Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has offered Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi any help New Zealand could give to resolve the Rohingya crisis.
The pair met in Singapore today and began by acknowledging it had been a year since they last met – at Apec in Vietnam, and at the East Asia Summit in the Philippines.
Suu Kyi, once an international icon of the human rights movement because of her resistance to military rule in Myanmar, is fast becoming a pariah because of her apparent indifference to the persecution by the military of the Rohingyas under her watch as leader.
The United Nations has said it has the hallmarks of genocide.
Ardern said before the bilateral meeting that she would “absolutely” raise the issue of Rohingyas in the meeting.
When Ardern and her party of officials first entered the meeting room to wait for Suu Kyi, she spotted what appeared to be a listening device in the middle of the table between where the two leaders would be sitting.
After ascertaining it belonged to nobody in the room, she handed it to the New Zealand diplomatic protection squad officer, who passed it on to summit security, to quips of “teapot-tape two”.
After the bilateral, a spokesman for Ardern said the discussions had focused on the situation with the Rohingyas.
“There was a discussion about the current situation on the ground in Rakhine [state], and the need for security and development.
“New Zealand indicated our willingness to assist in any way we could to achieve an enduring resolution to the situation.”
It has been a wild a wet day on Ardern‘s first day in Singapore with thunder and lightning providing the backdrop to the Asean Summit, which will be followed by the East Asia Summit including New Zealand.
Ardern began her day in Singapore with a lengthy interview on Channel News Asia‘s breakfast show.
She was quizzed by three hosts on a range of issues from climate change, to women in leadership, to the first lengthy absence from her five-month-old baby Neve. She said her partner, Clarke Gayford, had been sending videos of her which she had watched several times.
On climate change she said the Pacific islands themselves were using their voice as independent nations.
“But we also see ourselves as having a duty of care, responsibility, we are members of the Pacific too and we see directly the impact and the effect of climate change.”
The islands contributed the least to increasing emissions, and yet were facing the brunt.
She avoided questions about China‘s role in the Pacific.
Instead she about New Zealand “Pacific Reset”, increasing the resourcing and emphasis on the Pacific in New Zealand‘s foreign policy and said it was more like a “partnership” than a “donor-donee” relationship.
One of the three hosts of the show had been to Waikato University, where Ardern studied.
She talked about the Coalition Government, the fees-free policy and women in leadership and said after three women leaders in New Zealand, the novelty had worn off.
Quizzed about why New Zealand did so well in many spheres internationally, she first praised Singapore‘s innovation as well.
“But when it comes to us, we are isolated, we are a small country if we were ever going to solve problems we had to do it ourselves. So there is that real pragmatic approach that we have and what we call a real No 8 wire mentality – a real can-do.
“We always find a way. We don‘t let anyone tell us we can‘t do something. We just try and find a way that we can.”