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City of London to debate stripping Aung San Suu Kyi of freedom award

Aung San Suu Kyi was bestowed with the City of London’s Honorary Freedom in May. Photograph: Rudolf Portillo/EPA

By Ben Quinn
October 8, 2017

Concern over Burmese leader’s response to treatment of Myanmar’s Rohingya people prompts review by City of London council

Members of the City of London’s local authority are to discuss stripping Aung San Suu Kyi of the Honorary Freedom that was bestowed on her in controversial circumstances.

The award, which was conferred on the Burmese leader in May, was originally the subject of unhappiness among some councillors for the Square Mile as well as protests at a time when concern was already building over the treatment of Myanmar’s Rohingya people.

Following pressure from colleagues and increasing reports of atrocities in Myanmar, City of London Corporation leaders have now decided to discuss revoking the honour. Catherine McGuinness, a lawyer who chairs the body’s policy and resources committee, informed fellow councillors by email that she was “distressed at the situation in Burma and the atrocities committed by the Burmese military”.

Her response came after one member, Munsur Ali, sent an email to say that he was tabling a motion that would criticise Aung San Suu Kyi’s failure to publicly challenge the conduct of her country’s armed forces and which would instruct the committee in charge of overseeing applications for honours to examine whether her honour could be removed.

“Like many, this has been of great concern to me for a while, not only as a Londoner who is proud of the freedom and equality we celebrate and keen to share with the world, but more so as a person who is of Bengali heritage,” said Ali, who spoke out after another member, Thomas Anderson, also expressed concern.

A group of Rohingya people cross the border into Bangladesh after fleeing violence in Myanmar. Photograph: Gemunu Amarasinghe/AP

It emerged last week that Aung San Suu Kyi is to be stripped of the Freedom of the City of Oxford, where she studied as an undergraduate, over her response to the Rohingya crisis.

Oxford city council voted unanimously to support a cross-party motion that said it was no longer appropriate to celebrate the de facto leader of Myanmar. The council is to hold a special meeting to confirm the honour’s removal on 27 November.

The council leader, Bob Price, supported the motion, calling it an unprecedented step for the local authority, according to the BBC.

In recent months, Aung San Suu Kyi has drawn increasing criticism for her apparent defence of Myanmar’s treatment of its Rohingya minority, described by the UN as a “textbook example of ethnic cleansing”.

Oxford council bestowed the freedom of the city on her in 1997, when she was being held as a political prisoner by Myanmar’s military junta.

The decision to remove the award comes after the Oxford college where Aung San Suu Kyi studied recently removed her portrait from public display.

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