Myanmar is euphoric — and rightly so.
For the first time in almost 25 years, the country held “largely free” democratic elections. The nation’s human rights champion Aung San Suu Kyi’s political party National League for Democracy has, according to unofficial results, won a parliamentary majority, which essentially means a civilian government will lead after 50 years of military rule.
Suu Kyi’s victory has indeed been historic. However, will her leadership be equally remarkable?
The answer to the question is a little complicated.
While her contributions to human rights in her country cannot be written off, the fact that she consistently turnd a blind eye to the calculated exclusion and persecution of Muslims, especially the genocide of the Rohingya community, is inexcusable.
Nearly 1.3 million Rohingya, a Muslim minority, live in Buddhist-majority Myanmar. They are officially stateless. The government regards them as illegal immigrants from Bangladesh and denies them citizenship. On the other hand Bangladesh has refused to grant Rohingyas refugee status since 1992.
However, the situation for the community deteriorated in 2012 when the “969 Movement” was initiated by "Buddhist Bin Laden" Ashin Wirathu. Apart from instigating violence, Wirathu and his followers endorsed and proposed several legislative measures and policies against the Rohingya.
Since then, the genocidal campaign caused hundreds of deaths and displaced more than 140,000 Muslims in almost three years.
One might argue, given the influence of Myanmar’s military on the political affairs of the country, there wasn’t much Suu Kyi could do for the Rohingya people as they were mercilessly slaughtered and driven away from their homes to the sea by extremist Buddhist monks.
But why did it stop her from even condemning the persecution in words? Why didn’t she use her Nobel Peace Prize to address the issue?
The answer to this question is not really complicated.
Speaking up for the rights of Rohingya is not in NLD’s electoral interests primarily because it could cost them millions of votes.
Even as people around the world condemned the oppression of Rohingya following the eruption of “migrant boat crisis” in Southeast Asian waters, Suu Kyi refrained from mentioning the name Rohingya in her speeches.
She even sidelined Muslims during her election campaign — not a single one of the NLD's parliamentary candidates was Muslim.
Myanmar may have held its first democratic election in more than two decades, but it cannot be a true democracy unless and until NLD, under the leadership of Aung San Suu Kyi, recognizes and addresses the plight of Rohingya and other ethnic minorities in the country.