Suu Kyi says Myanmar struggling to establish democracy

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi (R) and Myanmar de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi meet in New Delhi on October 19, 2016 (AFP Photo/Money Sharma) (AFP)

Myanmar is struggling to establish full democracy after 50 years of military rule, de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi said Wednesday following a deadly military lockdown in restive Rakhine state.

State media say security forces have killed at least 29 people in a military crackdown after raids on guard posts along the Bangladesh border which the government blamed on Islamist insurgents.

The area is home to many Rohingya, a persecuted Muslim minority in the overwhelmingly Buddhist country.

"We as a nation are struggling to make the democratic culture take root," Suu Kyi told reporters after meeting Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on her first official visit to New Delhi.

"We too have many challenges to face, but we are confident that these challenges can be overcome because our people are determined to overcome them."

Suu Kyi won a historic election victory last year and her administration is managing a difficult transition from a military-run pariah nation to full-fledged democracy.

After spending much of the last few decades under arrest, she is now officially foreign minister and self-appointed state counsellor -- a role akin to prime minister.

But her country remains riven with ethnic and religious violence and she has disappointed some of her supporters by refusing publicly to recognise the Rohingya as legal citizens.

Tens of thousands of stateless Rohingya have spent the past four years trapped in bleak displacement camps with limited access to health care and other basic services.

Suu Kyi said her country had suffered from a lack of peace and stability for many decades and looked to neighbouring India for help in developing as a democracy.

Modi said India, which strongly supported Suu Kyi during her time in opposition, stood "shoulder to shoulder" with Myanmar.