NEW YORK, United States — Daw Aung San Suu Kyi made her first speech Wednesday at the UN General Assembly since forming a democratically elected government and called for international understanding as Burma grapples with sectarian tensions.
She addressed concerns about the situation in troubled Rakhine State, where longstanding discrimination by majority Buddhists against Muslim Rohingya exploded into bloody violence in 2012. More than 100,000 people, mostly Rohingya, are still in displacement camps.
Burma’s State Counselor said the new government was “standing firm against the forces of prejudice and intolerance.” She said that as a responsible nation, “we do not fear international scrutiny. We are committed to a sustainable solution that will lead to peace, stability and development for all communities within the state.”
Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, who has been criticized by some human rights activists for not speaking out forcefully in support of the Rohingya, did not mention the group by name in her speech. It’s a contentious issue among Buddhists in Rakhine, who consider the Rohingya to be illegal immigrants from neighboring Bangladesh and customarily call them “Bengali.”
The Nobel peace laureate said that through last year’s election, the people of Burma exercised their right to fashion their dreams and aspirations for their country. She said national reconciliation in Burma is her government’s highest priority.
Speaking later at the Asia Society, she said that Burma was only at the “beginning of the road” on its transition to democracy and to realize that goal required constitutional reform so that the military does not retain a quota of a quarter of parliamentary seats.
She defended the recent appointment of a commission led by former UN chief Kofi Annan as the government seeks to relieve communal tension and strife in Rakhine State.
She said some political parties started protesting that “we were dragging a domestic issue onto the international stage but we explained that it had been on the international stage for some time and we had not been able to do anything about it.”
Daw Aung San Suu Kyi said the nine-member commission will address humanitarian, development, basic rights and security issues.