Is Aung San Suu Kyi Failing Humanity?

An outbreak of violence in Myanmar’s Rakhine state has forced thousands of Rohingya civilians to flee their homes towards Bangladesh. Myanmar’s military launched a crackdown on the Rohingya which led to severe accusations of human rights abuses against the government. The Muslim Rohingyas have told terrifying stories of rape, killings and house burnings, which the Burmese government firmly denied. The Rohingya, as described by the United Nations in 2013, is one of the most persecuted minorities in the world. Around one million of Muslim Rohingya are estimated to live in western Rakhine state, where they have been residing for generations. However, the population is denied the possibility of acquiring a citizenship under the 1982 Burmese citizenship law. Hence, restricting their freedom of movement and proper education.

The tensions between the military and the Rohingyas escalated when nine border police near Maungdaw were killed in a militant attack led by Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (Arsa) in early October last year. According to an agent of the UN refugee agency in Bangladesh, the Myanmar military and Border Guard police had engaged in a collection of inhuman actions against the Rohingya minority. On the other hand, the government insisted that Arsa is a terrorist group and they will take all measures to deter any forms of terrorism in the country.

“Myanmar is seeking the ethnic cleansing of the Muslim Rohingya minority from its territory,” a senior UN official has told the BBC. The Burmese government, while being accused of violating human rights of thousands, has continuously denied UN investigators and journalists from entering Rakhine state. Although footage and pictures were sent to reveal house burnings and violent attacks, an official death toll cannot be verified due to limited access to the border of Myanmar and Bangladesh.

While some say Nobel Peace Prize laureate Aung San Suu Kyi failed the mission of humanity, she made her first public comment stating that the crisis was a “huge iceberg of misinformation.” In an interview held in April, Aung San was questioned by BBC’s Fergal Keane on why she had not done more for the Rohingyas. “In effect to give citizenships to all those who are entitled to it, one of the first thing we did after taking over the administration was going through the national verification process,” Aung San replied in return. Furthermore, she now never accepts interview invitations from the Burmese press and carefully picks her encounters with international media. There is also no regular questioning from MPs in the parliament. This makes it insurmountable to evaluate the integrity and credibility of the new government.

A state-run investigation found no evidence of human rights abuses. With that said, it is still difficult to convince the global community that the Burmese government endorses human rights and peace making among ethnic minorities. On a cultural context, the Muslim Rohingyas share very different religious and historical background with the majority of Myanmar. Yet, it does not imply there is no possibility for mutualism. In order to narrow the discrepancies between ethnic groups, it is essential to review citizenship legislations and create an equal society, where all citizens enjoy national security and social welfare. Equality creates mutual respect and minimizes conflicts. It is not the time to blame who shall be responsible for the sufferings. The Burmese government should instead open its territory for international investigations and allow overseas aid to support the victims. It is essential for Aung San Suu Kyi to condemn the catastrophic and disgraceful treatment of the Muslim Rohingyas so as to truly live up to her peacemaking title.