Dr M: Asean leaders pressed Suu Kyi on Rohingya crisis

Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad and Myanmar State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi join other leaders as they pose for a group photo at the opening ceremony during the 33rd Asean summit in Singapore November 13, 2018. — AFP pic
Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad and Myanmar State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi join other leaders as they pose for a group photo at the opening ceremony during the 33rd Asean summit in Singapore November 13, 2018. — AFP pic

SINGAPORE, Nov 14 — Several leaders of the Association of South-east Asian Nations (Asean) brought up the Rakhine crisis with Myanmar’s Aung San Suu Kyi last night, including Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad.

The prime minister also confirmed that he spoke directly with her during the session, but not on the plight of the Rohingya people.

“Over the course of discussion with the Asean countries, several people raised the question. So did I,” Dr Mahathir told reporters on the sidelines of the 33rd Asean Summit here.

When asked what he discussed with Suu Kyi, Dr Mahathir simply replied: “Casual things.”

He also dismissed the possibility that Asean leaders would work towards a more strongly-worded statement against the Myanmar regime on the matter.

“Asean leaders are very diplomatic, they don’t give strong statements against each other,” he added.

Asean leaders had joined a working dinner hosted by Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, following the summit’s opening ceremony.

Prior to yesterday’s dinner, Dr Mahathir accused Suu Kyi of trying to “defend the indefensible” by downplaying the genocide of the Rohingya people.

In September, Dr Mahathir said Putrajaya will no longer support her following her inaction against the poor treatment of Rohingyas in her country, and admitted that he has “lost all faith” in her.

A brutal military campaign drove more than 700,000 Rohingya Muslims from Myanmar into neighbouring Bangladesh, where they now live in cramped refugee camps.

A United Nations fact-finding mission on Myanmar found “crimes against humanity have been committed against the Rohingya” and that these acts were sanctioned by top Myanmar military commanders.

On Monday, Amnesty International withdrew its highest honour, the Ambassador of Conscience Award, from Suu Kyi, labelling her actions as “shameful betrayal of the values she once stood for”.