Aung San Suu Kyi to lose Freedom again?

Sounds like somebody has a case of the Mondays…

Today, Irish musician and anti-poverty activist Bob Geldof returned his Freedom of the City of Dublin award.

This is his way of protesting against Aung San Suu Kyi’s actions, or, to be precise, inaction regarding the Rohingya Muslims crisis in Myanmar.

Aung San Suu Kyi who, along with her party NLD, secured a sweeping victory in Myanmar in 2015 is now being harshly criticised by the international community as she has not yet publicly condemned the Myanmar military’s actions against Muslims in Rakhine State. During the last three months, over 600,000 Rohingya refugees arrived in Bangladesh to avoid persecution by Myanmar soldiers, which has been described by the United Nations as ethnic cleansing.

There have been calls worldwide that Suu Kyi be stripped of the Nobel Peace Prize, and her alma mater, the Oxford University, has already removed her picture from the common room and stripped her of the Oxford Freedom Award.

Geldof went as far as saying she should appear at the Hague tribunal. “Aung San Suu Kyi was extravagantly welcomed to this city, and I was a participant to that … and it turned out that she’s a killer, and I don’t want to be on the same list as what the UN described as a genocide,” he said.

Aung San Suu Kyi received the Freedom of the City of Dublin Award in 1999, while being under house arrest, and was able to receive it in person only in 2012, two years after her release. Geldof himself received the award in 2006.

The city council of Dublin is baffled – they do not quite know what to do with the scroll returned to them by Geldof this Monday as “there is no mechanism for him to hand anything back”. The Lord Mayor of Dublin, Mr Mícheál Mac Donncha thinks that Mr Geldof is of course “entitled to return his award if he wishes to do so” but finds it “ironic that he makes this gesture while proudly retaining his title as Knight Commander of the Order of the British Empire, given the shameful record of British imperialism across the globe”. The only comment  from Geldof was to call the Mayor a “typical Sinn Fein geezer”. As a true “Dub” (Dubliner) the musician, who gets “handed things by states and cities around the world” is sad to part with the award but will be happily reinstalled if Aung San Suu Kyi loses her Freedom.

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Despite the public condemnation of Ms Suu Kyi by the West, some Myanmese people tell us another story.

According to a Myanmar watcher Amrita Dey, “The West is actually hitting at the roots of Myanmar democracy with criticism of Suu Kyi. She is the one leader capable of holding it together amid serious challenges. Thankfully for her, neighbours China, India and Asean are more sensitive to the political dynamics and have strongly supported her.”

The Myanmese Muslim community too bears no ill will towards their leader. Moreover, many regard her as their only hope. “She is doing her best.” “I think the NLD and Aung San Suu Kyi’s response to the Rakhine violence is very fair. They are trying their hardest and I believe they can solve the issue.” “I am sure that behind the scenes they are working to help Myanmese Muslims, and the Rohingya, live peacefully,”- they say.

Myanmar 1st State Counsellor currently faces a violent struggle with the country’s all-powerful army, according to government insiders, and could lose the support she needs were she to publicly discuss the situation of the Muslim community.

Natalia Ilina
Natalia Ilina

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