Suu Kyi speech
Though Suu Kyi specifically referred to the Rakhine State violence in her speech, she did not mention the Rohingya themselves. In the past, she has only used the term publicly when referring to the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army, the militant group active in the region.
“Of the many challenges that our government has been facing, the situation in the Rakhine has most strongly captured the attention of the world,” Suu Kyi said. “It is the aim of our Government to bring out the beauty of our diversity and to make it our strength, by protecting rights, fostering tolerance, ensuring security for all.”
Suu Kyi has been harshly criticized by Western leaders for not doing more to stymie the army’s security operations or speak out on behalf of the Rohingya.
Rohingya activists hoped she would use her moral authority as a Nobel Peace Prize laureate — an award she won for her nonviolent resistance to the military junta that formerly ruled the country — to take up the issue, despite its political unpopularity in the Buddhist-majority Myanmar.
Her Tuesday speech touched upon the issue in general terms.
“We today who have been given the opportunity to effect changes that could open new vistas of progress for our nation, will strive to discharge our duties with probity and humility,” she said.
Religions working together
Pope Francis said it is a “great sign” that leaders of various religions have begun working together.
“Religious differences need not be a source of division and distrust, but rather a force for unity, forgiveness, tolerance and wise nation-building,” Francis said. “The religions can play a significant role in repairing the emotional, spiritual and psychological wounds of those who have suffered in the years of conflict.”
On Monday, hours after arriving in the country, Pope Francis met with Senior Gen. Min Aung Hlaing
, the commander-in-chief of the Myamar Armed Forces, and other top generals.
After the meeting, which had originally be scheduled for Thursday, Senior Gen. Min Aung Hlaing said all faiths in the country are able to worship freely.
“The Tatmadaw is making efforts to restore peace, and wish of all Tatmadawmen is to ensure peace of the nation,” he said, using an alternative name for the country’s army. “Myanmar has no discrimination among the ethnics.”
Myanmar’s military still holds the balance of power in the country after its transition to partial democracy in 2015. The army oversees security operations, included those blamed for sparking the refugee exodus of refugees, for which it does not answer to the civilian-elected government.
Under the country’s constitution — crafted by a military junta before it handed over power to a mostly-civilian government — the generals still control the security forces, the police and key cabinet positions. It also included a clause barring Suu Kyi from running for president. When her party swept to power in the 2015 election, a special position — State Counselor — was created for her.