Aung San Suu Kyi, the incumbent State Counsellor of Myanmar has been lauded for her non-violent fight for democracy. But her response to the Rohingya crisis has soured her reputation. The City of Oxford, which bestowed the Freedom of Oxford title to her in 1997, has decided to withdraw the honorary title from her. The recommendation will be finalized in the next council meeting in November.
The cross-party motion of the Oxford city councilors was decided Monday night, because they deemed that the honorary title is no longer suitable to her. The city of Oxford decided to give her the title because she studied in the city. It is also to recognize her long fight for democracy. The council said they have written to Aung San Suu Kyi to exert all effort to halt the ethnic cleansing in Myanmar. They have not received a response from her.
Plight of the Rohingya Muslims
An estimated one million Rohingya ethnic Muslim minority reside in the Rakhine State in Myanmar. They practice a variation of Sunni Islam with Sufi influence. Myanmar’s dominant religion is Buddhism, and the Rohingya differs from them religiously, linguistically and ethnically. Myanmar has not granted them full citizenship. They are only allowed to register if they identify themselves as Bengali.
Myanmar refuses to recognize that Rohingya is one of the country’s ethnic minorities, although they have been in existence in the country since the 15thcentury. Since the late 1970s, the Rohingya Muslims have suffered from Myanmar government’s discriminatory policies. This resulted in thousands of them fleeing their homes, crossing borders and traveling by sea to reach Bangladesh, Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia.
In August 2017, another round of violence including arson, murder and rape against the Rohingya has been reported. About half a million minorities fled to neighboring Bangladesh, where they are considered illegal immigrants. The security forces of Myanmar have been accused of ethnic cleansing, while they claim that they are only trying to bring back stability to the region.
Weak response from Suu Kyi
Suu Kyi has been criticized in recent weeks for her response to the plight of the religious minority.
The United Nations has already called the current crisis as ethnic cleansing. But Aung San Suu Kyi denied it. She brushed off the claims of sexual violence against Rohingya women, calling it “fake rape” according to Mary Clarkson, a UK Labor Party Councilor.
Suu Kyi also accused critics of igniting the continuous resentment between the Rohingya Muslims and the Buddhists in Myanmar.
Mary Clarkson said that Suu Kyi’s inaction to the crisis in her country defiled the reputation of Oxford. She added that it is no longer suitable to keep honoring someone who dismisses violence.
A portrait of Aung San Suu Kyi, which used to hang at the main entrance of St Hugh’s College where she graduated in 1967, has been removed. The college said that they received new donations of paintings and has decided to keep Aung San Suu Kyi’s portrait in storage.
Sheffield City Council, which also bestowed a similar Freedom City award to Aung San Suu Kyi, will discuss the withdrawal of her honorary title within the month.
Her honorary membership in Unison, the second-largest trade union in Britain has been suspended since September.
There are also reports that over 400,000 people have requested the Nobel Institute to withdraw her Nobel Peace Prize. However, the institute said that once the award has been given, it is already impossible to withdraw it.