Why Aung San Suu Kyi chooses si­lence


The photo was taken at Thae Chaung camp in Rakhine state. UNITED NA­TIONS: On 23rd Au­gust, just days be­fore thou­sands of Ro­hingyas be­gan flee­ing their homes from Rakhine State, Aung San Suu Kyi’s re­cently ap­pointed Rakhine Ad­vi­sory Com­mis­sion, es­tab­lished in 2016, sub­mit­ted its in­de­pen­dent Com­mis­sion, tasked with rec­om­mend­ing newer ways of im­prov­ing the lives of Ro­hingya Mus­lims, Myan­mar’s most deeply per­se­cuted mi­nor­ity group, car­ried some weight of diplo­macy.

In that week, when clashes broke out between Ro­hingya mil­i­tants and se­cu­rity forces, Myan­mar’s Army re­sponded by dou­bling down on its at­tacks against Ro­hingyas in Rakhine State, killing at least 400 peo­ple, only 29 of whom were mil­i­tants. What ap­peared as a win­dow of the re­port, which rec­om­mended re­view­ing a cit­i­zen­ship law that re­voked the rights of Ro­hingyas as cit­i­zens of Myan­mar in 1982, col­lapsed at its feet. In­stead, a record num­bers of Ro­hingyas, more to Bangladesh.

Re­cently, the UN’s High Com­mis­sioner for Hu­man Rights, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hus­sein, in a speech to the Hu­man Rights Coun­cil in Geneva, shed light on He de­nounced the gov­ern­ment’s “cyn­i­cal ploy” to only al­low refugees who could pro­duce “proof of na­tion­al­ity” back into the coun­try, and con­demned the State’s strat­egy to lay land­mines along the bor­ders of Bangladesh. He even warned that the gov­ern­ment should “stop claim­ing that the Ro­hingyas are set­ting fire to their own homes and lay­ing waste to their own vil­lages.”

in many ways, both old and new. In 1977, when Burmese au­thor­i­ties con­ducted a set of screen­ings, called Op­er­a­tion Nagamin (Dragon King), to reg­is­ter its cit­i­zens for a na­tional cen­sus, al­most 200,000 - though au­thor­i­ties claimed that it was sim­ply screen­ing out for­eign Bangladesh, and who were largely Ro­hingya Mus­lims, dis­puted the claims and al­leged wide­spread po­lice bru­tal­ity.

Sim­i­larly, this Fe­bru­ary, four months af­ter a group of Ro­hingya mil­i­tants broke into promi­nence Oc­to­ber 2016, the UN re­leased its killings, gang rapes, and “crimes against hu­man­ity” com­mit­ted by the State’s mil­i­tary in it’s re­tal­i­a­tion to the at­tack.

IPS spoke to Matthew Smith, an ex­pert on the topic, and the co- founder of For­tify Rights, an NGO that vig­i­lantly doc­u­ments hu­man rights vi­o­la­tions in South­east Asia, about the rise of armed in­sur­gen­cies staged by a group of Ro­hingya mil­i­tants.

Ro­hingya Sal­va­tion Army (ARSA), is rel­a­tively small. Be­lieved to have been backed by donors in the Mid­dle East, the group wields its sense of power from the sup­port of its com­mu­nity. When Matthew ex­plained that, mil­i­tants who have car­ried out its most re­cent at­tacks by us­ing knives and home-made bombs, were act­ing on the prom­ise of be­ing aided with more auto- How­ever, when that plan failed, Myan­mar fell into the hands of the Army. ARSA was no match to the mil­i­tary’s prow­ess.

par­tially blame them­selves for the cat­a­clysmic turn of events, first picked up am­mu­ni­tion to break away from this very sense of help­less­ness. For them, there was sim­ply no other op­tion. In­ad­ver­tently, a com­bi­na­tion of threats posed by ARSA and a public ma­neu­ver­ing by a gov­ern­ment long prej­u­diced against Ro­hingyas, gave way to sup­port for the mil­i­tary among Burmese cit­i­zens. Most cit­i­zens, who oth­er­wise re­main very skep­ti­cal about the mil­i­tary’s role in do­mes­tic pol­i­tics, found new ground with the army to quash any mil­i­tant threats.

A re­newed sense of public con­sen­sus that backed the gov­ern­ment’s strat­egy of driv­ing out Ro­hingya from the coun­try pushed into max­i­mum ef­fect in the last few weeks. In spite of in­ter­na­tional pres­sure to rein in vi­o­lence, Aung San Suu Kyi is walk­ing on a tightrope, and is keep­ing silent, for now.

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