LONDON Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi said ethnic cleansing was too strong a term to describe what was happening in the Muslim-majority Rakhine region, the BBC reported on Wednesday.
"I don't think there is ethnic cleaning going on," Suu Kyi told the BBC in an interview when asked if she would be remembered as the Nobel Peace Prize winner who ignored ethnic cleansing in her own country.
"I think ethnic cleansing is too strong an expression to use for what is happening," said Suu Kyi who is facing international criticism for her government's handling of a crisis in the Muslim-majority Rakhine region.
Attacks on Myanmar border guard posts in October last year by a previously unknown insurgent group ignited the biggest crisis of Suu Kyi's year in power, with more than 75,000 Rohingya fleeing to Bangladesh in the ensuing army crackdown.
A United Nations report issued earlier this year said Myanmar's security forces had committed mass killings and gang rapes against Rohingya during their campaign against the insurgents, which may amount to crimes against humanity.
The military has denied the accusations, saying it was engaged in a legitimate counterinsurgency operation.
"What we are trying to go for is reconciliation not condemnation," Suu Kyi told the BBC. "It is Muslims killing Muslims as well."
When asked by the BBC whether perceptions of her as an amalgam of Indian independence hero Mahatma Gandhi and Mother Teresa of Calcutta were incorrect as she was more similar to former British leader Margaret Thatcher, she said:
"Well no. I am just a politician. I am not quite like Margaret Thatcher, no. But on the other hand, I am no Mother Teresa either."
(Reporting by Guy Faulconbridge; Editing by Richard Chang and Sandra Maler)