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Myanmar crisis a 'human catastrophe' that betrays Suu Kyi's Nobel prize
Sydney Morning Herald - September 2, 2017
The United Nations Secretary-General warns a "humanitarian catastrophe" may be unfolding by the day in Rakhine State, Myanmar.
This is not happening under the watch of a mad dictator.
This is Myanmar, a member of the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) whose de facto leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, was in 1991 awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for her "non-violent struggle for democracy and human rights", one of her many international awards.
In awarding her a degree from the Australian National University in 2013, then chancellor Gareth Evans called her "an exemplar of quiet courage and determination in the face of oppression and a champion of the peaceful path towards a better and more just world".
But Suu Kyi's government, swept into power on a landslide election victory in 2015, last week accused international aid workers, including those from UN agencies, of helping Islamic "terrorists" who had attacked 30 police posts on August 27.
She presented no evidence. The top UN human rights official, Zeid Raad al-Hussein, described the claim as "irresponsible".
Now Reuters reports that about 120,000 people – mostly displaced and stateless Rohingya Muslims – in Rakhine camps are not receiving food supplies or healthcare after contractors for the World Food Program suspended operations following the government accusations. Staff have been too afraid to show up for work.
"As a result of the disruption of activities in central Rakhine state, many people are not receiving their normal food assistance and primary healthcare services have been severe disrupted," said Pierre Peron, a spokesman for the UN Office for Humanitarian Affairs.
Suu Kyi's government refuses to allow UN investigators and the media access to parts of Rakhine where rights monitors fear a campaign of ethnic cleansing is underway.
Following the attacks on police posts by a ragtag militant group called the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army, Myanmar security forces have hit back ruthlessly with what they call "cleansing operations".
Observers fear the violence will be worse than last year when UN investigators documented atrocities they described in a report as "devastating cruelty" that could amount to crimes against humanity.
Suu Kyi was idolised while spending 15 years as a prisoner of Myanmar's army generals. Now she refuses to speak up for 1.1 million stateless and long persecuted Rohingya.
She may not control her country's armed forces but, since taking high office, Suu Kyi has refused to acknowledge the plight of the Rohingya in any meaningful way.
She deflects questions about the persecution of Rohingya, saying only the "rule of law" must apply in Rakhine. She also dismisses the independent UN inquiry as "not suitable for the situation of our country."
A state-established commission led by former UN chief Kofi Annan warns of more radicalisation if ethnic tensions in Rakhine are not addressed. Australia and other countries have urged Suu Kyi to adopt its sweeping recommendations.
But until now Suu Kyi and her government have failed to protect Rohingya Muslims from her security forces and have denied them sanctuary in lands where they have lived for generations.
Some human rights activists who campaigned for years for Suu Kyi's release when she was a political prisoner now feel a deep sense of betrayal from the woman they formerly saw as a heroine.
Perhaps it is time for her to hand back her Noble Peace Prize.