At the Asia-Pacific summit 2018 held in Nepal, Myanmar’s civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi called for “a culture of peace” to end conflict between the communities. The summit organized by the Nepalese government and the Universal Peace Foundation was held under the theme ‘Addressing the Critical Challenges of Our Time: Interdependence, Mutual Prosperity, and Universal Values.’
Speaking at the summit, the Nobel Prize Winner said, “…cooperation between nations to seek peace and mutual prosperity and only by promoting a culture of peace in this world of interdependence it will be possible to create harmony between diverse countries and societies.”
However, at the same summit, Suu Kyi chose to remain silent on the Rohingya crisis which has led the United Nations to call for a genocide investigation.
Suu Kyi who was once seen as a flag bearer of Universal Human Rights – a principled activist willing to give up her freedom to stand up to the ruthless generals who ruled Myanmar for decades, has been in news recently for driving Rohingya minorities with the aid of the country’s army from the Rakhine state of Myanmar. This mass killing and crack down by security forces has led to the exodus of lakhs of Rohingyas to the southeastern coastal town of Bangladesh called Cox’s Bazar.
According to a United Nations report, over 727,000 Rohingyas have fled Myanmar, thousands have been killed and women have been subjected to brutal sexual violence. Many human rights groups as well as the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights have described it as a ‘textbook example of ethnic cleansing’ but Aung San Suu Kyi has not spoken a single word about the actions of Myanmar’s military and government.
Recently, the mayor of the city of Paris, Anne Hidalgo, announced that Aung San Suu Kyi will be stripped of her award of the honorary freedom of the city over her failure to speak out against the crackdown on Myanmar’s Rohingya community. With this, Myanmar’s current leader becomes the first person to lose the freedom of the French capital, a purely symbolic award.
Earlier, the same leader was yet again the first person whose honorary Canadian citizenship was revoked by the Canadian government. Both houses of Canadian parliament passed a resolution to strip Suu Kyi of the symbolic honour because of her failure to stand for justice for the Rohingya community.
Amnesty International followed suit and “expressed deep anguish and disappointment that she had not used her political and moral authority to safeguard human rights, justice or equality in Myanmar, citing her apparent indifference to atrocities committed by the Myanmar military and increasing intolerance of freedom of expression.”
Under pressure from the around the globe, the Myanmar government signed an official deal with the United Nations and Government of Bangladesh, wherein it was agreed upon that efforts would be made to create appropriate conditions for the voluntary, safe and dignified return of Rohingya refugees to the Rakhine state. To date, no such returns have happened and the condition of the Rohingya community continues to worsen.
The biggest worry Suu Kyi faces are the sanctions by the United Nations on Myanmar because of the government’s failure to prosecute the military leaders. The Trump administration has already placed sanctions on four commanders of Myanmar’s military and Border Guard Police (BGP) and two military units for their involvement in ethnic cleansing in Rakhine state and other widespread human rights abuses.
The United Nations fact-finding mission on Myanmar has concluded that members of the Rohingya community were subject to the most horrendous torture and these crimes were orchestrated by military leaders. The report from the mission also recommended that the Security Council must refer the matter to the International Criminal Court.
Aung San Suu Kyi’s failure to acknowledge the Rohingya crisis at the Asia Pacific summit this year has once again created an uproar and her refusal to speak against Myanmar’s military commanders has dented her image of being a democratic leader.
Myanmar’s head of state must address the fears of the country’s neighbours and the global community regarding human rights violations in the Rakhine state; and subsequently chalk out a plan to end the crisis in order to bring peace and tranquility within the South Asian region.