Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi rebuffed criticism from Vice President Mike Pence and other leaders Wednesday over her government's treatment of its ethnic Rohingya Muslims. In a meeting in Singapore, Pence told Suu Kyi he was anxious to hear about progress in resolving the crisis, which stems from a violent military crackdown in Rakhine state that the UN has called ethnic cleansing, per the AP. "The violence and persecution by military and vigilantes that resulted in driving 700,000 Rohingya to Bangladesh is without excuse," Pence said. He added he was eager to hear how Myanmar will enable the Rohingya to voluntarily return home. Pence also said Myanmar's conviction of two Reuters journalists was "deeply troubling." "I look forward to speaking with you about the premium that we place on a free and independent press," said Pence.
Suu Kyi became an icon for democracy after spending about 15 years under house arrest for opposing Myanmar's earlier military dictatorship. She has since faced widespread criticism for not speaking out in defense of the Rohingya. Amnesty International became the latest group to strip her of an award this week, citing the "shameful betrayal of the values she once stood for." Responding to Pence, Suu Kyi said it was good to exchange views, but that "we understand our country better than any other country does. ... So we are in a better position to explain to you what is happening, how we see things panning out." After the meeting, senior US officials said Pence and Suu Kyi discussed the importance of having the Rohingya return home, but only on a voluntary basis, with safety and dignity. Pence also urged Suu Kyi to pardon the imprisoned journalists. (Read more Myanmar stories.)