U.S. senator blasts Suu Kyi's 'dismissive' reaction on trafficking

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A U.S. senator said on Wednesday that he was “somewhat appalled” by Aung San Suu Kyi’s reaction to her country’s record on human trafficking, underscoring concerns about human rights that are shadowing the Myanmar leader’s visit to Washington.

“While we certainly appreciate the work Aung San Suu Kyi has done to ensure a democratic transition in Burma, I am somewhat appalled by her dismissive reaction to concerns I raised this morning about the problem of human trafficking in her country,” U.S. Republican Senator Bob Corker said in a statement released to Reuters after a breakfast meeting with Suu Kyi and Vice President Joe Biden.

“After witnessing her lack of regard for Burma’s dismal track record on this issue, I plan to pay very close attention to her government’s efforts to prevent innocent human beings from being trafficked and sold into forced labor and sex slavery,” said Corker, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

Suu Kyi, a Nobel Peace Prize laureate, spent many years under house arrest for her opposition to the military junta that ruled Myanmar for decades.

The United States placed Myanmar, formerly known as Burma, on its list of the worst human trafficking offenders in June for failing to do more to curb widespread abuses, hoping to prod its new government and its powerful military to address the issue.

“Obviously, it’s not an issue that she displays much of a concern for, and I expressed my strong disappointment at her dismissive response,” Corker told Reuters in an interview later on Wednesday.

Although Corker said he supported sanctions relief for Myanmar as a way to support its young democracy, he said he would look for ways to convey the importance of the trafficking issue to the United States.

“I am going to explore ways to cause them to care a little bit more,” he said.

Reporting by Patricia Zengerle; Editing by Paul Simao and Diane Craft