Orbán draws criticism for meeting Myanmar leader


Prime Minister Viktor Orbán received State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi, the head of Myanmar’s government, in his office in Budapest on Wednesday. The talks focused on illegal immigration and bilateral economic, educational and cultural relations, according to official government website kormany.hu.

At the meeting, the two leaders agreed that migration is one of the greatest challenges at present for both countries and their respective regions – Southeast Asia and Europe. They noted that both regions have seen the emergence of the issue of coexistence with “continuously growing Muslim populations.”

Orbán noted that Hungary supports trade cooperation between the EU and Myanmar. At the same time, he stressed that Hungary rejects attempts at the “export of democracy” and the approach of bureaucrats in Brussels and elsewhere in the West, who - he argued - seek to conflate unrelated issues such as economic cooperation and internal political questions.

The two leaders said they would like to place greater emphasis on educational and cultural relations between the two countries, but also acknowledged unexplored opportunities in economic relations.

Suu Kyi has undertaken the trip to Central Europe with the aim of strengthening Myanmar’s economic ties in the region, noted U.K. online newspaper The Independent. Before Hungary, she visited the Czech Republic, where she met with Prime Minister Andrej Babiš.

No mention of controversy

Neither the English nor Hungarian-language reports on kormany.hu made any mention of Orbán raising the issue of Myanmarʼs treatment of the persecuted Rohingya Muslim minority in Rakhine State, where Suu Kyi has drawn widespread criticism over her inaction in preventing what has been described by UN officials and Human Rights Watch as ethnic cleansing.

Since becoming Myanmarʼs leader, Suu Kyi - a former political prisoner and winner of the 1991 Nobel Peace Prize - has drawn fire for her refusal to accept that Myanmarʼs military committed massacres, despite the rape and killing of thousands of Rohingya being well documented by organizations including the UN.

Suu Kyi’s government has since failed to take the steps necessary to guarantee the safe return of the million Rohingya now living in refugee camps in Bangladesh, noted The Independent.

A report on the online version of U.K. newspaper The Guardian quoted Phil Robertson, deputy director of Human Rights Watchʼs Asia division, as roundly condemning the meeting.

“Aung San Suu Kyi has fallen so astonishingly far from being the darling of the EU that she now counts a meeting with Orbán, the pariah of Europe, as an important accomplishment,” he observed. “The message of this meeting to Brussels should be clear: Myanmar is not listening to your quiet diplomatic niceties.”

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