NAYPYITAW, Myanmar — Opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi used her first speech in Parliament Wednesday to call for laws protecting the rights of Myanmar’s impoverished ethnic minorities.
The Nobel Peace Prize recipient and democracy crusader won her first seat in Myanmar’s Parliament in a historic April by-election that was seen as a key step in the country’s transformation from military rule to fledgling democracy.
Suu Kyi stood from her seat toward the back of Myanmar’s Parliament to call for an end to discrimination against ethnic minorities as part of the ‘‘emergence of a genuine democratic country.’’
Suu Kyi’s comments came in support of a motion by a ruling-party lawmaker from the ethnic Shan state on upholding ethnic minority rights. She referred to soaring poverty rates in Chin, Kachin, Shan, and Rakhine states, noting that protecting minority rights required more than just maintaining ethnic languages and cultures.
Suu Kyi did not mention last month’s communal violence in western Myanmar between Rakhine Buddhists and Muslim Rohingyas that left at least 78 people dead and prompted a government crackdown in the region.
The Nobel Peace Prize winner has faced rare criticism from rights groups for not offering stronger support for the Rohingya, who are considered by most in Myanmar to be illegal immigrants from Bangladesh and are not one of the recognized ethnic groups of Myanmar.