Aung San Suu Kyi 'will let Rohingya refugees return to Myanmar'

Aung San Suu Kyi has given an assurance that hundreds of thousands of Rohingya Muslim refugees who have fled Myanmar will be allowed to return, a British Foreign Office Minister has said.

Mark Field, who held talks with Ms Suu Kyi, the country's civilian leader, in the capital Naypyidaw, said she had given a "strong commitment" that those who wanted to go back would be able to do so.

But with an estimated 400,000 people having crossed into neighbouring Bangladesh following a campaign of violence by the Myanmar's military - branded "ethnic cleansing by the United Nations - he acknowledged that many may feel unable to return.

"Her pledge - and the proof will be in the pudding - is that she will allow those who wish to return to do so," he told BBC Radio 4's Today programme.

"There are now hundreds of thousands of Rohingya who are on the Bangladeshi side of the border. I think there is a big question as to how many will feel confident enough with the security implications of what has happened in the country to return."

Ms Suu Kyi - a Nobel peace prize winner - had faced intense international criticism for her refusal to condemn the actions of the security forces.

However Mr Field said she was in a difficult position with much power still in the hands of the Myanmar military who ruled the country alone until two years ago.

He said Ms Suu Kyi remained the best hope for democracy in Myanmar.

"She is in a difficult position. Under the constitution the military remains very powerful. There are only small steps that have taken place in recent years towards democracy," he said.

"She finds herself treading a fine line between the international criticism, which we have obviously seen in the last six months, but also public opinion in Burma which remains very strong anti-Rohingya.

"Whatever else happens, she is the best hope for ongoing democracy in Burma. What would be calamitous would be for it to fall back into military dictatorship."

Mr Field added: "She is becoming increasingly aware, because I am not the only person who is telling her this, that there is much that needs to be done if the international community is going to have confidence is going to be moving into the right place and the right direction."

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