A VETERAN US diplomat has resigned from an international panel on the Rohingya crisis, calling it a “whitewash” and accusing Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi of lacking “moral leadership”.

Former New Mexico governor Bill Richardson quit as the 10-member advisory group was making its first visit to Rakhine state, from where nearly 700,000 Rohingya Muslims have fled in recent months.

“The main reason I am resigning is that this advisory board is a whitewash,” Richardson, a member of Bill Clinton’s cabinet in the late 1990s, told reporters, adding that he did not want to be part of “a cheerleading squad for the government”.

Richardson said he got into an argument with Suu Kyi during a meeting on Monday with other members of the board, when he brought up the case of two Reuters reporters.

The journalists have been charged with breaching the Official Secrets Act while working on coverage of the Rohingya crisis.

Richardson said Suu Kyi “exploded” when he mentioned the journalists, who are feared “disappeared” after being arrested in Yangon last week.

“Her face was quivering, and if she had been a little closer to me, she might have hit me, she was so furious,” he said.

Richardson, a long-term friend of Suu Kyi, said she appeared to want the advisory group to endorse her policies.

“She blames all the problems that Burma is having on the international media, on the UN, on human rights groups, on other governments, and I think this is caused by the bubble that is around her, by individuals that are not giving her frank advice,” he said.

He continued:”I’m not going to be part of it because I think there are serious issues of human rights violations, safety, citizenship, peace and stability that need to be addressed. I just felt that my advice and counsel would not be heeded.”

More than 650,000 Rohingya people, from a mostly-Muslim minority in Buddhist Myanmar, fled to neighbouring Bangladesh last year in the face of a military crackdown.

Bangladesh has said the refugees will all be returned to Myanmar within two years.