Aung San Suu Kyi: Rohingya crisis 'could have been handled better'

Visitors flocked to Myanmar after western sanctions were lifted 2012

Visitors flocked to Myanmar after western sanctions were lifted 2012 Credit GEtty

The two Myanmar nationals have each been sentenced to seven years' jail for breaching the Official Secrets Act, though critics say they were framed to punish them for exposing the extrajudicial killing of Rohingya Muslims by the military in Rakhine state.

"They were not jailed because they were journalists, they were jailed because.the court has decided that they have broken the Official Secrets Act", she said.

The U.S. has come out in support of the journalists, Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo, who were arrested under a colonial-era law while reporting on Myanmar's persecution of Rohingya Muslims.

On the two Reuters journalists, she insisted that "the judgment has nothing to do with freedom of expression at all, it had to do with an Official Secrets Act", while adding that "they have every right to appeal the judgment and to point out why the judgment was wrong". "The case was held in open court".

Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo were convicted on official secrets charges on September 3 in a landmark case that has raised questions about Myanmar's progress toward democracy.

Her comments drew an indignant response from rights groups who have urged the Nobel Laureate to press for a presidential pardon for the reporters.

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Suu Kyi said that Myanmar is willing to take back those who fled, but many Rohingya who escaped the horrors of the army's campaign are adamant about not returning. Although Suu Kyi lacks command control over the armed forces, she has been criticized for not doing more to stop the carnage.

Sean Bain, of the International Commission of Jurists, said: "Open courts are created to shed light on the justice process".

The ferocity of that crackdown has thrust Myanmar into a firestorm of criticism as Western goodwill evaporates toward a nation ruled by a ruthless junta until 2015.

Ms. Suu Kyi's statements reinforce her reluctance to criticize the armed forces for what a United Nations fact-finding mission calls a possible genocide.

Speaking at the World Economic Forum in Hanoi on Thursday, Suu Kyi said the army's brutal crackdown on the Muslim minority - described by the United Nations as "genocide" - "could have been handled better".

The Rohingya crisis, that has seen up to 800,00 ethnic Muslims flee from majority Buddhist Myanmar to neighbouring Bangladesh has shattered her worldwide reputation.

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Suu Kyi made her comments in response to a question from a forum moderator who asked whether she felt comfortable about the reporters being jailed.

Yet Myanmar does not want its Rohingya, denying them citizenship while the Buddhist-majority public falsely label them "Bengali" interlopers.

Many Rohingya are fearful of returning to Myanmar if their safety and rights can not be guaranteed. The two were sentenced for possession of police documents while investigating the killing of Rohingya Muslims.

The task is complicated further as the UN's rights arm is expected to heavily censure Myanmar again in the coming days when it publishes in full the findings of its investigation into atrocities against the Rohingya. It decried "the instrumentalisation of the law and of the courts by the government and military in what constitutes a political campaign against independent journalism".

The 7 Days newspaper article said the Myanmar delegation to the General Assembly meeting would "explain about current developments on repatriation and cooperation with global organizations".

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