Richardson says Suu Kyi living in a “bubble,” but is Myanmar’s best hope

Aung San Suu Kyi talks during a news conference in this file photo.(Reuters)
Updated 26 January 2018
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Richardson says Suu Kyi living in a “bubble,” but is Myanmar’s best hope

LONDON: Myanmar’s leader Aung San Suu Kyi is “isolated” and living in a “bubble,” according to veteran US politician Bill Richardson, who quit an international panel advising her government on the Rohingya crisis after clashing with the Nobel laureate.
Richardson said Suu Kyi — whom he described as a long-time friend — had developed a “siege mentality” in office, but added that Western governments should continue to engage with Myanmar and that Suu Kyi remained the country’s best hope for change.
“The relationship with the West, with human rights groups, with the United Nations, with the international media is terrible,” he told Reuters by phone from New Mexico on Friday.
“And I think Aung San Suu Kyi has brought this upon herself, the constant disparagement of the international community, which I think can be helpful to her ... She seems isolated. She doesn’t travel much into the country. I think she’s developed a classic bubble.”
Richardson resigned from the Myanmar government’s advisory board on Wednesday, during the panel’s first visit to troubled Rakhine State, saying it was conducting a “whitewash.”
Around 688,000 Rohingya Muslims have fled from Rakhine to Bangladesh in recent months to escape an army crackdown following insurgent attacks on security forces.
“I think the Myanmar military is to blame a lot and the only person that can turn them around, I believe, is Aung San Suu Kyi, and she should start doing that,” Richardson said.
Suu Kyi’s office said in a statement late on Thursday that her government had asked Richardson to step down and accused him of pursuing “his own agenda.”
The former New Mexico governor rejected that version of events. He said he had informed the US Ambassador in Yangon and the State Department of his intention to resign but did not seek their guidance or permission to do so.
Richardson said that before his trip to Myanmar, he was phoned by US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson. But he declined to disclose details of his conversation with the chief diplomat in Donald Trump’s administration.
FURIOUS ARGUMENT
A separate statement from the nine remaining members of the advisory board on Thursday said they met this week “with open minds” and rejected Richardson’s criticism that he feared the panel would be used as “a cheerleading squad.”
Richardson had previously said he got into a furious argument with Suu Kyi at a Monday night dinner when he brought up the case of two Reuters reporters, who were arrested on Dec. 12 on suspicion of violating Myanmar’s Official Secrets Act.
“When I opened my dialogue with her, that was my number one issue, release the journalists. And she exploded,” he said on Friday.
Reporters Wa Lone, 31, and Kyaw Soe Oo, 27, had worked on Reuters coverage of the crisis in Rakhine.
Myanmar’s armed forces have been accused by Rohingya witnesses and human rights activists of carrying out killings, rapes and arson in Rakhine in a campaign senior officials in the United Nations and United States have described as ethnic cleansing. Myanmar rejects that label and has denied nearly all the allegations.
Bangladesh and Myanmar agreed earlier this month to complete the voluntary repatriation of all the refugees. The remaining members of the advisory board on Wednesday toured temporary camps the government has set up for returnees.
Richardson said he did not believe conditions were yet right for the repatriation process to begin.
“I believe that the Myanmar government has emphasised speed instead of systems,” he said. “There’s been too much emphasis on quick results rather than assuring that safety is guaranteed.”


Hungary hits Soros, Juncker in new media campaign

Updated 15 min 48 sec ago
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Hungary hits Soros, Juncker in new media campaign

  • The campaign provoked a furious reaction from prominent EU politicians
  • EU Commission spokesman Margaritis Schinas dismissed the campaign as "fake news"

BUDAPEST: Hungary launched a new anti-immigration media campaign on Tuesday in which it accused George Soros and EU Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker of allegedly supporting illegal migration, but which Brussels immediately dismissed as "fake news".
According to the Hungarian government's Facebook page, the media blitz — funded with taxpayers' money — is expected to include billboard posters featuring images of the liberal US billionaire Soros and a smiling Juncker above the words: "You too have a right to know what Brussels is preparing".
"They want to bring in the mandatory settlement quota; weaken member states' rights to border defence; facilitate immigration with a migrant visa," it continues.
The campaign provoked a furious reaction from prominent EU politicians, including from Joseph Daul, president of the European People's Party grouping which includes both Juncker and right-wing Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban's Fidesz party.
In a series of tweets, Daul condemned the campaign, calling its claims "deceitful, misleading and... not based on facts".
Daul denounced Hungary's attacks on Juncker and defended him as a "true Christian Democrat and a real European leader".
He went on to remind Hungary that "decisions in Brussels, including on migration, are taken collectively by EU governments" and the European Parliament, both of which include Hungarian representatives.
The presence of Fidesz within the EPP has long been a source of controversy but there have been no official moves by any of the other centre-right parties in the grouping to expel it.
Orban's government, which has frequently clashed with the EU on migration, has regularly undertaken similar campaigns in the past, including "Let's Stop Brussels" and "Don't let Soros have the last laugh."
In recent years, Orban has blasted the Hungarian-born 88-year-old philanthropist and investor as a "public enemy" for allegedly backing uncontrolled mass immigration.
At the same time, Orban's government has frequently been accused of using anti-Semitic tropes and imagery in its campaigns against Soros, claims it denies.
In recent months, pro-Orban media have also attacked Dutch MEP Judith Sargentini — the author of a critical report about Hungary that formed the basis of EU legal action against Budapest -- and Juncker's deputy Frans Timmermans.
"Brussels continues to want to support illegal immigration," Zoltan Kovacs, a government spokesman, told reporters in Budapest on Tuesday.
"Hungarians need to know about this, that's why the latest information campaign has been launched," he said, denying it is part of the upcoming European Parliament election campaign.
Kovacs said plans in "drawers in Brussels" included hikes in financial funding of NGOs and the creation of a special migration fund.
EU Commission spokesman Margaritis Schinas dismissed the campaign as "fake news".
"The Hungary government campaign beggars belief," he told a briefing in Brussels.
"It is shocking that such a ludicrous conspiracy theory has reached the mainstream to the extent it has. There is no conspiracy. Hungarians deserve facts, not fiction," he said.