In the wake of an increased spate of violent persecution against the Rohingya community at the hands of the Burmese military, Nirj Deva MEP, vice-chair of the European Parliament’s International Development Committee, called for de facto Burmese leader Aung San Suu Kyi to be stripped of her Nobel Peace Prize.
Speaking in response to the matter, Nirj Deva stated:
“For decades, Aung San Suu Kyi was seen as a beacon of courage and hope. People from across the world, including myself, looked to her to bring about a democratic, pluralistic transition in Burma. It is rare for so many to place that trust in a politician.
Sadly, Aung San Suu Kyi has betrayed that trust and proven it to have been woefully misplaced. Instead of making good on her campaign for justice and human rights, she has demonstrated moral cowardice and complicity with the savage repression of the Rohingya people.”
The Rohingya, a Muslim grouping living in the north-west of predominantly Buddhist Burma have long been denied basic rights and citizenship. It was hoped Aung San Suu Kyi’s elevation to power would lead to a halt on their repression, given her repeated calls in the distant past for an end to the suffering. Nevertheless, under her watch, the violence has increased. The Burmese army regularly blockades their villages making life unbearable. It has further impeded UN agencies from delivering food, water or medicine to the affected areas, leaving an estimated 250,000 people without regular access to basic needs.
A UN human rights report from this year sighted mass rape, executions, arbitrary imprisonment and starvation tactics. An estimated 80,000 Rohingya children are said to be suffering malnutrition. In August alone, 150,000 Rohingya fled to Bangladesh in the face of a fresh wave of violent oppression.
Continuing in his statement, Nirj Deva MEP lamented Aung San Suu Kyi’s complicity:
“When I campaigned for Aung San Suu Kyi to be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, it was on the basis of her peaceful struggle for democracy and human rights for all. Now, having achieved her own freedom from imprisonment, and accepted all the plaudits and glittering prizes of recognition, she cruelly denies said freedoms to her own people. She has introduced zero legal measures to restrain the army in its targeted campaign of ethnic cleansing. Nor has she explicitly spoken out against it.
The Nobel committee should acknowledge a responsibility to revoke their prizes when the recipient so markedly violates the principles for which they were first commended. And yet as things stand, the antiquated rules of the Nobel committee do not allow for the withdrawal of an award. Clearly this needs to change.’
The growing criticism for Aung San Suu Kyi comes despite an attempt by the Burmese authorities to hide the growing humanitarian catastrophe. Earlier in the year, UN officials were blocked from entering areas to investigate alleged crimes against humanity. In addition to condemnation from the UN and various western governments, religious leaders including Desmond Tutu and Pope Francis have declared solidarity with the persecuted Rohingya people. The Pontiff, who is expected to visit Burma later in the year, called for the Rohingya to be granted their ‘full rights.’
Concluding on Aung San Suu Kyi’s hypocrisy, Nirj Deva MEP noted:
“When you take away any possibility for people to engage in the political process the only route you leave them with is armed resistance. As she stated in her own Nobel lecture: ‘Wherever suffering is ignored, there will be the seeds of conflict, for suffering degrades and embitters and enrages.’ In this respect, Aung San Suu Kyi has condemned her own record with her own words. If she does not seek to personally reverse this path of persecution and slaughter, the international community must be compelled to hold her and the Burmese military to account at the International Criminal Court.”