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Shooting at own feet: Aung San Suu Kyi Style

22 Sep 2017, 19:45 ( 22 Sep, 2017)

By Professor Abdul Mannan
Myanmar State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi (C) arrives to deliver a speech at the Myanmar International Convention Center-2 in Nay Pyi Taw, Myanmar, Sept. 19, 2017. File Photo Xinhua.

Aung San Suu Kyi, the de-jure Head of State of and Head of Government (the Burmese Army is the de-facto ruler of the country) while spending fifteen years in house arrest under the military rulers of her country the world respectfully called her ‘prisoner of conscience’ and demanded her release and return to normal life. Suu Kyi spoke of democracy and preservation of human rights which the military junta did not endorse and sent her to confinement disregarding the fact that her party National League for Democracy (NLD) won the general election of 1990. The 1990 election was annulled by the junta and Suu Kyi imprisoned. Power hungry military junta and democracy and human rights do not go together. The junta which usurped state power in Myanmar in 1962 converted Myanmar into an isolated and pariah state shutting its doors to the outside world. When Suu Kyi was finally released on 13 November 2013 the world expressed its relief and hoped a new dawn would be ushered in the land where Buddha’s preaching of peace and harmony is respected by its vast section of people. They pinned hopes on the ‘prisoner of conscience,’ Aung San Suu Kyi. 

The subsequent events proved everyone wrong and today Myanmar is one of the most divided nations on earth with the ‘prisoner of conscience’ presiding over the rape of democracy and humanity as a  systematic and calculated genocide is being committed in its Rakhine state bordering Bangladesh, populated mostly by Muslims thought Hindus and Christians forms a small size of the population. The genocide is let loose on the unarmed population by the Myanmar military, the local mobs led by ultra nationalist Buddhist monks. It is part of the `Burmanization’-Burma for Burmese plan a concept coined by the General Ne Win in 1962 when he usurped state power. The Arakanese, known as Rohingya Muslims are considered illegal migrants from Bangladesh by the Myanmar government a preposterous claim as these Muslims have inhabited the region since eighth century. Historians agree that the first Muslim settlers in Arakan  were Arab traders. In fact today’s Myanmar was fragmented into many independent kingdoms. In 1044 King Anawratha also known as Aniruddha (1044-77) united the feuding kingdoms and cobbled them into one country and one kingdom. Some parts of Arakan became part of his kingdom later to emerge as an independent kingdom. As part of the Arakan kingdom the region upto southern part of Chittagong was never part of Burma. Anawratha was known as a good and liberal king who introduced Buddhism in his kingdom. By the end of thirteenth century Anawrath’s kingdom collapsed and inter and intra feuding amongst the remnants of his kingdom took a serious turn. Taking advantage of the continuous infighting the British annexed Burma in 1886 and made it part of their Indian empire which included the kingdom of Arakan. When the British left India in 1947 they could very well make Arakan part of East Pakistan (now Bangladesh) which the Muslim population of the Arakan state very much desired. But Jinnah was not interested and subsequently when British left Burma in 1948 they handed over the kingdom of Arakan to Burma leaving behind a perpetual cause of discord and animosity in the region for which the present Arakanese Muslims are paying a high price.  Buddhist Burma could never become a diversified modern nation state and continued treating the inhabitants of Arakan (now known as Rakhine State) as illegal settlers from Bangladesh, which they were not and continued denying them all rights and civic facilities enjoyed by the other 135 ethnic minority population of the country. Beginning in 1962 after General Ne Win staged a military coup the Burmese military began a reign of terror on the Muslim population of the Arakan state, subjecting them to regular persecution, torture, rape, arson and killing. The Arakanese Muslims were denied citizenship in 1982 under a new citizenship law. The slow exodus of Arakanese Muslims, including even people of other faith actually began in 1962, peaked in 1978 and currently it has turned into genocide and ethnic cleansing which is currently being recognized by the international community including UN, OIC, IOM, EU countries, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, the international media. The recent bout of genocide began on last August 25 when the Myanmar army and ultra nationalist Buddhist mobs and thugs backed by the Myanmar army came down heavily on unarmed civilians, mostly Muslims, subjecting them to all kinds of intimidation, brutal murder and denial of all kinds of human rights. The new wave of survivors of genocide in Arakan state by the Myanmar Army began and today more than five lakh new  (five hundred thousand) Arakanese Rohingyas have crossed the border into Bangladesh witnessing their villages being raged to the ground and women, children, elderly and young  members of the family being hacked to death and their mutilated bodies thrown into flames.

Rohingya refugees who were forced to leave their country by Myanmar security forces arrived in Bangladesh to save their lives. Photo Mostafizur Rahman.On 16 June, 2012 while accepting the Nobel Peace prize in Oslo the ‘prisoner of conscious’ -Aung San  Suu Kyi in her Nobel Lecture said ‘the Nobel Prize had drawn the attention of the world to the struggle for democracy and human rights in Burma. We were not going to be forgotten…When I met Burmese migrant workers and refugees during my recent visit to Thailand, (many of them were Rohingyas) many cried out:``Don’t forget us!” They meant: “don’t forget our plight, don’t forget to do what you can to help us, and don’t forget we also belong to your world”…Nobel Peace Prize means personally extending my concerns for democracy and human rights beyond national borders. The Nobel Peace Prize opened up a door in my heart.’ Unfortunately instead of opening the doors of Suu Kyi’s heart it has closed all doors of her conscious and instead of her being ‘prisoner of conscious’ she now has become a ‘prisoner of the bloodletting murderous Myanmar army’ bent on cleansing Myanmar of all kinds of Rohingya population by any means available to them. Her shift in her priority is evident from the speech she made on 19 September denying any wrong doing in the Rakhine state which the Amnesty International  termed as  Aung San and her government is trying to ‘burry their heads in the sand’ while  the United Nations earlier called as ‘textbook example of ethnic cleansing.’ Some still try to find solution to the Rohingya crisis in the good sense of Aung San Suu Kyi and her government but it is evident from Suu Kyi’s recent denial of any atrocities in the Rakhine state that Suu Kyi is not in a position or is unwilling  to stop the ongoing genocide in  her country. She is unable to realize the long term consequence her country will have to face and heavy price it might have to pay if things do not improve and Rohingyas are not allowed to return to their homes without any condition and guaranteeing them all types of citizens’ rights hitherto denied to them, including the acceptance and implementation of the Kofi Anan Commission report. The nine member Commission headed by the former Secretary General of UN  was constituted by Suu Kyi herself and included six members from Myanmar recommended by Aung San Suu Kyi herself. Bangladesh and its Prime Minister Sk. Hasina has shown to the world what humanitarian and leadership is all about and now it is the turn of the world to compel the Suu Kyi led government including the Myanmar Army how matters of a civilized state should be run with the preservation human rights being given the top priority.

On Saturday, 21 September 2017 the Prime Minister of Bangladesh Sk. Hasina spoke before the world leaders in the United Nations General Assembly. Millions of people in Bangladesh and around the world paid attention to what Sk. Hasina had to say. In very unambiguous and clear terms Bangladesh’s Prime Minister urged the UN and the international community to take immediate effective steps for the permanent solution to Rohingya crisis reiterating the fact that the Rohingyas have fled Myanmar fearing persecution. She presented some specific proposals for the permanent solutions to the continuous Rohingya crisis at the UN assembly which included (a) Myanmar must unconditionally stop the violence and ethnic cleansing in Rakhine state immediately and permanently; (b) sending an investigative team of the UN Secretary General to Myanmar immediately; (c) ensuring safety for all the citizens, irrespective of race and religion, and building a security zone in Myanmar under the supervision of UN; (d) make sure the safe return and rehabilitation of all Rohingyas, who were forced to drive out from Rakhine state, safely and securely with dignity; (e) unconditional implementation of the Kofi Annan Commission recommendations. Though this was her 14th address to the UNGA according to the national and international media this time she came with a heavy heart just after seeing the “hungry, distressed and hopeless Rohingyas” who fled their own country to take refuge in Bangladesh. Before leaving to attend the 72nd UGGA Bangladesh’s Prime Minister visited the Rohingya camps in Coxbazar, Teknaf and Ukhia in south Chittagong. Sk. Hasina in her speech said the Rohingyas are fleeing `ethnic cleansing’ in their own country where they have been living for centuries, adding that Bangladesh is currently sheltering over 800,000 Rohingyas. While the Nobel Laureate Aung San Suu Kyi did not blink an eye to unsuccessfully feed the world with deceit, lies and denials Bangladesh’s Prime Minister unfolded the truth before the leaders of the world and its people the reality than Suu Kyi is desperately trying to hide behind her Nobel Peace Prize aura. History will remember Aung San Suu Kyi as Adolph Hitler  for being party to a genocide and ethnic cleansing and Sk. Hasina and the people of Bangladesh for their humanitarian gestures showed to one of the most persecuted and stateless people of the our  times. Unfortunately Suu Kyi does not realize she is shooting at her own feet.   Suu Kyi is a perfect example of Nobel Peace prize going to wrong hands time and again in last fifty years.

Notes: The writer is the Chairman of University Grants Commission of Bangladesh and a former Vice-Chancellor, University of Chittagong, Bangladesh.