peace Prize laureate, who was held under house arrest for years under a former military junta, invited diplomats to tour those villages.
Below are reactions to the speech from Rohingya who fled to Bangladesh, diplomats, human rights groups and citizens in Naypyitaw, Myanmar's capital, where Suu Kyi spoke:
SANAULLAH, a Rohingya refugee in the Kutupalong camp in Bangladesh who uses only one name:
"I want to say that before Aung San Suu Kyi came (to power) we were living in peace. Aung San Suu Kyi came to power and spoke of democracy. When she was in jail, we were at peace. After she came out of jail, Aung San Suu Kyi became part of the government, when they formed the government, after that the torture started (of Rohingya)."
ABDUL HAFIZ, a Rohingya at the Kutupalong camp:
"What Suu Kyi told her people and the world is a complete lie. If what she said is not a lie then let the world media in, so that they can see whether we are tortured or we are happy. Let them see the plight of the people there. ... Because of the torture in Muangdaw town (in Rakhine state) people ran away to Bangladesh. If it's a lie, then you can throw me in the sea and kill me. We will not mind."
ZAW ZAW HLANG, owner of a roadside fruit shop in Naypyitaw:
"We really support and are happy about what she has said to the international community. ... What we want is only peace for the citizens of this country. We don't want other countries to interfere or invade our country."
PHYO KO KO, a computer designer who works at a computer shop in Naypyitaw:
"She said a lot about the development of the country and the people and showed that people should be united. I only know about the Rakhine issue as a religious and race conflict. I liked what she said. And I totally support what she said because she wants good things for the country."
PAUL EDWARDS, UNICEF deputy representative:
"I'm always optimistic. She has stated she wants everyone to work together for peace and reconciliation so that's what we take and that is what we will try and do."
NIKOLAY LISTOPADOV, Russian ambassador to Myanmar:
"As a first step I think it was a good speech, a good message to the international community. I am sure further steps will follow because the message is quite clear that Myanmar is ready to cooperate with the international community, (and) is ready just to pay attention to all the concerns and worries of the international community."
HONG LIANG, Chinese ambassador to Myanmar:
"I think this is a very good speech. It will help the international community have a better understanding of the situation here in Myanmar and in Rakhine and help the international community have a better understanding of the position held by the Myanmar government."
JAMES GOMEZ, Amnesty International's regional director for Southeast Asia and the Pacific:
"Aung San Suu Kyi today demonstrated that she and her government are still burying their heads in the sand over the horrors unfolding in Rakhine state. At times, her speech amounted to little more than a mix of untruths and victim blaming. ... There is overwhelming evidence that security forces are engaged in a campaign of ethnic cleansing. While it was positive to hear Aung San Suu Kyi condemn human rights violations in Rakhine state, she is still silent about the role of the security forces in this."
PHIL ROBERTSON, Human Rights Watch:
"I think that she was trying to claw back some credibility with the international community but was not prepared to go far enough. She said the right words ... but when you peel it away, the ability to implement any of that is really very minimal. ... When she says that 50 percent of the Muslim villages are still present in Rakhine state, what are we talking about? Fifty percent are gone. Fifty percent are burnt out. Fifty percent is a failing grade."