PHILIPPINES President Rodrigo Duterte has said that he feels “pity” for the de facto leader of Burma (Myanmar) Aung San Suu Kyi over criticism from human rights advocates for failing to defend the persecuted Rohingya Muslim minority.
During a speech to the Philippines-India Business Forum in New Delhi on Friday, Duterte said that he had told Suu Kyi to ignore human rights activists because they are “just a noisy bunch”. Both heads of state are currently attending a summit of Southeast Asian countries hosted by India.
“We were talking about our country, the interest of our country … and I said ‘do not mind the human rights’ (activists), they are just a noisy bunch actually,” he remarked.
Suu Kyi is facing international criticism for failing to address the plight of the Rohingya, more than 688,000 of whom have fled to Bangladesh to escape a crackdown by the Tatmadaw army of Burma.
Many people in Buddhist-majority Burma regard the Rohingya as illegal immigrants from Bangladesh. The United Nations has described Burma’s crackdown as ethnic cleansing, which Suu Kyi’s government denies.
“I pity her because she seems to be caught in the middle of being a Nobel Prize winner for peace and this is now the ruckus, she is heavily criticised,” Duterte said in his speech.
“There is too much emphasis or importance for the libertarians about human rights,” said Duterte as quoted by ABS-CBN. “If you put human rights ahead in premium of values, then one day, just like the 4 million Filipinos in the Philippines, you would lose the dignity of your fellowmen.”
Human rights groups have also strongly criticised Duterte’s anti-narcotics campaign during which more than 3,900 suspected drug users and peddlers have been killed in what the police called self-defence after armed suspects resisted arrest.
Critics dispute that and say executions are taking place with zero accountability, allegations the police reject.
The outspoken president also criticised the UN during his speech. “United Nations serves no purpose actually, for mankind…with all its inutility, it hasn’t prevented any war, it hasn’t prevented any massacre,” Rappler quoted him as saying.
Additional reporting from Reuters.