Aung San Suu Kyi’s Deafening Silence

In her Nobel Peace prize lecture in 2012, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi called for world leaders to unite in order to help the ‘the displaced, the homeless and the hopeless’. She called for a more equitable and harmonious Myanmar. However, in Ms. Suu Kyi’s Myanmar, while all are considered to be equal, some are clearly more equal than others.

A darling of those advocating for democracy and human rights, Suu Kyi has long been the model of liberty for the Western world. Hence the world cheered when she was awarded the prestigious Nobel Peace Prize in 1991; when her house arrest ended in 2010; and finally when she won the general election in 2015. The future looked bright for this brave leader and even more so for Myanmar and its people.

But as George Malbot says, ‘few of us expect much from political leaders: to do otherwise is to invite despair.’ This didn’t prevent us from cheering for Aung San Suu Kyi, hoping against all odds that she would be the leader to emulate. This misconception didn’t last long.

Rakhine and its people, the Rohingyas, have long been a sore spot for the hybrid civilian-military government of Myanmar as well as the international community. According to a NYTimes article, an estimated 1 million people have fled to Bangladesh since the 1970’s. This isn’t surprising given Myanmar’s 1982 Citizenship Law specifically denies the Rohingya’s any rights. In other words, these people are treated as intruders in their own country.

For years the military have descended on these villagers and pillaged and raped their way through the population. Crimes so organized, they can be termed to be a pogrom. This prompted a Yale study which suggested terming the violence against the Rohingya’s as genocide. While in 2015, the U.S Holocaust Museum warned the international community of a impending genocide.

This led to the inevitable. A Rohingya militant group emerged in 1986 vowing to avenge their people. In October 2016, a fight broke out between the government security forces and a new insurgent group, Harakah al-Yaqin, resulting in the deaths of at least 40 people. It was the first major resurgence of the conflict since 2001. In November 2016, violence erupted again, bringing the death toll to a total 134.

The latest wave of terror started after the insurgents attacked an army base on 25th August, 2017. This lead to a body count of 71 individuals; 12 security forces and 59 insurgents. The response from the government has been a scorched earth styled military attack. Entire population has been attacked regardless of their affiliation with the insurgents. As a result, a record 120,000 refugees have made their way to Bangladesh.

The stories they recount are the stuff of nightmares. Village leaders are murdered, women gang-raped and children drowned. The military seems to have no qualms about murdering its own people. But rather they have continued to support Buddhist preachers such as Ashin Wirathu who has helped fueled the feud. This ‘holy man’ preaches compassion towards mosquitos but death for Muslims.

When asked about this genocide, Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi acts baffled. Why, she asks, would anyone attack the military when the government has done so much for them? It seems like Madam might have missed out on the action given that she has never bothered to visit the northern state of Rakhine. Perhaps, this also explains why she has termed the coverage of the ethnic cleansing as a ‘huge iceberg of miscommunication’. This would also justify why her Facebook page mocked the tragic rape claims of a Rohingya mother and her daughters as ‘fake rape’.

When UN came knocking she snubbed them and the government prevented aid agencies from distributing food, water and medicine the the people. For shame, Aung San Suu Kyi, for shame! Thus its not surprising that a petition has been circulating online, calling for revocation of Aung San Suu Kyi’s Nobel peace prize. A link for the petition has been provided at the end of the article.

The author Ruta Sepetys asks, ‘What had human beings become? Did war make us evil or just activate an evil already lurking with us?’ In Ms. Suu Kyi’s case it seems that the fear of losing the popular vote has led to her conspicuous silence. Perhaps, its best we get rid of her Nobel peace prize since a politician, complicit in crimes against humanity, has no business owning one.


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