Skip to main content

The Journal Gazette

  • Suu Kyi

  • Ye Win Latt

Monday, October 08, 2018 1:00 am

Suu Kyi must seize moment

Ye Win Latt

Ye Win Latt, a Fort Wayne resident since 2008, holds degrees from Indiana University-Bloomington and Indiana Wesleyan University.

The news of the Canadian parliament stripping honorary Canadian citizenship from Myanmar (Burma)'s de facto leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, is not surprising.

Last month, the Canadian parliament declared the atrocities committed against the Rohingya minority by Myanmar's military as genocide and thus bestowed a legal and moral obligation to prevent the killings.

Stripping the honorary citizenship sent a symbolic message; more actions are expected to follow.

This came after United Nations investigators issued a report in August that called for investigation and prosecution of Myanmar's generals for “genocidal intent.”

According to the report, more than 700,000 Rohingya have taken refuge in Bangladesh and about 10,000 were killed after Myanmar's military launched a “clearance operation” in response to an attack from an insurgent group of Rohingya known as the ARSA.

While the military action was carried out under the direct commend of Senior Gen. Min Aung Hlaing with no formal tie to Suu Kyi, she is regarded as a genocide bystander for failing to take tangible action to intervene in the situation.

She is one of the six people to receive honorary Canadian citizenship and the first to be stripped. Several honors and awards given to her, including the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum's Elie Weisel Award, were revoked over the past year.

She is now widely seen as a “changed person.”

Although she is not in control of the government entirely, she is also not without power.

The weight that she carries as a human rights icon attracts high expectation from the international community to handle any human rights violation firmly and effectively.

For the rest of the world, the Rohingya issue is a matter of human rights violations, but for Myanmar, the country with a high degree of tension in its ethnic politics, it is far more complex.

The people of Myanmar find little of Burmeseness in the Rohingya people, and thus could not take them in as their own.

Suu Kyi is in a position to influence her countrymen and erase bitterness toward the Rohingya, yet she chooses not to take the risk.

Giving the sacrifice she made to get this far, the vast majority of Burmese are willing to give her a chance without criticizing her actions and letting her do the job the way she finds appropriate. Among her supporters, hatred toward Rohingya could grow as they see the Rohingya as the primary reason for hurting their leader's reputation.

Knowing  she is trapped in the generals' plan of shaming her, her supporters believe any pressure on her to speak up regarding the Rohingya issue seems untimely.

For the international community, silence on large-scale atrocities is unacceptable. Her cooperation to resolve the problem is expected. The United States, Great Britain, the European Union and Canada have imposed targeted sanctions on several of Myanmar's generals in response to the crime committed by Myanmar's military.

A UN fact-finding mission recommended the UN Security Council refer the matter to the International Criminal Court. Although Myanmar is not a member of the Hague-based court, the ICC ruled in September that it has jurisdiction over alleged deportations of the Rohingya people to Bangladesh.

Despite the country's long history of oppression, no Myanmar authorities have ever been formally charged at the ICC. Myanmar's close allies, Russia and China, have never allowed the U.N. Security Council to take any harsh measures against Myanmar.

Regardless of how much progress is being made at the United Nations, this certainly adds more leverage to Suu Kyi's side of the negotiating table with the Myanmar generals. While she still has  leverage on her side, she could seize this opportunity to have the military withdrawn from the nation's politics and take complete control of the government.

The negotiations with generals certainly are not an easy task, but with pressure from the international community, she is running out of time.