Australia PM meets Myanmar leader Suu Kyi, to raise human rights concerns

Tuesday, 20 March 2018 00:00 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

Australia's Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull shakes hands with Myanmar's State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi at Parliament House in Canberra, Australia, March 19, 2018 - REUTERS


Sydney (Reuters): Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi arrived in Canberra yesterday (19 March) to be met by a military honour guard and Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, who has said he will raise human rights issues during her visit.

Suu Kyi has been in Australia since 16 March (Friday), attending a special summit of Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) leaders in Sydney, where her presence drew street protests and a lawsuit accusing her of crimes against humanity.

Australia’s Attorney General has said he would not allow the lawsuit, lodged by activist lawyers in Melbourne on behalf of Australia’s Rohingya community, to proceed, because Suu Kyi had diplomatic immunity.

Since coming to power in 2016, Suu Kyi, who won the 1991 Nobel Peace Prize for her struggle for democracy in Myanmar, has faced growing criticism for failing to condemn or stop military attacks on her country’s minority Rohingya Muslims.

UN officials say nearly 700,000 Muslim Rohingya have fled Buddhist-majority Myanmar to Bangladesh after militant attacks on 25 August 2017 sparked a crackdown, led by security forces, in Rakhine state that the United Nations and United States have said constitutes ethnic cleansing.

The UN independent investigator on human rights in Myanmar, Yanghee Lee, said in Geneva this month she saw growing evidence to suspect genocide had been committed.

Myanmar denies the charges and has asked for “clear evidence” of abuses by security forces.

Neither Suu Kyi nor Turnbull made public remarks before their meeting, but the Australian leader said on 18 March (Sunday) that Suu Kyi spoke “at considerable length” during the ASEAN meeting about Rakhine State, appealing to her Southeast Asian neighbours for humanitarian help.

Suu Kyi had been scheduled to give a speech and answer questions at a foreign policy think-tank event in Sydney today (20 March) but cancelled because she was not feeling well, event organisers said, without giving more details.

Suu Kyi’s spokesman Zaw Htay declined comment and referred questions to the Myanmar embassy in Canberra. A Reuters call to the embassy went unanswered.