Former US ambassador to the UN Bill Richardson resigned from an international advisory panel on Rohingya refugee crisis, calling it a “whitewash and a cheerleading operation" for Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

Former US ambassador to the UN Bill Richardson seen during his exclusive interview with TRT World.
Former US ambassador to the UN Bill Richardson seen during his exclusive interview with TRT World. (TRTWorld)

Myanmar's leader Aung San Suu Kyi is "isolated" and living in a "bubble", according to veteran US politician Bill Richardson, who quit an international panel advising her government on the Rohingya crisis after clashing with the Nobel laureate.

Richardson said Suu Kyi - whom he described as a long-time friend - had developed a "siege mentality" in office, but added that Western governments should continue to engage with Myanmar and that Suu Kyi remained the country's best hope for change.

Richardson resigned from the Myanmar government's advisory board on Wednesday, during the panel's first visit to troubled Rakhine State, saying it was conducting a "whitewash."

Around 688,000 Rohingya Muslims have fled from Rakhine to Bangladesh in recent months to escape an army crackdown.

Suu Kyi's office said in a statement late on Thursday that her government had asked Richardson to step down and accused him of pursuing "his own agenda."

Richardson spoke to TRT World on his decision.

The former New Mexico governor rejected that version of events. He said he had informed the US Ambassador in Yangon and the State Department of his intention to resign but did not seek their guidance or permission to do so.

Richardson had previously said he got into a furious argument with Suu Kyi at a Monday night dinner when he brought up the case of two Reuters reporters, who were arrested on Dec. 12 on suspicion of violating Myanmar's Official Secrets Act.

"When I opened my dialogue with her, that was my number one issue, release the journalists. And she exploded," he said on Friday.

Reporters Wa Lone, 31, and Kyaw Soe Oo, 27, had worked on Reuters coverage of the crisis in Rakhine.

Myanmar's armed forces have been accused by Rohingya witnesses and human rights activists of carrying out killings, rapes and arson in Rakhine in a campaign senior officials in the United Nations and the United States have described as ethnic cleansing. Myanmar rejects that label and has denied nearly all the allegations.

Source: TRTWorld and agencies