Aung San Suu Kyi cancels only public appearance in Australia
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Aung San Suu Kyi cancels only public appearance in Australia

AN EVENT featuring a speech by State Counsellor and de facto leader of Burma (Myanmar) Aung San Suu Kyi has been cancelled due to supposed illness.

The Sydney-based Lowy Institute was scheduled to host Suu Kyi on Tuesday 20 March to deliver a speech and take questions from the audience, following a Special Summit between Australia and the 10 member states of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean).

“This afternoon the Lowy Institute was informed by the Myanmar Embassy that the State Counsellor will no longer be able to participate in this event as she is not feeling well,” said a statement from the thinktank. It said the event had consequently been cancelled.

SEE ALSO: Aung San Suu Kyi will come to the Asean summit with her reputation tarnished

On Monday morning, Suu Kyi was welcomed to Australian parliament in Canberra by a 19-gun salute prior to meetings with the government and opposition. Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull reportedly discussed ending the crisis and Australia’s humanitarian assistance to displaced Rohingya with Suu Kyi, as well as economic development and education in Burma.

Foreign Minister Julie Bishop on Friday said that human rights abuses against Rohingya Muslims in Rakhine State would be raised with the Burmese delegation. Australia’s defence forces have been criticised over continuing to train Burmese troops despite allegations of crimes against humanity.

The Tatmadaw army of Burma stands accused of mass rape, killings and arson against civilians in scores of Muslim villages in the wake of an attack by the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA) on military and police outposts on Aug 25, 2017.

Migrant communities from across Southeast Asia over the weekend protested the presence of various leaders including Suu Kyi, Cambodia’s Hun Sen and Thailand’s Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha. They reportedly chanted “go home Aung San Suu Kyi”.

“Over 90 per cent of our population has been wiped out and more than 43,000 people have been killed in just a two or three-month operation,” a Rohingya refugee who arrived in Australia in 2009 told ABC News.


Protesters hold placards and chant slogans during a demonstration against government officials attending the one-off summit of 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) in Sydney, Australia, March 17, 2018. Source: Reuters/David Gray

The violence since Aug 2017 has seen more than 650,000 refugees flee into Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh – one of the fastest mass migrations in recent history. Many in the international community have condemned the violence, suggesting it could constitute ethnic cleansing or even genocide.

Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD) administration has come in for harsh criticism over its inaction and failure to protect Rohingya Muslims.

SEE ALSO: Rohingya villages erased, replaced by army bases in Rakhine State

Despite Bishop’s promise to raise the issue, Human Rights Watch’s Australia Director Elaine Pearson told Asian Correspondent ahead of the Asean summit last week that: “ultimately, I don’t think, given the gravity of these abuses, that just having a quiet chat behind closed doors is really enough.”

“It’s important, not just to get the message across to leaders, but also so the people back home in Cambodia and Myanmar are crystal clear on what Australia’s position is,” she said, adding that the government “needs to send a message to the people that Australia is really concerned about the human rights abuses in those countries.”

Over the weekend, five prominent Australian lawyers announced they would be taking leave to try and prosecute Suu Kyi for crimes against humanity, however Australia’s Attorney General rejected the application claiming that she had immunity from prosecution.