Desmond Tutu castigates Aung San Suu Kyi over Myanmar's persecution of Rohingya Muslims

(Reuters/Eric Vidal)Myanmar State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi gives a news conference with European Union foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini (not pictured) in Brussels, Belgium May 2, 2017.

Archbishop Desmond Tutu has criticized Myanmar's de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi over her silence on the issue of the persecution of Rohingya Muslims in her country.

In an open letter to Suu Kyi, the 85-year-old South African archbishop called on the Burmese leader to intervene in what has been described as an "ethnic cleansing" against the Rohingya minority group in Myanmar's Rakhine State.

"I am now elderly, decrepit and formally retired, but breaking my vow to remain silent on public affairs out of profound sadness," said Tutu, according to Christian Today.

"Your emergence into public life allayed our concerns about violence being perpetrated against members of the Rohingya. But what some have called 'ethnic cleansing' and others 'a slow genocide' has persisted – and recently accelerated," he stated.

Tutu, a Nobel Peace Prize winner, is one of the latest figures to call on Suu Kyi to intervene in the conflict.

Malala Yousafzai, the youngest ever peace prize winner, said on Monday that "the world is waiting" for the Burmese leader's response.

Suu Kyi, who is a Nobel laureate herself, has recently defended her handling of the renewed violence against Rohingya Muslims in western Myanmar.

In her first statement on the issue since the crisis started in Rakhine state last month, Suu Kyi said that it is "a little unreasonable to expect us to solve the issue in 18 months."

"The situation in Rakhine has been such since many decades. It goes back to pre-colonial times," she argued.

A Change.org petition calling for Suu Kyi's peace prize to be revoked has reportedly been signed by more than 386,000 people.

The Burmese Army has said that it is rooting out "terrorists" among the Rohingya, including fighters from the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (Arsa), an insurgent group that has carried out dozens of attacks on security sites on Aug. 25.

The government has claimed that 400 people have been killed in the clashes, but U.N. officials have estimated that the death toll could be more than 1,000.

For decades, the Burmese government has deemed the Rohingya, which comprises 1.1 million of the country's Buddhist-majority population, as illegal immigrants, and has denied them citizenship or access to most government services.

According to the U.N., up to 300,000 Rohingya could be displaced in Bangladesh due to "clearance operations" carried out by the Tatmadaw, Myanmar's armed forces.

On Wednesday, a Facebook post on Aung San Suu Kyi's page blamed "terrorists" for "a huge iceberg of misinformation" about the violence, but there was no mention of displaced Rohingya.

The U.N. refugee agency has estimated that up to 270,000 Rohingya have sought refuge Bangladesh in the past two weeks.

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