Burmese opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi said that she will always condemn human rights abuses and acts outside the rule of law but would not criticize any side in the ongoing Kachin State conflict in order not to exacerbate the fighting.
Speaking to members of the Burmese community at Queen College in New York on Sunday, Suu Kyi said, “There are people who criticized me when I remained silence on this case. They can do so as they are not satisfied with me. But, for me, I do not want to add fire to any side of the conflict.”
The Nobel Laureate told hundreds of Burmese diaspora in the United States that to solve one conflict means being calm and considering the roots of the problem, instead of pointing fingers and blaming each other.
“There are times when you have power, but there are also times when you do not have power,” said Suu Kyi. “When you think that you have the power to dominate other people, this is not a solution that can last for a long time.”
Observers have urged Suu Kyi to participate in the Peacemaking Working Committee to solve the Kachin conflict as they believe neutral figures must mediate between the government and rebels to build trust and find a solution.
Suu Kyi chairs the Lower House of Parliament’s Rule of Law Committee but has not had a chance to participate in solving the Kachin conflict. Some critics have condemned the 67-year-old for staying silent on Kachin as well as the sectarian violence between Arakanese Buddhists and Rohingya Muslims in western Burma.
When one audience member submitted a question regarding the Kachin conflict, Suu Kyi replied that her National League for Democracy party is not in power. The government is running the peace process and so it is not for her party to score political points, but if people see bad things happening then they must speak out, she said.
“We should remove such fear and hate in order that all of us can live with unity,” said Suu Kyi, referring to the climate of fear which characterized the previous half-century of military dictatorship. “Burma is a union where there are different ethnic people and all the different minorities make the country stronger,” she added.
Meanwhile, the BBC (Burmese Version) reported on Sunday that serious abuses are ongoing in Kachin State where fighting between government troops and the ethnic rebel Kachin Independence Army continues unabated during Suu Kyi’s visit to the US.
Ma Hka, a Kachin lawyer representing the families of four alleged torture victims, told the BBC that he sent letters to President Thein Sein, Northern Regional Command and also the UN Human Rights Commission on Sept. 20 to demand a thorough investigation of serious sexual and physical abuse committed to his clients under interrogation.
“The victims were burned by candles if they refused to perform homosexual acts and this is the main issue that we want the authorities to take action about,” he told the BBC.
Two victims from Myitkyina and two from Thar Law Gyi Village in Waingmaw Township were captured by government troops from Light Infantry Battalion 37 based nearby. Military Intelligence officers are accused of torturing the villagers who were suspected of being Kachin rebels.
The four were detained in June around the one-year anniversary of resumed hostilities after a 17-year ceasefire broke down in 2011. Humanitarian groups report that around 90,000 civilians have so far been displaced by the fighting in northernmost Burma.