Duterte meets Suu Kyi, gives $300,000 for Rohingya crisis

Pia Ranada
Duterte meets Suu Kyi, gives $300,000 for Rohingya crisis

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Malacañang says the donation is the biggest made this year by an ASEAN country to Myanmar's Rakhine State, so far

BANGKOK, Thailand – Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte came prepared for his meeting with Myanmar democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi on Monday, March 20.

He presented Suu Kyi, a Nobel laureate and currently State Counselor, with a bouquet of roses and $300,000 (P15 million) for humanitarian assistance to the marginalized Rohingya people in the Rakhine region.

A Malacañang press release said this was the “biggest donation made so far by an ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) member state to Myanmar’s Rakhine State this year.”

Thailand and Indonesia have made similar donations for the Rohingya crisis.

Suu Kyi welcomed Duterte’s and the Philippines’ gift.

In a Letter of Appreciation, she said: “The thoughtful gesture of the Government of the Republic of the Philippines reflects the ASEAN solidarity and family spirit as well as the traditional bonds of friendship and cooperation between our two countries.”

The Philippines’ chairmanship of the ASEAN this year is among the main reasons for Duterte’s tour around Southeast Asian countries.

MYANMAR'S ICON. Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte chats with Myanmar's Aung San Suu Kyi. Malacañang photo

The Palace said the gift was also the country’s way of thanking Myanmar for being among the first to help the Philippines when the country was hit by Super Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) in 2013.

“Myanmar’s former president  U Thein Sein was also the first to visit Bantayan island in Cebu after it was devastated by Super Typhoon Yolanda,” reads the release.

Suu Kyi’s and Duterte’s meeting lasted around 30 minutes and took place at the Presidential Palace in Naypyidaw, Myanmar’s capital, said Agriculture Secretary Manny Piñol, who was part of the Philippine government delegation.

The Rohingya are a Muslim Indo-Aryan peoples described by international groups and media as among the most persecuted minorities in the world.

The Myanmar government regards them as illegal immigrants. They can be found in other countries like Bangladesh, Malaysia, Nepal, Pakistan, Thailand, and Indonesia.

Affirming ties

Suu Kyi and Duterte also discussed agriculture and the possibility of student and expert exchange programs in this sector, said Communications Secretary Martin Andanar.

Suu Kyi expressed interest in pineapple fiber, among the products being developed in the Philippines.

A FAN. Cabinet officials have their photos taken with Aung San Suu Kyi. Malacañang photo

Before their meeting, Duterte held bilateral talks with Myanmar President U Htin Kyaw to affirm diplomatic ties.

Htin Kyaw said he supports efforts to promote peace in the ASEAN region and puts special premium on the ASEAN alliance. – Rappler.com

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Pia Ranada

Pia Ranada is a senior reporter for Rappler covering Philippine politics and environmental issues. For tips and story suggestions, email her at pia.ranada@rappler.com.