On Friday, the Dalai Lama became the latest Nobel Peace Prize laureate to raise the issue of Aung San Suu Kyi‘s silence, following statements from Bishop Desmond Tutu of South Africa and the rights advocate Malala Yousafzai of Pakistan, both of whom called on Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi to take action.
According to a report in the New York Times, Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein, the United Nations high commissioner for human rights, said the military’s “brutal” security campaign was in clear violation of international law, and cited what he called refugees’ consistent accounts of widespread extrajudicial killings, rape and other atrocities. He called it “a textbook example of ethnic cleansing.”
The Dalai Lama commented, The Buddha “would definitely give help to those poor Muslims.”
He told journalists in Dharamsala, India, that those who were persecuting Rohingya “should remember Buddha,” a pointed reminder to the Buddhists who make up a majority of Myanmar’s population. Some Buddhist nationalists in Myanmar have campaigned for Muslims to be driven out of the country.
Aung San Suu Kyi is still silent, whether for political reasons or for her own survival. A recent profile in The Guardian declared her “damned by her silence.”
The write: “When she delivered her Nobel lecture, two decades after being awarded the prize, she mentioned the “great sufferings” addressed in Buddhist theology and dwelt on two she had come to know intimately: “To be parted from those one loves and to be forced to live in propinquity with those one does not love.” She continued: “I thought of prisoners and refugees, of migrant workers and victims of human trafficking, of that great mass of the uprooted of the Earth who have been torn away from their homes, parted from families and friends, forced to live out their lives among strangers who are not always welcoming.”
“Her decision to separate the suffering of the Rohingya from that of other peoples, after years of insisting that human rights are a universal birthright and fighting “to make our human community safer and kinder”, appears to mark the start of a disturbing new chapter in an extraordinary life.” Read more about her Nobel Prize winning resistance and the rise of concerns that she was supporting the military government on her return to Myanmar.
Her silence as a leader did not begin with the recent atrocities, but has been part of her rise to power after her party won election three years ago.
From the comprehensive Guardian article: “As the violence mounted steadily, so did criticism of Aung San Suu Kyi. Some defenders tried to argue that she was gagged by temporary political concerns ahead of crucial 2015 elections, because she had to hold on to the votes of nationalist Buddhists. A new constitution rigged in the military’s favour already gave the generals who had ruled for decades control over key ministries and barred her from the presidency, so her candidates for parliament needed every vote they could get. But three years later, her NLD won a landslide in elections and she took over a host of portfolios from the foreign to the energy ministries and a newly created role as state counsellor. Yet as attacks on Rohingya intensified, so did her conspicuous silence.”
Not all sources condemn her absolutely. Sources closer to Myanmar note that she is constrained by the military’s continued control of the government, and that she has tried to propose solutions to the crisis internally, including a path to citizenship for the Rohingya.
A Harvard Report notes that she may not have the power to speak out or change the situation: “The current Constitution still effectively bars Suu Kyi from carrying out her own agenda. Myanmar’s most recent constitution in 2008 not only reserved 25% of the seats in parliament for the Tatmadaw, or Myanmar’s defense forces, but it also endowed the commander-in-chief of the Tatmadaw with the power to declare a state of emergency. Should Suu Kyi act to antagonize the nation’s military forces, she might face a possible rebellion by the military. Given that rampant discrimination against the Rohingya is already deeply institutionalized in the country, Suu Kyi is reliant on the help of the military in order to overpower the strength of the nationalist Buddhist movement.” Read more to get details about Myanmar’s government and the history of this issue….
According to a report from Quartz India, “This arrangement has turned the ongoing Rohingya crisis into a tightrope walk…. “She is in a very difficult position,” Sithu Aung Myint, a prominent political commentator based in Yangon, noted, “because she can’t win on either side.”
What does this mean for this Nobel Prize leader, and the world that expects her to stand up against the violence? Every day, the tension increases.
Find out from CNN (9/9/17 report) about the US response to the crisis…. This article also has an excellent video that covers the situation, including the accusations of terrorism and militancy that the military use to justify their assault on the Rohingya.