For almost a year, the Myanmar army has conducted “clearance operations” in Rokhine state against the Muslim Rohingya minority. 417,000 of those who survived have fled to Bangladesh, telling stories of rape and murder in their villages. The UN and human rights groups have described the situation as genocide and ethnic cleansing.

De facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi, a Nobel Peace Prize winner, has largely remained silent. But on Tuesday she broke that silence with a speech that is laughable, mainly because she said she has no idea why the Rohingya have fled to neighboring Bangladesh.

Suu Kyi’s Speech

In her 30 minute speech, Suu Kyi stated that she doesn’t know why the Rohingya have left Myanmar and blamed any of the “problems” in the state on militants. Note: She never once called them Rohingya, instead calling them Muslims. I guess that’s better than what Myanmar usually calls them, which is Bengalis because they claim the minority group illegally migrated from Bangladesh years ago. That is false. From CNN:

In her 30-minute televised address, Suu Kyi, whose official title is State Counselor, said the Myanmar government needed time to find out “what the real problems are” in Rakhine state, despite the fact that the UN, numerous rights groups and the Myanmar government itself have issued reports detailing the causes behind the inter-ethnic bloodshed.

Her sole reference to the Rohingya by name was a reference to the burgeoning Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA) militant group, which she claimed was “responsible for acts of terrorism.”

She never brought up the operations conducted by the military. From Australia ABC News:

Nor did she explicitly acknowledge the brutal military crackdown by Myanmar’s military since late August, that has forced more than 400,000 Rohingyas to flee for their lives into Bangladesh, and left hundreds dead.

Her only reference instead was that since September 5 there had been “no armed clashes and there have been no clearance operations” — a statement that contradicts the stories of many Rohingya refugees now in Bangladesh.

Instead, Suu Kyi insisted that the country needs to concentrate on everyone, not just “on the few.” From The New York Times:

In her speech, delivered in crisp English and often directly inviting foreign listeners to “join us” in addressing Myanmar’s problems, she steadfastly refused to criticize the Myanmar military, which has been accused of a vast campaign of killing, rape and village burning.

“The security forces have been instructed to adhere strictly to the code of conduct in carrying out security operations, to exercise all due restraint and to take full measures to avoid collateral damage and the harming of innocent civilians,” she said.

Ok, first off, for generations, the government has oppressed the Rohingya minority. Officials do not grant Rohingya citizenship, thus leaving them stateless. The Rohingya must receive permission from the government to do anything, even to have more than two kids.

This first military operation was triggered last October when a few Rohingya decided to fight back when they heard “that the military had been deploying an alarming number of troops to the northern part of the state, causing concern among local populations and independent observers.” In retaliation, the army has been liquidating the existence of the Rohingya. The Rohingya also fought back in August, which led to the latest crackdown.

Suu Kyi stated that “more than 50 percent” of Rohingya villages remain “intact.” She continued to say that she will look into why the military didn’t touch these villages:

“We have to remove the negative and increase the positive,” she said.

Um, okay.

Fact Check

Let’s do some fact checking on this speech. James Griffiths over at CNN did a wonderful job pointing out the five obvious “dubious claims” in Suu Kyi’s speech.

Obviously, the first one is Suu Kyi wants to find out why 417,000 Rohingya have fled. Here’s some visual evidence:

Last week, the army even admitted they targeted and cleared Rohingya villages. From The Guardian:

Of 471 villages targeted in “clearance operations” by the Burmese army since late August, 176 were now empty and at least 34 others partially abandoned, Zaw Htay said.

I documented as many testimonies as I could in a blog, which told how the army invaded the villages. From The Washington Post:

Mohammed Roshid, a rice farmer, heard the gunfire and fled with his wife and children, but his 80-year-old father, who walks with a stick, wasn’t as nimble. Roshid said he saw a soldier grab Yusuf Ali and slit his throat with such ferocity the old man was nearly decapitated.

“I wanted to go back and save him, but some relatives stopped me because there was so many military,” Roshid, 55, said. “It’s the saddest thing in my life that I could not do anything for my father.”

Suu Kyi said that there haven’t been “clearance operations” since September 5, but evidence proves her wrong. From CNN on September 16:

Human Rights Watch released new satellite imagery and sensory data showing that 62 villages in northern Rakhine state were targeted by arson attacks between August 25, when the military’s operation against alleged Rohingya militants began, and September 14.

On Thursday, Amnesty International released a similar report accusing Myanmar’s security forces of engaging an “orchestrated campaign of systematic burnings” of Rohingya villages across northern Rakhine as part of a government backed “scorched-earth policy.”

On September 11, the United Nations’ top human rights official Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein condemned the “cruel military operation” and called the situation exactly what it is. From Reuters (emphasis mine):

“We have received multiple reports and satellite imagery of security forces and local militia burning Rohingya villages, and consistent accounts of extrajudicial killings, including shooting fleeing civilians,” Zeid said.

“I call on the government to end its current cruel military operation, with accountability for all violations that have occurred, and to reverse the pattern of severe and widespread discrimination against the Rohingya population,” he added.

“The situation seems a textbook example of ethnic cleansing.”

Exterminated

Earlier today, The Associated Press published an article that contradicted everything Suu Kyi said because the evidence has shown that the Rohingya are “being wiped off Myanmar’s map.” In just a month, 417,000 Rohingya have left. Tens of thousands had already left after the attack in October. The AP reported:

And they are still leaving, piling into wooden boats that take them to sprawling, monsoon-drenched refugee camps in Bangladesh. Their plight has been decried as ethnic cleansing by U.N. Secretary General Antonio Guterres, and few believe they will ever be welcomed back to Myanmar.

“This is the worst crisis in Rohingya history,” said Chris Lewa, founder of the Arakan Project, which works to improve conditions for the ethnic minority, citing the monumental size and speed of the exodus. “Security forces have been burning villages one by one, in a very systematic way. And it’s still ongoing.”

Using a network of monitors, Lewa and her agency are meticulously documenting tracts of villages that have been partially or completely burned down in three townships in northern Rakhine state, where the vast majority of Myanmar’s 1.1 million Rohingya once lived. It’s a painstaking task because there are hundreds of them, and information is almost impossible to verify because the army has blocked access to the area. Satellite imagery released by Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, limited at times because of heavy cloud coverage, shows massive swaths of scorched landscape.

Unfortunately, it could be months before the world knows exactly what has happened and “the extent of the devastation.” It’s also hard to take Suu Kyi’s words seriously since the army has not allowed anyone to enter affected areas.