Cardinal speaks out against ‘counterproductive’ criticism of State Counsellor over Rakhine crisis

Roman Catholic Cardinal Charles Maung Bo has defended State Counsellor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi against criticism over her response to the crisis in Rakhine State, saying it was unfair and “counterproductive”.

The cardinal defended the State Counsellor in a statement issued in Yangon on September 26 that described the situation in Rakhine as “a tragedy that should not have happened”.

“Much has been said by the western media on the role of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi,” in responding to the crisis, Charles Maung Bo said, adding that many felt the sentiments and principles she expressed in her speech to the nation on September 19 should have come earlier.

“But to lay all blame on her, stigmatizing her response is a very counterproductive measure,” the cardinal said.

“The circumstances under which her government took over, the multiple humanitarian challenges her government had to face during the short time, the continued role of military constitutionally imposed lack of leverage in security issues and scores of other challenges make her role a daunting one,” he said.

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The cardinal said the State Counsellor’s assurances in her September 19 speech about human rights in Rakhine, the return of refugees and development of the state were to be welcomed.

“Those who have lived in this country for a long time, need justice and the Kofi Annan Commission took the right direction in suggesting constructive measures,” he said, referring to the panel appointed by the government in August 2016 to propose sustainable solutions to conflict, displacement and underdevelopment in Rakhine.

The commission issued its final report on August 24, hours before the attacks by Islamic extremists that triggered the crisis, and the cardinal noted that the State Counsellor had appointed a working committee to implement the panel’s recommendations.

“These are positive initiatives that need the appreciation and collaboration of all stakeholders and the international community,” said Charles Maung Bo, who became Myanmar’s first cardinal in 2015.

“All of us need to move from a wounded past towards a healing future. Let the lessons of the past enlighten our future,” he said.  

“Peace based on justice is possible, peace is the only way.”

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