Suu Kyi says Myanmar 'trying to protect all citizens' amid humanitarian crisis

The Noble Peace Prize winner has faced international criticism over crisis facing Rohingya Muslims

Suu Kyi says Myanmar 'trying to protect all citizens' amid humanitarian crisis

Aung San Suu Kyi. Picture by: AP/Press Association Images

Aung San Suu Kyi, the de facto leader of Myanmar, has said her government is 'trying its best' to protect citizens amid mounting violence in the country.

The Noble Peace Prize winner has faced international criticism for her handling of the humanitarian crisis facing Rohingya Muslims in the country's Rakhine state.

Burmese police and army have launched a violent crackdown in the state following attacks by Rohingya insurgents on border posts last year.

The UN has said it is receiving 'constant reports' of violence carried out by security forces in the country, with claims that thousands of people have been killed or tortured.

Witnesses have reported various atrocities in the region - with some refugees saying they saw relatives shot dead - and there have been widespread reports of human rights abuses.

Houses are on fire in Gawdu Zara village, northern Rakhine state, Myanmar. Picture by: AP/Press Association Images

Some international commentators have called on Ms Suu Kyi to be stripped of her peace prize over claims she has done or said little to try and stop the unfolding crisis.

One online petition calling for such a move has received more than 375,000 signatures as of writing.

"We try our best"

In comments to Asian News International reported by Reuters, Ms Suu Kyi has defended her government's handling of crisis.

She argued: “We have to take care of our citizens, we have to take care of everybody who is in our country, whether or not they are our citizens.

"Of course, our resources are not as complete and adequate as we would like them to be but, still, we try our best and we want to make sure that everyone is entitled to the protection of the law.”

Reuters reports that Ms Suu Kyi earlier this week blamed “terrorists” for “a huge iceberg of misinformation” over the crisis.

It is estimated that more than 150,000 people had been forced to flee the Rakhine region, with a majority looking to take refuge in neighbouring Bangladesh.

Speaking earlier this week, UN Secretary-General Antonio Gutteres warned that the situation 'faces a risk' of becoming an ethnic cleansing.

He explained: "We are receiving constant reports of violence by Myanmar's security forces, including indiscriminate attacks.

"It will be crucial to give the Muslims of Rakhine state either nationality or, at least for now, a legal status that will allow them to have a normal life, including freedom of movement and access to labour markets, education and health services."

UN agencies in the region have appealed for $18 million (€15 million) to aid the fleeing civilians.