Nobel Peace Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi made an anti-Muslim comment about a BBC reporter after being questioned about violence suffered by Myanmar’s Muslim minority during an interview, according to media reports.
Suu Kyi, recently nominated as a member of the cabinet of President-elect Htin Kyaw, reportedly lost her composure during the 2013 interview by BBC Today presenter Mishal Husain and made an off-air comment about her.
Details of the incident have emerged in journalist Peter Popham’s book “The Lady And The Generals: Aung San Suu Kyi And Burma’s Struggle For Freedom”. According to the book, an angry Suu Kyi muttered: “No one told me I was going to be interviewed by a Muslim.”
The book states the president of the National League for Democracy refused to condemn anti-Islamic sentiment and the killing of Muslims by mobs in Myanmar when she was repeatedly questioned about these issues by Husain, the first Muslim presenter of the Today programme on BBC Radio 4.
“I think there are many, many Buddhists who have also left the country for various reasons,” she said. “This is a result of our sufferings under a dictatorial regime.”
Muslims make up about 4% of Myanmar’s population. Much of the violence has been directed against the Rohingya Muslims of Rakhine state.
Some Buddhist monks have been accused of whipping up anti-Muslim sentiments and Suu Kyi has been criticised for not speaking out in defence of the minority. Observers believe she was reluctant to speak because she did not want to alienate Buddhists ahead of last year’s crucial election.
The 70-year-old led the NLD to a landslide victory in the polls in November. Though she is barred from becoming president because of a constitutional provision, Suu Kyi has said she will govern the country indirectly.