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Business as Usual in Myanmar

The country hasn’t lived up to expectations, at least not when it comes to defending human rights
By The News · 20 of June 2017 09:20:43
Aung San Suu Kyi, No available, photo: Wikipedia

It’s been more than a year now since Aung San Suu Kyi became the de facto leader of Myanmar.

And for all the global hopes and aspirations for social and political reform in the southeast Asian country that were spawned out of the November 2015 victory of her National League for Democracy party, the 1991 Nobel Peace Prize recipient simply hasn’t lived up to expectations, at least not when it comes to defending human rights.

To her credit, she has managed to keep the country relatively stable, avoiding clashes with Myanmar’s former military junta and implementing a cavalcade of legal and financial reforms while spurring investment and economic growth, especially for the ethnic Bamar majority, who make up about 60 percent of the population.

But for the country’s long-suffering ethnic and religious minorities, the situation in Myanmar has changed very little over the last 12 months.

In April, two Islamic schools in the Yangon Thaketa Township, inhabited by about 50,000 Burmese Muslims, were shuttered by a mob of 100 or so Buddhist ultra-nationalists.

Despite pleas from the schools’ administrators, local police reportedly refused to intervene and stood by as the mob chained the entrances to the schools.

The reason the Buddhist extremists gave for closing down the schools was that the objected to their practice of allowing Islamic prayers to take place on their campuses.

The hateful and intolerable act of persecution would be bad enough in itself, but the worst part is that, as of now, Myanmarese authorities have taken no legal action against the Buddhist fanatics.

In other words, the administration of the so-called “champion of the powerless” is turning a blind eye to the abuse of minorities and, in essence, giving ethnic majority vigilante groups the green light to continue harassing and persecuting the country’s Islamic minorities.

For now, the two schools remain closed, and tensions between the Bamar and Islamic minorities are continuing to mount.

Suu Kyi, who once spoke against social repression and the violation of human rights in Myanmar, has kept mum.

When she first took office, Suu Kyi promised to help create a united, multiethnic state where the fundamental rights of all citizens would be protected by law.

Now, it seems, she is only concerned with the rights of the majority.

Thérèse Margolis can be reached at therese.margolis@gmail.com.