Rohingya crisis 'could have handled better better'

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Ms. Suu Kyi's government has announced she will not be traveling to NY to attend the U.N. General Assembly meeting later this month.

Rights groups and worldwide observers have seen the case as a bellwether for democracy and press freedom under Suu Kyi.

The country's de facto leader acknowledged that the brutal crackdown on the Muslim minority - which the United Nations has cast as "genocide" - could have been "handled better", but insisted the two reporters had been treated fairly. The rule of law must apply to everybody.

Vice President Mike Pence has appealed for the reporters, U Wa Lone and U Kyaw Soe Oo, to be released, adding his voice to a chorus of worldwide condemnation of the sentencing.

Aung San Suu Kyi also reiterated her intention to amend the constitutional requirement that unelected members of the military must hold 25 percent of parliamentary seats, but said that in the interests of "national reconciliation and stability" she would pursue this incrementally and through negotiation.

Challenging critics of the verdict - including the United Nations, rights groups who once lionised her, and the US Vice President - to "point out" where there has been a miscarriage of justice, Suu Kyi said the case upheld the rule of law.

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Aung San Suu Kyi rarely accepts questions from the public about the Rohingya crisis.

The military, which ruled Myanmar for almost 50 years and still shares power with the civilian authorities, kept Aung San Suu Kyi under house arrest for more than 15 years before her release in 2010.

"Open courts are created to shed light on the justice process", International Commission of Jurists legal adviser Sean Bain said.

The convictions came amid mounting pressure on Myanmar over a security crackdown sparked by attacks by Rohingya Muslim insurgents on security forces in Rakhine State in west Myanmar in August 2017.

The ferocity of that crackdown has thrust Myanmar into a firestorm of criticism as Western goodwill evaporates towards a country ruled by a ruthless junta until 2015.

The UN has recommended that the country's top military leaders, including commander-in-chief Senior General Min Aung Hlaing, should face justice in the International Criminal Court (ICC) at the Hague.

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"There are of course ways in which we, with hindsight, might think the situation could have been handled better", she said, adding that the government accepted full responsibility for the political aspects of the crisis. In other comments the formerly much-lauded Nobel Peace Laureate said her priority for the run-up to the next election, in 2020, was to secure peace and prosperity for Myanmar.

Although the violence in Rakhine state has eased, Myanmar has to deal with its aftermath, especially the repatriation of the Muslim Rohingya who fled and the underlying causes of tension that makes them targets of discrimination and repression in overwhelmingly Buddhist Myanmar.

Aid workers have also said it is not safe for refugees to return yet.

The jailing of the Reuters reporters has sent a chill through Myanmar's nascent media scene.

She also rejected criticism from leaders, including Prime Minister Theresa May and USA vice president Mike Pence, over the convictions of two Reuters news agency reporters who had been investigating the killings of 10 Rohingya men and boys.

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