US negotiator quits 'whitewash' Rohingya crisis panel

WASHINGTON: A former United States ambassador to the United Nations Bill Richardson has resigned from an advisory panel over the Rohingya refugee crisis, calling it a pro-government "cheerleading squad".

According to The New York Times, Richardson said in a statement, "It is with great disappointment that I announce my resignation from the Advisory Board on Rakhine State."

"It appears that the Board is likely to become a cheerleading squad for government policy as opposed to proposing genuine policy changes that are desperately needed to assure peace, stability and development in Rakhine State," he added.

Bill Richardson, who is also a close friend of Suu Kyi and former New Mexico governor, criticised Myanmar leader for blaming outsiders for the crisis instead of looking honestly at the military's actions.

His resignation came after meeting held on Monday with other members of the board, in which he raised the issue of two Reuters journalists who face up to 14 years in prison for allegedly violating the country's colonial-era Officials Secrets Act.

Richardson said he was "extremely upset" over her reaction to his request to address the situation of the two journalists "swiftly and fairly".

"Freedom of the press to report the facts is a fundamental bedrock of democracy," he added.

The Advisory Board on Rakhine State was set up to implement recommendations regarding Rohingya crisis, made by an advisory commission in 2017 led by former U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan.

More than 655,500 Muslim Rohingyas fled to Bangladesh after a crackdown by the Myanmar military in northern Rakhine state in response to militant attacks on security forces on August 25.

The United Nations described the military operation as ethnic cleansing of the Rohingya, which Myanmar denies.

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