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Suu Kyi faces growing criticism over Rohingya plight

International human rights groups say once jailed activist should have compassion for the persecuted

Myanmar State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi Associated Press/Photo by Aung Shine Oo

Suu Kyi faces growing criticism over Rohingya plight

Aung San Suu Kyi, 1991 Nobel Prize laureate and de facto leader of the government of primarily Buddhist Myanmar, also known as Burma, faces mounting criticism for her government’s crackdown on the nation’s Rohingya Muslim minority. UN human rights envoy Yanghee Lee arrived in the country Jan. 9 to launch a 12-day investigation.

Suu Kyi became a darling of the West during her long political imprisonment and house arrest. In late December, a letter to the UN Security Council from a group of other former Nobel laureates, including Archbishop Desmond Tutu, called the Burmese actions “ethnic cleansing” and scolded Suu Kyi for her inaction and denial of humanitarian aid to the region.

Suu Kyi’s government denies the accusations and claims there is no evidence of genocide or widespread rape of Rohingya women and girls. Burmese authorities dismiss as propaganda refugee testimonies of rape, torture, killing, and detainment.

While a government ban keeps non-state media out of the region, Amnesty International reports satellite images show entire villages burned and more than 1,500 buildings destroyed in Rakhine state in the past three months. Authorities claim residents burned down their own houses.

A 1982 Burmese law stripped the Rohingya people of citizenship. The Myanmar government also bans the 1 million Rohingya living in its borders from owning land and having more than two children. It restricts travel, educational, and job opportunities. The Rohingya have been called one of the “world’s most persecuted minorities.”

The ethnic conflict in Rakhine state has displaced more than 100,000 people since 2012, and Bangladesh reports more than 50,000 Rohingya people have crossed its borders in the last two months.

Jenny Lind Schmitt

Jenny is WORLD’s global desk chief and European reporter. She is a World Journalism Institute and Smith College graduate. She is the author of the novel Mountains of Manhattan and resides in Porrentruy, Switzerland, with her family.


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