U.S. Vice President Mike Pence on Wednesday criticized Myanmar’s leader Aung San Suu Kyi for her handling of the Rohingya refugee crisis, calling it a «tragedy.»
«The violence and persecution by military and vigilantes that resulted in driving 700,000 Rohingya to Bangladesh is without excuse,» Pence told Suu Kyi during their talks in Singapore. «This is a tragedy that has touched the hearts of millions of Americans.»
Pence and Suu Kyi met on the sidelines of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations-related gathering, a day before the process of returning the first batch of Rohingya from Bangladesh refugee camps is scheduled to start on Thursday.
«I’m anxious to hear about the progress that you’re making, holding those accountable who are responsible for the violence that displaced so many hundreds of thousands and created such suffering, including the loss of life,» Pence added.
More than 720,000 Rohingya Muslims have fled to Bangladesh from the western state of Rakhine since the Myanmar military launched a harsh crackdown in August 2017 in the wake of attacks on security posts by militants of the ethnic group, the United Nations said.
They are not recognized as a native people of the Buddhist-dominated Southeast Asian nation and are denied citizenship.
Suu Kyi, who was awarded a Nobel peace prize for her fight for democracy, has been recently lambasted by many Western countries including the United States for failing to prevent the violent crimes and denying the military’s responsibility.
«In a way we can say that we understand our country better than any other country does,» Suu Kyi responded to Pence, according to Reuters.
In Myanmar, two local Reuters journalists were also sentenced by a court to seven years in prison for illegally obtaining classified documents related to Rakhine from police in September.
Pence told Suu Kyi, «In America, we believe in our democratic institutions and ideals, including a free and independent press. And the arrest and jailing of two journalists last fall was deeply troubling to millions of Americans.»
All — Kyodo News+