Latest: Aung San Suu Kyi breaks silence over Rohingya crisis as international pressure mounts

Update 10.22am: Aung San Suu Kyi has defended her country's actions against the country's Muslim Rohingya minority, as international pressure to end the violence grows.

Representatives of Britain, United States, Bangladesh, Indonesia, Turkey, Australia, Canada, Sweden and Denmark have raised the issue with Burma's national security adviser on the margins of the United Nations General Assembly in New York.

Ms Suu Kyi, a Nobel peace prize winner, has chosen to stay away from the gathering but used a speech in Burma to respond to the outcry over the situation.

Meanwhile, Ms Suu Kyi faced being stripped of the freedom of Oxford, the city where she studied and lived, as the council leader and lord mayor said she had "failed to live up to the reputation and beliefs we associated with you".

Hundreds of thousands of Rohingya have fled Burma to neighbouring Bangladesh following a military crackdown, but Ms Suu Kyi told foreign diplomats gathered in the Burmese capital Naypyidaw that "more than half" of their villages were not affected by the violence.

She invited diplomats to visit those settlements so they could learn, along with the government, "why are they not at each other's throats in these particular areas".

Ms Suu Kyi said: "I understand that many of our friends throughout the world are concerned by reports of villages being burned and of hordes of refugees fleeing.

"There have been no conflicts since September 5 and no clearance operations. We too are concerned, we want to find out what the real problems are."

Ms Suu Kyi read philosophy, politics and economics (PPE) at St Hugh's College, Oxford, between 1964 and 1967, and spent much of the 1980s living in the city with her husband, Tibetan scholar Michael Aris and their two sons, Kim and Alexander.

During her long campaign for democracy in Burma she was awarded the freedom of the city in 1997, an honour she was able to accept in person in 2012.

In an open letter, Oxford City Council's leader Bob Price and Lord Mayor Jean Fooks said the city was home to a "wide range of faith communities" and "we know that you have in the past aspired to promote similar tolerance and inclusion" in Burma.

"So we are shocked at the ethnic cleansing now taking place in your country."

Tom Hayes, a councillor on Oxford's executive board, said: "Unless she acts, we'll withdraw her freedom of the city."

Mr Mitchell, who became the first British minister in a generation to make a full official visit to Burma in 2011, defended the British military's training role.

He told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "This is a contract for training troops at a very early stage, it's meant to address issues of respect for human rights and the treatment of civilians.

"This is clearly an absolutely critical area and I think Britain should get involved in that, it's at an early stage and if we can have some influence then I think it's most important."

Mr Mitchell added that when he met Ms Suu Kyi he "saw her enormous moral authority and the reverence with which she is held in Burma".

"I'm extremely disturbed she is not using that moral authority to condemn what is effectively ethnic cleansing," he added.

Deen Mohammed Noori, director at the Arakan Rohingya Organisation UK, told the same programme: "We Rohingya people expected from her to speak out and that she will start condemning this genocide that has taken place in Rakhine state."

- Press Association 

Update - 8.49am: Amnesty International has accused Myanmar's government of "burying their heads in the sand" over the Rohingya crisis.

Earlier: Aung San Suu Kyi has spoken out about the Rohingya refugee crisis in a live address on television.

The Burma leader defended her country against international criticism over an exodus of hundreds of thousands of Rohingya Muslims, saying that most of their villages remain intact, and that it is important to understand why conflict did not break out everywhere.

The Nobel Peace laureate's global image has been damaged by violence since Rohingya insurgents attacked Burma security forces on August 25.

More than 400,000 Rohingya fled their villages, many of which were burned. The government blamed the Rohingya themselves, but members of the persecuted minority said soldiers and Buddhist mobs attacked them.

Ms Suu Kyi told foreign diplomats gathered in Naypyitaw that "more than half" of Rohingya villages were not affected by the violence.

She invited the diplomats to visit those villages so they could learn, along with the government, "why are they not at each other's throats in these particular areas".

Her address came after a human rights organisation warned Rohingya Muslims were being wiped off the map in Burma.

The Arakan Project, which works to improve conditions for the ethnic minority, is documenting attacks on the three townships in the northern Rakhine state where Rohingya are concentrated.

It found that almost every tract of villages in Maungdaw had suffered some burning, and that all of Maungdaw had been almost completely abandoned by Rohingya.

Most Rohingya villages in Rathedaung, to the north, were targeted. So were three camps for Rohingya displaced in communal riots five years ago. Buthidaung, to the east, has so far been largely spared.

AP


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