Govt claims it sacked Richardson from Rakhine advisory body

Reuters journalists Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo are escorted by police as they leave the court after their first trial

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte made another seemingly off-the-cuff remark when he told Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi that she shouldn't worry about Human rights activists as they are "just a noisy bunch".

A separate statement from the nine remaining members of the advisory board on Thursday said they met this week "with open minds" and agreed "to speak with one voice".

He lambasted Nobel Laureate Suu Kyi for an "absence of moral leadership" over Rakhine and described her "furious response" to his calls to free two Reuters journalists arrested while covering the crisis.

More than 655,500 Rohingya have fled to Bangladesh to escape a crackdown by the Myanmar military.

"And I think Aung San Suu Kyi has brought this upon herself, the constant disparagement of the worldwide community, which I think can be helpful to her".

Some, however, say her silence is a calculated political move not to alienate the powerful military and many people from Myanmar who consider the Rohingya as outcasts in their country.

Philippine president said he pities Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi for being the focus of global criticism over her country's handling of the Rohingya refugee crisis.

"Therefore, any statement about the Advisory Board "whitewashing" or "cheerleading" for anyone lacks complete legitimacy", the board said.

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In the meantime, a Myanmar government spokesman also hit back on Thursday, accusing Richardson of over-stepping the mark in his stinging resignation letter. "I spoke to one young woman who had been on the phone to her aunt in Rakhine in Myanmar".

Richardson's statement and personal attack on Suu Kyi and himself are groundless, Surakiart said.

A State Department spokesman said he could not immediately confirm details of Richardson's contacts.

File image of Rodrigo Duterte with Aung San Suu Kyi. "She needs to start listening to her friends, people like me that are giving her frank advice that things are not going well, but she doesn't seem to want to hear this".

Wa Lone, 31, and Kyaw Soe Oo, 27, were arrested in December and face up to 14 years in jail under the Official Secrets Act over the alleged possession of classified documents, purportedly relating to the army campaign in Rakhine.

Recently appointed Deputy Information Minister U Aung Hla Tun told reporters in Naypyidaw on Friday that Richardson had raised an issue that was beyond the commission's mandate, and pointed out that the trial of the two reporters could only be dealt with by the president. He said a previous commission on Rakhine State, led by former U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan, set a valid precedent for the body that Richardson resigned from. The Myanmar government has announced that temporary camps are ready to accept verified returnees, though none had arrived as of January 26.

Gradual repatriations of Rohingya were to begin Tuesday under agreements signed by Myanmar and Bangladesh, but Bangladeshi officials delayed the returns at the last minute, saying more time was needed amid questions about safety and whether the refugees were returning voluntarily. While numerous mostly Muslim ethnic group can trace their lineage in Myanmar back centuries, the majority Bamar population regards them as "Bengali" interlopers, and they have been consistently denied citizenship or legal status.

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