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Aung San Suu Kyi cancels Sydney speaking event, 'not feeling well'

19 March 2018

Myanmar's leader Aung San Suu Kyi has cancelled her only Australian public appearance in Sydney tomorrow.

Suu Kyi has been criticised by large swathes of the worldwide community for failing to protect the Rohingya - who are considered by the majority of Myanmar citizens as illegal "Bengali" immigrants and denied citizenship by the government - and for refusing to condemn the military amid mounting evidence that it has indiscriminately killed, raped and tortured innocent civilians, and burnt down entire villages.

Some 700,000 Rohingya refugees have fled from Buddhist-dominated Myanmar to Bangladesh since late August, when Myanmar security forces began massive "clearance operations" after the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army insurgent group attacked security posts.

Among the atrocities, villages were burned, women raped and babies murdered.

The speech and subsequent Q and A session would have been the only public comments the Nobel Prize victor would have made during her Australia trip.

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She was welcomed to Parliament House in Canberra with a 19-gun salute on Monday, with Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and senior representatives from the government and opposition in attendance.

Neither Suu Kyi nor Turnbull made public remarks before their meeting, but the Australian leader said on Sunday that Suu Kyi spoke "at considerable length" during the ASEAN meeting about Rakhine State, appealing to her Southeast Asian neighbors for humanitarian help.

Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak told the leaders summit on Saturday, the Rohingya crisis in Myanmar and Bangladesh could explode into a serious security threat for the region.

Suu Kyi, a Nobel Peace laureate, was a longtime political prisoner of Myanmar's former junta and frequently called for worldwide intervention in her country during her nearly 15 years under house arrest.

Myanmar staunchly denies that its security forces have targeted Rohingya civilians and Suu Kyi has bristled at the worldwide criticism.

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Mr Turnbull was pressed about the controversy at a press conference at the conclusion of the summit.

Though Suu Kyi has been the de facto head of Myanmar's civilian government since her party took power, she is limited in her control of the country by a constitution written by the outgoing junta.

Yet even when Suu Kyi has spoken on the issue, she has drawn criticism.

Ms Suu Kyi has not denounced military action or addressed genocide claims. Australia's defence forces have been criticised over continuing to train Burmese troops despite allegations of crimes against humanity. "Our goal is to support the peaceful and speedy resolution of the humanitarian. disaster that has resulted from the conflict", he said.

But while Turnbull and Australia Foreign Minister Julie Bishop have maintained that they will discuss human rights concerns with member states behind closed doors, no statements criticising Myanmar's treatment of the Rohingya have been publicly issued.

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Aung San Suu Kyi cancels Sydney speaking event, 'not feeling well'