The international community’s silence on the plight of the Rohingya Muslims is deafening. This is not the first time that the hypocrisy has made itself evident. As hundreds of Muslims in Myanmar fall prey to hatred and violence, those who have for long posed as protectors of human rights all over the world are still struggling to find their voice. Myanmar’s very own Nobel Peace Prize Laureate, Aung San Suu Kyi has conveniently shrugged off responsibility, claiming that she identifies herself as a politician and not a human right’s activist. Whatever Suu Kyi’s perception of herself, the world did not stop waiting on her to speak up against the humanitarian crisis in her home state.
In a Buddhist majority country, while her silence may prove to be instrumental in securing the presidential seat when and if she is allowed to stand in the elections, it will not make the Rohingya crisis disappear should she actually win it. The images of Rohingya Muslims stranded at sea, malnourished and terrified are strangely reminiscent of the Holocaust. Suu Kyi has responded to the questions with another question: what good her condemnation of violence against the Rohingyas will achieve, she asks. Her statement appears to be a crude attempt at legitimizing her criminal silence in the wake of oppression within her country. Suu Kyi’s brand of democracy– what she has been vouching for all these years– conforms merely to textbook ideals of majority rule leaving no room for morality and empathy.
Let me not put any words, in Ms. Suu Kyi’s mouth; let me, instead quote her thoughts on becoming a Nobel Laureate:
““There was the house which was my world, there was the world of others who also were not free but were together in prison as a community, and there was the world of the free; each was a different planet pursuing its own separate course in an indifferent universe….What the Nobel peace prize did was to draw me once again into the world of other human beings outside the isolated area in which I lived, to restore a sense of reality to me. This did not happen instantly, of course, but as the days and months went by, and news of reactions to the award came over the airwaves, I began to understand the significance of the Nobel prize. It had made me real once again.”
“What was more important, the 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 the Nobel committee awarded the peace prize to me, they were recognising that the oppressed and the isolated in Burma were also a part of the world, they were recognising the oneness of humanity … The Nobel peace prize opened up a door in my heart.”
Oh, how times change. Today, she finds it difficult to pick a side and tries awkwardly to wriggle out of the mess by bringing the oppressors and the oppressed to a parity level. Let us ask Ms. Suu Kyi what good an award, or in other words, recognition by a group of Norweigen judges has achieved for the evolution of democracy in Burma? Sure, it may have created a little noise but what else does it enable besides the recepient’s arrogant apathy? Perhaps, Ms. Suu Kyi should have elaborated on her concept of human rights in a democratic dispensation. Most of us interpreted her sense of elation as the pain of her fellow countrymen was recognised at the global level, as a logical outcome of a successful endeavour to uphold the cause of human rights and democracy. Those of us who took her formula statement laced with punch words at face-value are hopelessly disappointed.
“Those who criticize me for not condemning one side or the other — they’ve never said exactly what they hope will come out of such condemnation,” she tells the world today. “You’re just taking the moral high ground for the sake of sounding good — it sounds a little irresponsible.” This is a smart play on words, tasteless– but smart. Yet there are gaping loopholes within Ms. Suu Kyi’s argument. Much as she’d like to deny, she did pick a side. She picked a side when she fought very strongly for a change in the constitution that bars you from running for presidency because her husband is a foreigner; she chose to root for equal opportunity. Although now it has become very clear that she will not choose the same for Myanmar’s downtrodden and persecuted. Politicians, as a rule of thumb, should not be held to their word.