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Suu Kyi tarnishes the Nobel Peace prize

June 18, 2017

The United Nations has removed its envoy from Myanmar in large measure because of her failure to address the dire human rights scandal of the country’s Muslim Rohingya minority.

Renata Lok-Dessallien, a Canadian, has not been fired — like so many supranational organizations the UN rarely takes such a radical step preferring always to look after its own — but her five-year term has been ended after three and a half years and she has been sent on leave to be “rotated” to some other post where it must be hoped she can do less harm.

The new UN Secretary-General António Guterres acted after a damning report that found that Lok-Dessallien was too close to the Myanmar government led by Aung San Suu Kyi and she had preferred to focus the UN’s Myanmar mission’s development brief while ignoring controversial humanitarian issues of which the plight of the Rohingya is the most glaring. More conscientious members of her team protested with the result that the UN mission became fractured and, according to the private UN enquiry, “dysfunctional”.

Suu Kyi has thus lost an important level of cover for her failure to act positively to protect the interests of the Rohingya. And she has not improved her standing by refusing to accept a UN fact-finding mission, insisting that it would only inflame social tensions. In an interview given in Sweden she said that she was relying instead on the findings of a report which she herself commissioned from the former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan. Among the interim findings of his Advisory Commission on Rakhine State published in March was a recommendation that the camps into which the Rohingya had been herded be closed down.

This has been adopted by Suu Kyi but instead of the process being run over five years as Annan proposed, the closures have already begun. This is interesting since the original excuse for setting up these camps was to protect the Muslims from their Buddhist neighbors. This was of course never true. The conditions in these camps were appalling and the luckless inhabitants continued to be brutalized and exploited by their military guards.

While Suu Kyi cries crocodile tears and blocks the formal UN investigation, the violence against Myanmar’s Muslims continues. Annan has called for those guilty of crimes against the Rohingya to be brought to justice but there is little sign that Suu Kyi has any intention of doing this. One of the extraordinary injustices has been that Myanmar’s courts have refused to hear cases brought by Rohingya on the grounds that they are not Myanmar’s citizens and therefore do not enjoy equal rights. It has been glaringly obvious for a long time that Suu Kyi could start to push back against the monk-led Buddhist bigots who have led the campaign of murder, rape and intimidation against the Rohingya, by recognizing that this community does indeed belong in Myanmar and ensuring that they have full citizenship.

In her early days in power, with the former military rulers still glowering from their barracks, Suu Kyi told the international community that she could not take the risk of making this important step. She is still trotting out this excuse. As a result her image is becoming ever more stained and tarnished. Unfortunately, by extension her seemingly willful failures besmirch all other Nobel Peace laureates.

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Rohingya Exodus