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Suu Kyi visits Rakhine as Rohingya exodus continues

Myanmar's de facto leader makes first visit to the region from where over half a million Rohingya have been uprooted.

Myanmar's de facto leader, Aung San Suu Kyi

Myanmar's de facto leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, has visited Rakhine state for the first time since hundreds of thousands of Rohingya Muslims began fleeing the country to escape a brutal military operation launched in late August.

The Myanmar government, led by Aung San Suu Kyi's party, the National League for Democracy (NLD), has downplayed the deadly ethnic violence in Rakhine state despite reports of continued exodus of Rohingya to neighbouring Bangladesh.

Reuters news agency reported that thousands of desperate Rohingya waded through shallows and narrow creeks between islands of the Naf river to reach Bangladesh on Wednesday evening.

"The government has been trying to push the narrative that peace and stability have been achieved in Rakhine state after two months of renewed military offensive that began on August 25," Looi said.

The NLD organised an interfaith rally in Yangon on Wednesday to showcase Myanmar's multiculturalism. But critics say it was more of a public relations exercise as the Rohingya crisis was not even mentioned at the event.

Precarious situation

More than a half million Rohingya have taken shelter in Bangladesh, fleeing arson, looting and gang rape allegedly being carried out by the military and Buddhist mobs. The military calls it a "clearance operation" planned against Rohingya armed groups who attacked an army base.

The UN has called it "textbook ethnic cleansing" - a charge the Myanmar government continues to deny.

Aung San Suu Kyi has faced international condemnation for not speaking against the atrocities that the Rohingya have faced. Her government, since succeeding a military regime, has done little to address the plight of one of the most persecuted communities in the world.

The ethnic community, the majority of whom are Muslims, has been denied citizenship, rendering it stateless.

According to local media, Aung San Suu Kyi visited two villages in Rakhine's Maungdaw district – one of the worst affected by the anti-Rohingya violence.

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