Myanmar says it kicked US diplomat Bill Richardson off an advisory panel on the Rohingya crisis, accusing him of making a “personal attack” on embattled State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi in his resignation letter.
Suu Kyi’s office said that during discussions this week “it became evident” Richardson was not interested in contributing advice as one of five international members of a new panel examining the crisis in which approximately 690,000 Rohingya fled from a military crackdown to Bangladesh since August.
And attacks on Rohingya appear to be continuing in Myanmar, according to a UN children’s charity chief.
Many Rohingya want to return to their villages in Myanmar but they feared for their safety, said Unicef deputy executive director Justin Forsyth during a visit to the sprawling Kutupalong refugee camp (pictured) in Bangladesh.
But Suu Kyi’s office remains steadfast. It posted on Facebook of Richardson: “In view of the difference of opinion that developed, the government decided that his continued participation on the board would not be in the best interest of all concerned.”
The Burmese-language post said her staff had decided to “terminate” his involvement.
“He should review himself over his personal attack against our state counsellor,” government spokesman Zaw Htay told AFP.
In contrast, Richardson said after his three-day visit that he could not in “good conscience” sit on a panel which he feared would attempt to “whitewash” the causes of the crisis and perform a “cheerleading operation”.
The former New Mexico governor said Suu Kyi demonstrated an “absence of moral leadership”.
“She blames all the problems that Burma is having on the international media, on the UN, on human rights groups, on other governments, and I think this is caused by the bubble that is around her, by individuals that are not giving her frank advice,” said Richardson.
He referred to the civilian leader’s “furious response” to his enquiries about two Reuters journalists arrested while reporting from Rakhine State.
“Her face was quivering, and if she had been a little closer to me, she might have hit me, she was so furious,” Richardson told the New York Times.
Zaw Htay said the arrests did not concern Richardson, who was once a close friend of Suu Kyi, and he should not have raised the issue with Suu Kyi.
The Burmese journalists, Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo, face up to 14 years in jail under the Official Secrets Act for possessing classified documents they said were handed over by two police officers.
The Kutupalong refugee camp in Bangladesh. Picture credit: Wikimedia