This has been long coming. I have repeatedly tweeted that Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi should be stripped of her numerous peace awards because of her glaring hypocrisy on the Rohingya ethnic cleansing.
Now the Oxford City Council where she was an undergraduate, has unanimously voted to recommend Suu Kyi’s Freedom of the City award be withdrawn, citing deep concerns about the treatment of Rohingya Muslims under her watch.
The council has removed her portrait last week from public display.This is happening even as other British institutions increasingly distance themselves from the embattled former rights icon.
Local Councillor and Labour party member Mary Clarkson said that “the city’s reputation is tarnished by honouring those who turn a blind eye to violence,” in a speech presenting the motion.
“While the UN calls the situation a ‘textbook example of ethnic cleansing’, Aung San Suu Kyi denies any ethnic cleansing and dismisses numerous claims of sexual violence against Rohingya women as ‘fake rape,'” Clarkson said.
Council leader Bob Price supported the motion, reportedly calling it an “unprecedented step” for the local authority.
Daw Suu (as she’s fondly by her followers) made her first public statement on the subject since the exodus of refugees began in a speech in late September. She said her government condemned all human rights violations and promised to punish those responsible, disingenuously avoiding to address accusations of ethnic cleansing and also failed to criticise the military actions.
Her speech came under a barrage of criticisms and Amnesty International branded it “little more than a mix of untruths and victim-blaming”
A number of institutions are also reviewing or removing honours bestowed on Suu Kyi during her campaign for democracy.
Bristol University and The London School of Economics students union that awarded honorary degrees to the Burmese leader during her time in opposition, also said they were reviewing its award in light of her position on the brutal violence against the Rohingya Muslims.
A friend of mine once said she will like to taste power just so that she will know what makes people change once they have it. For a rights activist who was under house arrest in her native Myanmar where she remained a prisoner for 21 years, it is really difficult to fathom what might have changed in Suu Kyi
How is she able to sleep at night after watching new reports on thousands of Rohingya people discovered floating in boats on the south-east Asian seas? Does she not cry at the thought of over 500,000 Myanmar’s Rohingya people who are said to have fled across the border to Bangladesh in less than two months? Surely there will be moments of flashbacks at her time in confinement to remind her what freedom means to all humans.
Prior to this, I have read in a HuffPost report where she explained her silence. She reportedly said: “I am not silent because of political calculation. I am silent because whoever’s side I stand on, there will be more blood. If I speak up for human rights, they (the Rohingya) will only suffer. There will be more blood.”
These are deep words indeed. Some will dismiss her words as a flimsy alibi. For those who may want to consider it so, let me say that they could be right. Aung San Suu Kyi will definitely not be another Mandela. Madiba it was who on his release from prison stood against the planned exclusion of whites (who imprisoned him for 27 years) from his party, the African National Congress ANC. He rather condemned the violence perpetrated by blacks against them and welcomed them into his government.
It was the same Mandela who once said that “there are times when a leader must move ahead of his flock”.
The time for Daw Suu to speak out is now. Her words in that HuffPost report exposed the real threat of genocide faced by the Rohingyas. She can forget about awards, a bigger legacy will be left behind by speaking the truth and calling on the world to come to the aid of the Rohingyas.
The clock ticks.