If ever there was a candidate for a recall of a Nobel Peace Prize, it is Aung San Suu Kyi, the de facto leader of Myanmar.
Suu Kyi, who came to power early last year after a resounding victory of her National League for Democracy party in November 2015, has pretty much betrayed all the values she was supposed to stand for, along with smashing all global hopes and aspirations for social and political reform in that repressive southeast Asian nation.
Under her watch, at least 1,500 Rohingya Muslims have been brutally murdered by government forces in the last 12 months, and more than 125,000 of their brethren have fled Myanmar’s Rakhine State to Bangladesh in the last three weeks alone as a result of a brutal and systematic military crackdown on insurgents.
The Rohingya, who make up about 1.8 percent of Myanmar’s total population of 55 million, have been persecuted and marginalized for decades by the majority Buddhists, and clashes between the two ethnic groups escalated in early 2012.
But, now, it is not the Buddhists that are hounding the Rohingya, but the Myanmar government.
And all the while, Suu Kyi – who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1991 for her “non-violent struggle for democracy and human rights” – continues to turn a blind eye, allowing her storm troopers to freely slaughter Rohingya men, women and children in what United Nations’ Secretary-General’s Special Adviser for the Prevention of Genocide Adama Dieng has described as an ethnic cleansing policy “on the brink of genocide.”
Myanmar’s Rohingyas are treated as second-class citizens and nearly 150,000 of them have been kept in segregated camps – supposedly for “their own security” – for the last five years.
Both the Rohingya in the camps and those outside have little or no access to basic human necessities such as clean drinking water, health care or education.
This mounting disenfranchisement of the Rohingya has logically led to rebellion and violence, often directed toward police and military, reaching a peak in late 2016.
But rather than try to come to a peaceful reconciliation with the Rohingya people, the Suu Kyi government has now launched an all-out assault on their dwindling population.
In the last few months, the Myanmar military has implemented an “area-clearance operations” which United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights has said has turned into “widespread and systematic” attacks by security forces against Rohingya, including extrajudicial killings, gang rapes, torture and arson.
International appeals to Suu Kyi to stop the persecution of the Rohingya have essentially fallen on deaf ears.
Her only answer so far has been to state that her government is committed to resolving the conflict in Rakhine State, but it needs to take its own good “time and space” (which is politikspeak for “butt out and mind your own business”).
Suu Kyi, who once spoke against social repression and the violation of human rights in Myanmar, is now guilty of the very same charges.
It’s high time for her to either stand up and defend the rights of the Rohingya people or send her Nobel Prize back to Stockholm.
Thérèse Margolis can be reached at [email protected]