We gathered courage from Aung San Suu Kyi’s struggle to bring democracy in her country. Her struggle for emancipating people who were deprived of their basic human rights gave us the hope to believe in her unconventional non-violent tactics.
But here we are again – feeling betrayed by our longings. In October last year, when the unrest happened in Myanmar’s Rakhine state, and thousands of Rohingya were forced to leave their homeland and fled to neighbouring countries, I still kept my belief in Aung San Suu Kyi. I was hoping that Suu Kyi would take measures to stop the issue as soon as she felt that her reign in Myanmar was stable. Like many of her admirers, I was also hoping that she would rise against all odds and establish the fact that humanity would flourish. We are still waiting to see flashes of lights in one of the darkest hours of our time.
She has already proved that if one has an unwavering resolve and is geared up to face any difficulty to achieve their goals – sooner or later, the results will be positive. We used to assume that she reflected the rare combination of Mahatma Gandhi and Mother Teresa. But for someone who was once an inspiration, how radically she has refused to point out the plight of the Rohingya population in Myanmar!
During Suu Kyi’s detention by the military junta in Myanmar, a lot of people around the world put their trust on Suu Kyi and protested for her immediate release. They were overwhelmed when Suu Kyi got the Noble Prize. When Suu became the de facto leader in Myanmar (after her party, National League of Democracy had a landslide victory in the 2015 general elections) our elation knew no bound. Even now, when I watch the biographical movie, “The Lady”, I feel rejuvenated enough to hail this victory of humanity.
But after the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA), a Rohingya militant group, attacked police posts on August 25, the situation in the Rakhine state has worsened. The military has started its brutal operation, which has led to more than 2,50,000 people fleeing to the neighbouring country of Bangladesh. This has made it more difficult to handle the plight of the increasing number of persecuted Rohingya.
The armed forces in Myanmar retain powerful positions – and it is difficult for Suu Kyi to exercise control over them. The way they are killing and torturing one of the most persecuted minorities in the world is absolutely unacceptable. But, in her recent interviews, she has mentioned that the army is dealing with terrorists who have attacked the military after whatever the country has done for them. For a leader who is the state counsellor and enjoys more power than the President, how can she remain silent about the inhuman way in which the military is committing mass murder?
The only way Suu Kyi can protest is by raising her voice against one of the most brutal regimes in the world. However, instead of countering the army’s way of dealing with the crisis, Suu Kyi seems to be supporting the military’s activities. She has even asked the US Ambassador to Myanmar not to use the term ‘Rohingya’. This indicates that she is following the citizenship law imposed by the military junta in 1982, which didn’t consider the Rohingya as citizens of Myanmar.
In her Nobel Lecture, she had said: “Wherever suffering is ignored, there will be the seeds for conflict.” When seen in this light, it would seem that the Rohingya have been suppressed for years and that the ‘arrangements’ made for them ensure that they remain one of the most poor, needy and vulnerable communities of the world.
Aid agencies are not being allowed to provide humanitarian support to the people displaced or isolated by this violence. When UN officials wanted to investigate the situation, Suu Kyi’s government put restrictions on their activities. In their hunt for the militants, the distribution of food, shelter and much-needed materials has been stopped. When asked about the reports and evidences pointing to the violence and brutality, Suu Kyi has denied or discarded these reports.
I still want to believe in her greatness. After all, she was the one who retaliated by saying – “It is not power that corrupts, but fear. Fear of losing power corrupts those who wield it, and fear of the scourge of power corrupts those who are subject to it.” I will not go to the extent of supporting the petition for revoking her Nobel Prize, which she once undoubtedly deserved.
I want to believe that Suu Kyi is the great leader who I look forward to when I see humanity in need of one. Like me, many people are hoping that Suu Kyi will eventually realise and address the inhuman treatment towards the Rohingya community and will take preventive measures to stop this unacceptable violence against humanity.