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Asia-Pacific

US diplomat resigns from Myanmar Rohingya panel, lambasts Suu Kyi

media Myanmar's leader Aung San Suu Kyi speaks during a news conference with Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Kono in Naypyidaw, Myanmar January 12, 2018. ©REUTERS/Stringer

Myanmar has accused US diplomat Bill Richardson of mounting a personal attack on de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

This comes after Richardson resigned on Thursday from an international advisory panel on Myanmar's Rakhine state, where hundreds of thousands of Rohingya Muslims have fled a military crackdown.

He said the panel was conducting a whitewash of the crisis.

The dispute comes days after two Rohingya camp leaders were killed in Bangladesh -- which is hosting some 700,000 Rohingya refugees.

Reports say the camp leaders were killed by fellow Rohingya, who were angry about a repatriation plan for the refugees.

Aung San Suu Kyi's 'furious response'

Myanmar's government said it dumped Richardson from the role because he wasn't interested in providing advice on the crisis. Richardson said he chose to leave, while criticising what he sees as Suu Kyi's "furious response" to his calls to release two Reuters journalists arrested in the country.

“He was there to help and advise Suu Kyi’s civilian government, but he clearly had a major falling out with them about the government’s general attitude to resolving this crisis,” Bill Hayton, Associate Fellow at the Chatham House Asia Programme in London, told RFI. “The government doesn’t seem to place a particularly high priority on addressing the underlying issues.”

It is Mynamar's military that is engaged in violent clashes with the Rohingya. It ruled the country from 1962 until the 2011-2012 democratic transition.

“The military can commit crimes with impunity, and in the democratic transition period they have found it very useful to target the Rohingya in order to divide the community,” said Debbie Stothard, Secretary General of the human rights NGO FIDH, in an interview with RFI. “They’ve managed to win over Buddhists by attacking the Rohingya, and what we see is basically the military trying to regain its political dominance.”

Concern over repatriation plans

In light of the allegations of human rights abuses by Myanmar's military against the Rohingya, many observers are concerned about the plans to send some back there from Bangladesh.

“In the past there were previous issues of people who were expelled in the 1970s and 1980s, when the Myanmar government agreed to receive them back again,” Hayton pointed out. “The Bangladeshis hope that something similar can happen again this time. But human rights groups are worried that conditions over the border in Myanmar will be unacceptable.”

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