State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi has been the center of controversy in southeast Asia as the crisis with the Rohingya rages on. While human rights abuses have increased in the jungles of eastern Burma, the world has begun to condemn the government for allowing their military to persecute the Rohingya, driving them from Rakhine State toward the border of India and Bangladesh. Around 400,000 refugees have fled their homes, which is significant considering the Rohingya population within Burma is approximately 500,000 people.
The de facto leader of Burma does not have direct control over the country’s armed forces. The idea that “military matters are to be left to the Army” is a principle stated in the Burmese constitution, something Suu Kyi claims to be trying to change. However, when asked about the crisis itself, she chooses to defer to the attacks that spurred off the military’s actions.
In October of 2016, Rohingya insurgents attacked police checkpoints, reportedly killing nine and looting their weapons and ammunition. Later in August, more police posts were attacked resulting in the deaths of 71 people on both sides.
Since then, the government has responded with a slew of documented human rights abuses. These include arresting civilians with no cause, executions, mass destruction of property, gang rapes, and more. Amnesty International’s Director for Southeast Asia and the Pacific, Rafendi Djamin, said that, “The Myanmar military has targeted Rohingya civilians in a callous and systematic campaign of violence. Men, women, children, whole families and entire villages have been attacked and abused, as a form of collective punishment.”
Throughout this conflict, Suu Kyi has remained relatively silent. She became a national hero for many of the Burmese, as she was long defiant against the Burmese regime. A national icon, she suffered years of house arrest, during which time she was separated from her children, and her husband died of prostate cancer. She was offered the chance to leave and see her family, but refused for fear of not being allowed to return. She won a popular vote by a landslide that was ignored by the government, and persisted to reach the position she has attained today.
Now the government under her leadership has denied visas for a UN investigation into these human rights abuses. This, compounded with her disputing the documented abuses, has led to her condemnation from leaders and influencers around the globe, to include several of her fellow Nobel Laureates. For one who was able to rally so much opposition to the government from isolation, many are disappointed as she now has significant political clout and power, but does not seem to be so dedicated.
Featured image courtesy of AP