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What Is Keeping Aung San Suu Kyi Silent Over The Mass Slaughter In Burma?

By Sameera 
Junuary 17, 2014

Thousands of Rohingya Muslims are being slaughtered by Buddhist monks and the Military Junta In Burma, yet pro-democracy leader and Nobel Peace Prize winning human rights activist, Aung San Suu Kyi, remains eerily silent over the issue. 

Burmese authorities have waged a campaign of ethnic cleansing against Rohingya Muslims since June 2012.

According to a Human Rights Watch report, the Burmese government and local authorities are responsible for the forced displacement of more than 125,000 Rohingya and other Muslims in the country. It also stated that the tens of thousands of the displaced people have been denied access to humanitarian aid and are unable to return home.

What is most prominent apart from the atrocities taking place in the country is the silence of Suu Kyi. She has decided to avoid the issue and take a neutral stance over the blatant violation of human rights.

The Rohingya, largely poorer, darker-skinned Muslim immigrants from Bangladesh are unrecognized by the Burmese state and considered illegal immigrants.
What Is Keeping Aung San Suu Kyi Silent Over The Mass Slaughter In Burma?
The first of the recent attacks came in June 2012 when a young Buddhist woman was raped and murdered by two Muslim men. In retaliation, a group of non-Muslim men stopped a bus and killed the Muslims on board, and the bloodshed quickly spiraled out of control. There were many victims on both sides, but the Muslims were in the majority. Thousands lost their homes and were resettled in squalid temporary camps, creating a human rights crisis.

Aung San Suu Kyi’s reaction, or rather lack thereof, must be a huge disappointment for followers who see her as their beacon of hope. Asked if the Rohingyas are Burmese citizens, the leader refused to take a stance.

She is also known to have said that the violence was a “huge international tragedy.”  However she added, “But don’t forget that violence has been committed by both sides. This is why I prefer not to take sides. And, also I want to work toward reconciliation between these two communities. I am not going to be able to do that if I take sides.”

Can she not see the atrocities being committed in her country? Her silence casts a huge shadow over her ability to be the harbinger of change for Burma.  

Perhaps she is caught between her sympathy for the victims’ plight and her future political aspirations. Suu Kyi could be feeling that she can tackle the situation better when in power. However, her failure to respond shows a lack of empathy and does not bode well for the country.  Burma is scheduled to hold general elections in 2015. Suu Kyi’s party, the National League for Democracy (NLD), is the most popular in the country and likely to take a landslide victory.

Meanwhile, Suu Kyi has to maintain the support of the great majority of her people and also persuade the military, which still holds  the power behind the scenes, that she and her party can be trusted.

Author and journalist Peter Popham feels“The glaringly obvious reason is that, upon her election to Parliament in April 2012, Suu Kyi became a politician. As Hillary Clinton presciently warned her a few months earlier, there is a world of difference between being an activist and being a politician. In the heyday of her activism, addressing crowds gathered outside her home in Rangoon in the mid-’90s, Suu Kyi happily teased and chastised the ruling military regime. Today she sits alongside them in Parliament: one quarter of the seats are occupied by unelected soldiers.

Suu Kyi, then, has ample reason to choose her words with care. Her recent affectionate descriptions of the Army are examples of this. But why can’t she denounce something as grotesque as the attacks on Muslims?”

This kind of ‘political shrewdness’ is disappointing from a woman who is known to have believed,“You should never let your fears prevent you from doing what you know is right.”