United States diplomat quits Myanmar's 'whitewash' Rohingya advisory panel

Repatriation of Rohingyas

Veteran U.S. diplomat Bill Richardson has resigned from an worldwide panel set up by Myanmar to advise on the Rohingya crisis, saying it was conducting a "whitewash" and accusing the country's leader Aung San Suu Kyi of lacking "moral leadership".

"It appears that the board is likely to become a cheerleading squad for government policy, as opposed to proposing genuine policy changes that are desperately needed to assure peace, stability and development in the Rakhine State", he said in a statement.

Amid Capitol Hill's renewed focus on the Rohingya crisis, a former US ambassador to the United Nations quit a Myanmar government advisory board on the country's troubled Rakhine State, decrying the panel as "a cheerleading squad for government policy".

Myanmar says it's ready for a gradual repatriation of Muslim Rohingya refugees chased out by the Buddhist-majority country's military.

Some 688,000 Rohingya have been displaced to Bangladesh since August 25, according to the International Organization for Migration, after fleeing a brutal counter-terror campaign by Myanmar's military following an insurgent attack on state security forces.

Social Welfare, Relief and Resettlement Minister U Win Myat Aye said Myanmar is not blaming Bangladesh for the delay in the repatriation.

"She blames all the problems that Burma is having on the global media, on the United Nations, on human rights groups, on other governments, and I think this is caused by the bubble that is around her, by individuals that are not giving her frank advice", Mr Richardson said.

A Myanmar government spokesman said Mr Richardson "should review himself over his personal attack against our state counsellor". He also denounced the board's apparent lack of sincerity towards the issue as well as Suu Kyi's "furious response" to his suggestions regarding the two journalists who were detained while investigating the crisis in Rakhine state.

The announcement comes as Richardson was in Myanmar, also known as Burma, this week as a member of the Advisory Board on Rakhine State.

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While the commission's report did not go so far as current United Nations officials, who have said the situation in Myanmar represents a "textbook case of ethnic cleansing", it did criticize the military and call on the government to take urgent concerted action.

Myanmar wants to put us in temporary camps but there is no mention of when we would be allowed to go back to our ancestral home and get back our property.

Earlier on 16 January, Bangladesh and Myanmar signed a document on "Physical Arrangement" which will facilitate return of Rohingays to their homeland from Bangladesh.

In a statement that pulled few punches, the former United States governor and one-time Suu Kyi ally said he could not in "good conscience" serve on the committee that would likely serve only to "whitewash" the causes behind the Rohingya exodus.

"Myanmar is just getting ready by itself, but we are not going unless there are promises made for us", Ko Ko Lin, a member of Arakan Rohingya National Organisation, said.

Zaw Htay said the issue of the arrests was not in Richardson's mandate and he should not have brought it up at his meeting with Suu Kyi.

That commission's report called for reviews of the country's 1982 Citizenship Law, which prevents the Rohingya from becoming citizens, and an end to restrictions on the Muslim minority to prevent further violence in the region.

Bangladesh has asked Myanmar to take back these refugees, but Azad said they would not be considered part of the official repatriation process as they were not technically inside Bangladeshi territory.

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