Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte told Burmese leader Aung San Suu Kyi, heavily criticised abroad for failing to stand up for largely stateless Rohingya Muslims, that she shouldn’t bother about rights activists as they are “just a noisy bunch.”
Governments across Southeast Asia have a history of using laws and the judiciary to curb press freedoms, and now, they have found a handy crutch to lean on as they intensify clampdowns: US President Donald Trump’s “fake news” mantra.
Leaders of Asian nations meeting in Manila on Monday skirted around the mass exodus of Rohingya Muslims triggered by Burma’s military crackdown, disappointing human rights groups who were hoping for a tough stand on the humanitarian crisis.
China is ploughing money into Southeast Asia, but as welcome as all this economic activity is to the region, it could also present political problems, as countries confront China over issues such as its claims in the South China Sea.
There has been no new wave of killings prompted by the Philippines’ war on drugs, and reports to the contrary are “alternative facts,” an ally of President Rodrigo Duterte tells the UN Human Rights Council.
Aung San Suu Kyi has declined an invitation to meet US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson in Washington this week alongside top diplomats from Southeast Asia, citing other commitments, Burmese officials said on Tuesday.