Malcolm Turnbull encourages Aung San Suu Kyi to resettle Rohingya

Amnesty International accuses Australian PM of ‘softly softly’ approach to humanitarian crisis

Malcolm Turnbull has encouraged Aung San Suu Kyi to resettle displaced Rohingya but Amnesty International has criticised Australia for adopting a “softly softly” approach on the humanitarian crisis during the Myanmar leader’s visit.

On Monday the state counsellor of Myanmar met Turnbull in Canberra for a bilateral meeting after the Association of South-East Asian Nations meeting in Sydney.

Aung San Suu Kyi then unexpectedly pulled out of a planned appearance at the Lowy Institute on Tuesday, citing illness.

Aid groups have welcomed the fact Aung San Suu Kyi privately addressed the Rohingya crisis at a closed-door meeting of south-east Asian leaders but her visit has prompted backlash including an attempted private prosecution for crimes against humanity.

The Australian prime minister 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.

Claire Mallinson, the national director at Amnesty International Australia, said the Australian government should “show more leadership”, particularly by cutting military ties and funding, as the US, UK, European Union, 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.”

Asked about Turnbull’s meeting with Aung San Suu Kyi, Mallinson observed that it was “very difficult” to reach a settlement until the United Nations 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.”

Mallinson said Amnesty had released satellite imaging showing that since January the “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”.

“They’ve started bulldozing down what is left of their homes and places of worship, building military bases on those homes and mosques.

“There’s nowhere to return to in a safe and dignified way.”

Mallinson said it was “deeply disappointing” that Aung San Suu Kyi had cancelled 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.

Turnbull and Aung San Suu Kyi also discussed economic development, education, overseas development, water management and research.


Paul Karp

The GuardianTramp

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