The Canadian ambassador to Indonesia welcomed 2018 by tweeting about great snorkelling from a beach in Myanmar, the same country whose military is leading a ruthless campaign of ethnic cleansing against the Rohingya people there.
In a tweet posted Jan. 1 — and quickly deleted — Ambassador Peter MacArthur said that his “first day of 2018 unfolded on a Myanmar beach where the great surf is pleasingly turquoise coloured, warm, clean and clear — perfect for snorkelling to visit with nature and the fish.”
A screenshot of the tweet was captured by a Canadian reporter who shared it on her own account shortly after along with a comment that it is surprising a Canadian official would tout the scenery of the country given the violence forcing hundreds of thousands of Rohingya refugees to flee rape and systemic killings over the last six months.
Roughly 600,000 Rohingya refugees have fled what United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called a “humanitarian and human rights nightmare” late last summer, and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau appointed former Liberal leader Bob Rae as Canada’s special envoy to Myanmar amid the violence.
Trudeau also met with Aung Sung Suu Kyi, the civilian leader of Myanmar and an honourary Canadian citizen, at the APEC summit in November amid a chorus of calls for him to revoke her citizenship for failing to stop or mitigate the attacks by the country’s military against the Rohingya.
The Rohingya are an ethnic Muslim minority group of about one million people living largely in the western Rakhine state of Myanmar.
Most have now fled into refugee camps in neighbouring Bangladesh, which Rae has described as “deplorably overcrowded.”
The military began its sweeping campaign of rapes, killings and destruction of Rohingya villages after a militant group known as the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army attacked police and army posts.
“You know the army just responds with — to put it mildly — a very very heavy hand and a great deal of brutality.”
Global Affairs Canada confirmed the tweet was made by MacArthur and said he was advised to take it down shortly after posting.
Canadian officials also told Global News that MacArthur had not been on government business in Myanmar but that he was on a private visit to the country to visit a family member who works for the Canadian government there.