In view of recent events, journalists and activists have come together to call on Aung San Suu Kyi to raise awareness and be the voice of what the United Nations has called the world’s most persecuted people – the Rohingya.
On May 29, Thomas Fuller’s New York Times article shed light on Myanmar’s struggles in stopping the violence propagated by Buddhists against minority Muslims. Mosques have been attacked and burned down, villages erased, and an entire community of people who were born and raised in the country, for several generations, denied basic rights. Reuters and the Huffington Post have rightly gone as far as to qualify these racial stratagems to be “apartheid-like.”
The Rohingya is a group of approximately 800,000 Sunni Muslims that make up about 4% of the Myanmar population. While they were considered citizens of Burma under the 1948 Constitution, the most recent one dating back to 1982 offers no such status. This community of Muslims goes back to the days prior to the British colonial administration of the 1820s. But due to their lack of documentation, Myanmar has dismissed them as stateless. As an FYI to the reader, Rohingya history may remind you of the plight of Native Americans in the United States during the days of colonization.
Aung San Suu Kyi was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for her accomplishments as a leader for peace and fighter for human rights. We’ve admired her for the ways in which she opposed her government’s actions by refusing to acquiesce to the Burmese military junta. Yet recently, she has lacked determination in condemning her country’s Buddhist hardliners. Shouldn’t it be her obligation as a Nobel Peace Prize laureate to push the courts to take legal actions for this group to gain fundamental human rights, especially when the oppression is taking place in her own front yard?
So far, her sole positive action in regards to the Rohingyas has been to oppose the government’s two-child-policy inflicted on Muslim families. Not enough. Whether it should be from a sense of duty, or pure belief in human rights, Suu Kyi should fight for what is right and condemn her government for these crimes.
In 2012, Myanmar decided to open its borders to foreign investments as well as to tourism. Yet it mandates its borders remain closed to non-governmental organizations and other international bodies that would be able to provide hands-on support. The truth is, by allowing NGOs to come in, Myanmar would face international condemnation for the horrific human rights abuses it has inflicted on its Muslim communities.
There have been talks about Myanmar’s future, as mentioned by Dyer and McGregor of the Financial Times. The United States has been eager to establish new business relations with Myanmar, as a way to get ahead of China in the financial market. But the overall worry should be that the US might turn a blind-eye to social and human concerns to satisfy business greed. Shouldn’t we first assist Myanmar in becoming politically and socially well, via the help of international organizations, before injecting foreign capital?
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