Nobel laureates criticize Myanmar's Aung San Suu Kyi for silence on Rohingyas

Previous Nobel Peace Prize winners are criticizing another Nobel laureate for her silence and inaction over the treatment of the Rohingya Muslim minority in Myanmar.

Aung San Suu Kyi was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1991 after decades of being persecuted for her advocacy to bring democracy to Burma, now known as Myanmar.  Her party won a resounding victory at the polls in 2015, defeating the oppressive military junta.  While ineligible to become president, she assumed a new office – state counselor – becoming de facto political leader of the country.

But her power is largely based on her moral leadership.  That leadership has been lacking as the military, which is still a powerful political force in the country, has once again begun an effort to punish the Muslim minority known as the Rohingyas. 

The Rohingyas are considered the most oppressed minority group in the world, as the military routinely raids Rohingya villages and towns, killing many and driving many more out of the country.  Currently, about 125,000 Rohingyas have fled their homes as the military has carried out reprisal raids for a Rohingya terrorist attack on a military base.

Through all of this, Suu Kyi has refused to criticize the Myanmar military for their brutal crackdown, leading many former peace prize winners to call for stripping Suu Kyi of her award.

NPR:

In December, [Malala] Yousafzai signed a letter along with several other Nobel laureates calling for the "international community as a whole to speak out much more strongly" as "a human tragedy amounting to ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity is unfolding in Myanmar."

Yanghee Lee, the United Nations' special rapporteur for human rights in Myanmar, told the BBC it was a "really grave" situation in Rakhine and called for Suu Kyi to "step in."

In the U.K., Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson said that "the treatment of the Rohingya is alas besmirching the reputation of Burma." Myanmar is also known as Burma, and is a former British colony.

"I hope [Suu Kyi] can now use all her remarkable qualities to unite her country, to stop the violence and to end the prejudice that afflicts both muslims and other communities in Rakhine," Johnson said in a statement.

Suu Kyi has kept mostly silent about the ongoing plight of the Muslim minority in largely Buddhist Myanmar – which may seem out of place for a democracy activist who spent most of the time between 1989 and 2010 under house arrest imposed by the military junta, which ruled the country at the time.

As Michael Sullivan and Ashley Westerman reported for NPR earlier this year, her silence is likely a political strategy: "In overwhelmingly Buddhist Myanmar, speaking out for the rights of a much-maligned Muslim minority doesn't win votes."

Also, Myanmar's military "still wields an inordinate amount of power in the country, and it has capitalized on the issue of the Rohingyas in order to preserve power," Darwin Peng writes in the Harvard Political Review.

But the latest wave of violence has been particularly horrific, human rights advocates say.

"The brutality is unthinkable. They're killing children. They're killing women. They're killing the elderly. They're killing men and boys, it's indiscriminate," Matthew Smith of the group Fortify Rights told reporter Michael Sullivan on NPR Monday.

Myanmar's military says at least 400 people have been killed in the recent fighting. Human rights groups say Myanmar's military has used systematic rape as a weapon of war, as Sullivan and Westerman reported. Human Rights Watch says satellite images show an entire Rohingya village being burned recently, one of 17 "sites where burnings have taken place."

Myanmar won't acknowledge the Rohingya as citizens, saying they are immigrants from Bangladesh.

At the time Suu Kyi received her award, she was hailed for her courage to speak out and steadfastness in the face of arrest and torture.  She lived under house arrest for decades as the military brutalized the country.  Now, with hundreds of thousands of people suffering the worst kind of oppression, she is maintaining her silence for political reasons.

To me, it's just one more indication how ridiculous the Nobel committee has been over the years when awarding the peace prize.  There have been some deserving recipients, but the committee's definition of "peace" leaves a lot to be desired. 

The prize became almost irrelevant when it was awarded to Yasser Arafat – a Palestinian terrorist who ordered the murder of Jewish babies.  After that, the prize became a joke.  Al Gore?  Barack Obama?  Jimmy Carter?  Kofi Annan?  (The former sec-gen of the U.N. is considered one of the most corrupt diplomats in the organization's history.)  The list of unworthy recipients is long and undistinguished.

Suu Kyi may have, at one time, demonstrated qualities that made her worthy of the peace prize.  But when the most dire circumstances arise where her leadership could actually make a difference and save lives, she prefers to sit on the sidelines, terrified that standing up for a persecuted minority will cost her party votes in the next election.

From idealist to cynic.  Or maybe a cynic all this time, and we just failed to see past our own hero-worship of someone who uses language to stand up to guns.  Either way, it's one more black mark on the Nobel committee that chose her.

Previous Nobel Peace Prize winners are criticizing another Nobel laureate for her silence and inaction over the treatment of the Rohingya Muslim minority in Myanmar.

Aung San Suu Kyi was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1991 after decades of being persecuted for her advocacy to bring democracy to Burma, now known as Myanmar.  Her party won a resounding victory at the polls in 2015, defeating the oppressive military junta.  While ineligible to become president, she assumed a new office – state counselor – becoming de facto political leader of the country.

But her power is largely based on her moral leadership.  That leadership has been lacking as the military, which is still a powerful political force in the country, has once again begun an effort to punish the Muslim minority known as the Rohingyas. 

The Rohingyas are considered the most oppressed minority group in the world, as the military routinely raids Rohingya villages and towns, killing many and driving many more out of the country.  Currently, about 125,000 Rohingyas have fled their homes as the military has carried out reprisal raids for a Rohingya terrorist attack on a military base.

Through all of this, Suu Kyi has refused to criticize the Myanmar military for their brutal crackdown, leading many former peace prize winners to call for stripping Suu Kyi of her award.

NPR:

In December, [Malala] Yousafzai signed a letter along with several other Nobel laureates calling for the "international community as a whole to speak out much more strongly" as "a human tragedy amounting to ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity is unfolding in Myanmar."

Yanghee Lee, the United Nations' special rapporteur for human rights in Myanmar, told the BBC it was a "really grave" situation in Rakhine and called for Suu Kyi to "step in."

In the U.K., Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson said that "the treatment of the Rohingya is alas besmirching the reputation of Burma." Myanmar is also known as Burma, and is a former British colony.

"I hope [Suu Kyi] can now use all her remarkable qualities to unite her country, to stop the violence and to end the prejudice that afflicts both muslims and other communities in Rakhine," Johnson said in a statement.

Suu Kyi has kept mostly silent about the ongoing plight of the Muslim minority in largely Buddhist Myanmar – which may seem out of place for a democracy activist who spent most of the time between 1989 and 2010 under house arrest imposed by the military junta, which ruled the country at the time.

As Michael Sullivan and Ashley Westerman reported for NPR earlier this year, her silence is likely a political strategy: "In overwhelmingly Buddhist Myanmar, speaking out for the rights of a much-maligned Muslim minority doesn't win votes."

Also, Myanmar's military "still wields an inordinate amount of power in the country, and it has capitalized on the issue of the Rohingyas in order to preserve power," Darwin Peng writes in the Harvard Political Review.

But the latest wave of violence has been particularly horrific, human rights advocates say.

"The brutality is unthinkable. They're killing children. They're killing women. They're killing the elderly. They're killing men and boys, it's indiscriminate," Matthew Smith of the group Fortify Rights told reporter Michael Sullivan on NPR Monday.

Myanmar's military says at least 400 people have been killed in the recent fighting. Human rights groups say Myanmar's military has used systematic rape as a weapon of war, as Sullivan and Westerman reported. Human Rights Watch says satellite images show an entire Rohingya village being burned recently, one of 17 "sites where burnings have taken place."

Myanmar won't acknowledge the Rohingya as citizens, saying they are immigrants from Bangladesh.

At the time Suu Kyi received her award, she was hailed for her courage to speak out and steadfastness in the face of arrest and torture.  She lived under house arrest for decades as the military brutalized the country.  Now, with hundreds of thousands of people suffering the worst kind of oppression, she is maintaining her silence for political reasons.

To me, it's just one more indication how ridiculous the Nobel committee has been over the years when awarding the peace prize.  There have been some deserving recipients, but the committee's definition of "peace" leaves a lot to be desired. 

The prize became almost irrelevant when it was awarded to Yasser Arafat – a Palestinian terrorist who ordered the murder of Jewish babies.  After that, the prize became a joke.  Al Gore?  Barack Obama?  Jimmy Carter?  Kofi Annan?  (The former sec-gen of the U.N. is considered one of the most corrupt diplomats in the organization's history.)  The list of unworthy recipients is long and undistinguished.

Suu Kyi may have, at one time, demonstrated qualities that made her worthy of the peace prize.  But when the most dire circumstances arise where her leadership could actually make a difference and save lives, she prefers to sit on the sidelines, terrified that standing up for a persecuted minority will cost her party votes in the next election.

From idealist to cynic.  Or maybe a cynic all this time, and we just failed to see past our own hero-worship of someone who uses language to stand up to guns.  Either way, it's one more black mark on the Nobel committee that chose her.

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