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Nobel laureates criticize Aung San Suu Kyi over Rohingya

Associated Press logo Associated Press 29/12/2016 By DAVE BRYAN, Associated Press
FILE - In this Nov. 30, 2016 file photo, Myanmar's Foreign Minister Aung San Suu Kyi speaks at the International Enterprise (IE) Singapore Global Conversations round table event in Singapore. Nearly a dozen fellow Nobel peace laureates on Thursday, Dec. 29 criticized Myanmar leader Suu Kyi, saying she has failed to ensure equal rights for the minority Rohingya people in Rakhine state, where the group says more than 30,000 people have been displaced amid an unfolding humanitarian crisis. (AP Photo/Wong Maye-E, File) © The Associated Press FILE - In this Nov. 30, 2016 file photo, Myanmar's Foreign Minister Aung San Suu Kyi speaks at the International Enterprise (IE) Singapore Global Conversations round table event in Singapore. Nearly a dozen fellow Nobel peace laureates on Thursday, Dec. 29 criticized Myanmar leader Suu Kyi, saying she has failed to ensure equal rights for the minority Rohingya people in Rakhine state, where the group says more than 30,000 people have been displaced amid an unfolding humanitarian crisis. (AP Photo/Wong Maye-E, File)

UNITED NATIONS — Nearly a dozen fellow Nobel peace laureates on Thursday criticized Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi, saying she has failed to ensure equal rights for the minority Rohingya people in Rakhine state, where the group says more than 30,000 people have been displaced amid an unfolding humanitarian crisis.

A military offensive in recent months by the Myanmar army has led to the deaths of hundreds of Rohingya, the burning of homes, and the raping of women as well as arbitrary detentions, according to an open letter to the U.N. Security Council from a group of 23 activists, including Nobel laureates and current and former political and business leaders.

"Access for humanitarian aid organizations has been almost completely denied, creating an appalling humanitarian crisis in an area already extremely poor," the letter reads. "Thousands have fled to neighboring Bangladesh, only to be sent back."

Myanmar's U.N. mission was closed Thursday and an email message seeking a response was not immediately returned.

Earlier this month, an Amnesty International report claimed that actions by Myanmar's military in Rakhine may constitute crimes against humanity. Myanmar has come under heavy criticism for its army's forceful treatment of the Rohingya, and international human rights groups including Amnesty have accused the military of mass murder, looting and rape.

In the open letter, the group asks that the U.N. encourage the Myanmar government to lift restrictions on humanitarian aid, grant access to journalists and human rights monitors and establish an independent, international inquiry into the situation in Rakhine state.

The group also asks that the Security Council make the Rohingya's plight a matter of urgency and that the U.N. Secretary-General visit Myanmar in the coming weeks.

"If we fail to take action, people may starve to death if they are not killed with bullets, and we may end up being the passive observers of crimes against humanity," the letter says.

The military sweeps were sparked by an Oct. 9 attack on police outposts in Rakhine state that killed nine officers. Located in Myanmar's west, Rakhine has long been home to simmering tensions between the Muslim ethnic Rohingya minority and the country's Buddhist majority population. The last major outbreak of violence in 2012 left hundreds dead and drove 140,000 people into internal displacement camps.

Nobel peace laureates who signed the letter include Jose Ramos-Horta, former president of East Timor; South African social rights activist Archbishop Desmond Tutu; and Malala Yousafzai, the Pakistani advocate for female education and youngest-ever winner of the prize. Others who signed include former Prime Minister of Italy Romano Prodi and British business leader Sir Richard Branson.

San Suu Kyi won the 1991 Nobel peace prize.

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