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Critics circle Aung San Suu Kyi over Rohingya crisis

شعار Al Jazeera Al Jazeera 10/09/2017
Kyi claimed the Rohingya situation was being twisted by a 'huge iceberg of misinformation' [Soe Zeya Tun/Reuters] © Provided by Al Jazeera Kyi claimed the Rohingya situation was being twisted by a 'huge iceberg of misinformation' [Soe Zeya Tun/Reuters]

Myanmar's Nobel Peace Prize winning Aung San Suu Kyi is facing intense scrutiny for her role in the plight of her nation's Rohingya population.

Almost 300,000 Rohingya have fled into neighbouring Bangladesh, according to the UN, since renewed violence between state security forces and the minority group began more than two weeks ago.

The disruption started on August 25 after Rohingya fighters attacked police posts in Rakhine, on Myanmar's (formerly Burma) western coast, triggering a military crackdown.

Kyi, the nation's state counsellor and de facto leader, claimed this week that the situation is being twisted by a "huge iceberg of misinformation", as reported by the BBC.

"We make sure that all the people in our country are entitled to protection of their rights as well as, the right to, not just political but social and humanitarian defence," she reportedly told Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan during a phone call on September 5.

The Rohingya, frequently described as "the world's most persecuted minority", are a mostly Muslim ethnic group, who have lived in majority Buddhist Myanmar for centuries.

There are currently around 1.1m residents in the Southeast Asian nation, which is home to more than 100 ethnic groups and approximately 55 million people.

A number of high-profile individuals have publicly criticised Kyi, who was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1991 for her campaign supporting democracy in Myanmar, in light of the crisis.

Collated below is some of the criticism by those who have spoken out.


Malala Yousafzai

Malala Yousafzai, a Pakistani Nobel Peace laureate, has condemned the apparent inaction of Aung San Suu Kyi in response to the emerging crisis in Myanmar.

"Every time I see the news, my heart breaks at the suffering of the Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar," Yousafzai, who famously survived being shot in the head by the Taliban, tweeted on September 3.

Yousafzai, 20, called on the international community to provide sanctuary for those fleeing the violence.

"Other countries, including my own country Pakistan, should follow Bangladesh's example and give food, shelter and access to education to Rohingya families fleeing violence and terror," she wrote.

"Over the last several years I have repeatedly condemned this tragic and shameful treatment. I am still waiting for my fellow Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi to do the same."

Archbishop Desmond Tutu

Archbishop Desmond Tutu, the 1984 recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize for his role in ending South Africa's policy of apartheid, has also called on Kyi to end the Rohingya's suffering.

Denouncing the "unfolding horror", the 85 year old implored with his "dearly beloved younger sister" to intervene in the crisis and "guide your people back towards the path of righteousness again", in an open letter published on September 7.

"If the political price of your ascension to the highest office in Myanmar is your silence, the price is surely too steep," he wrote.

"A country that is not at peace with itself, that fails to acknowledge and protect the dignity and worth of all its people, is not a free country. It is incongruous for a symbol of righteousness to lead such a country; it is adding to our pain."















Antonio Guterres

Antonio Guterres, the United Nations secretary-general, has appealed to Myanmar's officials in a bid to end the ongoing crisis.

Guterres expressed concern that continued disruption could descend into a "humanitarian catastrophe with implications for peace and security that could continue to expand beyond Myanmar’s borders" in a letter sent to the UN Security Council.

Although he has not directly criticised Kyi, the secretary-general has condemned Myanmar's leaders for failing to protect the minority Rohingya population.

"I appeal to all, all authorities in Myanmar, civilian authorities and military authorities, to indeed put an end to this violence that, in my opinion, is creating a situation that can destabilise the region," he told reporters on September 5.

"The grievances and unresolved plight of the Rohingya have festered for far too long."

READ MORE: Message to the world from Jashim, a Rohingya


Recep Tayyip Erdogan

Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Turkey's president, has claimed he will press world leaders to help Myanmar's Rohingya who he said are facing a genocide.

Turkey will raise the issue at the UN General Assembly meeting in New York this month - which will run from 12 September to 25 September - according to Erdogan.

"You watched the situation that Myanmar and Muslims are in … You saw how villages have been burnt ... Humanity remained silent to the massacre in Myanmar," he said on September 4.

Erdogan has refrained from openly criticising Kyi directly, but reportedly told her that the violence perpetrated against Myanmar's Rohingya population was a violation of human rights in a phone call on September 5.

During the discussion he made clear that the Muslim world was deeply concerned about the situation, according to Reuters news agency.

Turkey has agreed with Myanmar the right to provide aid to the country's northwestern region: where the Rohingya crisis is most acute.

Approximately 1,000 tonnes of food, clothes and medicine were delivered to Rakhine state on September 6.


Peter Popham 

Peter Popham, biographer of two books about the life and work of Kyi, has called on Kyi to resign.

Citing Kyi's decision in December 2011 to abide by Myanmar's constitution, which provides the army a "right to take over all powers of government whenever they feel it’s necessary", Popham labelled her situation "desperate" in an opinion piece published by The Independent on September 8.

"Instead of challenging the military, she is now its poodle, its patsy, its flak-catcher in chief. Senior general Min Aung Hlaing - responsible for operations against the Rohingya - is off the hook," he wrote.

"As Burma's de facto ruler, Suu Kyi bears ultimate responsibility for this grotesque over-reaction. As the most admired and famous Burmese person in the world, she owed the world an explanation for it. But her response has been lamentable … [giving] No indication at all that she shares in or even understands the outside world’s indignation.

"She has only one possible recourse: accept that in December 2011 she made a fatal error, and call it a day. The world would understand."

READ MORE: Myanmar faces international condemnation over Rohingya


Boris Johnson

Boris Johnson, the UK's foreign secretary, has decried Myanmar's treatment of its Rohingya population, claiming it is "besmirching the reputation of Burma".

The UK hopes Kyi will now use her "remarkable qualities" to end the crisis, Johnson said in a statement on September 2.

"Aung San Suu Kyi is rightly regarded as one of the most inspiring figures of our age," he said.

"I hope she can now use all her remarkable qualities to unite her country, to stop the violence and to end the prejudice that afflicts both Muslims and other communities."


Tirana Hassan

Tirana Hassan, Amnesty International's crisis response director, has been a vocal critic of Myanmar's actions near the nation’s border with Bangladesh.

Though not explicitly referencing Kyi, Hassan has called on the nation's leaders to end the suffering, and expressed the importance of a swift resolution to the situation.

"Rakhine state is on the precipice of a humanitarian disaster. Nothing can justify denying life-saving aid to desperate people," she said on September 4.

"By blocking access for humanitarian organizations, Myanmar's authorities have put tens of thousands of people at risk and shown a callous disregard for human life."

Hassan has also openly lamented the reported use of antipersonnel landmines on the nation's border with Bangladesh, which Amnesty International claims are being used by Myanmar's security forces to target those escaping the country.

"Authorities must immediately end this abhorrent practice against people who are already fleeing persecution," she said.

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