SITTWE, Rakhine State — Myanmar State Counselor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi flew to conflict-torn northern Rakhine State for the first time since Muslim militant attacks on police outposts in August triggered a brutal military crackdown that has seen an exodus of more than 600,000 Rohingya Muslims to Bangladesh.
The Irrawaddy witnessed her speaking to local young people at state capital Sittwe Airport in the morning before embarking on a flight to northern Rakhine, where she will visit Maungdaw Township—the focus of much of the recent violence. It will be her first official visit to northern Rakhine.
The State Counselor’s Office director-general U Zaw Htay told The Irrawaddy the leader is on a one-day visit to the area, adding that more details of the trip would be published soon.
The State Counselor arrived in Sittwe around 8 a.m., and met with about 12 young people at the airport.
She was accompanied by businesspeople Zaw Zaw of Max Myanmar Group, Nang Lang Kham of KBZ Bank, and Pyae Phyo Tayza of Htoo Group of Companies, who all made lavish donations for her development program named the Union Enterprise for Humanitarian Assistance, Resettlement and Development in Rakhine.
The government’s humanitarian assistance plans for northern Rakhine were discussed during her 30-minute-long meeting with young Arakanese and Arakanese sub-ethnicities Mro, Khami and Diagnet.
After the meeting, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi headed to Buthidaung and Maungdaw townships, where the stateless Rohingya have fled their homes and crossed into Bangladesh since the Aug. 25 attacks.
Locals of Sittwe and Maungdaw told The Irrawaddy they were not told of her visit in advance, and saw large security forces deployed in their areas. Daw Aung San Suu Kyi is likely to meet Arakanese and Rohingya Muslims during her visit, according to locals.
The State Counselor last visited Rakhine State during the 2015 election campaign.
The Irrawaddy’s Htet Naing Zaw contributed to this report from Naypyitaw.