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.”


Former CIA chief Brennan to brief Dems on Iran

Updated 3 min 49 sec ago
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Former CIA chief Brennan to brief Dems on Iran

  • The Trump administration recently sent an aircraft carrier and other military resources to the Arabian Gulf region
  • House Speaker Nancy Pelosi had been asking the administration for a briefing for all lawmakers on the situation in Iran

WASHINGTON: House Democrats will hear from former CIA director John Brennan about the situation in Iran, inviting him to speak next week amid heightened concerns over the Trump administration’s sudden moves in the region.
Brennan, an outspoken critic of President Donald Trump, is scheduled to talk to House Democrats at a private weekly caucus meeting Tuesday, according to a Democratic aide and another person familiar with the private meeting. Both were granted anonymity to discuss the meeting.
The invitation to Brennan and Wendy Sherman, the former State Department official and top negotiator of the Iran nuclear deal, offers counterprogramming to the Trump administration’s closed-door briefing for lawmakers also planned for Tuesday on Capitol Hill. Democratic lawmakers are likely to attend both sessions.
The Trump administration recently sent an aircraft carrier and other military resources to the Arabian Gulf region, and withdrew nonessential personnel from Iraq, raising alarm among Democrats and some Republicans on Capitol Hill over the possibility of a confrontation with Iran.
Trump in recent days downplayed any potential for conflict. But questions remain about what prompted the actions and many lawmakers have demanded more information.
Trump and Brennan have clashed openly, particularly over the issues surrounding the special counsel’s probe of Russian interference in the 2016 election. Brennan stepped down from the CIA in 2017.
The president last year said he was revoking the former spy chief’s security credentials after Brennan was critical of Trump’s interactions with Russian President Vladimir Putin at a summit in Helsinki. Top national security officials often retain their clearance after they have left an agency as a way to provide counsel to their successors. It’s unclear if Brennan actually lost his clearance.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi had been asking the administration for a briefing for all lawmakers on the situation in Iran, but she said the request was initially rebuffed. The administration provided a classified briefing for top leaders of both parties last week.