Plenty of Burmese Buddhists are extremely prejudiced against Muslims. But you also Aung San Suu Kyi?

Aung San Suu Kyi – the very name invokes the feelings of courage, perseverance, sacrifice and love. The Nobel laureate is better known as a fighter for human rights, a Burmese politician and President of Myanmar’s National League of Democracy. She had received Rafto Prize, Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought, Nobel Peace Prize, Jawaharlal Nehru Award for Internal Understanding, International Simon Boivar Prize and Shaheed Benazir Bhutto Award for Democracy, Wallenberg Medal, Congressional Gold medal and Presidential Medal of Freedom – the highest civilian honor in the United States.

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Born on 19 June 1945 in Rangoon (now Yangon) to Aung San and Khin Kyi her mother, she studied in the Convent of Jesus and Mary School in New Delhi, and graduated in Political Science from Lady Sri Ram College in New Delhi in 1964. She joined St Hugh’s College, Oxford and secured a B.A degree in Philosophy, Politics and Economic in 1967 and M.A degree in Politics in 1968. After graduating, she worked at the United Nations for three years, primarily on budget matters. On 1 January 1972, Aung San Suu Kyi married Michael Vaillancourt Aris, a British historian who wrote and lectured on Bhutanese, tibetian and Himalayan culture and history. Between 1985 and 1987, Suu Kyi was working toward an M. Phil. For two years, she was a Fellow at the Indian Institute of Advanced Studies (IIAS) in Shimla, India.

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In 1988, Suu Kyi returned to Burma, at first to tend for her ailing mother but later to lead the pro-democracy movement. Aris’ visit in Christmas 1995 turned out to be the last time that he and Suu Kyi met, as Suu Kyi remained in Burma. The Burmese dictatorship denied him any further entry visas. Aris was diagnosed with prostate cancer in 1997. He died on his 53rd birthday on 27 March 1999. That was the time when his wife was first placed under house arrest. Aan Suu had seen him only five times, the last of which was for Christmas in 1995. She was also separated from her children, who live in the United Kingdom, but starting in 2011, they have visited her in Burma. Suu Kyi was released from house arrest on 13 November 2010.

The long-time military leader of Burma and head of the ruling party, General Ne Win, stepped down around the same time when Aung San Suu returned to her motherland in 1988. Mass demonstrations for democracy followed the event that was violently suppressed.

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On 26 August 1988, she addressed half a million people at a mass rally in front of the Shwedagon Pagoda in the capital, calling for a democratic government. She failed to dislodge the Junta Rule and military was back in power.

She entered politics and helped found the National League for Democracy on 27 September 1988. She was put under house arrest on 20 July 1989. Offered freedom if she left the country, she refused. During her time under house arrest, Suu Kyi devoted herself to Buddhist meditation practices and to studying Buddhist thought.

Aung San Suu Kyi was placed under house arrest for a total of 15 years over a 21-year period. She was prevented from meeting her party supporters and international visitors. Suu Kyi was granted permission to leave Burma under the condition that she would never return. Suu Kyi accepted incarceration and decided to sacrifice a life with her husband and her two young sons, in order to stand by her people.  Her house arrest term came to an end on 13 November 2010.

According to official documents, on April 1, 2012 her party, the National League for Democracy, announced that she was elected to the lower house of The election results were confirmed by the official electoral commission the following day. On 6 June 2013, Suu Kyi announced that she wanted to run for the Presidency’s 2015 elections. Suu Kyi was prohibited, however, from becoming president within the current constitution due to having married a non-Burmese person. In the 2015 Myanmar general election, the NLD, Suu Kyi’s party, won a sweeping victory, taking 86 percent of the seats in the Assembly of the Union (235 in the House of Representatives and 135 in the House of Nationalities).

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And now her party is almost in power in Myanmar.

Despite her being the universally acknowledged great statesman of the world history, it is pity that she has never made a clear statement in support of the Rohingya Muslims. She had often lamented the violence in Arakan state but has refused to endorse the judgements of organizations such as Human Rights Watch, which have blamed Arakan’s Buddhists for the persecution of the Muslims.

Rohingya muslims Aung San Suu Kyi And The Rohingya Muslims

The Rohingya, a Muslim ethnic group of around 1 million people, live primarily in Myanmar’s western Rakhine State. After decades of discriminatory government policies, the Rohingya are now often described as one of the most persecuted minorities in the world. In 1982, the government stripped them of citizenship, leaving them stateless and vulnerable to abuse. In addition, approximately 10 percent of the Rohingya population is currently detained in camps for displaced persons, where they lack adequate access to health care, education, and employment.

The world was expecting that pathetic condition of Rohingya Muslim would take a turn for better.

Unfortunately, Ms Suu Kyi, 69, who spent 15 years under house arrest for critic­izing Myanmar’s former military junta, has defended her silence on Rohingya persecution by saying she is a politician and not a human rights champion.

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South African archbishop Desmond Tutu remarked in a conference in Oslo on the issue, said: “If you are neutral in situ­ations of injustice you have chosen the side of the oppressor.”

The Dalai Lama had appealed to Myanmar’s Nobel peace laureate Aung San Suu Kyi to speak up for the country’s persecuted Muslim Rohingya minority amid a worsening refugee crisis.

The Tibetan Buddhist spiritual leader had told ‘The Australian’ that he was alarmed and saddened by the predicament of thousands of men, women and children still ­believed to be stranded at sea after weeks of being bounced between hostile nations. “It’s not sufficient to say: ‘How to help these people? This is not sufficient. There’s something wrong with humanity’s way of thinking. Ultimately we are lacking concern for others’ lives, others­’­ wellbeing.”

Myanmar’s government has consistently refused to discuss its treatment of its Rohingya population in international ­forums.

What had shocked the world is the reality that a leader of her world status, a great humanitarian and fighter, she had also failed to speak and do anything for the suffering minority of Burma.

She had shown her feet of clay to the world in her latest remark that had taken out the sheen or aura she was blessed with. The universal reaction against her interview with Mishal Husain for the BBC Today programme  – Plenty of Burmese Buddhists are extremely prejudiced against Muslims. But you also Aung San Suu Kyi?  She was reportedly heard to say angrily “No No-one told me I was going to be interviewed by a Muslim,” What does it tell us about Suu Kyi’s views?

By Naim Naqvi

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