Key member resigns from Myanmar advisory panel on Rohingya crisis

Rohingya Muslim woman, Rukaya Begum, who crossed over from Myanmar into Bangladesh, holds her son Mahbubur Rehman, left and her daughter Rehana Bibi, after the government moved them to newly allocated refugee camp areas, near Kutupalong, Bangladesh. (File Photo: Dar Yasin/AP)
Updated 21 July 2018
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Key member resigns from Myanmar advisory panel on Rohingya crisis

  • Retired Thai lawmaker and ambassador Kobsak Chutikul was secretary for the panel hand-picked by civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi to advise her government
  • Kobsak Chutikul said his position became untenable ahead of a second full meeting of the panel with officials in Myanmar’s capital Naypyidaw this week

YANGON: A key member of an international advisory panel on Myanmar’s crisis-hit Rakhine state has resigned, telling AFP on Saturday that the Aung San Suu Kyi-appointed board risks becoming “part of the problem” in a conflict that forced 700,000 Rohingya Muslims to flee.
Retired Thai lawmaker and ambassador Kobsak Chutikul was secretary for the panel hand-picked by civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi to advise her government on how to handle the aftermath of a military campaign that drove the minority out of the country.
The brutal crackdown started in August last year and left hundreds of Rohingya villages razed to the ground.
Refugees to Bangladesh have recounted horrifying testimony of widespread murder, rape and torture in violence the UN and US have branded as ethnic cleansing.
Kobsak Chutikul said his position became untenable ahead of a second full meeting of the panel with officials in Myanmar’s capital Naypyidaw this week.
“I verbally gave my resignation in a staff meeting last Tuesday (10 July),” he told AFP by phone from Bangkok.
The board, he said, risks becoming a “part of the problem.”
“It lulls authorities into thinking they have done enough to respond to the concerns of the international community, that they’ve ticked that box,” he added.
“It becomes dangerous in terms of an illusion that something is being done... that they’re going to do something while Rome burns.”
The credibility of the advisory board was undermined early on by the resignation of veteran US diplomat Governor Bill Richardson a one-time close confidant of Suu Kyi.
He left the panel in January in a vicious war of words with the Nobel laureate.
The government insisted it had terminated his involvement but Richardson said he stepped down due to fears the committee would only “whitewash” the causes of the Rohingya crisis.
A statement by his office Saturday said that Kobsak’s resignation “further reinforces the concerns” he held.
Kobsak, however, told AFP that he thought Governor Richardson’s departure had been premature.
But he said the board’s poor organization and funding severely curtailed its work.
“We were winging it on the fly, not really in full grasp of the full facts and figures. Everyone was all over the place — we don’t have a permanent office anywhere,” he told AFP.
Suu Kyi’s reputation lies in tatters internationally for her failure to speak up on behalf of the Rohingya Muslims, a stateless group persecuted over decades in Myanmar.
There was no immediate reaction from her office or the panel.
The advisory board has so far dismayed rights groups for not mentioning the word ‘Rohingya’ — a name Buddhist-majority Myanmar rejects, preferring the pejorative term ‘Bengali’ that implies the community are illegal immigrants from Bangladesh.
Kobsak Chutikul said the international community should rally round new UN special envoy Christine Schraner Burgener, who he said “offers the best hope in the circumstances.”


Silent on Cohen, Trump says Manafort conviction ‘a disgrace’ but ‘does not involve me’

Updated 3 min 24 sec ago
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Silent on Cohen, Trump says Manafort conviction ‘a disgrace’ but ‘does not involve me’

WASHINGTON: President Donald Trump says the conviction of his former campaign chairman Paul Manafort on financial crimes is “a disgrace.”
But he hasn’t publicly reacted to former personal attorney Michael Cohen’s guilty pleas to felonies, including campaign finance violations he stated he carried out in coordination with Trump.
Manafort was convicted Tuesday in Virginia on charges brought by special counsel Robert Mueller, who is investigating Russian interference in the 2016 election and potential obstruction of justice. Cohen pleaded guilty in New York, saying he and Trump arranged the payment of hush money to porn star Stormy Daniels and a former Playboy model to influence the election.
Trump told reporters in West Virginia that Manafort’s conviction “has nothing to do with Russian collusion.” Of Manafort’s crimes, he says: “It doesn’t involve me.”