Burmese opposition leader and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Aung San Suu Kyi has arrived in Australia. This is her maiden visit to the country. During her visit which will conclude on Dec 2, she will push to encourage global interest in furthering the democratic reform process currently underway in Myanmar. Ms Suu Kyi is scheduled to attend a host of public events in Sydney, Canberra and Melbourne, and also hold meetings with the Burmese community in Australia.
Myanmar's opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi stands in front of the Sydney Opera House during a walk through the grounds of Government House November 27, 2013. Suu Kyi is on a five-day visit to Australia. (REUTERS/David Gray)
Welcoming the visit of Ms Suu Kyi, Foreign Minister Julie Bishop in a statement said, "Australia supports the political and economic reforms the Myanmar government has underway, including the April 2012 by-election when Aung San Suu Kyi and other members of the National League for Democracy entered the parliament."
Ms Suu Kyi's visit comes at a time when Myanmar is facing one of its severest internal ethnic conflicts.
Communal clashes between Myanmar Buddhists and the minority Muslim Rohingya population in Rakhine State which began in 2012 spread into central Myanmar in 2013.
The violence which left 200 people dead in 2012 has claimed 44 lives in 2013, including 20 students and several teachers who massacred at an Islamic school in the central town of Meiktila.
Apart from the ethnic violence between Buddhist and Rohingyas, Myanmar has also seen majority violence against minority Christians and other groups.
Ms Suu Kyi has all along refuted allegations of any form of "ethnic cleasing" of Muslims in Myanmar. Speaking to the BBC in Oct 2013 during her visit to UK, Ms Suu Kyi sought to downplay the violence saying the fear existed on both sides.
"It's not ethnic cleansing," she said. "What the world needs to understand [is] that the fear is not just on the side of the Muslims, but on the side of the Buddhists as well."
Expert believe that she will seek to sidestep the issue of ethnic violence in Myanmar during her present visit to Australia
The International Crisis Group (ICG) has meanwhile warned that "Unless there is an effective government response and change in societal attitudes, violence could spread, impacting on Myanmar's transition as well as its standing in the region and beyond."
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