US diplomat quits Rohingya advisory panel after differences with Aung San Suu Kyi

Myanmar house meets as Suu Kyi's NLD set to elect new president
Myanmar's National League for Democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi arrives to the opening of the new parliament in Naypyitaw February 1, 2016 Reuters

Bill Richardson, a veteran US diplomat has quit the International advisory panel set up by Myanmar politician Aung San Suu Kyi. Richardson, a former cabinet member in the Clinton administration stated that Aung San Suu Kyi's lack of 'moral leadership' has compelled him to take such a decision.

"The main reason I am resigning is that this advisory board is a whitewash. I did not want to be a member of the cheerleading squad for the Government," Bill Richardson told Reuters.

Richardson also blamed Aung San Suu Kyi for responding furiously to his calls when he brought about the issue of two Reuters journalists who were under trial for breaching Myanmar's secret act. According to Richardson, when he contacted Aung San Suu Kyi, the Nobel prize winner replied that talking on behalf of the reporters is not the work of the advisory board.

The Reuters journalists, Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe were arrested last December and are serving 14 years imprisonment for allegedly possessing classified documents supposedly related to the army campaign in Rakhine.

"I like her enormously and respect her. But she has not shown moral leadership on the Rakhine issue and the allegations made, and I regret that" added Richardson. Richardson also added that Aung San Suu Kyi is not getting good advice from her team.

As of now, neither Aung San Suu Kyi, nor her spokesperson has replied to the comments made by Richardson. However, BBC reports that another member of the advisory panel has called Richardson's comments unfair.

In the meantime, former South African Defence Minister Roelof Meyer, a member of the advisory panel along with the other members, traveled to Rakhine state on Wednesday. After the visit, Roelof Meyer told Reuters that the visit was very constructive, and added that no recommendations have been conveyed to the Myanmar government so far.

This article was first published on January 25, 2018