By OLIVER SLOW | FRONTIER
SITTWE — State Counsellor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi has cancelled a planned speech and question and answer session in Australia, citing illness.
Aung San Suu Kyi was due to make the speech at Sydney’s Lowy Institute on Tuesday, but on Monday the think-tank released a statement she had been forced to cancel because she was “not feeling well”. She had been expected to take questions after her speech.
The State Counsellor is currently in Australia attending the Association of Southeast Asian Nations Summit, which is being held in the country for the first time.
The cancellation came hours after she met with Australian Prime Minister Mr Malcolm Turnbull, who told reporters that the pair had discussed the ongoing crisis in Rakhine State, which has seen almost 700,000 people – overwhelmingly Muslim Rohingya – flee the state for Bangladesh following a heavy army crackdown. The exodus was triggered by attacks from fighters from the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army in August.
“Daw Aung San Suu Kyi addressed the matter comprehensively at some considerable length herself,” Turnbull said, adding she had requested help from fellow ASEAN members to help solve the issues in the beleaguered state.
Speaking by phone to Frontier, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said it was unaware Aung San Suu Kyi had withdrawn from the Lowy Institute event.
Aung San Suu Kyi has faced considerable international criticism for failing to speak up in defence of the Rohingya, who are largely denied access to citizenship and basic services, including education and healthcare.
On Saturday, a Rohingya living in a village in central Rakhine State told Frontier that the community was disappointed by her silence on the issue.
“At first we thought when the NLD [National League for Democracy] came to power, we would be fine. But since [Aung San Suu Kyi] entered parliament, nothing has changed,” said the man, whose name Frontier has withheld, and who said he has not been able to leave his home village since violence flared in the state in 2012.
On Saturday, Australia’s attorney general rejected a bid by lawyers to have Aung San Suu Kyi charged for crimes against humanity, saying she has diplomatic immunity.
Rakhine Sittwe residents in the town’s market told Frontier that trade in the state capital had slowed considerably since the uptick of violence in August.
“We are not happy because tourists rarely come here,” said Daw Mar Thin, a vegetable seller. “If the conflict between Muslims and Rakhine people does not improve, then our trade will not improve.”