Myanmar's Aung San Suu Kyi drops off UN agenda in Geneva next week

Ms Aung San Suu Kyi has been criticised by the West over the government’s treatment of Rohingya Muslims and other human rights concerns.
Ms Aung San Suu Kyi has been criticised by the West over the government’s treatment of Rohingya Muslims and other human rights concerns.PHOTO: AFP

GENEVA (REUTERS) - Myanmar will be represented by a government minister at a United Nations conference in Geneva next week, and not by the country's de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi, according to the latest agenda for the meeting on Thursday (Feb 21).

Earlier on Thursday, an agenda for the Conference on Disarmament seen by Reuters showed Ms Suu Kyi, who has been criticised by the West over the government's treatment of Rohingya Muslims and other human rights concerns, was scheduled to speak at 11am next Wednesday.

Two officials confirmed she was expected, raising the prospect of a possible meeting with UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, who is due to speak at the UN Human Rights Council next Monday and the disarmament forum next Tuesday.

But an agenda posted on the conference's website later in the day listed Mr Kyaw Tin, Union Minister for International Cooperation, as the speaker from Myanmar.

UN officials said they did not have any information about Ms Suu Kyi coming to Geneva.

Myanmar government spokesman Zaw Htay did not respond to calls seeking comment and diplomats at Myanmar's mission in Geneva were unavailable throughout the day.

Ms Suu Kyi is a former political prisoner who was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1991, but her reputation has suffered badly in recent years.

Her government's relations with the United Nations are tense following the Rohingya crisis. About 730,000 Rohingya Muslims have fled from Myanmar's Rakhine State into Bangladesh since a military crackdown in 2017, after Rohingya insurgents attacked security posts.

Myanmar has banned the UN special rapporteur on human rights in Myanmar, Mr Yanghee Lee, from coming to the country and Ms Suu Kyi's administration has opposed raising the profile of the UN resident coordinator in Myanmar.

Ms Suu Kyi has largely shunned travel to the West since the Rohingya crisis broke, but she and senior officials in her administration travel regularly within Asia.

A UN mandated fact-finding mission said that Myanmar's military carried out mass killings and gang-rapes of Rohingya with "genocidal intent" and called for generals to be prosecuted. Myanmar rejected the findings.

Last year, Ms Suu Kyi visited Australia, Japan, Singapore, Vietnam and Nepal. She travelled to Switzerland in 2012, visiting the Swiss government in Bern and the UN and the International Labour Organisation in Geneva.