Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte issued a public apology to Myanmar's de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi yesterday, a week after describing the military crackdown on the country's Rohingya minority as a "genocide".
Suu Kyi, a Nobel laureate, has come in for intense global criticism over her public silence regarding a brutal military crackdown that has forced nearly 700,000 Muslim Rohingya to flee the mainly Buddhist nation for Bangladesh.
Duterte's original comments, made in a Manila speech a week ago, were a rare example of public criticism by the head of one Southeast Asian country of another.
"I will apologise to you, but if you have noticed, my statement was almost a satire," Duterte told a pre-dawn news conference in the southern city of Davao.
He said his original comments were intended as a dig at European countries that have criticised his deadly war on drugs, which has left more than 4,000 suspects dead at the hands of the police in less than two years.
Duterte had told government officials in a speech on April 5 that European governments "can't even solve" the problem in Myanmar's Rakhine state.
"That's the real genocide, if I may (say) so," he said, while qualifying that he was friends with Myanmar's leader.
Duterte also said then that he was "willing to accept refugees" from Myanmar if Europe would take in others displaced there as well.
"They keep on criticising us, Aung (San Suu) Kyi and the others. Now, why did I say that? Madam Chancellor, let me confess to you publicly, I was doing a -- very sarcastic...." Duterte said yesterday, his words trailing off.
He also threatened to arrest the International Criminal Court's chief prosecutor, who is probing his deadly drug war, telling her to stay away from the Philippines.
Fatou Bensouda launched a preliminary investigation in February into allegations that Filipino police were murdering thousands of drug suspects, prompting Manila last month to withdraw from the Hague-based tribunal.