We could have handled Rohingya crisis better, admits Aung San Suu Kyi

Visitors flocked to Myanmar after western sanctions were lifted 2012

Visitors flocked to Myanmar after western sanctions were lifted 2012 Credit GEtty

Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo were convicted on official secrets charges on September 3 in a landmark case that has raised questions about Myanmar's progress toward democracy.

Aung San Suu Kyi also rejected criticism over the show-trial conviction last week of two Reuters news agency reporters who helped expose extrajudicial killings of 10 Rohingya men and boys.

Rights groups and worldwide observers have seen the case as a bellwether for democracy and press freedom under Suu Kyi.

Their imprisonment has prompted an worldwide outpouring of support, including a call for their release by U.S. Vice President Mike Pence.

Throughout the half-hour conversation with Mr Brende, Ms Suu Kyi stayed clear of talking about her party's chances in the next general election, which is just two years away.

Tun Thura Thet of Myanmar Information Technology praised Aung San Suu Kyi's responses to what he said were challenging questions.

'I wonder whether very many people have read the summary of the judgement which had nothing to do with freedom of expression at all.

"Sadly in this case we've seen both institutional and individual failings to hold up the principles of rule of law and human rights".

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"Open courts are created to shed light on the justice process", said Sean Bain of the International Commission of Jurists.

Minister for International Cooperation Kyaw Tin, who is accompanying Suu Kyi at a meeting of the World Economic Forum in Vietnam, said "She has no plan to go there".

During eight months of hearings, Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo testified that two policemen they had not met before handed them papers rolled up in a newspaper during a meeting at a Yangon restaurant on December 12. The sentence prompted a storm of global outcry as an assault on freedom of speech, while erstwhile rights champion Suu Kyi came under intense pressure for failing to speak up for the pair.

Army-led "clearance operations" last August drove 7,00,000 Rohingya into Bangladesh, carrying with them widespread accounts of atrocities - rape, murder and arson - by Myanmar police and troops.

Of the Myanmar businesspeople in attendance at this year's World Economic Forum, some applauded Aung San Suu Kyi's comments, while others said it was a missed opportunity to promote investment opportunities.

"There are of course ways in which we, with hindsight, might think the situation could have been handled better", she said, adding that the government accepted full responsibility for the political aspects of the crisis.

"We have to be fair to all sides", Aung San Suu Kyi said. "We can not choose and pick who should be protected by the rule of law".

United Nations human rights chief Michelle Bachelet on Monday backed calls for a new body to be formed to begin working, in addition to a possible ICC probe, to gather evidence for future prosecutions over alleged crimes against the Rohingya.

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