Myanmarâ€™s de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi called on Sunday for her people to remain united, saying the Southeast Asian country faces â€œchallengesâ€ at home and abroad, as she marked two years since her party swept to power in a historic vote.
In a televised speech, Suu Kyi made only a passing reference to the crisis in Rakhine state, where her government faces mounting international condemnation for a military operation against Rohingya Muslims that has sent nearly 700,000 members of the minority community fleeing to Bangladesh.
The Nobel Peace Prize laureate has also struggled to match the sky-high expectations that swept her National League for Democracy (NLD) to power in 2016, and is struggling to rebut criticism over slower economic growth and continued fighting with ethnic armed groups.
In the televised address, Suu Kyi urged people to be united. â€œThe worldâ€™s focus in on Rakhine right now, but we also need to peacefully develop the country.â€
â€œWe are facing challenges from inside and outside of the country, as we are struggling to develop politics, society and economy,â€ she said.
She also urged people to â€œrespect the intentions and vision of the international community.â€ She did not elaborate.
The civilian government led by Suu Kyi has no control over the military, which launched the crackdown in Rakhine in response to insurgent attacks on security forces in August.
The United States and United Nations have described the operation as ethnic cleansing of the Rohingya, which Myanmar denies.
Suu Kyi also talked about her number one priority – to end decades of fighting between ethnic rebels and the military, which has kept Myanmar in a state of near-perpetual civil war since independence in 1948.
â€œWhile building peace and stability is the most important requirement for our country, we need the strength of unity,â€ she said.