Budapest, Hungary – The Central European tour of Myanmar’s Aung San Suu Kyi didn’t restore her tarnished international standing, especially following her meeting with Hungarian PM Viktor Orban.
Suu Kyi in the Czech Republic to boost economic opportunities
Last week, in one of her rare trips to Europe, Myanmar’s de-facto leader and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Aung San Suu Kyi was on official visit to the Czech Republic and Hungary.
In Prague from June 2-4, Suu Kyi met with Prime Minister Andrej Babis and President Milos Zeman, and attended a bilateral business forum. The Czech leg of her Central European didn’t kick up a fuss and was focused on increasing trade relations and economic cooperation between Myanmar and Czechia.
Her Hungarian stop, however, did raise a few eyebrows.
Aung San Suu Kyi and Orban lament “growing Muslim populations”
Meeting with Viktor Orban in Budapest on June 5-6, Aung San Suu Kyi, whose reputation has been heavily tarnished by the Rohingya crisis and imprisonment of journalists (among other domestic developments), appears to have found common ground with her host on the issue of Islam and migration.
The common statement issued following their meeting read that “the two leaders highlighted that one of the greatest challenges at present for both countries and their respective regions […] is migration”. “They noted that both regions have seen the emergence of the issue of co-existence with continuously growing Muslim populations”.
Observers were quick to point out this seemingly unlikely friendship between a former political dissident and world icon in the fight for democracy and human rights and an authoritarian ruler accused of clamping down on all dissent, democratic institutions and checks and balances in Hungary.
Nobel Peace Prize laureate “continues her fall from grace”
“Aung San Suu Kyi has fallen so astonishingly far from being the darling of the EU that she now counts a meeting with Orban, the pariah of Europe, as an important accomplishment”, said Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director of Human Rights Watch, adding that she’s “glad-handing and making friends with Europe’s most xenophobic, anti-democratic leader”.
This meeting should be put in the context of Suu Kyi’s failure to denounce the persecution of Myanmar’s Muslim minority, described as an “ethnic cleansing” by the U.N., as well as Orban’s virulent pledge to keep Europe and Christianity safe from so-called “Muslim invaders”.
Their “chilling statement […] basically translates as: ‘We either want to keep Muslims away from us or kill them”, writes Alex Ward in Vox, adding that her meeting with Europe’s fiercest Islamophobic leader “continues the Nobel Peace Prize winner’s fall from grace”.
On Twitter, Benjamin Tallis, senior researcher at the Institute for International Relations in Prague, noted that “truly saddening had become truly disgusting”. Tim Gosling, a foreign correspondent on Central European affairs, concisely summarized the purpose of the Budapest meeting: “Hungary’s PM Orban takes notes on Muslim persecution”.