Boris Johnson has called on Aung San Suu Kyi to do more to condemn the "gross abuse of the human rights of the Rohinyga population" in Myanmar as hundreds of thousands of Muslims are displaced from the west of the country.
The Myanmar authorities have targeted Rohinyga civilians after an insurgent group attacked police and military posts in the northern Rakhine state. The end result is a humanitarian crisis, with many of Myanmar's Muslims fleeing to Bangladesh as authorities burn down Rohinyga villages.
Aung San Suu Kyi, who won the Nobel Peace Prize for her campaign to bring democracy to the Buddhist-dominated country, serves as foreign minister and is the de facto leader of the government. But the former political prisoner has faced growing criticism from fellow Nobel laureates over her response to what the UN human rights chief called a "textbook example of ethnic cleansing". Her power, however, is hamstrung by a power-sharing arrangement with the country's powerful military.
"I yield to no one in my admiration of what she stood for and the way she fought for democracy," said Johnson, the foreign secretary, on Thursday at a joint press conference with US secretary of state Rex Tillerson. "I think many people around the world share that admiration.
"But it is now vital for her to use that moral capital and that authority to make the point about the suffering of the people of Rakhine. Nobody wants to see a return to military rule in Burma [Myanmar's former name], nobody wants to see a return of the generals.
"It is vital for her to make clear that this is an abomination and that those people will be allowed back to Burma – and that preparation is being made and the abuse of their human rights and the killings will stop."
Tillerson, who is Donald Trump's key representative on foreign affairs, criticised the "horrors" currently taking place in Myanmar.
"It is a defining moment, in many ways, for this new emerging democracy, although it is a power-sharing arrangement," Tillerson said. "We appreciate the difficult and complex situation Aung San Suu Kyi finds herself in. It is important the global community speaks out in support of what we all know the expectation is in terms of the treatment of people regardless of their ethnicity.
"This violence must stop. This persecution must stop."
Persecution of Myanmar's Muslims has been exacerbated by the fast spread of social media in the newly democratised country, and former Australian prime minister Kevin Rudd recently wrote a piece for BuzzFeed News arguing that Aung San Suu Kyi is "seeking to walk a tightrope, between providing a positive way forward for the Rohingya on the one hand, while not providing the military the pretext for ending Myanmar’s fledgling democracy on the other".
Jim Waterson is a politics editor for BuzzFeed News and is based in London.
Contact Jim Waterson at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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