Sunday, 22 April, 2018

Despite clash, Richardson says Suu Kyi remains Myanmar's best hope

Bill Richardson during an interview on Wednesday Ei Ei Toe Lwin 26 Jan 2018 Bill Richardson during an interview on Wednesday
Melinda Barton | 27 January, 2018, 15:47

USA diplomat BillRichardson resigned early Thursday from an Aung San Suu Kyi-appointed panel set up to ease communal tensions in Myanmar's Rakhine State and hit out at the Nobel Laureate for an "absence of moral leadership" over the crisis.

Mr. Richardson, the former New Mexico governor who was energy secretary and USA ambassador to the United Nations under President Bill Clinton, said the 10-member commission chaired by former Thai deputy prime minister Surakiart Sathirathai was "devoid of any meaningful engagement with the local communities in Rakhine, whose people the advisory board is meant to serve". Suu Kyi's office said on Thursday her government had asked Richardson to step down and accused him of pursuing "his own agenda".

His criticisms raise further doubts about a deal to repatriate almost 700,000 Rohingya refugees stuck in Bangladesh. Former New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson resigned suddenly from an advisory panel on the crisis this week, calling it a "whitewash and a cheerleading operation" for Suu Kyi.

Suu Kyi is now in India to take part in India' Republic Day parade as one of the chief guests representing the ASEAN countries. "Now she is heavily criticized", said Duterte.

Yanghee Lee, the UN's special rapporteur on Myanmar, said after a two-day visit to the camps holding nearly one million Rohingya that the situation is not conducive for refugees to the return after they fled mass atrocities, including the slaughter of children, rapes and burnings.

She also warned of the further spread of diseases which have killed thousands.

"We already published a statement and also the advisory board published a statement". Attempts by others to intervene could be tantamount to contempt of court, the deputy minister said.

Even as officials prepared the repatriation centres dozens of Rohingya families continued to cross from Rakhine into Bangladesh, many of them telling reporters they were escaping on-going repression.

Additional reporting from Reuters. Richardson left Myanmar on January 24 and issued a statement announcing his resignation from the board.

Urging understanding instead of blame, Zaw Htay said the issue of the arrests was beyond Richardson's mandate and he should not have brought it up at his meeting with Aung San Suu Kyi. They need engagement with the West. United States and UN officials have described Myanmar's actions as "ethnic cleansing", while Suu Kyi, once regarded as a democracy icon, has been assailed as ineffective. Myanmar rejects that label and has denied almost all the allegations.

"First of all, where would they go back to?"

Abdul Gaffar, 50, who has been repatriated twice, sits in his kiosk at BaluKhali refugee camp 50km from Cox's Bazar, BangladeshRohingya refugees and their makeshift shelters are seen next to the Bangladesh-Myanmar border at Tumru, near Cox's Bazar, Bangladesh.

"The situation isn't safe for the returns to begin", he said.