Nobel Peace Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi is blaming fake media reports for fanning global outrage over religious violence in the north of Myanmar.
She made the claim in a telephone call to Turkey President Recep Tayyip Erdogan while discussing the violence that triggered a flood of more than 120,000 refugees to cross the border into neighbouring Bangladesh to flee the fighting.
The events have been exposed in more than a million social media messages, some containing harrowing images of injuries inflicted on women and children.
But observers suggest many of the images are lifted from reports of other global conflicts, including some from Turkey dating back to 1994.
The Myanmar government has declared the province of Rakhine a zone under military control.
Protecting human rights
Muslim Rohingya refugees claim Myanmar soldiers sometimes accompanied by Buddhist fighters are forcing them to leave their homes.
Reports of burning villages and soldiers opening fire on civilians have also been made.
The troubles started when Rohingya militants attacked a police post and killed several officers.
” The government has already started defending all the people in Rakhine in the best way possible,” said Suu Kyi.
“We know very well, more than most, what it means to be deprived of human rights and democratic protection.
Social media campaign by militants
“So, we make sure that all the people in our country are entitled to protection of their rights as well as, the right to, and not just political but social and humanitarian defence.”
A spokesman for Suu Kyi added that much of the social media reporting was fake news aimed at stirring support for terrorists and that villages were burned as a deliberate strategy by militants.
Suu Kyi was awarded the prestigious peace prize in 1991 for her stand against oppressive military rulers in Myanmar. She was kept under house arrest for many years in an attempt to stem her popularity and to stop her spreading her views.
She led the populist National League for Democracy (NLD) to win Myanmar’s first open election in 25 years in November 2015 that led to the military relinquishing control of the country.