Silence too steep a price: Desmond Tutu writes to Suu Kyi, urges her to intervene in Rohingya crisis

Updated on Sep 09, 2017 03:07 PM IST
The exodus of Rohingya Muslims from Rakhine state in Myanmar has brought waves of international criticism for Myanmar’s leader Aung San Suu Kyi.
Moroccans, some of them holding placards depicting Nobel Peace Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi, take part in a protest condemning a crackdown on Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar, on September 8, 2017, in Rabat.(AFP Photo)
Moroccans, some of them holding placards depicting Nobel Peace Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi, take part in a protest condemning a crackdown on Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar, on September 8, 2017, in Rabat.(AFP Photo)
Agence France-Presse, Johannesburg | ByAgence France-Presse

South Africa’s outspoken Archbishop Desmond Tutu joined the growing chorus of influential voices condemning Aung San Suu Kyi over the Myanmar government’s treatment of its Rohingya Muslims and urging her to intervene in the crisis.

The United Nations on Thursday said that nearly 164,000 Rohingya have escaped to Bangladesh over the past two weeks in the wake of a massive security sweep and alleged atrocities by the country’s security forces and Buddhist mobs against the Rohingya.

“I am now elderly, decrepit and formally retired, but breaking my vow to remain silent on public affairs out of profound sadness,” he writes in an open letter to his ‘beloved younger sister’ Suu Kyi that was posted on social media.

“If the political price of your ascension to the highest office in Myanmar is your silence, the price is surely too steep,” Tutu said in his statement.


Suu Kyi, feted for her years of peaceful opposition to Myanmar’s junta rulers, has been urged to speak up for the Rohingya, with Muslim nations and the UN leading condemnation of her government.

Tutu, who helped dismantle apartheid in South Africa and became the moral voice of the nation, joined in the condemnation on Thursday.

“It is incongruous for a symbol of righteousness to lead such a country; it is adding to our pain,” he said noting that “the images we are seeing of the suffering of the Rohingya fill us with pain and dread.”

“As we witness the unfolding horror we pray for you to be courageous and resilient again... for you to speak out for justice, human rights and the unity of your people,” said Tutu.

Witnesses in Myanmar’s Rakhine state say entire villages have been burned to the ground since Rohingya militants launched a series of coordinated attacks on August 25, prompting a military-led crackdown. Earlier this week, fellow nobel laureate Malala Yousafzai had also called upon Suu Kyi to break her silence. “ Over the last several years, I have repeatedly condemned this tragic and shameful treatment,” Malala said in a statement on Twitter. “I am still waiting for my fellow Nobel Laureate Aung San Suu Kyi to do the same.

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