Aung San Suu Kyi: Human rights friend or foe?

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Aung San Suu Kyi, a recent recipient of the Harvard humanitarian of the year award and a Nobel Peace Prize winner in 1991 in recognition of her non-violent struggle for human rights and freedom in Myanmar, has accused the international community of provoking tension between Muslims and Buddhists in the country’s northwest.

Since the Myanmar army launched a vicious counter insurgency campaign against the Rohingya two months ago, human rights groups have reported allegations of rape, slaughter of children as relayed by witnesses with the media prohibited from reporting on the offensive and aid groups denied access as the military sealed the area.

Satellite images have recently shown two villages burned to the ground and the United Nations High Commissioner has reported of more than 10,000 refugees fleeing across to a now closed border to Bangladesh.

Human Rights Watch identified a total of 430 destroyed buildings in three villages of Maungdaw District from an analysis of very high resolution satellite imagery recorded on the mornings of October 22, November 3, and November 10, 2016. © 2016 Human Rights Watch
Human Rights Watch identified a total of 430 destroyed buildings in three villages of Maungdaw district from an analysis of very high resolution satellite imagery recorded on the mornings of October 22, November 3, and November 10, 2016.
© 2016 Human Rights Watch

The refugees were escaping security forces that were “killing men, shooting them, slaughtering children, raping women, burning and looting houses, forcing these people to cross the river” into Bangladesh, John McKissick, the head of the agency’s office in the Bangladeshi outpost, Cox’s Bazar, told the BBC last week. Their goal was “the ethnic cleansing of the Muslim minority in Myanmar,” McKissick said.

“Show me a country without human rights issues,” Suu Kyi said shortly after at a news conference on October 12.

“Every country has human rights abuses. I am taking seriously allegations of human rights violations in this country,” she added.

Suu Kyi currently holds the posts of Foreign Minster, State Counselor and Minister of the President’s office but has yet to get clear on the issue on the offensive which began after the army had said armed men killed nine police officers on October 9, visit the region or outline what the plans are during the military offensive.

“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,” she said during a recent visit to Singapore to state-owned media.

“It doesn’t help when everybody is just concentrating on the negative side of the situation, in spite of the fact that there were attacks against police outposts,” she noted.

But instead of targeting what is believed to be a rather small group of poorly armed Rohingya men, the military has devastated tens of thousands of impoverished civilians, most of whom live at the poverty line.

The defensive stance, with a willingness to downplay the crisis and counteract the blame, has been seen before with Suu Kyi as witnessed in her terse exchange during an interview with BBC reporter Mishal Husain in 2013, when questioned on her silence on the 2012 Rakhine state riots.

 

Mishal Husain was challenging an incensed Suu Kyi into reportedly remarking off-air “No one told me I was going to be interviewed by a Muslim“, as reported by British journalist Peter Popham earlier in 2016.

Suu Kyi’s refusal to condemn anti-Muslims and the attacks on Muslims that has led to displacement of Rohingya’s and her reported comment initiated Indonesians to petition the Nobel Committee to rescind the Nobel Peace Price bestowed upon Suu Kyi in 1991 awarded for her importance as a symbol against the struggle against oppression as mentioned by the Nobel Committee. The petition has gathered almost 200,000 signatures to date.

The Malaysian Foreign Ministry earlier in the week stated that Myanmar’s treatment of the Rohingya is tantamount to ‘ethnic cleansing’ and  urged that “this practice must stop, and must be stopped immediately in order to bring back security and stability to the Southeast Asian region.”

Prime Minister of Malaysia Najib Razak went further by heading a protest rally on December 4 on what he called a ‘’genocide’’ of the Muslim minority of Rohingya in Myanmar. Najib Razak told a mass rally at a stadium in Kuala Lumpur: “Enough is enough, the world cannot stand by and watch genocide taking place.”

Despite being warned not to interfere in domestic affairs, Razak spoke out questioning Suu Kyi’s credentials as a Nobel Peace Prize laureate as she refused to discuss with him the alleged ethnic cleansing of the Rohingya Muslims.

“They warned me, but I don’t care. Want me to close my eyes? Keep my mouth shut? I will not. We must defend them, not just because they are of the same faith, but they are humans, their lives have value,” Najib told the crowd.

“The Rohingya issue is an insult to Islam. Our patience is being challenged,” he said, urging Jokowi Widodo, President of Indonesia, the most populous Muslim country in the world, to join him in further protest.

Jokowi Widodo has yet to comment as he faces protests in his own country against ethnic Chinese and Christian governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama who has been accused by right wing Islamist groups of blasphemy, in what seem to be religiously motivated trumped-up charges against the double minority governor. The last rally brought out 200,000 people as the clamour moves beyond the right=wing groups.

A counter unity rally was since held in support of the governor on December 4 with 30,000 attending according to the police.

The Rohingya, already facing hardship by living in one of the poorest parts of the country, are not recognised by Myanmar law among the 135 ethnic groups and as such are denied citizenship, access to education, healthcare, social services, legal representation and freedom of movement despite numbering over one million and living since multiple generations in Rakhine.

Human Rights Watch identified a total of 430 destroyed buildings in three villages of Maungdaw District from an analysis of very high resolution satellite imagery recorded on the mornings of October 22, November 3, and November 10, 2016. © 2016 Human Rights Watch
Human Rights Watch identified a total of 430 destroyed buildings in three villages of Maungdaw District from an analysis of very high resolution satellite imagery recorded on the mornings of October 22, November 3, and November 10, 2016. © 2016 Human Rights Watch

As the civilian leader of the government, Suu Kyi has yet to provide clarity on whether Rohingya’s would be recognised, her ambiguity calculatingly allows her to concentrate on more important matters according to observers.

“In the Rakhine, it’s not just Muslims who are nervous and worried,” said Suu Kyi. “The Rakhine are worried too.” In northern Rakhine, Muslims outnumber the ethnic Rakhine population.

“She knows everything and is standing” with the military The military has been briefing her on every important issue,” said her spokesman U Zaw Htay.

A journalist who worked for English-language Myanmar Times, Fiona MacGregor, claims she was fired for an article published on October 27 documenting the allegations of dozens of rapes by security forces, alleging the papers editor-in-chief was forced by the government to sack her.

There has been little dissidence if any otherwise by the media in Myanmar or from other quarters in relation to the military offensive.

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Aung San Suu Kyi, a recent recipient of the Harvard humanitarian of the year award and a Nobel Peace Prize winner in 1991 in recognition of her non-violent struggle for human rights and freedom in Myanmar, has accused the international community of provoking tension between Muslims and Buddhists in the country’s northwest. Since the Myanmar army launched a vicious counter insurgency campaign against the Rohingya two months ago, human rights groups have reported allegations of rape, slaughter of children as relayed by witnesses with the media prohibited from reporting on the offensive and aid groups denied access as the military...

Reading Time: 4 minutes

Aung San Suu Kyi, a recent recipient of the Harvard humanitarian of the year award and a Nobel Peace Prize winner in 1991 in recognition of her non-violent struggle for human rights and freedom in Myanmar, has accused the international community of provoking tension between Muslims and Buddhists in the country’s northwest.

Since the Myanmar army launched a vicious counter insurgency campaign against the Rohingya two months ago, human rights groups have reported allegations of rape, slaughter of children as relayed by witnesses with the media prohibited from reporting on the offensive and aid groups denied access as the military sealed the area.

Satellite images have recently shown two villages burned to the ground and the United Nations High Commissioner has reported of more than 10,000 refugees fleeing across to a now closed border to Bangladesh.

Human Rights Watch identified a total of 430 destroyed buildings in three villages of Maungdaw District from an analysis of very high resolution satellite imagery recorded on the mornings of October 22, November 3, and November 10, 2016. © 2016 Human Rights Watch
Human Rights Watch identified a total of 430 destroyed buildings in three villages of Maungdaw district from an analysis of very high resolution satellite imagery recorded on the mornings of October 22, November 3, and November 10, 2016.
© 2016 Human Rights Watch

The refugees were escaping security forces that were “killing men, shooting them, slaughtering children, raping women, burning and looting houses, forcing these people to cross the river” into Bangladesh, John McKissick, the head of the agency’s office in the Bangladeshi outpost, Cox’s Bazar, told the BBC last week. Their goal was “the ethnic cleansing of the Muslim minority in Myanmar,” McKissick said.

“Show me a country without human rights issues,” Suu Kyi said shortly after at a news conference on October 12.

“Every country has human rights abuses. I am taking seriously allegations of human rights violations in this country,” she added.

Suu Kyi currently holds the posts of Foreign Minster, State Counselor and Minister of the President’s office but has yet to get clear on the issue on the offensive which began after the army had said armed men killed nine police officers on October 9, visit the region or outline what the plans are during the military offensive.

“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,” she said during a recent visit to Singapore to state-owned media.

“It doesn’t help when everybody is just concentrating on the negative side of the situation, in spite of the fact that there were attacks against police outposts,” she noted.

But instead of targeting what is believed to be a rather small group of poorly armed Rohingya men, the military has devastated tens of thousands of impoverished civilians, most of whom live at the poverty line.

The defensive stance, with a willingness to downplay the crisis and counteract the blame, has been seen before with Suu Kyi as witnessed in her terse exchange during an interview with BBC reporter Mishal Husain in 2013, when questioned on her silence on the 2012 Rakhine state riots.

 

Mishal Husain was challenging an incensed Suu Kyi into reportedly remarking off-air “No one told me I was going to be interviewed by a Muslim“, as reported by British journalist Peter Popham earlier in 2016.

Suu Kyi’s refusal to condemn anti-Muslims and the attacks on Muslims that has led to displacement of Rohingya’s and her reported comment initiated Indonesians to petition the Nobel Committee to rescind the Nobel Peace Price bestowed upon Suu Kyi in 1991 awarded for her importance as a symbol against the struggle against oppression as mentioned by the Nobel Committee. The petition has gathered almost 200,000 signatures to date.

The Malaysian Foreign Ministry earlier in the week stated that Myanmar’s treatment of the Rohingya is tantamount to ‘ethnic cleansing’ and  urged that “this practice must stop, and must be stopped immediately in order to bring back security and stability to the Southeast Asian region.”

Prime Minister of Malaysia Najib Razak went further by heading a protest rally on December 4 on what he called a ‘’genocide’’ of the Muslim minority of Rohingya in Myanmar. Najib Razak told a mass rally at a stadium in Kuala Lumpur: “Enough is enough, the world cannot stand by and watch genocide taking place.”

Despite being warned not to interfere in domestic affairs, Razak spoke out questioning Suu Kyi’s credentials as a Nobel Peace Prize laureate as she refused to discuss with him the alleged ethnic cleansing of the Rohingya Muslims.

“They warned me, but I don’t care. Want me to close my eyes? Keep my mouth shut? I will not. We must defend them, not just because they are of the same faith, but they are humans, their lives have value,” Najib told the crowd.

“The Rohingya issue is an insult to Islam. Our patience is being challenged,” he said, urging Jokowi Widodo, President of Indonesia, the most populous Muslim country in the world, to join him in further protest.

Jokowi Widodo has yet to comment as he faces protests in his own country against ethnic Chinese and Christian governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama who has been accused by right wing Islamist groups of blasphemy, in what seem to be religiously motivated trumped-up charges against the double minority governor. The last rally brought out 200,000 people as the clamour moves beyond the right=wing groups.

A counter unity rally was since held in support of the governor on December 4 with 30,000 attending according to the police.

The Rohingya, already facing hardship by living in one of the poorest parts of the country, are not recognised by Myanmar law among the 135 ethnic groups and as such are denied citizenship, access to education, healthcare, social services, legal representation and freedom of movement despite numbering over one million and living since multiple generations in Rakhine.

Human Rights Watch identified a total of 430 destroyed buildings in three villages of Maungdaw District from an analysis of very high resolution satellite imagery recorded on the mornings of October 22, November 3, and November 10, 2016. © 2016 Human Rights Watch
Human Rights Watch identified a total of 430 destroyed buildings in three villages of Maungdaw District from an analysis of very high resolution satellite imagery recorded on the mornings of October 22, November 3, and November 10, 2016. © 2016 Human Rights Watch

As the civilian leader of the government, Suu Kyi has yet to provide clarity on whether Rohingya’s would be recognised, her ambiguity calculatingly allows her to concentrate on more important matters according to observers.

“In the Rakhine, it’s not just Muslims who are nervous and worried,” said Suu Kyi. “The Rakhine are worried too.” In northern Rakhine, Muslims outnumber the ethnic Rakhine population.

“She knows everything and is standing” with the military The military has been briefing her on every important issue,” said her spokesman U Zaw Htay.

A journalist who worked for English-language Myanmar Times, Fiona MacGregor, claims she was fired for an article published on October 27 documenting the allegations of dozens of rapes by security forces, alleging the papers editor-in-chief was forced by the government to sack her.

There has been little dissidence if any otherwise by the media in Myanmar or from other quarters in relation to the military offensive.

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