Australia PM Meets Daw Aung San Suu Kyi to Raise Human Rights Concerns

By Reuters 20 March 2018

SYDNEY — State Counselor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi arrived in Canberra on Monday to be met by a military honor guard and Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, who has said he will raise human rights issues during her visit.

Aung San Suu Kyi has been in Australia since Friday, attending a special summit of Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) leaders in Sydney, where her presence drew street protests and a lawsuit accusing her of crimes against humanity.

Australia’s Attorney General has said he would not allow the lawsuit, lodged by activist lawyers in Melbourne on behalf of Australia’s Rohingya community, to proceed because Aung San Suu Kyi had diplomatic immunity.

Since coming to power in 2016, Aung San Suu Kyi, who won the 1991 Nobel Peace Prize for her struggle for democracy in Myanmar, has faced growing criticism for failing to condemn or stop military attacks on her country’s minority Rohingya Muslims.

UN officials say nearly 700,000 Muslim Rohingya have fled Buddhist-majority Myanmar to Bangladesh after militant attacks on Aug. 25 last year sparked a crackdown, led by security forces, in Rakhine State that the United Nations and United States have said constitutes ethnic cleansing.

The UN independent investigator on human rights in Myanmar, Yanghee Lee, said in Geneva this month she saw growing evidence to suspect genocide had been committed.

Myanmar denies the charges and has asked for “clear evidence” of abuses by security forces.

Neither Aung San Suu Kyi nor Malcolm Turnbull made public remarks before their meeting, but the Australian leader said on Sunday that Aung San Suu Kyi spoke “at considerable length” during the ASEAN meeting about Rakhine State, appealing to her Southeast Asian neighbors for humanitarian help.

Aung San Suu Kyi had been scheduled to give a speech and answer questions at a foreign policy think-tank event in Sydney on Tuesday but cancelled because she was not feeling well, event organizers said, without giving more details.

Aung San Suu Kyi’s spokesman, Zaw Htay, declined comment and referred questions to the Myanmar Embassy in Canberra. A Reuters call to the embassy went unanswered.