Aung San Suu Kyi’s Silence on Rohingya’s Criticised


YANGON/ MYANMAR: Refugee rights advocates and Malaysia has criticised Nobel Peace Prize laureate Aung San Suu Kyi’s stoic silence over the worsening plight of the Rohingya minority in her homeland of Myanmar.

“Where is Aung San Suu Kyi the so-called world champion,?” asked Malaysia’s deputy home minister Wan Junaidi Jaafar. “What is she doing? Why is she silent on Rohingya issues?” he added.

Suu Kyi was not invited to an international gathering discussing the plight of the Rohingya’s. The gathering had fellow Nobel Peace Prize winners Desmond Tutu, José Ramos-Horta and Mairead Maguire. Others, like philanthropist George Soros, who escaped Nazi-occupied Hungary, and former prime minister of Norway Kjell Magne Bondevik, also spoke.

“If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor,” Tutu, who won the 1984 Nobel Peace Prize for his opposition to South Africa’s brutal apartheid regime, says in his video statement. “If an elephant has its foot on the tail of a mouse and you say that you are neutral, the mouse will not appreciate your neutrality.”

U.S. financier and philanthropist George Soros, who fled the Nazis as a boy, visited a Rohingya displacement camp, Aung Mingalar, a few months ago and said it triggered memories of his childhood.

“You see, in 1944, as a Jew in Budapest, I too was a Rohingya,” Soros told the Oslo gathering in a video statement. “Much like the Jewish ghettos set up by Nazis in Eastern Europe during World War II, Aung Mingalar has become the involuntary home to thousands of families who once had access to health care, education and employment.”

“Now they are forced to remain segregated in a state of abject deprivation. The parallels to the Nazi genocide are alarming,” Soros said.

Meanwhile the Tibetan spiritual leader and Nobel Peace prize winner the Dalai Lama said that he’d raised the Rohingya issue with Suu Kyi.

“It’s not sufficient to say: ‘How to help these people?'” the Dalai Lama told the paper.

“It’s very sad,” he added from India, where he lives in exile. “I mentioned about this problem and she told me she found some difficulties, that things were not simple but very complicated.”

Suu Kyi, now a member of parliament, has described the U.S. as being “overly optimistic” and says the political changes in Myanmar are not yet complete or irreversible.

When asked about the Rohingya, she has often told interviewers that she was a politician long before she was described as a human rights champion. Here’s how she addressed the issue in a BBC interview:

“I think we’ll accept that there is a perception that Muslim power, global Muslim power, is very great, and certainly that’s a perception in many parts of the world and in our country, too.”

Suu Kyi also says that speaking out for one side or another might fan the flames of violence.

“This is what the world needs to understand, that the fear isn’t just on the side of the Muslims but on the side of the Buddhists as well,” she says. “There’s fear on both sides. And this is what is leading to all these troubles. And we would like the world to understand that the reaction of the Buddhists is also based on fear.”

Analysts say Suu Kyi is reluctant to speak about the Rohingya’s as it will derail her presidential aspirations in November’s elections.

By defending the Rohingya, Suu Kyi would immediately put herself at odds with powerful Buddhist nationalist groups, potentially changing the dynamics of this year’s all important general election.

An already unpredictable vote would become super-charged with religious and ethnic tensions.

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