MALAYSIAN-BORN Hollywood celebrity Michelle Yeoh said she was appalled by the poor living conditions plaguing hundreds of thousands of Rohingya Muslims who fled to Bangladesh to escape violence in Burma (Myanmar).
“It is very important that we’re here, because what the Rohingya people are going through is despicable and it’s very, very tragic. It should not be allowed,” she said. “Every single one of them deserves to have the human rights that should be given to them.”
Yeoh, who is a goodwill ambassador for the UN Development Programme, visited a string of packed refugee camps in Bangladesh’s Cox’s Bazar as part of a Malaysian delegation led by her country’s military chief, reported The Star.
She played Burma’s defacto leader Aung San Suu Kyi in the 2011 film The Lady, a biopic chronicling the Nobel Peace laureates struggle to bring democracy to the Southeast Asian nation.
Around 688,000 Rohingya Muslims have fled from Rakhine to Bangladesh in recent months to escape an army crackdown following insurgent attacks on security forces.
Suu Kyi has often been criticised for violence that led to the exodus of Rohingya Muslims, who are denied citizenship in Burma and regarded as one of the world’s most oppressed ethnic communities.
Despite coming under fire, veteran US mediator Bill Richardson on Friday said Suu Kyi remains Burma’s best hope for change, days after he got into a fight with the Nobel laureate and quit an international panel advising her government on the Rohingya crisis.
Richardson said Suu Kyi – whom he described as a long-time friend – had developed a “siege mentality” in her position as Burma’s State Counsellor, the country’s civilian leader, but added that Western governments should continue to engage with her.
“The relationship with the West, with human rights groups, with the United Nations, with the international media is terrible,” he told Reuters by phone from New Mexico on Friday.
“And I think Aung San Suu Kyi has brought this upon herself, the constant disparagement of the international community, which I think can be helpful to her … She seems isolated. She doesn’t travel much into the country. I think she’s developed a classic bubble.”
Richardson said he resigned from the advisory board on Wednesday, during its first visit to troubled Rakhine State, saying it was conducting a “whitewash”. Suu Kyi’s office said on Thursday her government had asked Richardson to step down and accused him of pursuing “his own agenda”.
Burma’s armed forces have been accused by Rohingya witnesses and human rights activists of carrying out killings, rapes and arson in Rakhine in a campaign senior officials in the United Nations and United States have described as ethnic cleansing. Burma rejects that label and has denied nearly all the allegations.
Bangladesh and Burma agreed earlier this month to complete the voluntary repatriation of all the refugees. The remaining members of the advisory board on Wednesday toured temporary camps the government has set up for returnees.
Additional reporting by Reuters