US Vice President Condemns Aung San Suu Kyi Over Rohingya Persecution, Reporters’ Sentencing

Email story
Comment on this story
Print story
US Vice President Mike Pence (R) listens to Myanmar State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi (L) during a bilateral meeting on the sidelines of the 33rd ASEAN summit in Singapore, Nov. 14, 2018.
US Vice President Mike Pence (R) listens to Myanmar State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi (L) during a bilateral meeting on the sidelines of the 33rd ASEAN summit in Singapore, Nov. 14, 2018.

U.S. Vice President Mike Pence took Myanmar’s Aung San Suu Kyi to task on Wednesday, telling the former human rights icon that the country’s persecution of Rohingya Muslims is “without excuse,” and called the arrest and conviction of two journalists who reported on a massacre of members of the persecuted minority group “deeply troubling.”

The comments at a regional diplomatic meeting in Singapore came as Myanmar is telling the world it is ready to accept back the first group of about 2,200 Rohingya refugees who fled to Bangladesh during a military crackdown in northern Rakhine state in 2017 following deadly attacks in the region by a Muslim militant group.

Thousands died during the violence, which included widespread torture, rape, and arson, and drove more than 720,000 Rohingya across the border where they have been living in sprawling refugee camps in southeastern Bangladesh.

The Myanmar government has largely denied that its forces committed the atrocities which U.N. investigators, rights groups, and some nations, including the U.S., say amounted to ethnic cleansing, genocidal intent, or genocide itself.

“The violence and persecution by the military and vigilantes that resulted in driving 700,000 Rohingya to Bangladesh is without excuse,” said Pence who made the comments to the state counselor during a bilateral meeting on the sidelines of the annual Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) summit.

He also expressed interest in hearing about the "progress" Myanmar has made in holding accountable those responsible for the atrocities and what the country has done to make it possible for the refugees to voluntarily return home.

Pence also criticized Myanmar’s jailing of two Reuters news agency reporters sentenced to seven years in prison in September for possessing classified government documents while reporting on the extrajudicial killings of 10 Rohingya Muslims in Rakhine state’s Inn Din village during the brutal crackdown.

Media advocates and human rights groups say the pair was framed by police officials and convicted on bogus charges in the much-criticized case that many have condemned as a blow to press freedom in the developing country.

“[T]he arrest and jailing of two journalists last fall was deeply troubling to millions of Americans,” Pence told Aung San Suu Kyi. “I look forward to speaking with you about the premium that we place on a free and independent press.”

In response, Aung San Suu Kyi told Pence that “people have different points of view, but the point is that you should exchange these views and try to understand each other better."

“In a way, we can say that we understand our country better than any other country does, and I'm sure you will say the same of yours, that you understand your country better than anybody else,” she said.

Denials won’t make issue go away

Myanmar political analyst Aung Thu Nyane said Pence’s comments signals that Myanmar will now come under even more international pressure.

“The international community wants two things, which are Myanmar’s cooperation with the [U.N.] fact-finding mission and its refusal to accept the impunity of those who committed the crimes [in Rakhine state],” he said, referring to a panel that investigated atrocities committed against the Rohingya, though the Myanmar government had denied its members entry to the country.

The commission issued a report in late August detailing violence by Myanmar security forces and calling for the prosecution of top military commanders on genocide charges before the International Criminal Court (ICC) or another tribunal.

Aung Myo Min, executive director of Equality Myanmar, an NGO that facilitates human rights education and advocacy programs, agreed that Myanmar will face more pressure from the U.S. over the Rohingya crisis, even though Washington has withdrawn from the U.N. Human Rights Council.

“Actually, even if we like the U.S. or not, it is still powerful and can influence U.N. member nations,” he said.

“Myanmar will have more pressure from U.S.,” he said. “While Myanmar is trying to resolve this issue, it would be better to cooperate with other nations instead of denying [what happened]. If Myanmar continues to work to resolve this problem by denying it, then there will definitely be stronger pressure on the country.”

Pence’s exchange with Aung San Suu Kyi came a day after Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad expressed disappointment with Myanmar's de facto leader, calling her response to the persecution of the Rohingya “indefensible” in remarks prior to the start of the ASEAN summit.

Myanmar officials have said that repatriations would get underway this week, though U.N. human rights chief Michele Bachelet, the U.N.’s refugee agency, and human rights groups have called for a halt to the program, warning that conditions in Rakhine state are not yet conducive for the safe return of the Rohingya.

The program, under which an initial 2,200 refugees were to return to Myanmar, will not begin on Nov. 15 as planned, a source speaking on condition of confidentiality told Reuters late Wednesday.

The source said the program would not get underway because none of the Rohingya refugees wants to return to Myanmar.

Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh have demanded that the Myanmar government accept them as an official ethnic group, grant them full citizenship rights, and set up an international security mechanism to protect them when they return before they step foot again on Myanmar soil.

Reported by Nandar Chann for RFA’s Myanmar Service. Translated by Khet Mar. Written in English by Roseanne Gerin.

Comments (2)

Sai Lin Kan

Dear Moderator,
I'll be very grateful and appreciated if you have published my comment in full without censor.
I'm Australian citizen but I was born and raised in Burma. I can’t stay out when my former country was wrongfully accused by the UN and the OIC as well as international media. I have duty to inform to the world what I know about current situation in Rakhine State because some journalists are intentionally reporting fabricated faked news to the world. There are 75% of news a bout Rakhine State was wrong and they were fabricated faked stories manufactured by the Islamic group.
I want to suggest the moderator should go visit to the Rakhine State with open mind rather than preoccupy with negative story report by some rogue international journalists.
See and hear with your eyes and ears about true story telling by the victims of the Islamic terrorist group the ARSA and Bengali Muslim men.
Also, the Buddhist Rakhine and other Buddhist ethnics were attacked and murdered by the Islamic terrorist almost every day in northern Rakhine State. The Buddhist villagers cannot go to the farm to work and they cannot go to find for foods in the forest and river because Islamic terrorists are waiting in the forest for to attack Buddhist villagers. The Buddhist women were raped and murdered, and the men were killed by Islamic terrorists. Even the Islamic terrorist had gone to kill the Bengali Muslim leaders who opposed them in the refugee camp in Bangladesh.
The Islamic terrorist group the ARSA is only group threatening to Buddhists, Hindus and Bengali Muslims. I hope, dear moderator will see the fact.
Thank you very much for your help.
Have a nice weekend.

Yours Sincerely,
Sai Lin Kan

Nov 16, 2018 02:27 PM

Sai Lin Kan

In response, Aung San Suu Kyi told Pence that “people have different points of view, but the point is that you should exchange these views and try to understand each other better."
“In a way, we can say that we understand our country better than any other country does, and I'm sure you will say the same of yours, that you understand your country better than anybody else,” she said.

It was perfect what Daw Aung San Su Kyi replied to the Vice President Pence.
Daw Aung San Su Kyi is a more capable leader with common sense leader than vice President Mike Pence.
She knows her country better than foreigners. She knows what her country needs and what she has to do for her country.
Daw Aung San Su Kyi is doing for her country and her peoples and she completely understand the whole situation of the Rakhine State crisis. She wasn’t doing for to get some excuse from someone who didn’t understand about Burma and arrogant attitude.
To be honest, Burmese Government and Daw Aung San Su Kyi do not need the vice President Pence excuse. Anyway, Pence was so idiotic to tell no excuse about the Bengali Muslims treatment to leader like Burmese leader Daw Aung San Su Kyi. The Bengali Muslims fled to Bangladeshi border was not created by the Burmese Government or the Burmese military and in fact, it was created by Middle East back the Islamic terrorist group the ARSA. Strangely, the ARSA name was disappeared on international news and the UN Security Council report.
How come the name of ruthless Islamic terrorist group the ARSA that responsible of massacred of 99 Hindu children, men and women was do not mention in the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Office’s document and report and the OIC’s document and the news in international media?
The Burma has been bullied by the UN and sanction by West for decades. Burma and Burmese peoples can stand firm on their own feet if the West try to impose economic sanction on Burma.
Vice President should look at his own country and try to sort out similar problem like Burma.
Has the United State intending to give citizenship to illegal immigrants from Latin America countries and other illegal immigrants from Middle East, Africa and Asia?

Why Burmese Government should have to give full citizenship to illegal immigrant Bengali Muslims so called Rohingya Bengali Muslims from Bangladesh while the United State was deporting and detaining illegal immigrants even some illegal migrants’ children were born in the United State?

Is it very much hypocrisy of the American Government policy or the Vice President Michael Richard Pence, his own policy?
Do as I say and don’t do like what I’m doing in the United State?
Once, Mike Pence attempted unsuccessfully to prevent Syrian refugees from being resettled in Indiana when he was governor of Indiana. By the way, Burma wasn’t immigrant nation like American, Australia, Canada and New Zealand.

You should make sure you do understand the whole situation and as well as your own problem if you want to lecture someone else problem.
I do understand Pence has been misinformed by the some of the OIC members’ state leaders in the past and during the ASEAN summit and pressuring him to address strongly about Bengali Muslims problem. However, he doesn’t always have open mind.
Obviously, vice President Pence’s view was difference from his boss the President Trump. The President Trump will not let other peoples influence in his thinking and decision. President Trump will check information from the all sources available to him, and then he will think and decide with open mind and not by peoples who try to influence him.
If the vice President Mike Pence wants to be part of solution for illegal immigrant Bengali Muslims problem and then he should study the whole situation and as well as learn why Bengali Muslim, an illegal immigrant from Bangladesh becoming Rohingya in Rakhine State, Burma. Burmese Government and peoples are welcome to anybody who wants to help problematic countries with good intention.
The Burmese Government and Buddhist Rakhine peoples were generously given the Bengali Muslims and Bengali Hindus refuge in Rakhine State since the East and West Pakistan civil war end. More Bengali Muslims were moving into Rakhine State illegally from over populated Bangladesh by taking advantage over unguarded and the unfenced border between Burma and Bangladesh.
These illegal immigrant Bangladeshi Bengali Muslims were rejected by their own Bangladeshi Government and denied these Bengali Muslims are from the Bangladesh. In fact, these illegal Bengali Muslim immigrants in Rakhine state are Bangladeshi citizens from Chittagong region in Bangladesh. Former the UN Chief Ban Ki-moon had created and invented new ethnic identity and status for illegal Bengali Muslim immigrants as Rohingya ethnic, native of Rakhine State. So the world must call Rohingya Muslims for the illegal Bengali Muslims. Ban Ki-moon thinks he has sorting out the stateless illegal Bengali Muslim immigrants and given the state for them by creating of new ethnic identity in Rakhine State. However, he didn’t understand native Rakhine people and all Burmese ethnics were shocked and creating new problem in Rakhine state and nationalist movement was born in Burma after Ban Ki-moon declared illegal Bengali Muslim migrants as native Muslim ethnic of Rakhine State. Kaman Muslim people were among the peoples who upset and disturb by Ban Ki-moon stunt. The Kaman Muslims are strongly demanding for investigation about how illegal Bengali Muslim migrants becoming Kaman Muslim and protesting about given citizenship to illegal immigrant Bengali Muslims under ethnic name of Kaman ethnic in one of Townships in Rakhine State.
Vice President Mike Pence should understand Burma has official 135 ethnics and there were many armed ethnic minority’s rebel groups and war with Government force and also war within among ethnic minority’s rebel groups. However, the Burmese Government didn’t ignore the illegal immigrants Bengali Muslims return from Bangladesh but they should not be first priority for Burmese Government. The Bengali Muslims are trouble makers. Also the opportunist Islamic terrorist group was trying to colonize Northern Rakhine State by support with the Islamic organization that influence by Middle East.
Daw Aung San Su Kyi was trying to cease half century old civil war in Burma. The war was complicated and the peace and reconciliation process are also complicated as distrusting each others and misunderstand and continue fighting among ethnic rebel groups and as well as against the Burmese Army.
Daw Aung San Kyi is working hard for peace and reconciliation among difference Burmese ethnic minority groups and living peacefully and without worrying about war in their lives in the future.
Also, Daw Aung San Su Kyi and her Government were preparing and building housing for Bengali Muslim refugees from Bangladesh. Now Burmese Government was ready to accept Bengali Muslim refugees but the UNHCR, the Bangladeshi Government and the OIC are preventing the Bengali Muslim refugees returning to Rakhine State.
It’s the UNHCR, the OIC and the Bangladeshi Government fault. They are the problem of the Bengali Muslim refugees returning to Rakhine State and the problem was not the Burmese Government’s fault.
The UNHCR, the OIC and the Bangladeshi Government were to blame for the Bengali Muslim refugees’ problem.
The OIC and the UN OHCHR must understand, they won’t be getting any of what they wanted. These groups are taking Bengali Muslim refugees as hostage.

Nov 16, 2018 01:55 PM





More Listening Options

View Full Site