Naypyitaw (Myanmar): Responding to criticism for not using the term “Rohingya” in her State of the Union address, Myanmar state councillor Aung San Suu Kyi said her intention was to avoid the use of “emotive terms” for an already affected population.

“There has been a lot of controversy with regard to the term used to describe the Muslims in Rakhine as there are those who want to call themselves as Rohingyas or who want to refer to the Muslims there as Rohingyas. There are those who want to call themselves as just Bengalis, which are not ethnic Rakhine,” Suu Kyi said in an interview with ANI in Myanmar’s capital Naypyitaw.

The Nobel Peace Prize recipient added: “I think instead of using this emotive term as it is ‘highly charged’, it is better just to say Muslims. It’s just a description that nobody can deny. We are talking about the Muslim community in the Rakhine state, and I do not see any point using terms that inflame passions further.”

Suu Kyi broke her silence in the face of claims of ethnic cleansing against her country’s Rohingya population in her State of the Union address on Tuesday morning, but drew the ire of the international community. While she condemned human rights abuses, the state councillor did not place blame on the army nor addressed the allegations of ethnic cleansing. The term “Rohingya” only came up once in her speech, in reference to the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (Arsa), an armed militant group.

Since late August, more than 400,000 Rohingyas have fled the country for neighbouring Bangladesh. The latest unrest in troubled Rakhine was sparked by attacks on police stations across the state last month, blamed on the newly emerged Arsa.

Suu Kyi, in her address on Tuesday, stressed the point that her government had been in power for only a short time. “I am aware of the fact that the world’s attention is focused on the situation in Rakhine state as a responsible member of the community of nations. Myanmar does not fear international scrutiny and is committed to bringing a sustainable solution that will bring peace, stability and development for all communities within that state,” she said.

Suu Kyi also defended her country from international criticism and said that “more than half” of the Rohingya villages were not affected by the violence, and invited diplomats and foreign observers to visit these villages to see “why they are still there when they are surrounded by a state of turmoil.” ANI