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In saying nothing about genocide of the Rohingya or the imprisonment of journalists exposing massacres, the Nobel prize winner is morally complicit in the crimes committed by Myanmar’s military.
This is straight from the pages of Kafka: the pair were convicted of a colonial-era crime to spend years behind bars. It is absurd that the government has not stepped in to stop this farce of a trial in the nine months it ran. No one denies that the massacre that the Reuters team were looking into happened. The army admitted some officials were involved. What is tragic is that Aung San Suu Kyi, who leads the Myanmar government and won the Nobel peace prize in 1991 for campaigning for democracy, has remained silent on this issue and the bloody crackdown in Rakhine state. She should have stepped down from office in protest at the blood being spilt in her government’s name. Plainly, Aung San Suu Kyi calculates that she would do more good in office, though the evidence of this is thin. It looks as if she is being used as a human shield for the military’s murderous campaign against a Muslim minority. As the UN said, the government’s omissions have contributed to the commission of the gravest crimes.
Aung San Suu Kyi has no power over the military, led by commander-in-chief Min Aung Hlaing. The pre-eminence of the military was entrenched in a new constitution – a fact often overlooked by those caught up in the transition from army dictatorship to army dominance that the first elections in 2015 sanctioned. Some 25% of the seats in central and state legislatures are reserved for the military. The Myanmar commander-in-chief appoints the three most important ministers in the central government. Yet the general has been received by governments in Germany, Russia, India and Japan this year with barely a word about the atrocities that his military has been responsible for. Bizarrely Facebook, a non-state actor, has done him the most damage. The commander-in-chief’s page has been blocked for “human rights abuses”, cutting the general off from his 2.8 million followers. He should be referred to the international criminal court.
Aung San Suu Kyi runs a Potemkin democracy. Her National League for Democracy (NLD) government has been in power for more than two years. However, it’s the same civil servants and officials who served the military who now serve NLD ministers. To amend the role of the military in parliament requires the complete agreement of all civilian lawmakers, which is almost impossible given the nature of competitive parliamentary politics. The international community needs to pressure the military to make further reforms to empower civilian government. Democrats have to stand by democratic values. Aung San Suu Kyi can still use the pulpit of a politician to speak out when she sees wrong. She ought to defend a free press and the rule of law. To do otherwise is to let down all those who campaigned for her release. She can make choices: a visit to Rakhine state would be a good idea. She should go down to meet victims of the violence from all religious communities. Instead there is nothing but silence. The globe saw Aung San Suu Kyi as a bright hope. Now one looks and sees nothing whatsoever.