When not to Instagram your holiday pics: Diplomat gets flak for Myanmar tweets

Ngapali Beach, Myanmar. Source: Shutterstock

CANADIAN ambassador to Indonesia Peter MacArthur on a holiday in Myanmar, appeared to have ushered in the new year with a big diplomatic blunder on social media.

MacArthur had tweeted on Jan 1: “First day of 2018 unfolded on a Myanmar beach where the great surf is pleasingly turquoise colored, warm, clean and clear — perfect for snorkeling to visit with nature and the fish”, as seen in a screenshot captured by  London-based CTV correspondent Daniele Hamamdjian, Global News reported.

While what MacArthur wrote would not have gone amiss on a travel blog, to tweet so as a representative of the Canadian government seems to have run afoul the country’s stance on the situation in Myanmar.

In an email to iPolitics, Global Affairs Canada spokesman Brianne Maxwell said “the government of Canada takes the situation in Myanmar very seriously and is deeply concerned by the ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity that are occurring there.”

“Ambassador MacArthur was advised to delete the Tweet in question.”

MacArthur was reportedly on a private trip to visit a family member working for the Canadian government in Myanmar, a country accused of “ethnic cleansing” by the United Nations for its systematic persecution of the hundreds of thousands Rohingya Muslims, an ethnic minority group, since Aug 25 last year.

600,000 Rohingya Muslims are estimated to have fled Myanmar since Myanmar’s military’s “disproportionate” response – extrajudicial killings, burning of homes, rape etc –  to Rohingya militancy in the restive Rakhine State.

Canada had responded to the international humanitarian crisis by appointing former Liberal leader Bob Rae as the country’s special envoy to Myanmar amid the violence. Together with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, they met with Myanmar’s civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi before the start of Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) trade talks in Da Nang, Vietnam last November.

For 45 minutes, they reportedly talked about the level of violence, the scale of the refugee crisis as well as Suu Kyi’s silence on the issue.

Trudeau meets with Suu Kyi at Trudeau’s office on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, on June 7, 2017. Source: Reuters/Chris Wattie

“From my point of view that was extremely important for her to hear, directly from Canada’s prime minister. I think it was also important for us to hear her out,” Rae told reporters, as quoted by CBC.

In an interview with CBC’s The Current in November, Rae had also said: “What happens when there is an insurgent attack by this group called ARSA [Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army], the [Myanmar] army really overdoes it.”

“You know the army just responds with — to put it mildly — a very very heavy hand and a great deal of brutality.”

MacArthur has since removed the tweet, but not before it set off a stream of opinions on Twitter. Some commentators were worried that an official like MacArthur could be so ignorant of geopolitical tensions:

Amid the tweets expressing distaste, there were some supporters:

There were criticisms levelled at Trudeau and his party:

And of course, some took the chance to take jabs at the ambassador:



This article originally appeared on our sister site Asian Correspondent