YANGON — Myanmar’s State Counselor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi met both Arakanese and Rohingya communities during her first trip to troubled northern Rakhine State, the scene of Muslim militant attacks and military clearance operations since August.
On an unannounced trip to the region, the State Counselor visited four areas in Maungdaw Township, according to Rakhine State chief minister U Nyi Pu. Most of the militant attacks on police outposts were focused in the township on Aug. 25.
More than 600,000 Rohingya Muslims from Maungdaw and the surrounding towns and villages fled to Bangladesh since the attacks, bringing testimonies of indiscriminate killing, rape and arson by security forces and local Arakanese. At least 30,000 Arakanese and Hindus were internally displaced by the violence.
Several Maungdaw residents told The Irrawaddy that her motorcade drove around downtown and the market area but did not hold any meetings with local people. Daw Aung San Suu Kyi then met villagers at Pan Taw Pyin village in southern Maungdaw later in the morning, according to locals.
She told villagers through an interpreter that she was there to see progress of village resettlement plans. Most of the homes were torched during the clearance operation, according to the village administrator U Annawar.
Human Rights Watch estimated 288 Rohingya villages have been destroyed since Aug. 25, according to satellite data.
U Annawar quoted the State Counselor as saying to dozens of Muslim villagers who gathered to see her: “Please tell me frankly what you need. We all have to try out for a peaceful living. I want your children to have a good education for their better future. If you have any difficulties, please let me know.”
The villagers replied they had no questions to ask her, added U Annawar.
The leader also visited Khone Taing village, an ethnic Mro settlement where militants killed six Mro and burned down some 40 homes on Aug. 28, according to the village administrator.
U Maung Hla, Khone Taing village administrator, told The Irrawaddy that Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and union ministers arrived in two helicopters.
“She asked me about the situation of the village resettlement process and the elderly also talked about the difficulties of their daily lives. About 100 residents came to see Suu Kyi but most of them could not speak well in Burmese. Suu Kyi had a brief separate meeting with Mro women,” he said.
“The rest of the villagers are so happy to see her,” said U Maung Hla.
Daw Aung San Suu Kyi arrived in Taungpyo sub-town in northern Maungdaw in the afternoon but there was no meeting with residents or administrative officials, according to a General Administration Department official.
Joined by several union ministers and businesspeople, the State Counselor walked along the Myanmar-Bangladesh border bridge and visited the police headquarters in Kyeekan Pyin, which was attacked by Muslim militants in October last year.
Muslim administrative official Kyaw Than of Ah Nauk Pyin village in Rathedaung Township said residents had heard about the State Counselor’s visit on Thursday but it was unclear whether she would come to Kyaw Than during the one-day trip.
“We would like to see Mother Suu and the entire village is so excited to meet her for the first time,” said U Kyaw Than.
He would ask Daw Aung San Suu Kyi for freedom of movement and citizenship cards if she visited, he said, adding that his village had received rice and other commodities donated by the Turkish government after diplomats toured the region last month.
The Irrawaddy’s reporter Min Aung Khine contributes to this report from Sittwe, Rakhine State.