Asia Watch

Removing Suu Kyi’s portrait won’t help the Rohingyas

The latest criticism of Aung San Suu Kyi’s stance on the Rohingya crisis came in the form of the removal of her portrait from her alma mater. The portrait, which was displayed at the entrance of St. Hugh’s College, Oxford, has been replaced by a painting by a Japanese artist.

Oct 3, 2017
The latest criticism of Aung San Suu Kyi’s stance on the Rohingya crisis came in the form of the removal of her portrait from her alma mater. The portrait, which was displayed at the entrance of St. Hugh’s College, Oxford, has been replaced by a painting by a Japanese artist. The college refused to comment on whether the portrait’s removal is somehow linked to the Rohingya issue.
 
The college’s move has been criticised by the Burma Campaign UK group as weak. Mark Farmaner, the campaigns director, has urged the St. Hugh’s administration to confirm that the portrait’s removal is, in fact connected to Suu Kyi’s refusal to acknowledge the ongoing genocide against Rohingya Muslims. Farmaner has also urged the college to write to Suu Kyi and urge her to respect human rights.
 
Farmaner isn’t the only one who wants Suu Kyi called out on her silence more loudly. Social media has remained abuzz for weeks with people demanding that Suu Kyi be stripped of her nobel peace prize. Those making this demand accuse Suu Kyi of being complicit in the atrocities against the Rohingya because of her refusal to acknowledge that atrocities are in fact taking place.
 
But many of those who made these statements, and probably initially hoped that Suu Kyi would move to protect the Rohingya community probably didn’t know much about Myanmar and Suu Kyi’s abilities to actually do anything about the human rights violations taking place against the Rohingya.
 
Suu Kyi won a decisive victory in Myanmar’s 2015 elections. She was given the title of state counsellor, a position she created herself. She did this to get around a clause in the constitution which bars those with a foreign spouse or foreign children from the presidency. And although the actual president of Myanmar, Htin Kyaw answers to her, the military remains the real power in Myanmar. The military is still guaranteed a quarter of the seats in parliament and stays in control of three important ministries; the home affairs ministry, the defence ministry and the border affairs ministry. Six out of eleven seats on the National Defence and Security Council (NDSC) also belong to the military. The NDSC also reserves the power to suspend a democratic government. Furthermore, media reports (including posts on social media) from Myanmar shows that there is little to no public sympathy for the Rohingya in Myanmar. And the hostility against them has only increased since August 2017. Taking all this into account, it is clear that if Suu Kyi does challenge the Myanmar military on their atrocities in the Rakhine state, she may not have any power left.
 
All this only highlights how bad things truly are for the Rohingya. They remain completely at the mercy of a military and country that wants them dead or outside the country’s borders.
 
Daily Times, October 3, 2017

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