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Aung San Suu Kyi still silent on Rohingya as Nobel laureates speak out

Burma’s opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi. Pic: AP.

May 29, 2015

A number of Nobel Peace Prize winners called for an end to the persecution of Burma’s Rohingya Muslims Thursday, but there has still been no word from Burmese Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi despite mounting international pressure.

Past winners of the prize, including South Africa’s Desmond Tutu, Shirin Ibadi from Iran and former East Timor President Jose Ramos-Horta, appealed for international aid for Rohingya in Burma’s Rakhine state, describing the persecution as “nothing less than genocide”.

Philanthropist George Soros, who escaped Nazi-occupied Hungary, said that there were “alarming” parallels between the plight of the Rohingya and the Nazi genocide.

Not among them, however, was Burmese opposition leader and democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi.

Suu Kyi became an international hero during her years of house arrest for speaking out against the generals who long ruled Burma. She entered politics after her release and has been largely silent about her country’s persecution of the Rohingya.

This week fellow Nobel Peace Prize laureate the Dalai Lama urged her to end her silence and help protect the Rohingya.

In recent weeks, thousands of Rohingya have fled persecution and landed on the shores of Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand, often abandoned by human traffickers or freed after their families paid ransoms.

The Dalai Lama, the spiritual leader of Tibetan Buddhists, told The Australian newspaper that he has discussed the issue with Suu Kyi twice.

She “told me she found some difficulties, that things were not simple but very complicated,” he was quoted as saying. “But in spite of that I feel she can do something.”

Burma (Myanmar) is holding elections later this year, but it is unlikely that Suu Kyi will be allowed to run for president.

Hardline Buddhists marched in Yangon, Burma this week as efforts continued to rescue thousands of Rohingya migrants trapped on rickety boats in the Bay of Bengal and the Andaman Sea. Many carried placards blaming the United Nations for the problem and denying the existence of Rohingya Muslims in Burma.

Malaysian authorities were exhuming 140 graves this week believed to contain the bodies of Rohingya migrants held for ransom by traffickers.

Thailand was to host a regional meeting Friday to help address the crisis.

Additional reporting from Associated Press

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