PHILIPPINE President Rodrigo Duterte said he was willing to accept Rohingya refugees feeling from Burma (Myanmar) after he acknowledged that “genocide” was taking place in the country.
He encouraged Europe to do their part and accept some of the 700,000 Rohingya Muslims that have fled into neighbouring Bangladesh since August.
“I really pity the people there. I’m willing to accept refugees. Rohingyas, yes. I will help but we should split them with Europe,” he said during a speech to farmers and agriculture officials at the presidential palace on Thursday.
The speech also touched on his recent decision to withdraw the Philippines from the International Criminal Court after it decided to conduct a preliminary investigation into his ongoing anti-drug campaign. Duterte criticised the international community’s inability to resolve pressing issues, such as those taking place in Burma.
“They can’t even solve the Rohingya. That’s what genocide is, if I may say so,” Duterte said in the televised speech.
Rohingya Muslims have been fleeing across the border since Burmese military began so-called “clearance operations” following an Aug 25 attack on security checkpoints by ARSA rebels.
The United Nations has called the crackdown a “textbook example of ethnic cleansing” but Burma denies any wrongdoing, claiming the operations have been in response to “terrorist” attacks from armed rebel groups.
Burma government spokesman, Zaw Htay, said Duterte’s comments did not reflect the real situation.
“He doesn’t know anything about Myanmar,” Zaw Htay told Reuters. “The usual behaviour of that person is to speak without restraint. That’s why he said that.”
Duterte made no mention of Burma’s de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi who has come under criticism for her failure to speak out against the atrocities. “That woman, she is my friend,” was Duterte’s only mention of the Nobel laureate.
Such strong criticism of a fellow Asean member is rare among Southeast Asian leaders, who have long upheld a convention of no intervention in the 10 member states.