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Suu Kyi condemned for refusing to end ethnic cleansing of Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar

29th Sep 2017
Suu Kyi condemned for refusing to end ethnic cleansing of Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar

Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi is accused of playing politics by effectively siding with the military in the persecution of Rohingya Muslims (Photo: Creative Commons)

Hamed Chapman

The treatment of Rohingya Muslims by Myanmar Government, where former Nobel peace laureate Aung San Suu Kyi has assumed the newly created role of State Counsellor, appears to be a “textbook example” of ethnic cleansing, according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights.

In an address to the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva, Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein denounced the ongoing “brutal security operation” against the estimated 1.3 million Rohingya Muslims in Rakhine State, which he said was “clearly disproportionate” to insurgent attacks carried out last month.

More than 470,000 Muslims are reported to have fled to Bangladesh in recent weeks, with more trapped on the border, amid reports of the burning of villages and extrajudicial killings. Hundreds of people have officially died since the latest exodus began on August 25. Claims by human rights groups are that at least 1,000, mainly civilians, have been massacred by Government soldiers.

In New York, UN Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres, called on the military to halt their atrocities against the Rohingya, saying the continuing violence by security forces against the Muslim minority was “completely unacceptable”. The humanitarian situation is “catastrophic,” he told journalists.

Guterres said there have been “disturbing reports of attacks by security forces against civilians, which are completely unacceptable.” He called on the Myanmar authorities to “suspend military action, end the violence, uphold the rule of law, and recognize the right of return of all those who had to leave the country.”

A statement was also issued by the UN Security Council, expressing “deep concern” about the situation in Rakhine, condemning the violence that led to an exodus from the Southeast Asian nation. Council member states “called for immediate steps to end the violence in Rakhine, de-escalate the situation, re-establish law and order, ensure the protection of civilians, restore normal socio-economic conditions, and resolve the refugee problem.”

For years Myanmar Government forces have descended on the minority to slaughter or drive out the Rohingya. Amnesty International human rights group among others has accused the regime, where Aung San Suu Kyi is effectively Prime Minister, of crimes against humanity against one of the most persecuted groups in the world.

Condemnations of the genocide have also been directed at the former Nobel laureate, who has built up her authority in Myanmar since being released from house arrest in 2010, due to her silence. She is reported to have even blamed “fake news and a misinformation campaign” for fuelling a crisis.

A dozen other Nobel peace laureates and international personalities sent an open letter to the UN Security Council (USNC) urging it to intervene to end the Rohingya crisis. “We call on UNSC to intervene immediately by using all available means. We request you to take immediate action for a cessation of indiscriminate military attack on innocent civilians that is forcing them to leave their home and flee the country to turn into stateless people,” they warned in a joint letter.

The signatories included Professor Muhammad Yunus, Máiread Maguire, Betty Williams, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Oscar Arias Sánchez, Jody Williams, Mo Ibrahim, Asma Jahangir, Kerry Kennedy, Alaa Murabit, Shirin Ebadi, Leymah Gbowee, Tawakkol Karman, Malala Yousafzai, Sir Richard J Roberts, Elizabeth Blackburn, Surin Pitsuwan, Paul Polman, Mary Robinson, Jeffrey D Sachs,Javed Akhtar, Syed Hamid Albar, Shabana Azmi, Emma Bonino, Sir Richard Branson, Gro Harlem Brundtland, Narayana Murthy, Kasit Piromya, Forest Whitaker, Jochen Zeitz.

Even the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama has decried the atrocities committed against Muslims in Myanmar, saying killing in the name of religion was “unthinkable”. He suggested that even “Buddha would definitely help to those poor Muslims.”

Other condemnations came from British Foreign Secretary, Boris Johnson, who warned Aung San Suu Kyi that the oppression of the minority was “besmirching” her country’s reputation.

According to Azeem Ibrahim, the former Nobel laureate is playing politics by effectively siding with the military in the persecution of Rohingya Muslims. “Suu Kyi has been trying to extricate herself from the controversy so that she can play both sides: she would be able to support the army in private, and excuse herself from any responsibility in public on the international stage,” the Research Professor at the Strategic Studies Institute Pennsylvania said.

Given the moral authority Suu Kyi claims to have, “she has the capacity, and the duty, to speak out against such humanitarian abuses,” Ibrahim said in an article for the Daily Telegraph. He believed that she now carries with her enough of the people of Myanmar that her voice would have power against the military establishment, but that she had changed and is “no longer the campaigner the world knew and loved.” Instead, she was calculating that the Rohingya issue is “not worth confronting the military over.”

As the former colonial power in Myanmar, Britain is seen as having a special responsibility towards the country’s advent towards democracy. Like the rest of the EU as well as the US, the west was criticised for lifting economic sanctions too early. UK Director of Human Rights Watch, David Mepham, warned last year that Britain was still getting it wrong when Prime Minister, Theresa May, met the country’s de facto leader, Aung San Suu Kyi.

The gravity of the Rohingya crisis requires a “major shift in British Government policy,” Mepham said. “Aung San Suu Kyi’s reputation lies in tatters and it’s unconscionable that UK policy should continue to follow her lead.”

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