National | Asia

Ardern reaffirms offer to help with Rohingya refugee crisis

The prime minister has reaffirmed New Zealand’s offer to assist Myanmar with the Rohingya refugee crisis.

It was the focus of Jacinda Ardern’s first bilateral at the East Asia Summit in Singapore alongside Myanmar leader Aung Sun Suu Kyi Wednesday morning.

More than 700,000 Rohingya Muslims have crossed the border from Rakhine State to Bangladesh since last August, to escape brutal treatment by Buddhist locals and Myanmar military forces who have destroyed villages and killed thousands.

Ardern says discussion revolved around the current situation on the ground in Rakhine, and the need for security and development.

“We share the concern of the international community around what has happened …and the ongoing displacement of the Rohingra.”

Ardern is also offering New Zealand assistance to help resolve the situation.

“What was highlighted was the need for extra security and development assistance and so we’ll look in future to see what we can hopefully provide in that regard.”

The situation has been described by the UN as ethnic cleansing.

Suu Kyi is subject to growing international criticism for the way she has handled the ethnic crisis, including from within the ranks of fellow members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), specifically from Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamed.

Ardern also met face-to-face for the first time with Australia’s new Leader Scott Morrison to discuss matters of citizenship, deportation of Kiwis, deployments and neutral goals within the Pacific.

Discussions with Thailand’s Prayut Chan-o-cha focused on the country’s upcoming elections, gender equality and climate change.

Ardern will meet with Chinese premier Li Keqiang Wednesday evening where she will emphasise the importance of the countries’ trade relationships before dining alongside US Vice President Mike Pence- at his request- at the gala dinner where she expects to talk to steel and aluminium tariffs.