Why is Aung San Suu Kyi Not Speaking Up Against Genocide in Myanmar?

Aung San Suu Kyi was a hero to so many people, a model humanitarian who was kept under house arrest for years. She won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1991 and finally emerged victorious as the civil leader of Myanmar.

The Nobel Committee, announcing the award, said it wanted “to honor this woman for her unflagging efforts and to show its support for the many people throughout the world who are striving to attain democracy, human rights and ethnic conciliation by peaceful means.”

So why is Suu Kyi not saying anything about the genocide of the Rohingya people in her country? 

An estimated 370,000 Rohingya, about one-third of their population, have fled Myanmar’s Rakhine state and poured into Bangladesh in just the past two weeks, as government forces rape and execute civilians and burn their villages. 

This most recent violence began on August 25, when Rohingya insurgents attacked some police outposts and killed 12 people. In response, the Myanmar military has not sought out the attackers, but is using these deaths as an excuse to carry out punitive reprisals on the entire Rohingya population. This is the worst violence in the region that Amnesty International and other human rights groups have witnessed in the past five years.

In a report published on September 14, Tirana Hassan, Amnesty International’s Crisis Response Director, states,

“The evidence is irrefutable – the Myanmar security forces are setting northern Rakhine State ablaze in a targeted campaign to push the Rohingya people out of Myanmar. Make no mistake: this is ethnic cleansing.

“There is a clear and systematic pattern of abuse here. Security forces surround a village, shoot people fleeing in panic and then torch houses to the ground. In legal terms, these are crimes against humanity – systematic attacks and forcible deportation of civilians.”

This is just the latest wave of violence against the Rohingya people. Since 1978, thousands of Rohingya refugees have fled their homes after attacks by the military.

The Rohingya are ethnic Muslims, living in Buddhist-majority Myanmar, formerly known as Burma. Nearly all of them live in the western state of Rakhine and have been denied citizenship for decades. Many are descended from laborers who emigrated from India and Bangladesh when those countries were still under British colonial rule. 

But when Burma gained independence in 1948, it considered the Rohingya to be illegal. The country’s 1982 citizenship law effectively permanently prevented the Rohingya people from becoming citizens of Myanmar.

Bangladesh says that the Rohingya cannot be Bangladeshi citizenship either and so the Rohingya are a people without a country. Along with other ethnic minorities in Myanmar, they remain undocumented and consistently marginalized.

Aung Sun Suu Kyi’s party took power in Myanmar last year but still, in the face of this severe discrimination, Suu Kyi remains silent. To be clear, she is the country’s de facto civil leader, but not its official president. Myanmar has a complicated system of government and the military continues to control several ministries.

So she cannot stop the violence, but her total silence on the ethnic cleansing taking place in Myanmar is deafening. 

Her fellow Nobel laureates have urged her to speak up or forfeit her Nobel Peace Prize. Archbishop Desmond Tutu has begged her to take action, as have the Dalai Lama and Malala Yousafzai.

As a Care2 activist, you can speak up and sign this petition, demanding that the United Nations investigate the burning of Rohingya villages in Myanmar and the ethnic cleansing of the Rohingya people taking place in that country.

We don’t know why Aung San Suu Kyi, a former champion of human rights, is refusing to condemn the destruction of the Rohingya people in her country, but we can take action today.

 

Photo Credit: Jordi Bernabell Farrús

46 comments

Mike R
Mike Ryesterday

Thanks

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Mike R
Mike Ryesterday

Thanks

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heather g
heather gyesterday

Bangladesh is a crowded country of some 190 million people but at least they let the fleeing refugees into their country. We all used to admire Aung-san-suu-kyi, but now is the time to openly remove all her awards. Her lack of action is unconscionable.

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Ellie d
Ellie M20 days ago

ty

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caroline l
caroline l28 days ago

so very disappointing

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Carl R
Carl R28 days ago

Thanks!!!

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Janis K
Janis K28 days ago

Thanks for sharing.

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Philippa Powers
Philippa Powers28 days ago

Thanks.

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Lisa M
Lisa M28 days ago

Noted.

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Lisa M
Lisa M28 days ago

Noted.

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