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Pence says Myanmar’s handling of Rohingya ‘without excuse’

Washington : Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi rebuffed criticism from United States (US) Vice President Mike Pence and other leaders over her government’s treatment of its ethnic Rohingya Muslims.

In a meeting on the sidelines of a regional summit in Singapore, Pence told Suu Kyi that he was “anxious to hear about progress” in resolving the crisis, which stems from a violent military crackdown in Myanmar’s Rakhine state that the United Nations (UN) has called ethnic cleansing.

 

“The violence and persecution by military and vigilantes that resulted in driving 700,000 Rohingya to Bangladesh is without excuse,” Pence said.

He added that he was eager to hear about how Myanmar will enable the Rohingya to voluntarily return home. Pence also said Myanmar’s arrest and conviction of two Reuters journalists was “deeply troubling” to millions of Americans.

“I look forward to speaking with you about the premium that we place on a free and independent press,” he said.

Pence and Suu Kyi met during the annual summit of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) in Singapore.

The US vice president is attending ASEAN and the summit of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum in Papua New Guinea later this week in President Donald Trump’s stead.

A day earlier Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamed made an unusually harsh public criticism of Suu Kyi, saying that as a former political prisoner she should better understand suffering. He said the treatment of the Rohingya was “indefensible”. Suu Kyi became an icon for democracy after spending about 15 years under house arrest for opposing Myanmar’s earlier military dictatorship.

Though Suu Kyi has been the de facto head of Myanmar’s civilian government since her party swept elections in 2015, she is limited in her control of the country by a constitution written under the former military junta. The military is in charge of security operations, including those in Rakhine.