By Prarthana Mitra
Amnesty International on Tuesday stripped Myanmar’s State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi of its highest honour, after over a year of the Rohingya crisis which propelled the Asian country into a damning spotlight.
The human rights organisation announced their decision, holding the Nobel Peace Prize awardee responsible for “defending the indefensible” and accused her of “shameful betrayal” of the very values and people she had pledged to protect. In a statement on Tuesday, Amnesty lamented that Suu Kyi had failed to speak out and had “shielded the security forces from accountability” for the violence against the Rohingya.
Suu Kyi’s fall from grace
Withdrawing the title, Amnesty called her complicit in the human rights abuses in her own backyard and remarked critically on her reluctance to speak out against the violence against minorities in Myanmar, despite being hailed as a champion in the fight for democracy all over the world.
Suu Kyi has had other honours withdrawn from her over the Rohingya crisis including the top award from U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, honorary citizenship of Canada, and the freedom of the cities of Dublin and Oxford in England.
Blind eye to ethnic cleansing
In August 2017, Myanmar witnessed a horrific military crackdown on Rohingya Muslims in the Rakhine state, followed by an exodus of survivors fleeing in terror from their villages, with 7,00,000 of them currently camped in refugee settlements across Bangladesh.
A critical report published in September by the United Nations Human Rights Council called the entire operation a genocide, and an extra-judicial attempt to wipe out an ethnic minority in the predominantly Buddhist country.
Complicity is culpable
Holding several army generals responsible for spearheading this heinous attack on innocent villagers, the UN fact-finding team also confirmed some of the worst violations of human rights committed by the military forces, including rape, mass killings, burning entire villages and assaulting children. Aung San Suu Kyi’s government had notably refused to cooperate with the UN investigators, refusing them complete entry and access to conduct an independent inquiry.
In their report, composed on the basis of their interviews with the refugees, UNHRC also held the head of the state culpable and complicit in the ethnic cleansing. The UN condemned her for condoning one of the most violent military crackdowns in recent history, even though the army continues to maintain that they were only responding to violent insurgencies by a Rohingya Muslim militant group.
No end to the military regime
Interestingly, when Amnesty International had presented her with the Ambassador of Conscience Award in 2009, it was in recognition of her resilience and opposition in the face of Myanmar’s erstwhile military regime. But not much in the country has changed since then, with the army’s autonomy bordering on autocracy continues unchecked.
Even after Suu Kyi led her party to victory in the 2015 elections, establishing a democratic government for the first time, she shared significant powers with the military generals and still has no authority or say over the security forces.
That said, it cannot be acceptable, by any standards, for a celebrated humanitarian icon and noted philanthropist of her stature to turn a blind eye to crimes against humanity and of such magnitude.
Prarthana Mitra is a staff writer at Qrius.
Stay updated with all the insights.
Navigate news, 1 email day.
Subscribe to Qrius