Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has encouraged Burmese State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi to resettle displaced Rohingya, but Amnesty International has criticized Canberra for adopting a “softly softly” approach on the humanitarian crisis during the Burmese leader’s visit.
Aung San Suu Kyi yesterday met Turnbull in Canberra for a bilateral meeting after the ASEAN summit in Sydney.
She then unexpectedly pulled out of a planned appearance at the Lowy Institute scheduled today, citing illness.
Aid groups have welcomed the fact Aung San Suu Kyi privately addressed the Rohingya crisis at a closed-door meeting of Southeast Asian leaders, but her visit has prompted backlash, including an attempted private prosecution for crimes against humanity.
Turnbull had a detailed, constructive meeting with Aung San Suu Kyi, in which the pair discussed the ongoing humanitarian crisis in Rakhine state.
Turnbull encouraged the state counsellor to reach a resolution for the resettlement of the displaced people of the region.
Australia has provided aid to Myanmar and Bangladesh, and offered ongoing support to end the crisis and ensure displaced people can return to their homes as quickly as possible.
Amnesty International Australia national director Claire Mallinson said the Australian government should “show more leadership,” particularly by cutting military ties and funding, as the US, UK, EU, France and Canada have done.
“We’re still giving assistance to the Myanmar military despite all the evidence of ethnic cleansing,” she told Guardian Australia.
“It would be far better to shift that support and resources to working with the government there to dismantle the apartheid regime, which is why the Rohingya had to flee in the first place,” she said.
Asked about Turnbull’s meeting with Aung San Suu Kyi, Mallinson said that it was “very difficult” to reach a settlement until the UN had full access to investigate.
“Australia needs to be much stronger in condemning what’s been happening — this softly softly approach they’ve been adopting clearly isn’t working,” she said.
Amnesty has released satellite imaging showing that since January “the Myanmar military — the very people who burned villages, shot, raped and starved Rohingya — have in a matter of weeks done a dramatic land grab,” she said.
“They’ve started bulldozing down what is left of their homes and places of worship, building military bases on those homes and mosques,” she said.
“There’s nowhere to return to in a safe and dignified way,” she said.
Mallinson added that it was “deeply disappointing” that Aung San Suu Kyi had canceled her appearance at the Lowy Institute, where there would have been an opportunity to confront her about “dismantling the apartheid regime” and the need to condemn the military.
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