Aung San Suu Kyi loses her gloss for failing to denounce killings

Oct 29, 2012
Edward Loxton

Where is Suu Kyi's famous 'moral authority' as Muslim Rohingya homes are razed to the ground?

CHIANG MAI - The iconic international image of Burma's charismatic opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi is rapidly losing its lustre as she maintains her silence on the continuing violence in her country's westernmost Rakhine State.

The violence began in June, sparked by allegations that a Buddhist girl had been raped by Muslim men. After an uneasy lull, Buddhists again went on the rampage last week, killing more than 100 members of the Muslim Rohingya minority community, who have been suffering severe state persecution for decades.

Aerial photographs taken from the region show large areas of Muslim-populated towns and villages razed to the ground. About 70,000 people have so far lost their homes in the violence.  

The Rohingya policy followed by the current government differs little from the discrimination inflicted by the military junta that ruled Burma for the past 50 years. Most Rohingya are regarded as non-Burmese Bengalis and are locked out of Burma's political and social structure and denied fundamental rights guaranteed by citizenship.

"Suu Kyi has lost much of her credibility because of her silence over these appalling events," SOAS University of London researcher Guy Horton told The Week. "Her evasiveness on one of the greatest human rights tragedies in the world today has lost her the commodity she has always had in abundance - her moral authority."

Horton is the author of a report on human rights violations in eastern Burma, Dying Alive, which contributed to the UN Security Council resolution in 2007 'Burma: A Threat to the Peace'.

Veteran Swedish journalist and author Bertil Lintner explained Suu Kyi's dilemma. If she condemned the attacks on Muslims, he told The Week, "many Buddhists - her main constituency - would turn against her. But if she says nothing, she'll lose credibility in the international community.

"She appears to have chosen the latter, and, consequently, criticism against her is growing among international human rights organisations and activists. From her point of view, that may be preferable to having domestic opinion, which is fiercely anti-Rohingya, turn against her."

Lintner, author of several books on Burma, who had talks with Suu Kyi in the Burmese capital Naypyidaw earlier this month, said she was already under pressure at home. "The problem is that her silence on the clashes in Rakhine state as well as the ongoing government military offensive against the Kachins in the north have already cost her a lot of popular support."

There are few Kachins who express any sympathy for Suu Kyi these days, Lintner went on, and even the Shan leader Khun Htun Oo said in an interview while he was in the US last month that she has become "neutralised". Many young Burmese are also becoming critical of her for other reasons, arguing that she has moved far too close to the government and the military.

But does Suu Kyi have any choice, if she wants to win the 2015 election? Guy Horton believes other great leaders "would have reacted differently and grasped the nettle...

"Gandhi, for instance, went on hunger strike to try to stop exactly the kind of horror of what is being inflicted in Rakhine State today. Nelson Mandela and Martin Luther King - moral leaders with whom she is compared - would have shown solidarity with the victims and called for passive resistance. Instead, she has just collected prizes - including the US Congressional Medal of Honour - from a fawning world."

In Horton's view, it's no exaggeration to say that what is happening in Rakhine State is similar to the persecution endured by the Jews in 1930s Germany.

"It should be noted that a call by President Thein Sein for the deportation of the Rohingya or their forcible transfer into camps amounts to an incitement to commit a crime against humanity, as defined in the Rome Statute," Horton told The Week.

"In addition, the destructive targeting of a racial/religious group may amount to a form of genocide. The UN Special Rapporteur on Burma should renew his call for an investigation into crimes against humanity in Burma, which are not subject to the whims of political feasibility."

However, Maung Zarni, a Burma expert and visiting fellow at the London School of Economics, has a different view, telling the Associated Press: "Politically, Aung San Suu Kyi has absolutely nothing to gain from opening her mouth on this. She is no longer a political dissident trying to stick to her principles. She's a politician and her eyes are fixed on the prize, which is the 2015 majority Buddhist vote."

Horton challenged Zarni's view: "If she adopts such a position of cynical Realpolitik the long-term consequences are that she will lose not only her moral credibility, but the support of most ethnic people and possibly the 2015 election itself."

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Unless I see strong evidence she has changed I'll back her judgement in a difficult situation in Burma.

My friends from Myanmar and past experience from working with dissident groups outside Myanmar give me to believe that she has the backing of ethnic Burmans but less so amongst the huge number of ethnic groups who were largely excluded by the Burmans when they enjoyed preferential treatment from the colonials. That ASSK still refers to the nation as Burma and not Myanmar rankles activists.and identifies her clearly with the elite. After asking people I now refer to the nation as Myanmar.

Why are you taking seriously comments of this guy called
Guy Horton?

We even do not believe UN Secretary General recent comments is that” Current Myanmar reform (For 60 Million Burmese people) will be undermined by such conflict (For 800,000 Rohingaya) Where is your logic Mr. Secretary
General lives of 60 million people must sacrifice for live of 800,000 just because of they are minority?

And again Human Watch Group concluded (assumed) that big area of Rohingya wipeout or vanished during the clash according to Seattleite photos this must be because native Rakhine burnt down Rohingya houses? Well it makes
sense Right? Actually it is opposite why? Most of Rohingya are employed by native Rakhine people but since after
first incident Rakhine people are no longer employ Rohingya in their business. Then Rohingya become jobless and noting left to eat and only way to get food is to go to refugee camps but they do not do it quietly.

They take right timing to blame and create the whole
incident as Muslim Vs Buddhist conflict Rohingya start throwing fire rings and fuel bombs into native Rakhine area just 5 days before their religious festival Eid because they have nothing to lose all their houses are just huts. Why? Because they are illegal immigrants, wait again
you want to blame previous Myanmar military government and immigration act of 1982 that discriminate the minority. Yes Myanmar gets a lot of minority and there are more than 100 minority and ethnic groups. To make story short, there
are minority groups living both side of the borders of Myanmar neighboring countries between Myanmar and Thailand and China. It is natural that these minority group
settlement distribute throughout border area But interesting in Rohingya case is that they are neatly belong and settle only in Myanmar side of border not in Bangladesh even Rohingya share the same religion and same dialect with them.

Media is hypocrite. Their sympathy is with illegal immigrants who were involved in jihad against the Burmese people. Media has no sympathy for the Chakma and Marma Buddhists and Hindus in Chittagong Hill Tracts, Bangladesh.

You do not need physical to go and see the Myanmar to get truth behind the story and it is just common sense thinking without hypocrisy.

So I will leave it readers to figure out whether Aung San Su
Kyi is glowing or fading in Myanmar.

There's a pattern here isn't there. Earlier this year we had the site of Assam aflame with conflicts between the Hindu Bodo's and illegal Bangladeshi Muslim squatters resulting in about 50 deaths.

Then we had the same Bangladeshi Muslims burning the Temples of their Buddhist minority in Bangladesh because of some presumed trivial insult to their religion.

And now again we have conflict between the Buddhist Rakhine and Rohingya's aka Bangladeshi Muslims, which arose over a gang rape and murder of a Buddhist woman. Given the scale of these riots its reasonable to believe that there were existing tensions and these were probably similar to the ones in Assam, demographics with the fast breeding Muslims squeezing the Buddhists out of their own areas.

Ockhams razor, you select the simplest possible hypothesis, and given the fact that the groups that the Muslims are fighting with have different religious traditions, it leads one to the inevitable conclusion that this is just one more example of the Religion of Peace adherents to live peacefully alongside anyone else whether it be Hindu, Buddhist, Christian!.

I have to say my sympathies are with the Rakhine, we've seen here in the uk how Muslims view non-Muslim women, so can you blame them for taking the law into their own hands. At the end of the day they are just protecting their own future as a people, from a group who have been shown to be predatory and intolerant towards others who do not share their beliefs.

Actually there are eye witness reports that the Rohingya set fire to their own village before leaving for the refugee camps.

Still educated stupid peoples lives in devloped countries. Rohingyas were richer than moghs so called Rakhines

Denounce which sides? Violence activities at Both sides.

Hello!!! wake up...Edward Loxton. So, let me ask you a question. who are you trying to denounce; Daw Suu, Govt, Rakhine, Rohingya or those are criminals? Have you lost in the clues about this articles?

and where are those eye witness??? Asein does it make sense ??? if they set fire to their own village then they killed themselves also, right???

They are not that stupid and they are smart. They are creating theirself as victims because they have nothing to lose. Get logic behind it?

I totally agree with you.

it's always ammusing when I see article blaming Suu Kyi for these Muslim. Muslim miniorty issue doesn't only exit in Burma. It exists in everywhere. Don't you find it unusual why whole world is focusing on the issue in Burma. They are just playing sympathy politic game. They just want to claim citizenship. So that they have right to demand the land for Rohingya all over the world who are not even native in Burma.
Suu Kyi has already spoken how things should be done during her U.S visit. Speaking up bias comment doesn't lead anywhere. Everything must be according to law and immigration law. Native rohingya will get citizenship. The rest you will just be illegal immigrant. It's just simple.

Oh by the way, Suu Kyi is now true politician, she is no longer public figure whose work is to keep call for opposing the government. She's part of the Government and she has obligation to do real job and follow the law as well.

Those commentators who are fine with the way the Rohingya, a poor, wretched minority, are being treated AS WE SPEAK, are morally as bankrupt as the Junta and the 'reformist' president Thein Sein, who OPENLY advocated sending the whole of this 800 000 strong minority into camps. This is a FACT, but the fascist and tribalistic commentators here have no problem with that, in fact that's what they WANT.

Knowing that, ASSK hypocritically caters to this hate. One should always be weary of people whom the US government calls 'freedom fighters' and 'reformers'. ASSK is no Gandhi, that's for sure. She is a cynical, elitist politician.

And how about your great 'reformer' president Thein Sein, a little lying toad, who valiantly served as a brown-nosing military bureaucrat and who was wounded with several paper cuts to both his thumbs during his service? A 'military man' who has the physique of a wimpy little clerk. This little Eichman, who hasn't even learned to speak English. So Thein Sein is your hero, eh? You are ready side with a man who raped your country just as long as he'll support your cowardly, tribalistic tendencies? That is a bargain in which you yourselves will stand to lose, but you are too stupid to realize this. Today it's the children of the Rohingyas, tomorrow it's YOUR children.

And you call yourselves advocates of democracy? How stupid and hateful are you? Racial laws, slave labour, pitting the majority against a small minority, talking about transporting a whole ethnic group into camps... Doesn't ring any bell, does it? History lessons, anyone?

Not allowing human rights groups access to the conflict area? Why not? If YOU are the victims, not the Rohingya, why do you fear the foreign aid groups? Surely not because you'd have something to hide?

If this is Buddhist kindness and tolerance, the world would be better off without Buddhism. You are a disgrace to your faith and a disgrace for real advocates of democracy and human rights everywhere.

Your hero Thein Sein will be sure to transform your nation from a sadistic, military dictatorship into a sadistic, quasi-democratic plutocracy, and you will follow him like a bunch of sheep, as long as he and ASSK cater to your petty little hatred. You will become the serfs of the foreign investors and your own oligarchs, who are closely connected to the cronies of the Junta. The Junta was too incompetent to actually rape your LAND, but the foreigners - the Chinese, Yankees and others - will see to that. They will extract all the resources they can out of your land and leave you with a polluted and ravaged environment. It's to THEIR advantage if you do not have REAL democracy, in which the human rights are respected. But even having your beautiful surroundings being turned into a waste land will be fine with you, as long as you can valiantly attack a small minority, who is literarily being starved to death under the conditions under which they have been forced,

So off to the camps, eh? Because surely they are guilty of all Muslim crimes starting from the conquests of Byzantine, right? And the racial laws imposed by the Junta, those were great laws, right? Those are the laws 'everybody should respect'? Of course you will sympathize with the group which has the Junta-imposed laws, the majority of the population, the police, the army, the president and ASSK on their side. That kind of mindset is called 'tribalism' and 'cowardice'.

Its not called tribalism and cowardice. At its simplest it called survival. When you have an incoming group who who are demographically aggressive and who little or no respect for the host culture, the word invasion is more appropriate than immigration.

Reasonable response to a very poor article! Curiously, all media reports on the Rakhine clashes are mainly opinion pieces and have an anti-Buddhist, anti-Rakhine bias. I miss facts and investigative reporting.
What strikes me here is that a "Horton" (who is Horton?) is quoted who is obviously not an expert on Myanmar. Which serious scholar in his right mind would compare a crisis (that the person does not even know in depth) with the heinous crimes of the Holocaust in Germany?
So why is Horton quoted in this poor article in the first place? The only reason I can think of it that he is close to another guy at SOAS, Maung Zarni, who is a notorious attention seeker, well known in the Myanmar scene for his obnoxious rants, unsubstantiated claims, and constantly switching positions always according to self-serving interests. Since Zarni is now employed in Brunei (not just a country known for its political, religious freedom and human rights!), it serves his interest to shout louder than anybody else "fire" and "genocide" of Muslims to please his new masters, although he also has no clue of the situation there. Being just loud and seeking publicity pays off. He has never contributed to any solution.
We can hope that less noise and more reason will finally get the upper hand in this very serious, long lasting problem in Rakhine. At least Aung San Suu Kyi, the Myanmar government and the UN representatives seem to check facts, and think before they talk.

Now it being proved that su ki is a cheater. Her nobel prize is false prize.

wrong time line. First there was a 60 year long discrimination of the Rohingya minority in Burma, then there was an aliged rape of a Buddhist woman by three Muslim men. Then there was the killing of 10 Muslims on a bus by a Buddhist mob. And then there were riots with burnings and killings on both sides, resulting in 20,000 homeless people. Then there was a massive racist campaign against Muslims in Burma calling for the expulsion of all Rohingyas from the country. Muslim villages were guarded by military, with no food or medinice supply. And then the burnings in bangladesh happened...

I feel the terrible loss on both sides of the conflict. PLease STOP potraying Bengali Rohingya as the only vicitims.

Shame on such opportunistic politicians.
She can't be a leader of international cadre.
She has chosen to stay silent , in her current position it is equivalent to giving green light to killings and ethnic c lensing.
She has lost her international gloss and class.
Such is the character of present day leaders and champions of peace.
Shame on you , Aung Sun Suu kyi.

In this issue, Burmese people blame on these Muslim Rohingya as illegal immigrants. But Burmese-ethnic Buddhist Marama and other Rakhine ethnic in Bangladesh have Bangladeshi citizenships. Why cannot they grant citizenships to these people even if they are immigrants as they alleged like Bangladesh?
For some people who believe this problems are because of muslims Rohingya, let me tell you one thing that other ethnic minorities mostly Christians have been suffering atocities from all -Buddhist government for decades and all Buddhist Burmans turned a blind eye to it and offered no help at all.

In my opinion, this is an issue of intolerance of Buddhists to other religions(especially Theravada version of Buddhism seen in Thailand, Burma and Sri Lanka). In these counries, Buddhism is the national religion backed by their governments and they always have a problem with their ethnic minorities(Tamil Hindu and Christians in Sri Lanka, Kachin and Karin Christians and Rohingya Muslims in Burma and Southern Muslims in Thailand).

There are more things going on behind the scene than media can and will report. It is very easy for people to jump to conclusions why Suu Kyi is quiet. It is a very delicate situation and attacking her is not in any way helping.