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Duterte apologizes to Suu Kyi for 'genocide' remark

DAVAO CITY, Philippines – President Rodrigo Duterte on Friday April 13, apologized to Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi for saying that "genocide" was taking place in her country.

Duterte made the apology during a news conference at the Davao International Airport early morning Friday, while responding to a question on Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno, which branched into his take on allegations of human rights abuses in his campaign against illegal drugs and other related issues.

Just the previous week, on April 5, Duterte said in a speech during a Palace event that "genocide" was taking place in Rakhine state in Myanmar.  Rohingya Muslims have been forced to live under apartheid-like conditions in Rakhine, with severe restrictions on their movements and limited options for education and healthcare.

Addressing Suu Kyi on Friday, Duterte said, "I will apologize to you but if you have noticed, my statement was almost a satire."

He said his statement was meant to mock the United Nations, which has been critical of his bloody campaign against illegal drugs, and how Suu Kyi had been perceived to be mishandling the Rohingya issue. 

Duterte said he and Suu Kyi were both on the receiving end of criticism from the UN and others in the international community.

"They keep on criticizing us, Aung [San Suu] Kyi, pati ‘yung iba. Ngayon, bakit sinabi ko ‘yan (even the others. Now, why did I say that)? Madam Chancellor, let me confess to you publicly. I was doing...a very sarcastic [remark]," Duterte explained.

In the same boat

Duterte mentioned the situation of the Myanmar leader as he pointed out that international groups like the UN have been putting so much attention on him while “we have so many problems to solve.”

He turned the tables on international bodies and foreign governments criticizing Suu Kyi.

"Madaldal kayo. May mga tao diyang walang mapuntahan (You talk too much. There are people who have no place to go). Why don’t you provide a relief? If you are really worried to death and keep on attacking Aung San Suu Kyi, then you provide the relief," the Philippine leader said.

It was not the first time for Duterte come to Suu Kyi's defense. When both attended the  Association of Southeast Asian Nations commemorative summit in India in January, he said he told the Myanmar leader to ignore criticism on alleged human rights violations.

Suu Kyi, like Duterte, has claimed the global community is being misled by a "huge iceberg of misinformation" about human rights abuses against the Rohingya, a Muslim ethnic minority persecuted in Myanmar for decades.

The Nobel laureate has been criticized by her own fellow Nobel prize winners for her seeming lack of sympathy for the Rohingya, and had been stripped of various international awards that recognized her pro-democracy efforts in Myanmar, because of her "silence" over the Rohingya human rights issue. 

The latest was in March, when the US Holocaust Memorial Museum announced it was stripping Suu Kyi of a prestigious human rights award, accusing her of doing little to halt the ethnic cleansing of Rohingya Muslims. – With reports from Agence France-Presse/Rappler.com