Update: Violence in Myanmar, and Aung San Suu Kyi’s silence

My last blog asked leadership questions about the role of Nobel Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi’s apparent complicity with the military regime she fought against. Here are resources to help understand the unfolding situation there, and the attempts to get to the truth about what is happening in Myanmar.

Other members of the international community of Nobel recipients and peace activists are openly challenging the Myanmar government’s version of the story, and calling for action and support from Suu Kyi and the world.


A new satellite image shows the destroyed homes. Photo: Human Rights Watch/ DigitalGlobe 2017

  1. Refugee accounts of massacres, destruction of villages, and violence by Myanmar’s armed forces are well documented. The Guardian today shared accounts of a massacre at Tula Toli, and CNN reports that landmines have been placed in the path of refugees attempting to flee Myanmar. Al Jazeera’s ongoing coverage is detailed and complex. The Washington Post and other daily newspapers in the states are covering the story in detail as well; follow the post link to get a good background on the crisis and its history.
  2. Morning Edition reported this morning that Human Rights Watch has been using satellite imagery to analyze the devastation, and confirm testimony from refugees. In that report, Nobel recipient Mohammed Yunus commented that as a Nobel winner, she has a moral and political obligation to speak out against the violence. Yunus has done just that with  an open letter to the government of Myanmar with 22 other peace activists and Nobel winners asking for the violence to stop.
  3. Malala Yousafzai has also joined the chorus of voices calling for Aung San Suu Kyi to speak out against the violence. Yousafzai said, “Over the last several years, I have repeatedly condemned this tragic and shameful treatment,” Malala wrote. “I am still waiting for my fellow Nobel Laureate Aung San Suu Kyi to do the same. The world is waiting and the Rohingya Muslims are waiting.

In my last blog, I raised questions about leaders who fall from their pedestals, or change their alliances, or are forced into compromises that go against their values, in response to the criticism of Aung San Suu Kyi. It is important to note, though, that this violent and horrific situation is more than a leadership case study for one Nobel Prize winner. It is a crisis of leadership for the world, one of many we face as extremism rises up in national and global contexts.

The voices pleading for her voice, and accusing her of complicity are multiplying. A petition to revoke Suu Kyi’s Nobel, accusations of complicity with genocide, and lawmakers across the world are addressing her comments and silence.

It seems that this situation is much more than a lesson in follower disappointment in saintly leaders, although that pattern is certainly in play. It is a lesson in the unfortunate necessity for witnesses and colleagues to step up to hold leaders accountable, in this case, speaking truth to power to a once revered leader who seems to have abandoned her responsibility and her past commitment to democracy.



  1. […] does this mean for this Nobel Prize leader, and the world that expects her to stand up against the violence? Every day, the tension […]


  2. […] I wrote about Aung San Suu Kyi’s silence in the face of Myanmar’s ethnic cleansing, and international criticism from other Nobel prize winners around the world. New sources point now more to the challenges of military leadership, dominating this crisis on […]


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