Murky in Myanmar: Suu Kyi, the revered Nobelist, is not winning raves
By Editorial Board
March 31, 2017
A year ago, the political ice thawed in Myanmar, with Nobel Peace Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi playing a larger role. There was some thought that life there, in particular its human rights record, might improve.
It turns out that rather than clean up the act of Myanmar’s long-ruling generals, Ms. Suu Kyi has come increasingly to serve as a more human front for the generals’ activities. The inter-ethnic and religious conflicts that have characterized the country’s history are continuing and perhaps growing even worse.
In particular, the conflict between the majority Buddhists of Myanmar, formerly known as Burma, and the Muslim Rohingya minority has become sharper. Thousands of Rohingya, in the face of persecution, are fleeing into neighboring Bangladesh as refugees. The treatment of the Rohingya by the Myranmar government is coming to be called genocide by some international observers, staining deeply the reputation of Ms. Suu Kyi, who has yet to take a stand on their behalf.
The larger long-standing problem of Myanmar, population 55 million, is the continuing quest for autonomy, sometimes by military means, of 17 of its some 100 ethnic minorities. The country’s military continues to try to suppress these groups by force, prompting some to take up arms. Some claim that Ms. Suu Kyi has as yet showed no willingness to resolve the problems with them through negotiations.
It is possible to be kind and say that she is waiting to solidify her own position further, especially vis-a-vis the Myanmar military, before tackling knotty intra-Myanmar problems directly. It is also possible to suggest that, having been under detention for years for championing democracy, she does not want to risk her political resurrection and current position by taking on some of the basic problems of her country.
But Ms. Suu Kyi’s position toward the problem of Myanmar’s minorities, particularly the Rohingya, does not enhance her reputation for humanity or greatness. The daughter of an independence leader, she has showed indomitable courage in the face of government military coercion in past years. The people of the country and the world continue to expect a lot of her.