San Suu Kyi will not attend the United Nations General Assembly this week, her spokesman said on Wednesday, as the Nobel laureate faces a barrage of criticism over her failure to speak up for Rohingya Muslims fleeing Rakhine state in huge numbers.
She was needed in Myanmar to “manage humanitarian assistance” and “security concerns” caused by the violence. Competing rumours have intensified anti-Muslim rhetoric across the Buddhist-majority country, government spokesman Zaw Htay said.
Ms Suu Kyi will address the crisis engulfing Rakhine state next week, in her first speech since the violence erupted. She would “speak for national reconciliation and peace” in a televised address on September 19, the spokesman said.
A crackdown by Myanmar’s army, launched in response to Rohingya militant attacks on August 25, has sent some 3,79,000 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 and piled intense global pressure on Suu Kyi to condemn the army campaign, which the UN has described as having all the hallmarks of “ethnic cleansing”.
Bangladesh is struggling to provide relief for exhausted and hungry refugees — some 60 per cent of whom are children — while nearly 30,000 ethnic Rakhine Buddhists as well as Hindus have been displaced inside Myanmar.
Nine thousand more Rohingya refugees poured into Bangladesh on Wednesday, the UN said, as authorities worked to build a new camp for tens of thousands of arrivals who have no shelter.
Ms Suu Kyi, Myanmar's first civilian leader in decades, has no control over the powerful military, which ran the country for 50 years before allowing free elections in 2015.
On Wednesday UN chief Antonio Guterres called on Myanmar to halt its military campaign against Rohingyas.