By Dr. Ali Al-Ghamdi
Nov 30, 2016
Rohingya Muslims have been subjected to massive ethnic cleansing and genocide in Myanmar, a predominantly Buddhist country. This crime is taking place as the whole world watches in silence. It is a shame that these atrocities are being perpetrated under the elected government of the National League for Democracy (NLD), headed by Aung San Suu Kyi.
Furthermore, it is a disgrace as Suu Kyi was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in recognition of her heroic struggle for freedom and democracy, defying the torture and persecution of the previous military regime.
It was thought that she would come forward to defend human rights, especial the rights of the minority Rohingya Muslims, who represent an integral part of the Myanmar people. Instead, it seems that she has given her people a free hand to kill the Rohingya, rape their women, demolish their homes and set their mosques on fire, as well as looting their property. This has forced many Rohingya to flee their homes to escape the killing spree.
Rohingya Muslims have lived in the north-western Myanmar state of Rakhine for several centuries. Yet they have been labelled illegal migrants and have been denied their basic rights as citizens. Buddhist extremists have deprived Rohingya Muslims of their rights with the blessings and encouragement of the Myanmar government.
The world saw Suu Kyi as a champion of democracy and human rights when the country’s military rulers put her under house arrest for many years.
International human rights organizations sympathized with her and she was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize because of her heroic stance. This was one of the factors that mounted pressure on Myanmar’s military rulers who subsequently released her and initiated political reforms leading to free and fair elections in the country.
However, Suu Kyi has remained silent with regard to the crimes against Rohingya Muslims, who, according to the United Nations, are the world’s most persecuted minority. Her controversial position has triggered criticism from some of her fellow Nobel laureates, including the Tibetan Buddhist spiritual leader the Dalai Lama. He stated that she must voice her opposition to the persecution and do more to help protect the persecuted Rohingya minority. He said that he has appealed to her in person on more than one occasion. He also recalled that Suu Kyi told him that the situation was very complicated. The Tibetan spiritual leader also noted that he realizes that Suu Kyi does not want to invite the anger of Buddhist extremists even though it is at the expense of the principles of human rights and other ideals
Many people believed that Suu Kyi would take a firm position in favor of the Rohingya minority after winning the election. However, they were mistaken, because she demonstrated political opportunism by denying tickets to Muslims in her party, and even some former members of the parliament were removed from the list of candidates. Her hostility to Islam and Muslims was evident during an interview with the BBC’s Muslim journalist Mishal Husain. Following a tense interview, Suu Kyi was heard muttering “no one told me that I was going to be interviewed by a Muslim.”
After winning a landslide victory in the elections, Suu Kyi has become the de facto ruler in the country. She was not able to assume the presidency of the country because she was constitutionally barred from doing so because of her marriage to a foreigner. However, as a special advisor and foreign minister, she is in reality above the president as this top post was given to a member of her party so as to bypass the constitutional barrier.
Apparently succumbing to mounting criticism and global pressure over the Rohingya issue, Suu Kyi’s government recently announced the establishment of a nine-member Advisory Commission chaired by former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan to address the situation in Rakhine State. The commission is composed of three international members and six members from Myanmar. There are no Rohingya Muslims on the commission. The task of the commission is to carry out a study to find solutions to the unrest in Kachin province. (It is noteworthy that the word Rohingya was deliberately omitted in announcing the terms of reference of the commission).
When Kofi Annan arrived in Myanmar, he was faced with hostile demonstrations. The protestors denounced his presence and demanded that he leave the country, thus making his mission of probing the plight of Rohingya Muslims a difficult task.
What is happening in Myanmar is the genocide and ethnic cleansing of Rohingya Muslims. This glaring truth has been highlighted in the reports of the United Nations, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch.
After attacks on border posts and the killing of nine border guards by an armed group, security forces began taking revenge on unarmed Rohingya Muslims, killing them, driving them from their homes, burning their villages, and demolishing their homes and mosques. The United Nations and international organizations, which claim that they are the protectors of human rights, are nowhere to be seen. Similar is the case with the 57-member Organization of Islamic Cooperation and its member countries, some of which are neighbours of Myanmar.
Finally, the credibility of the Nobel Peace Prize will be eroded if the Norwegian Committee does not come forward to strip Aung San Suu Kyi of the Nobel Prize because of her silence with regard to the ethnic cleansing of Myanmar’s Rohingya Muslims.
Dr. Ali Al-Ghamdi is a former Saudi diplomat who specializes in Southeast Asian affairs.