Myanmar’s army has reportedly been carrying out unspeakable atrocities against the Rohingya Muslim community since October.
Yet, Myanmar’s de facto leader and former Nobel Peace Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi recently accused the international community of “stoking resentment between Buddhists and Muslims” in the country’s northwestern Rakhine state.
“I would appreciate it so much if the international community would help us to maintain peace and stability, and to make progress in building better relations between the two communities, instead of always drumming up cause for bigger fires of resentment,” Aung San Suu Kyi told Singapore state-owned broadcaster Channel News Asia, adding the military operation was launched in response to attacks on security forces that the Burmese government alleged were carried out by Muslim insurgents.
“It doesn’t help if everybody is just concentrating on the negative side of the situation, in spite of the fact that there were attacks against police outposts,” she added.
Suu Kyi is factually correct about the military crackdown being a response to the attacks on Oct. 9 that targeted border guard outposts in Rakhine (aka Arakan), near the Myanmar-Bangladesh border. Nine Burmese police officers died as a result of the assault.
However, she failed to address the lack of evidence the military used as an excuse to start raiding Rohingya Muslim-populated villages.
Myanmar’s Ministry of Information blamed the attacks on Aqa Mul Mujahidin, a militant group purportedly trained by Taliban in Pakistan and has not been active for nearly a decade. The Burmese government also accused, without providing any concrete evidence, members of the local Rohingya community of aiding them.
Subsequently, a military operation was launched and members of the targeted community were indiscriminately beaten up, shot at, killed, raped and displaced from their homes. At least 86 Rohingya Muslims have been killed and 10,000 others have fled to Bangladesh in the wake of the operation.
The Burmese army also deprived around 80,000 Rohingya Muslims in Rakhine of humanitarian aid by the U.N.’s World Food Program. They are not even allowing reporters in the embattled region to cover news, which basically means they have something to hide.
Yet, Suu Kyi believes the international world is overreacting by finally waking up to the persecution of Rohingya Muslims — the very people who are not even considered an official minority by her government despite living in Myanmar for centuries.
For several months after becoming the de facto leader of the new Burmese government, Aung San Suu Kyi remained silent over the Rohingya issue. Although she set up a commission with former United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan to oversee the problem, it doesn’t mean anything if local politicians don’t agree to cooperate.
Despite a historic democratic overhaul, Myanmar remains under the control of the powerful military elite, which has always sided with the Buddhist extremists when it comes to the Rohingya Muslim issue. But there’s also no denying the fact that Suu Kyi has done very little to raise her voice against what is clearly a genocidal campaign against the ethnic minority. In fact, she might just be contributing to it.
For instance, she officially banned the usage of term “Rohingya” in June – which was a remarkable victory for extremist Buddhists – when she should’ve been condemning the persecution of the minority group. But Suu Kyi has always been reluctant to denounce the treatment of Rohingya. In 2013, she reportedly got in heated spat with when BBC Today presenter Mishal Husain when the journalist asked her to denounce the anti-Islamic sentiment and mass slaughter. In fact, the Burmese leader allegedly complained, “No one told me I was going to be interviewed by a Muslim.”
Clearly, all of this emboldens the perpetrators of violence, which makes her complicit in the violence, which is why people have launched various petitions, including this one on Change.org, demanding she return her Nobel Peace Prize.
Aung San Suu Kyi may have spent 15 years under house arrest for her human rights advocacy, however, the way she has ignored the plight of Rohingya Muslims shows she clearly doesn’t deserve the status of a Nobel Laureate anymore.