Myanmar needs more time for ethnic reconciliation
Published: Apr 06, 2017 11:08 PM

Accusations about an "ethnic cleansing" of Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar have been swirling in the West in recent months. Responding to this, Myanmar State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi, in an exclusive interview with the BBC on Thursday, acknowledged problems in Rakhine state but denied there is ethnic cleansing of the Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar.

For years, Myanmar has faced enormous pressure over the Rohingya issue. A year after assuming power, Suu Kyi, once hailed as a beacon for democracy, is coming under a barrage of Western criticism for not addressing Rohingya's plight. There are also growing complaints about a slower economic growth and increased fighting with ethnic armed groups.

These accusations and complaints neglect the fact that ethnic reconciliation is by no means an easy task. The Rohingya problem is a long-lasting issue that cannot be solved overnight, so is the ethnic conflicts in Northern Myanmar. Cracking these hard nuts will require time as well as hard and careful work. Mutual trust should also be built between the government and relevant parties involved. 

Being aware of the fact that development cannot occur without peace, nor peace without development, the government of the National League for Democracy (NLD) led by Suu Kyi has accorded top priority to national reconciliation. It has been making unremitting efforts on achieving this goal. The international community should give Suu Kyi and the NLD government more time.   

National reconciliation is a great challenge in many countries. However, as Myanmar is striving to address this arduous task, the West prefers to make an issue of human rights, threatening to impose sanctions rather than offering practical support, which severely undermines and disturbs the country's reconciliation efforts. What Myanmar needs is assistance and support based on its own needs, something that China is offering.

China, backed by Russia, recently refused a proposed UN Security Council Statement on Myanmar over the Rohingya crisis. China has always followed a policy of not interfering in Myanmar's domestic affairs and respecting the country's choice for development path on its own. As experiences of many other countries indicate, external forces play a limited role in promoting a nation's inner reconciliation. Myanmar should have independence to achieve national reconciliation. 

Myanmar President U Htin Kyaw began a six-day state visit to China on Thursday. The two countries are expected to use this chance to better communicate over how China can further help Myanmar in national reconciliation. China has been paying close attention to Myanmar's peace process and is willing to continue playing a constructive role.

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