YANGON — State Counsellor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi will not attend the United Nations General Assembly later this month, her spokesman said Wednesday, as the Nobel laureate faces a barrage of criticism over her failure to speak up for Rohingya refugees fleeing Rakhine state in huge numbers.
A crackdown by Myanmar’s army, launched in response to militant attacks on August 25, has sent some 370,000 Rohingya refugees scrambling across the border to Bangladesh in less than three weeks.
The violence has incubated a humanitarian crisis on both sides of the border.
Bangladesh is struggling to provide relief for exhausted and hungry refugees — some 60 percent of whom are children — while nearly 30,000 ethnic Rakhine as well as Hindus have been displaced inside Myanmar.
UN human rights chief, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, accused Myanmar of waging a “systematic attack” on the Muslim Rohingya minority and warned that “ethnic cleansing” seemed to be under way.
Aung San Suu Kyi does not control the actions of the powerful military, which ran the country for 50 years before allowing free elections in 2015.
Rights groups have pilloried the former democracy activist for failing to condemn the army campaign, which has left hundreds dead.
Rohingya refugees have told chilling accounts of soldiers and firing on civilians and razing entire villages in northern Rakhine State with the help of Buddhist mobs.
The army denies the allegations, while Aung San Suu Kyi has also played down claims of atrocities instead blaming “a huge iceberg of misinformation” for complicating the conflict.
“The state counsellor won’t attend the meeting of the United Nations General Assembly,” said government spokesman U Zaw Htay on Wednesday.
The spokesman did not explain the decision but said the country’s Vice President Henry Van Thio would attend the summit, which runs through next week.
The UN’s National Security Council also plans to meet behind closed doors on Wednesday to discuss the crisis, although China has indicated it will shoot down any attempt to censure its strategically pivotal Southeast Asian ally.