USA diplomat Bill Richardson was accused of a "personal attack" on Myanmar'sAung San Suu Kyi after an excoriating take down of the former darling of the global rights community as he resigned from a panel on the Rohingya crisis.
Richardson said Suu Kyi - whom he described as a long-time friend - had developed a "siege mentality" in office, but added that Western governments should continue to engage with Myanmar and that Suu Kyi remained the country's best hope for change.
After his three-day visit to Myanmar, the diplomat said he was shocked by the panel members' disparagement of the media, the United Nations, human rights groups and the worldwide community.
Urging understanding instead of blame, Zaw Htay said the issue of the arrests was beyond Richardson's mandate and he should not have brought it up at his meeting with Aung San Suu Kyi.
On Monday, just a day before the beginning of the much-discussed repatriation process of Muslim Rohingya refugees to Myanmar, all of a sudden Bangladesh made a decision to postpone sending them back to their native country. He said, "I think Mr. Richardson was a little bit in a hurry to make that statement and it's unfair".
President Rodrigo Duterte attends a state dinner with Myanmar's leader Aung San Suu Kyi in Naypyitaw, Myanmar in this March 20, 2017 file photo.
Bill Richardson, the former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations and governor of the state of New Mexico, has resigned from his post within an global panel established by the government of Myanmar to help organize the return of Rohingya refugees from Bangladesh.
Since late August 2017, almost 690,000 Rohingya had fled to Bangladesh after a brutal military crackdown in Myanmar's Rakhine State.
The former New Mexico governor rejected that version of events.
A spokeswoman for Mr Richardson said the Myanmar government's statement was "not true". But he declined to disclose details of his conversation with the chief diplomat in Donald Trump's administration. In the statement he voiced his concern that the board would become a "cheerleading squad and whitewash for government policy".
Defending the journalists' arrests, Suu Kyi cited the the Official Secrets Act, a draconian, colonial-era law, according to Richardson. "And she exploded", he said on Friday.
He concluded that Suu Kyi is "not getting good advice from her team" and though he liked her and respected her "enormously" but she has "not shown moral leadership on the Rakhine issue and the allegations made, and I regret that".
Reporters Wa Lone, 31, and Kyaw Soe Oo, 27, had worked on Reuters coverage of the crisis in Rakhine.
Two demands on the list emphasize that the Rohingya people be included as one of the country's ethnic minorities and be given citizenship, a measure that has always been denied by the Myanmar government.
Fellow members of the advisory board, which included five Myanmar nationals, defended their work on Thursday and denied participating in a whitewashing of the crisis.
Many are reluctant to return.
"I believe that the Myanmar government has emphasised speed instead of systems", he said.
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