Aung San Suu Kyi with Archbishop Desmond Tutu
I am not over yet with the appalling Aung San Suu Kyi, the much talked about democracy activist who earned a global reputation as a symbol of defiance and strength in the face of a brutal military junta in her country Myanmar, formerly known as Burma, in the late 1990s and early 2000s.
Suu Kyi’s stoicism and her refusal to leave her country, even though it meant forgoing a life with her sons husband, who lived overseas, became, likewise, a symbol of sacrifice, inspiration, hope and freedom for all the peoples in Myanmar.
For leading a non-violent resistance movement, even while under house arrest, Suu Kyi was aptly compared to Mahatma Gandhi and Nelson Mandela. Evidently and subsequently she won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1991, but received it in person only in 2012, after her release in 2010. Her party swept elections a landslide victory in 2015, making her the de facto civilian leader of her country.
Now her reputation is rapidly disintegrating because of her refusal to speak out about — or take meaningful steps to prevent — the military crackdown targeting the country’s Rohingya Muslim minority. An estimated 400,000 Rohingya refugees have streamed across the border to Bangladesh running from what appears to be a crackdown on their villages by the military that still controls crucial aspects of Myanmar’s government, including the state security apparatus.
Because of her silence, insensitivity and indifference to the plight of the Rohingyas, dismal things are happening to her and I am citing two here for your information – one is a copy of a letter from Archbishop and former Nobel laureate Desmond Tutu and the other is a reprint of an article published in the BBC News, dated 3 October 2017, titled Aung San Suu Kyi’s stripped of ‘Freedom of Oxford’:
My dear Aung San Su Kyi
I am now elderly, decrepit and formally retired, but breaking my vow to remain silent on public affairs out of profound sadness about the plight of the Muslim minority in your country, the Rohingya.
In my heart you are a dearly beloved younger sister. For years I had a photograph of you on my desk to remind me of the injustice and sacrifice you endured out of your love and commitment for Myanmar’s people. You symbolised righteousness. In 2010 we rejoiced at your freedom from house arrest, and in 2012 we celebrated your election as leader of the opposition.
Your emergence into public life allayed our concerns about violence being perpetrated against members of the Rohingya. But what some have called ‘ethnic cleansing’ and others ‘a slow genocide’ has persisted – and recently accelerated. The images we are seeing of the suffering of the Rohingya fill us with pain and dread.
We know that you know that human beings may look and worship differently – and some may have greater firepower than others – but none are superior and none inferior; that when you scratch the surface we are all the same, members of one family, the human family; that there are no natural differences between Buddhists and Muslims; and that whether we are Jews or Hindus, Christians or atheists, we are born to love, without prejudice. Discrimination doesn’t come naturally; it is taught.
My dear sister: If the political price of your ascension to the highest office in Myanmar is your silence, the price is surely too steep. A country that is not at peace with itself, that fails to acknowledge and protect the dignity and worth of all its people, is not a free country.
It is incongruous for a symbol of righteousness to lead such a country; it is adding to our pain.
As we witness the unfolding horror we pray for you to be courageous and resilient again. We pray for you to speak out for justice, human rights and the unity of your people. We pray for you to intervene in the escalating crisis and guide your people back towards the path of righteousness again.
God bless you.
Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu
Hermanus, South Africa
Aung San Suu Kyi’s stripped of ‘Freedom of Oxford’
An honour granting Aung San Suu Kyi the Freedom of Oxford has been withdrawn by the city’s council because of her response to the Rohingya crisis.
The de facto leader of Myanmar was granted the honour in 1997 for her “long struggle for democracy”.
But a motion to Oxford City Council said it was “no longer appropriate” for her to hold it.
More than half a million Rohingya Muslims have fled Myanmar to Bangladesh following recent violence.
The trouble erupted on 25 August when Rohingya militants attacked security posts, triggering a military crackdown.
Ms Suu Kyi spent years under house arrest in Rangoon as a campaigner for democracy while Myanmar (formerly Burma) was ruled by a military dictatorship.
She became a worldwide figurehead for freedom before leading her National League for Democracy party to victory in open elections in November 2015.
But her failure to denounce the military or address allegations of ethnic cleansing has been criticised by world leaders and groups like Amnesty International.
Other organisations are now reconsidering honours given to Ms Suu Kyi, BBC world affairs editor John Simpson said.
“I think it is perfectly natural to look around for ways of saying we disapprove utterly of what you are doing,” he told BBC Radio Oxford.
Oxford City Council leader Bob Price supported the motion to remove her honour and confirmed it was an “unprecedented step” for the local authority.
People are “absolutely appalled” by the situation in Myanmar, he said, adding it was “extraordinary” she had not spoken out about reported atrocities in the country.
Last week it emerged St Hugh’s College, Oxford, had removed a portrait of Ms Suu Kyi from display.