Aung San Suu Kyi: The Bird That Sang Better From Within The Cage

by
Sameera Ehteram
How Myanmar’s human rights champion chose politics over activism.

Aung San Suu Kyi

The Questionable Hero:

Aung San Suu Kyi – her people call her as Daw Suu (Aunt Suu) and Aamay Suu (Mother Suu), names of love and trust.

A trust she unfortunately is incapable of returning. Her silence, as hundreds of Rohingya Muslims are slaughtered, denied refuge and have no hope, is deafening.

The pro-democracy Nobel Peace Prize winning Burmese opposition leader has been the face of democracy and the voice of human rights for over two decades.

When she was released from her almost 15 years of house arrest in 2010, the world welcomed her freedom as a hope for the people of Burma.

The United States President Barack Obama once called Suu Kyi "a hero of mine."

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said Suu Kyi was an "inspiration."

"Aung San Suu Kyi is an inspiration for all of us who believe in freedom of speech, democracy and human rights," said U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron.

The Deafening Silence:

But the “inspiration” and “hero” is silent over one of the biggest genocides in history.

Perhaps that’s why the world is astounded at her silence over the plight of the Rohingya migrants so mercilessly annihilated within her own country.

Nearly 1.3 million Rohingya, a Muslim minority of migrants from Bangladesh, live in the Buddhist-majority Myanmar. They have long been regarded as “outsiders” or migrants from Bangladesh and never truly accepted. Myanmar has made them essentially stateless, even towing shiploads out to sea with no supplies to perish. 

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The massacre of Rohingya Muslims by the hands of Rakhine Buddhists has been making global headlines and receiving criticism from the world over since 2012 when the “969 Movement” was initiated by "Buddhist Bin Laden" Ashin Wirathu.

The genocidal campaign has caused hundreds of deaths and displaced more than 140,000 Muslims in almost three years. Thousands are forced to flee for safety with little hope for survival.

Read More: Rohingya Migrants: Out At Sea, No Place To Go, No One Wants Them

Aung San Suu Kyi, the voice of democracy and human rights in Burma, does not think if the Rohingya could be regarded as Burmese citizens. In saying so, she seems to absolve herself from their plight.

On her first trip to the U.S. in 2012, she remained curiously silent on the plight of the Rohingya people. Similarly during her visit to the United Kingdom in 2013, she repeatedly avoided giving an unequivocal condemnation of the anti-Muslim violence that is engulfing her country.

The silence is deafening and, because it's Suu Kyi, mind boggling. The Rohingya migrants may or may not be citizens of Burma, so raising a voice for them becomes an option rather than a duty. And if it's anyone's duty, it's Suu Kyi's.

The Shame:

Here is a list of some of the peace awards Suu Kyi has under her belt:

  1. The Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought
  2. Nobel Peace Prize
  3. Jawaharlal Nehru Award for International Understanding
  4. International Simón Bolívar Prize
  5. Wallenberg Medal
  6. Congressional Gold Medal (the highest civilian honor in the United States)

Whether she deserves them is debatable under the circumstances.

Since when do human rights become restricted within the boundaries of race and geographical boundaries?

But Suu Kyi is a politician now. There’s a world of a difference between being an activist and a politician.

Perhaps that’s the price Aung San Suu Kyi has paid for her freedom and political career. Her words and her efforts are no longer for humanity – just a handful of people she calls her own.

Read More: What Is Keeping Aung San Suu Kyi Silent Over The Mass Slaughter In Burma?

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