TOKYO - Burma's democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi has lamented restrictions and estrangement of Muslims, calling for reforming citizenship laws to help the sizable minority to feel more secure in the Buddhist country.
"I've met some Muslim leaders very recently. It is very sad, because none of them has been to any other country apart from Burma (Myanmar), Suu Kyi told a press conference on Wednesday, April 17 during her visit to Japan, Reuters reported.
They did not feel that they belonged anywhere and it was sad for them that they were made to feel that they didn't belong in our country either.
"This is a very sad state of affairs. We must learn to accommodate those with different views from ours."
Burmese Muslims have faced repeated bouts of sectarian violence in the Buddhist-majority country.
Earlier this month, more than 43 people were killed and several mosques burnt in sectarian attacks in central Burma after an argument between a Buddhist couple and gold shop owners in Meiktila.
The violence followed attacks on Bengali-ethnic Muslims, known as Rohingya, in a deadly bout of sectarian clashes in western Burma.
Buddhist monks were blamed for inciting hatred against Muslims by preaching a so-called 969 movement which represents a radical form of anti-Islamic nationalism that urges Buddhists to boycott Muslim-run shops and services.
There has never been a time when we've had complete peace within our land, Suu Kyi said.
I'm confident we can achieve economic success, but without peace and unity we cannot expect to get economic success that is sustained.
Burma's Muslims -- largely of Indian, Chinese and Bangladeshi descent -- account for an estimated four percent of the roughly 60 million population.
Muslims entered Burma en masse for the first time as indentured laborers from the Indian subcontinent during British colonial rule, which ended in 1948.
But despite their long history, they have never fully been integrated into the country.
The Nobel laureate called for reforming citizenship laws in Burma to help accommodate Muslims.
"Every country has the responsibility to consider the possibility that the (citizenship) laws are not in keeping with international standards, Suu Kyi told reporters.
And this is what the Burmese government should have the courage to do. To face the issue of citizenship fairly.
Rohingya Muslims have been denied citizenship rights since an amendment to the citizenship laws in 1982 and are treated as illegal immigrants in their own home.
The Burmese government as well as the Buddhist majority refuse to recognize the term "Rohingya", referring to them as "Bengalis".
Suu Kyi has earned the ire of Muslims for failing to speak against discrimination facing the Rohingya in Burma.
But the Burmese icon said she was "not a magician" and will not be able to solve long-running ethnic disputes.
"I've said that the most important thing is to establish the rule of law...(it) is not just about the judiciary, it's about the administration, it's about the government, it's about our police force, it's about the training that we give to security forces," she told students at Tokyo University.
She added that Burma's courts do not meet democratic standards as they are "totally dominated by the executive."
"They wanted me to talk about how to make these communal differences disappear...I'm not a magician, she said.
If I were, I'd say 'disappear' and they would all disappear. Differences take a long time to sort out," she told Japanese students."We have to establish an atmosphere of security in which people with different opinions can sit down and exchange ideas and think of the things we have in common."