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U2 condemn Suu Kyi’s silence on violence against Rohingya people

Musicians, Adam Clayton, from left, Bono, Larry Mullan Jnr and The Edge, of the band U2, perform on stage at Twickenham Stadium in London, Sunday, July 9, 2017. (Photo by Joel Ryan/Invision/AP)

By Sorcha Pollak, The Irish Times

Rock group’s blog post does not acknowledge Bono’s involvement in offshore investments

U2 has condemned Myanmar’s leader Aung San Suu Kyi for her silence in the face of “violence and terror being visited on the Rohingya people”.

Ms Suu Kyi has been widely criticised by former supporters, including fellow Nobel laureates, for failing to speak out against the violence being inflicted on thousands in her home country of Myanmar (formerly known as Burma).

Commenting in a post on the band’s website, U2 writes that it spent years campaigning for the release of Ms Suu Kyi after she was detained and placed under house arrest for her efforts to bring democracy to Myanmar.

The post signed “Adam, Bono, Edge, Larry” writes: “When she came to Dublin to thank Ireland and Amnesty International, we Irish could not have been more proud.

“When her party the NLD won a landslide in the elections and she stood her ground to become de-facto head of the country, an impossible journey seemed to be reaching its destination.”

The post continues that they could have “never imagined” Ms Suu Kyi would remain silent while more than 600,000 Rohingya people were forced to flee police brutality in Myanmar.

The band members write they never could have predicted “the woman who many of us believed would have the clearest and loudest voice on the crisis would go quiet. For these atrocities against the Rohingya people to be happening on her watch blows our minds and breaks our hearts.”

The Irish musicians say they have attempted to contact Ms Suu Kyi in recent months “to speak directly about the crisis in her country” and that they expected to speak to her this week but that the call had been cancelled.

“Aung San Suu Kyi’s silence is starting to look a lot like assent. As Martin Luther King said: ‘The ultimate tragedy is not the oppression and cruelty by the bad people but the silence over that by the good people.’ The time has long passed for her to stand up and speak out.”

‘A mistake’

The group also called for greater international awareness of the role Min Aung Hlaing, the commander-in-chief of Myanmar’s military, has played in the crackdown on the Rohingya people, warning that condemning Ms Suu Kyi while ignoring Mr Aung Hlaing “is a mistake”.

“While this in no way excuses her silence, Aung San Suu Kyi has no control, constitutional or otherwise, over his actions, and it is he who has authorised and overseen the terrorisation of the Rohingya people under the guise of protecting Myanmar from terrorism,” writes U2.

“If this horror of human rights abuses is to stop, and if the long-term conditions for resettlement of the Rohingya people are to ever occur, General Min Aung Hlaing and his military must be just as much the focus of international action and pressure as Aung San Suu Kyi and her civilian government.”

Saturday’s post from U2 follows revelations that band frontman Bono made a number of property investments via offshore entitites including a shopping centre in Lithuania and an office building in Germany.

Details of these investments emerged through the Paradise Papers, files obtained by German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung and shared with ICIJ, The Irish Times and more than 90 other media organisations in 67 countries.

Bono, who has campaigned for years against secretive offshore tax schemes, has not yet commented on his involvement with the offshore entities.

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