Suu Kyi doesn’t fear international scrutiny over Rohingya crisis

Published :19 September, 2017
Gono Biplob

International Desk:

Myanmar State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi said in a nationally televised address that her country does not fear the scrutiny of the international community, in wake of the Rohingya crisis, reports CNN.

On Tuesday’s national speech, the de facto Myanmar leader ignored harsh criticism across the globe against her, as more than 400,000 minority Rohingya have fled violence in the country’s northern Rakhine State recently.

“It is not the intention of the Myanmar government to apportion blame or to abdicate responsibility. We condemn all human rights violation and unlawful violence,” she said. “We are committed to the restoration of peace, stability and rule of law throughout the state.”

The speech is the first time Suu Kyi, the country’s de facto leader, has spoken about the situation in Rakhine State since the latest spate of violence broke out.

Stories of rape, murder and torture of the Rohingya, a Muslim minority living in northern Myanmar, allegedly at the hands of the military are commonplace in the overcrowded refugee camps in neighboring Bangladesh.

As the number of Rohingya refugees crossing the Bangladesh border grows, so too does international criticism of State Counselor Suu Kyi’s failure to condemn the violence or stop it.

But inside Yangon, Myanmar largest city, it’s a different story. The country’s democratically elected leaders — including Suu Kyi — appear to remain popular, with many of her supporters accusing the international community of failing to properly understand the crisis.

In Yangon, crowds gathered outside a large public screen to watch Suu Kyi’s speech.

At a rally in the former capital Monday (September 18), a few hundred people gathered to show their support for the government.

Some held placards of Nobel Peace Prize winner of Malala Yousafzai’s face crossed out, as the activist recently called Suu Kyi’ to act.

“Shame on you,” the posters said, in reference to Malala. “If you don’t know the real situation of Myanmar, better keep quiet.”

Suu Kyi canceled her trip to the United Nations General Assembly this week so she could stay home and handle the situation in Rakhine State.

But some analysts wondered whether Suu Kyi was also trying to avoid the spotlight as she’s come under harsh criticism for ignoring the mass exodus of people from her country.

Human rights activists, fellow Nobel laureates and much of the world’s Muslim community have condemned Suu Kyi — a Nobel Peace Prize winner for her nonviolent resistance to the military junta that used to rule the country — for failing to use her position as a government leader and moral authority to speak out on behalf of the Rohingya.

Within the country, Suu Kyi remains popular. Polling conducted by the International Republican Institute this spring but released last month showed the government enjoys plenty of support.

The Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA), claimed responsibility for the August 25 killing of 12 security personnel in Rakhine State that kicked off the latest round of violence.

The Myanmar government has said its clearance operations are in response to the attack and that the military is battling terrorists and doing everything it can to protect civilians, which Suu Kyi reiterated in her speech.

Others accuse the Tatmadaw, as the military is known, of responding with a scorched-earth policy.

Stories from those who made it to neighboring Bangladesh, however, paint a different picture, one of the military and allied mobs attacking the Rohingya indiscriminately.

“The Rakhines and the Hindus, they joined with the military. I watched them coming over the hill, like a team,” 50-year-old Khatun told CNN from Cox’s Bazar, one of the biggest refugee camps in Bangladesh. “I knew them, yet they were killing us.”

Myanmar considers the Rohingya illegal immigrants from neighboring Bangladesh, despite the fact that many Rohingya families have lived in Rakhine State for years. Bangladesh considers them Burmese.

The Myanmar government does not use the term “Rohingya” and does not recognize the people as an official ethnicity, which means the Rohingya are denied citizenship and effectively rendered stateless.

They’ve long been considered one of the most persecuted people in the world, but only recently have been considered a risk for radicalization.

Inside the Kutupalong refugee camp in Cox’s Bazar, refugees told CNN they believe Suu Kyi has failed them.

“What Aung San Suu Kyi is doing is not good,” 45-year-old village elder Baser told CNN. “She is responsible for this violence.”

Suu Kyi’s political party swept to victory in the country’s democratic elections in 2015 and the role of State Counselor was created for her, as she is constitutionally barred from serving as president.

The military still wields a significant amount of power, and it’s unclear how much control Suu Kyi has over how Burmese forces handle the situation in Rakhine State compared to Sen. Gen. Min Aung Hlaing, the military’s commander-in-chief.

“Under the Constitution the Commander-in-Chief is his own boss, he doesn’t report to Aung San Suu Ky. He can’t be fired,” Aaron Connelly, a research fellow in the East Asia Program at the Lowy Institute in Sydney, told CNN.

“If the military has to choose between control and international respect, they will choose control.”

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