Suu Kyi Says No Easy Answer to Sectarian Violence

By Antoni Slodkowski 17 April 2013

TOKYO—Burma’s charismatic opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi made rare comments on Wednesday on sectarian violence in her nation, but said she was “not a magician” and will not be able to solve long-running ethnic disputes.

Speaking to students at Tokyo University while on a visit to Japan, Suu Kyi maintained her stand that the rule of law needs to be established in Buddhist-majority Burma and parties involved in the violence have to build an atmosphere of dialogue.

She did not directly refer to recent monk-led violence in the city of Meikhtila that has killed 43 people. Thousands, mostly Muslims, were driven from their homes and businesses as bloodshed spread across central Burma, putting the Muslim minority on edge in one of Asia’s most diverse countries.

“I’ve said that the most important thing is to establish the rule of law… [it] is not just about the judiciary, it’s about the administration, it’s about the government, it’s about our police force, it’s about the training that we give to security forces,” said Suu Kyi.

She added that Burma’s courts do not meet democratic standards as they are “totally dominated by the executive.”

The failure of the Nobel Peace Prize-winner to defuse the tension undermines her image as a unifying moral force. Suu Kyi, herself a devout Buddhist, has previously said little on the violence.

“They wanted me to talk about how to make these communal differences disappear … I’m not a magician. If I were, I’d say ‘disappear’ and they would all disappear. Differences take a long time to sort out,” she told Japanese students.

“We have to establish an atmosphere of security in which people with different opinions can sit down and exchange ideas and think of the things we have in common.”