Duterte tells Suu Kyi rights activists are "only a…"

Bill Richardson during an interview on Wednesday

Ei Ei Toe Lwin 26 Jan 2018 Bill Richardson during an interview on Wednesday

Philippine president Rodrigo Duterte said he pities Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi for being in the storm of global criticism over her handling of the Rohingya refugee crisis.

Richardson said Suu Kyi - whom he described as a long-time friend - had developed a "siege mentality" in her position as Myanmar's State Counsellor, the country's civilian leader, but added that Western governments should continue to engage with her.

"Do not mind the human rights (critics)".

Under heavy global criticism of what United Nations and USA officials labelled "ethnic cleansing", Myanmar signed a repatriation deal with Bangladesh to start sending the refugees back this Tuesday. She seems isolated. She doesn't travel much into the country.

The resignation of Bill Richardson from the Advisory Board for the Committee for the Implementation of the Recommendations on Rakhine State will not tarnish the panel's credibility, board member Roelof Petrus Meyer said on Thursday.

"It became evident that the intent of Governor Bill Richardson was ... to pursue his own agenda", the statement said.

The board nominees conducted a meeting with Daw Aung San Suu Kyi on January 22.

Almost 700,000 Rohingya have fled Myanmar's Rakhine state for Bangladesh since the beginning of August, after Myanmar security forces began "clearance operations" in their villages in the wake of attacks by Rohingya insurgents on police posts.

Mr. Richardson, the former New Mexico governor who was energy secretary and US 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".

Richardson said that before his trip to Myanmar, he spoke to U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, who visited the country in November. Richardson said that Suu Kyi had exploded in anger after he raised the jailing of two Reuters journalists recently.

Many are reluctant to return.

He made a decision to give her some advice.

She also warned of the further spread of diseases which have killed thousands. The judge will decide whether the journalists committed the crime or not. Attempts by others to intervene could be tantamount to contempt of court, the deputy minister said. The extended family lived in a small hut that they pooled resources to build, he said, only to abandon it when the attacks started a year ago.

Additional reporting from Reuters.

Richardson said it was important for Western governments, the United Nations and Suu Kyi to enter into a new dialogue "to try to help each other, not to keep fighting each other" before any thoughts of new sanctions on Myanmar.

File image of Rodrigo Duterte with Aung San Suu Kyi.

Suu Kyi's government has been criticized for what the United Nations calls as "textbook ethnic cleansing" for its soldiers' brutal attacks on the Rohingya minority which started after Rohingya rebels attacked police outposts. Myanmar rejects that label and has denied almost all the allegations.

Myanmar and Bangladesh last week signed an agreement to set up two reception centers and a temporary camp near their common border to begin processing returns this week.

"I believe that the Myanmar government has emphasised speed instead of systems", he said. Then we go back.

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