Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has sent a strongly worded letter to Aung San Suu Kyi calling on her to live up to her moral obligations as a Nobel Peace Prize laureate and end the violence that has displaced hundreds of thousands of Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar.
The increased pressure comes as Mr. Trudeau heads to the United Nations General Assembly in New York, where world leaders are holding sideline meetings on the violence that has forced more than 410,000 Rohingya refugees to flee to neighbouring Bangladesh in recent weeks. Although Ms. Suu Kyi is not attending the UN meetings this week, all eyes will be on her Tuesday as she delivers a national address on the crisis from Myanmar. The Nobel laureate and honorary Canadian citizen has faced sharp international criticism for her inaction on the Rohingya crisis.
In the letter to Myanmar's de facto leader Monday, Mr. Trudeau cited numerous passages from Ms. Suu Kyi's 2012 Nobel Lecture in Oslo, where she promoted the rights of the "oppressed and the isolated" in Myanmar, quoted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and spoke about the value of "kindness" during times of adversity. Mr. Trudeau said the violence in Myanmar's Rakhine state betrays the moral commitments Ms. Suu Kui made during that speech.
"These are laudable words. In order for them, and your various honours, to retain any meaning, you must defend the Rohingya Muslims and other ethnic minorities in Myanmar," Mr. Trudeau wrote.
He said the responsibility for resolving the crisis falls "squarely upon" Ms. Suu Kyi and military commander-in-chief Min Aung Hlaing.
Ms. Suu Kyi does not have the authority to direct security matters, as the military retained significant power under Myanmar's 2008 constitution. Mr. Trudeau urged Ms. Suu Kyi to do everything in her power to stop the violence, including publicly condemning it and taking immediate steps to protect and defend the rights of all minorities.
He did not directly mention Ms. Suu Kyi's honorary Canadian citizenship in his letter, despite mounting pressure to revoke it over her inaction on the Rohingya crisis. A petition calling for Mr. Trudeau to do so had garnered more than 30,000 signatures as of Monday.
The federal government plans to make the plight of Rohinyga a priority at the UN General Assembly this week.
International Development Minister Marie-Claude Bibeau attended a roundtable meeting hosted by the British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson on the matter Monday, when she reiterated the government's concerns that the Rohingya crisis looks "a lot like ethnic cleansing" – a sentiment shared by Turkey. A Russian official at the meeting then called out both Canada and Turkey for their reference to ethnic cleansing, saying it was unconstructive, according to a government official.
Britain and France's foreign ministers urged Myanmar's security forces to halt violence, ensure the protection of civilians and allow humanitarian access.
"We expect from Mrs. Aung Sang Suu Kyi tomorrow a strong statement in this direction," French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian told reporters.
Following Monday's roundtable, Myanmar national security adviser Thaung Tun said that Rohingya who have fled to Bangladesh would be able to return, but the process for doing so would have to be discussed.
Rohingya Muslims have faced decades of discrimination and persecution in Buddhist-majority Myanmar and are denied citizenship despite centuries-old roots in the country.
The current outbreak of violence began last month, after Rohingya insurgents attacked dozens of police posts and an army base in Rakhine. Myanmar's military responded by killing at least 400 people, triggering a massive exodus of Rohingya villagers. UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said the situation was "catastrophic" and best described as ethnic cleansing.
Last week, Canada announced $2.55-million to provide life-saving assistance to people seeking refuge in Bangladesh from the violence in Rakhine, bringing Canada's total humanitarian response in Myanmar and Bangladesh to $9.18-million this year.
With reports from Reuters