Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt has appealed to Aung San Suu Kyi to use her influence to ensure the perpetrators of the genocide of Burma’s Rohingya Muslims are brought to justice.
Mr Hunt held talks with the Burmese civilian leader and Nobel Peace Prize laureate to discuss the Rohingya crisis during the second day of his visit to the country.
He warned there could be no return of the estimated 700,000 Rohingya refugees who fled the country to escape the bloody military crackdown until it was clear those responsible would be held to account.
“The world is watching to see if there is justice after some truly appalling things have happened. All Burma’s friends are rooting for Burma to progress as a democracy but this is one of those litmus tests,” he said.
“This is a big moment for Aung San Suu Kyi to show the world that something really is going to happen and there will be due process.”
Mr Hunt’s visit comes after a United Nations fact-finding mission found the Burmese military committed widespread violations including rape, murder, torture and the burning of Rohingya villages.
It took the unusual step of calling for the country’s military leaders to be investigated and put on trial for genocide, while it sharply criticised Ms Suu Kyi for failing to use her “moral authority” to prevent the violence.
Mr Hunt, who was taken on what he said was a “carefully choreographed” visit to northern Rakhine where most of the killings took place, said he had had “a lively discussion” with Ms Suu Kyi.
“She is also someone who has campaigned for due process and democracy all her life. We had a lively discussion and a very important discussion about why now is a very very important moment to demonstrate that can happen in Burma,” he said.
Ms Suu Kyi – Burma’s elected civilian leader – has faced calls to be stripped of her Nobel Prize over her failure to condemn the violence, although real power in the country still lies with the military.
Following his visit, Mr Hunt said he would be chairing a meeting next week at the United Nations General Assembly in New York to discuss what further steps the international community could take.
“We now need an independent judicial process to establish the truth of what happened and to make sure there is proper accountability and justice for any perpetrators,” he said.
“Without that justice, without that accountability, you are never going to persuade a million Rohingya just the other side of the border in Bangladesh to come home.
“Everyone in Burma needs to know that the international community won’t let it rest and that if we don’t see that process happening, we will use all the tools at our disposal to make sure that there is justice.”