Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi rebuffed criticism from U.S. Vice President Mike Pence and other leaders Wednesday over her government’s treatment of ethnic Rohingya Muslims.
In a meeting on the sidelines of a regional summit in Singapore, Pence told Suu Kyi that he was anxious to hear about progress in resolving the crisis, which stems from a violent military crackdown in Myanmar’s Rakhine state that the United Nations has called ethnic cleansing.
“The violence and persecution by military and vigilantes that resulted in driving 700,000 Rohingya to Bangladesh is without excuse,” Pence said.
He added that he was eager to hear about how Myanmar will enable the Rohingya to voluntarily return home. Pence also said Myanmar’s arrest and conviction of two Reuters journalists was “deeply troubling” to millions of Americans.
“I look forward to speaking with you about the premium that we place on a free and independent press,” said Pence, who is representing an administration with an unusually adversarial relationship with the news media.
Pence and Suu Kyi met during the annual summit of the Assn. of Southeast Asian Nations in Singapore. Pence is attending that and the summit of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum in Papua New Guinea later this week in President Trump’s stead.
Responding to Pence, Suu Kyi said it was good to exchange views, but that “we understand our country better than any other country does. I’m sure you will say the same of yours, that you understand your own country better than anybody else.”
“So we are in a better position to explain to you what is happening, how we see things panning out,” she said.
After the meeting, senior U.S. administration officials said Pence and Suu Kyi had discussed the importance of having Rohingya return home, but only on a voluntary basis, with safety and dignity.
Pence also urged Suu Kyi to pardon the imprisoned journalists.