Myanmar’s de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi and Hungary's far-right nationalist Prime Minister Viktor Orban have lamented the “continuously growing Muslim populations” in their countries, in what is deemed as a prelude to the further dissemination of Islamophobia by highlighting challenges spawned in the aftermath of the ongoing refugee crisis.
Suu Kyi, who has been internationally condemned for the persecution of Rohingya Muslim refugees in Myanmar’s northwestern state of Rakhine, held talks with the Hungarian leader in Budapest this week as part of a rare trip to Europe.
Reports suggested that the two leaders had found common ground on the subject of immigration and Islam.
“The two leaders highlighted that one of the greatest challenges at present for both countries and their respective regions – south-east Asia and Europe – is migration,” read a statement released after their meeting.
“They noted that both regions have seen the emergence of the issue of co-existence with continuously growing Muslim populations,” the statement added.
The meeting comes as Suu Kyi, a Nobel Peace Prize winner who was once hailed as a champion in the fight for democracy, has been stripped of a series of international honors over the Rohingya exodus that began in August 2017.
Amnesty International has withdrawn its most prestigious human rights prize from Myanmar’s Aung San Suu Kyi over her human rights abuses.
Thousands of Rohingya Muslims were killed, injured, arbitrarily arrested, or raped by Myanmar soldiers and Buddhist mobs mainly between November 2016 and August 2017, when many of the surviving members of the community started fleeing to Bangladesh en masse.
More than 700,000 members of the mostly stateless group fled across Myanmar's western border into Bangladesh after the Myanmar military’s crackdown.
The United Nations has blamed Suu Kyi for failing to prevent the brutal violence and atrocities, which the international organization says constitute genocide.
The United Nations (UN)’s top human rights official says Myanmar’s leader Aung San Suu Kyi should have resigned last year over a state-sponsored campaign of terror against Rohingya Muslims in the country.
Meanwhile, Orban has branded refugees from the Middle East and central Asia who are fleeing violence and economic hardship as “Muslim invaders” and has taken dramatic measures to curtail the their numbers entering Hungary.
The government in Budapest has ordered the construction of a massive barbed-wire fence along its border with Serbia.
The far-right leader has repeatedly clashed with the European Union over the issue of immigration after his government declared "a crisis situation due to mass immigration" in 2015.
The Orban administration was accused of using anti-refugee rhetoric that fuels "xenophobic attitudes, fear and hatred" in a report by the Council of Europe's commissioner for human rights.
After his meeting with Myanmar's leader, Orban said he had "great respect for Aung San Suu Kyi and all she has done for her country's freedom and democratic transformation.”
The meeting between the two far-right leaders drew instant criticism from the Human Rights Watch (HRW).
“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 at the HRW.
“After shamefully helping the Myanmar military cover up their genocide against Rohingya Muslims, now she’s glad-handing and making friends with Europe’s most xenophobic, anti-democratic leader,” Robertson added.
Robertson also noted that, “The message of this meeting to Brussels should be clear: Myanmar is not listening to your quiet diplomatic niceties.”
Suu Kyi’s trip to central Europe was with the aim to strengthen economic ties in the region. Prior to Hungary, she had visited the Czech Republic and met with Prime Minister Andrej Babis.