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Tuesday, Nov 19, 2019

Suu Kyi must stop defending the indefensible

During the long years of house arrest, Ms Suu Kyi had depended on the media to get her message out to the world

editorials Updated: Sep 17, 2018 12:31 IST

A recent report by the United Nations Human Rights Council even recommended that Myanmar’s top generals be investigated and prosecuted for “genocide” in Rakhine state
A recent report by the United Nations Human Rights Council even recommended that Myanmar’s top generals be investigated and prosecuted for “genocide” in Rakhine state (REUTERS)
         

Myanmar’s civilian leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, facing unprecedented criticism for her government’s handling of the Rohingya refugee crisis in her nation, has finally conceded that the situation in Rakhine state “could have been better handled”. This, however, will be cold comfort for the more than 700,000 Rohingya who fled from Myanmar to Bangladesh to escape a crackdown by the Myanmar Army — a campaign so brutal that United Nations rights officials have described it as nothing short of ethnic cleansing. A recent report by the United Nations Human Rights Council even recommended that Myanmar’s top generals be investigated and prosecuted for “genocide” in Rakhine state. Report after report by rights activists and journalists has documented extrajudicial killings and rapes by Myanmarese troops and the destruction of complete villages in Rakhine, with most estimates putting the death toll in last year’s bloodshed at 10,000. Ms Suu Kyi rarely speaks at public events about the situation in Rakhine, or accepts questions from the media about the Rohingya refugees, or even utters the word “Rohingya”. Even in her latest remarks on the issue at an international forum in Hanoi, Ms Suu Kyi sought to imply that her civilian government wields “only 75% of the power” in a power-sharing arrangement with the military, but it is hard to square her remarks with her reputation as the person who almost single-handedly took on Myanmar’s junta and paved the way for democratic reforms that culminated with the 2015 elections, which was swept by her party.

Even more damning was Ms Suu Kyi’s defence of the jailing of two Reuters reporters — Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo — last week for, as she put it, breaking the Official Secrets Act. Most rights groups and journalists’ bodies believe the two reporters were given seven-year jail terms for their role in exposing the massacre of 10 Rohingya men at Inn Din village in Rakhine last year. During the long years of house arrest, Ms Suu Kyi had depended on the media to get her message out to the world, with journalists bravely defying the diktats of the junta to help her be heard. For the same person to now try to defend the indefensible is truly incomprehensible.

In the speech delivered on Ms Suu Kyi’s behalf by her son when she won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1991, she had said she was accepting the award “in the name of all the people of Burma”. Clearly, as the de facto civilian leader of Myanmar today, Ms Suu Kyi no longer has the interests and rights of all the people of her country at heart.