Myanmar’s Suu Kyi ‘unwell’, scraps Australia public appearance

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Myanmar’s State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi (L) receives an official welcome on the forecourt during her visit to Parliament House in Canberra on March 19, 2018. Suu Kyi is in the Australian capital after attending the ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations)-Australia special summit in Sydney over the weekend. / AFP PHOTO / MARK GRAHAM

Myanmar’s de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi on Monday pulled out of a public speech and question-and-answer session in Sydney because she was “not feeling well”, the event’s organisers said.

Suu Kyi has been under fire internationally for her public silence about a military crackdown in Myanmar’s Rakhine state that has seen nearly 700,000 of the Muslim Rohingya minority flee to Bangladesh.

Suu Kyi, who attended an special ASEAN-Australia summit on Friday-Sunday, was in Canberra for talks with Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull Monday. She had been due to make a keynote speech at the Lowy Institute think-tank in Sydney Tuesday.

The speech and subsequent Q and A session would have been the only public comments the Nobel Prize winner would have made during her Australia trip.

“This afternoon the Lowy Institute was informed by the Myanmar embassy that the State Counsellor will no longer be able to participate in this event as she is not feeling well,” a spokeswoman for the think-tank said in a statement.

“Accordingly, the event is now cancelled.”

The Rohingya humanitarian crisis was one of the key topics at the special summit between the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and Australia, with other leaders quizzing her about the issue during a gathering Sunday, Turnbull said.

Malaysia’s leader Najib Razak had warned Saturday that the issue could threaten regional security since those victimised could fall prey to extremist groups like the Islamic State.

The exodus has sparked rare tension within the regional body, and Muslim-majority Malaysia has called for an independent ASEAN-led investigation into allegations of army abuse.

Suu Kyi was the subject of public protests against human rights abuses during the summit, with demonstrators criticising her as well as Cambodian strongman Hun Sen and Vietnam’s Nguyen Xuan Phuc.