TOKYO—Communal violence threatening Burma’s fledgling reforms must be stopped by ensuring the “rule of law” so that clashing groups feel secure enough for dialogue, opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi said on Wednesday.
The Nobel Peace Prize laureate, on a visit to Japan, said she objects to violence “committed by anybody against anybody” and that Buddhist-Muslim clashes threaten Burma’s progress toward greater democracy and economic growth.
“There has never been a time when we’ve had complete peace within our land,” Suu Kyi told reporters in Tokyo. “I’m confident we can achieve economic success, but without peace and unity we cannot expect to get economic success that is sustained.”
Human rights groups and a UN envoy have criticized Burma’s government for failing to prevent attacks mostly on minority Muslims by majority Buddhists. Sectarian violence in western Arakan State has killed hundreds and driven more than 100,000 Rohingya Muslims from their homes.
“I have said that any violation of human rights and any acts of violence are inimical to a united and peaceful society and I stand by that,” Suu Kyi said when asked whether she had anything to say to the country’s Muslim minority.
“We must learn to accommodate those with different views, but if we want our people to sort out differences we must give them security,” Suu Kyi said. “We must make them secure enough to talk to each other.”
Boatloads of Rohingya have been washing up on Indonesia’s shores, following the wave of violence in western Burma, where they are considered to have migrated illegally from neighboring Bangladesh.
Regarding the issue of citizenship for the stateless Rohingya, Suu Kyi said Burma is entitled to abide by its own laws, such as its citizenship law, but it also has to assess those laws to ensure they comply with international standards.
“This is what the Burmese government should do, to face the issue of citizenship fairly,” she said.
In recent meetings with Muslim leaders, Suu Kyi said she found they had never known any country beside Burma.
“They did not feel they belong anywhere else. It is sad that they were made to feel they did not belong in our country either and this is a very sad state of affairs,” she said.
Suu Kyi said it was essential that Japan and other governments seeking to support Burma focus on what is really needed. More is not necessarily better, she said.
“We hope that the aid that is given to my country will be given with the people in mind, rather than the government,” she said.
“Governments come and governments go, but the people are forever,” she said.
Suu Kyi lauded Burma’s legislature for pushing forward with reforms and increasing its public transparency, but was harsher toward other parts of the government, which retains a strong military influence despite the end of direct military rule two years ago.
“The great weakness of this reform process is that it has no structure, no sequencing or establishment of priorities regarding what is needed at this moment,” she said.