Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Irony of Myanmar's 'Iron lady': Peace activist Aung San Suu Kyi indifferent to Rohingya Muslims' plight in Burma

'Peace activist' mum on persecution
Aung San Suu Kyi was a world hero but does she command the same respect? This is now a question being asked repeatedly due to her apathy towards the plight of Rohingya minority and her controversial statements about their citizenship status.

The world had stood by Suu Kyi and openly supported the pro-democracy woman who had been under house arrest by the military government in Myanmar but after her release and victory, her stand on the Rohingya issue has been shocking to say the least.

Worse, Rohingyas were getting killed in the rioting when she was on a tour to Europe. She didn't speak about the violence back home, issued no direct appeal to her people to stop violence and while newspapers said she was treated like 'Rockstar' and awarded doctorate, Suu Kyi made THE controversial statement. 

The 'iron' woman, who was supposed to have spoken for the rights of the community, has gone to the extent of questioning that if the minority indeed belongs to Burma. What can be the biggest irony? She was a hero for everyone but no more for me and perhaps many others. 

The Rohingyas, a stateless people, have been living in Myanmar for centuries until the military government in 1982 [through a citizenship law] decided to strip the off their nationality. The community that is termed by Amnesty and other agencies as one of the most persecuted in the world, is now termed 'outsider'. 

Rohingyas population estimates range from 8,00,000 to 1 million though it is suspected that the government figures are markedly less than the actual population. The community has faced hostility, prejudices and massacres for the last 60 years.

World Wakes up to the plight of Rohingyas

But the woman who suffered most at the hands of the military, seems to be in sync with the junta's [army] views about the Rohingyas who have been discriminated, oppressed and systematically forced out of Burma for decades.

Now pandering to popular sentiments, Suu Kyi has refrained from making any statement. No wonder, the Rohingyas are dejected and have lost hope from the woman they had supported and even vote for in election, aiming for change. Does she feel the Bamars would get upset if she speaks for Rohingyas!

That't what politicians do. But this is not expected from a leader of her stature. The ethnic riots between Rakhine Buddhists and Rohingya Muslims left nearly 90 dead while 90,000 were displaced. But she ket mum. Bangladesh didn't let fleeing Rohingyas, who wanted an asylum, and forced them to go back to their country. 

It was in this scenario that reporters during her tour to England, France, Ireland and other countries, asked her repeatedly on this humanitarian crisis. She kept mum and avoided a comment on this issue, even as the extent of violence had shaken her country.
Rohingya woman cries after her husband got killed
When she was not left with any alternative, she shrewdly said, "The rule of the law is needed". 

Is this you expect from a statesman, a Nobel prize winner or a world leader or a fighter? 

Newspapers were finally getting critical about the fact that her tour appeared more a celebration and PR exercise.

She seemed to echo the hardline sentiment that Rohingyas are illegal immigrants [refugees] in Myanmar. 

She finally said that Myanmar must clarify citizenship rules and that she was unsure whether Rohingyas could be regarded as Maynamar nationals. WHAT A SHAME!

The world is changing Ma'am. The fascist rule had somewhat managed to keep the country insulated but news about the clashes and genocides can't be suppressed any more. 

That day I saw the group on Facebook group 'I have no respect left for you Aung San Suu Kyi...'.A leading newspaper questions, 'Has Suu Kyi lost that moral voice?' 

It is no bravery to get aligned to right-wing forces for minor gains. Nationalism becomes Jingoism easily. It takes a GANDHI to counter populist mood and use the leader's moral authority to say things that may not appear nice [and to go against the tide]. 

So those who compared you to the great Nelson Mandela, may have to do a rethink now. As an activist you struggled, spent a lifetime fighting oppressive forces. People put faith in you but you let us down. 

Your tour is over and soon you will be back to Yangon [formerly Rangoon]. If you don't speak for the victims, just because they look like Bengalis, you will be considered an accomplice in letting this persecution go on. 

We urge you to make amends and take steps for reconciliation between Rohingya and the rest. Isn't it time for you to live up to your own reputation and redeem yourself?