Shame on Aung San Suu Kyi
2016-12-15 13:41:28 -
By Mohammed Samaana

Despite all the high hopes that followed the 2015 election victory of Myanmar’s Nobel Peace Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi, only disappointment has followed. It was believed that her win, coming after her infamous 15 years under house arrest for human rights activism, would bring to an end decades of victimisation and discrimination targeted at the Rohingya Muslim minority in the country. 

Yet not only did she not condemn the violence perpetrated by Myanmar’s Buddhist extremists against the Rohingyas, she has even defended the ethnic cleansing of the Rohingya Muslims, silencing criticism with a dismissal: “Show me a country without human rights issues.”

Perhaps one of the worst things about the election is that despite denying Muslims the right to vote, the head of an EU observer mission said it was credible, transparent and with a better process than expected. Though several western leaders spoke against the persecution of the Rohingya, the US and the EU have been gradually easing the diplomatic, economic and military sanctions imposed on Myanmar regardless.

Discrimination against the Rohingya is nothing new, but it does not get much attention like other troubled parts in the world. The UN described them as “the world’s most persecuted minority”. Amnesty International highlighted that Myanmar authorities do not consider the Rohingya as an ethnic group; instead they are classified as stateless people. Myanmar law denies them citizenship – this implies that their rights to study, work, access health care, travel, marry and worship freely are virtually non-existent.

Furthermore, there is another law that imposes a 36-month ‘birth spacing’ interval for women between pregnancies, playing into fears that minority groups are having more children than the Buddhist majority. The law is particularly alarming for Rohingya couples, who in the past have been restricted to having no more than two children. The law could become a blueprint for state population control and even pave the way for state-enforced contraception, abortions or sterilisation.

The Rohingya have been subjected to waves of ethnic cleansing, with Buddhist monks inciting hatred against them. As a result, many Rohyngia Muslims have to live in camps for internally displaced persons guarded by Myanmar’s security forces, where many have died as a result of hunger and preventable diseases.

In recent weeks, it is estimated that 21,000 Rohingyas fled to Bangladesh during the most recent campaign of ethnic cleansing. Like Syrians in the Mediterranean, many Rohingyas who’ve tried to escape to other countries have drowned. Refugees have told horror stories of gang rape, torture and murder committed by state security forces, something that the authorities deny. 

However, the fact that Myanmar’s government does not allow foreign journalists and investigators any access to Rakhine province, where the worst abuses are alleged to have taken place, means that they might have  something to hide. Additionally, an analysis of satellite images by Human Rights Watch found hundreds of buildings in Rohingya villages have been razed.

Before the election, analysts thought that Aung San Suu Kyi did not condemn the violence because she did not want to alienate voters. After the election, she moved from silence to defending these crimes. Some believe that’s because despite her election win, the military are the ones who have the power. Even if this is the case, and she can’t do or at least say something, she didn’t have to defend war crimes. Instead, the right thing for her is to resign, and renounce her Noble Prize.
TAGS : Opinion Thomas Beganineza Religion
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