Much of the world’s conflict can be attributed to illegal immigration, which spreads terrorism and instability, Myanmar leader and Nobel Peace Prize recipient Aung San Suu Kyi said in a speech on Monday.
Speaking to European and Asian leaders gathered in Myanmar’s capital, Suu Kyi said the world is in a new period of unrest partly because of “illegal immigration’s spread of terrorism and violent extremism,” according to the Associated Press. She also cited “social disharmony and even the threat of nuclear war.”
Suu Kyi’s remarks at the annual EU-Asian foreign ministers conference come as Myanmar is embroiled in a humanitarian crisis over the forced exodus of Rohingya Muslims from the country’s western Rakhine state. Although she did not mention the Rohingya situation in her speech, Suu Kyi’s reference to illegal immigration echoed the widespread view among Myanmar’s majority Buddhist population that the Rohingya are illegal interlopers and responsible for terrorist attacks.
The Myanmar government has come under worldwide condemnation for a military crackdown against hundreds of thousands of Rohingya that began this summer. More than 500,000 people have fled Myanmar into neighboring Bangladesh, according to the United Nations, which has characterized the government’s actions as a deliberate ethnic cleansing campaign.
Once an idol of Western human rights advocates, Suu Kyi has received sharp criticism for appearing to downplay or tacitly approve the government violence against the Rohingya. As Myanmar’s foreign minister and so-called “state councilor,” Suu Kyi does not control the military’s operations in Rakhine state, but critics say she has failed to use her influential stature to condemn the brutal crackdown.
The U.S. has urged Myanmar to reconcile with the Rohingya refugees, but has stopped short of advocating sanctions against the government. Last week, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson authorized an additional $47 million in humanitarian assistance to the refugees, bringing the total amount U.S. aid to more than $150 million for 2017.
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