Ambassador was not with husband on Myanmar beach: Foreign Affairs
Published Sunday, January 7, 2018 9:10PM EST
Last Updated Monday, January 8, 2018 4:53PM EST
A day after categorically denying Canada’s Ambassador to Indonesia Peter MacArthur was in Rakhine State when he tweeted "perfect" beach shots, Global Affairs Canada now admits he was, but that his wife Karen MacArthur, Canada’s Ambassador to Myanmar, was not.
According to a foreign affairs official speaking on background, the MacArthurs spent the holidays in Yangon, where she is based, with their two children until Mrs. MacArthur had to abruptly leave the country for a private family issue. At which point, Mr. MacArthur and his children travelled to the south of Rakhine State to enjoy some of the most beautiful beaches in the country.
Rakhine state is also where the majority of the Rohingya population lives, though since August, more than 630,000 Rohingya refugees have poured into neighboring Bangladesh, fleeing what Canada has called a campaign of ethnic cleansing.
Some parts in the north of Rakhine State are still off limits to UN investigators and to Canada’s Special envoy Bob Rae, who in the next few weeks, will be trying once again to see firsthand what’s left of the Rohinyga villages.
Mr. MacArthur, Canada’s ambassador to Indonesia, was criticized on social media for praising Myanmar’s idyllic beach scenery in a Jan. 1 tweet that was later deleted. His wife Karen MacArthur is Ambassador to Myanmar.
"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," read the tweet posted to Peter MacArthur’s account.
Global Affairs has been tight-lipped about the whereabouts of both ambassadors since ordering Mr. MacArthur to delete the tweet last week.
Global Affairs had previously told CTV News that Canada’s ambassador to Myanmar was on a "private holiday" in the southeast Asian nation with her diplomat husband, after questions emerged over the New Year's tweet. At the time, Global Affairs spokesperson Brianne Maxwell said that their vacation "did not take place in Rakhine State."
In an updated statement to CTV News on Monday, Maxwell said that while the "majority" of the family’s time was spent near Myanmar’s capital as a family, Ms. MacArthur’s family "stayed less than an hour away from the capital, in Southern Rakhine State, for three days in an area frequented by tourists," without her.
Maxwell apologized for "any inadvertent error" previously.
Mr. MacArthur, who has a long and distinguished career in the diplomatic service has been accused of being tone-deaf and has not yet publicly responded to media enquiries; neither has Bob Rae, who is due to present his final report to the Prime Minister in February.
Asked what message Canada would be sending to government and military officials in Myanmar when one Canadian official was trying to access one part of Rakhine state while another was raving about the beauty of its beaches in a separate part of the province, Rae refused to comment.
There are no rules that bar diplomats from vacationing in the troubled country.