President of the Philippines Rodrigo Duterte told Myanmar State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi on Friday that she should not pay heed to the “noisy bunch” of rights activists, who have been criticising her for the way she has been handling the Rohingya crisis in her country.
“We were talking about our country, the interest of our country…and I said, ‘Do not mind the human rights [activists], they are just a noisy bunch actually,’” he said, according to Reuters.
Duterte made the remarks at the Philippines-India Business Forum in New Delhi, where he Suu Kyi and eight other leaders of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations are attending the India-ASEAN Summit on India’s Republic Day.
“I pity her because she seems to be caught in the middle of being a Nobel Prize winner for peace, and this is now the ruckus, she is heavily criticised,” Duterte said.
Lakhs of Rohingya Muslims have fled Myanmar to Bangladesh since August 2017 after violence broke out in Rakhine state. Rohingyas have been denied citizenship in Myanmar and are classified as illegal immigrants. The community has been subjected to violence by the Buddhist majority and the Army in Myanmar, though the country has repeatedly denied this claim.
Suu Kyi has faced intense criticism globally for her response to the persecution of Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar. On December 13, 2017, she was stripped of the “Freedom of the City of Dublin” award, and in November, the Oxford City Council took away her “Freedom of Oxford” title.